Thursday, February 18, 2010



Towards a Hierarchy of Purpose

Considering ranking needs by relative importance of their purposes, rather than assuming purpose depends on some fixed importance of the needs it will serve.

It seems I'm still stuck on the subject of purpose, having been inspired to write or rattle off the following - on the same blog I referenced previously at:
http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2010/02/cartesian_metaphors.php

"Your brain operates as a question asker and answerer at the same time. And it can still be working on questions that it raised within itself from birth. And still questioning all its earlier answers as well as questioning the basis of its earlier questions. So when sensory inputs give it something that it "senses" might have a bearing on these earlier decisions, which in some sense are always open questions, it pays a form of conscious attention.
And that attention comes in the form of a question as well. Each question becoming a vote for itself as first in the order of importance. And the brain also has a hierarchy of managerial processors who by consensus rule on that importance, with a constant stream of such rulings going on.
Arbitrated at all times by the metaphorical executive centered in the emotional part of the brain which has from the beginning offered the rest of the mechanism a set of purposes for both raising questions and seeking out their answers.
And deciding continuously, with assistance from the more conscious input from its rational section, which of those purposes will best be served by its further examination of tentative answers in the order of their tentatively determined importance, or significance if you will - that order in turn gauged in the end by how these earlier purposive efforts can be expected to assist in dealing with its most pressing purpose of assessing the consequences of any actions that are under consideration for giving service to its most immediate needs. The purpose then of which we will be the most conscious.
Or something like that. Posted by: royniles | February 18, 2010 2:18 PM"

Now I'm not sure how much of the above is close to what really happens, but it seemed like a reasonable rant at the time. Even though the question at hand was about consciousness, which I decided to address as a function of purpose. Which nobody else seems to be doing.

And in the course of laying down this piece, I began to realize that in addition to there being what some have called a hierarchy of needs, which our cognitive systems have been "designed" to address, there must be a hierarchy of the purposes that go along with those needs. As in a way, our essential purpose as living beings is to satisfy the needs that the very existence of life requires. And the purposes may not be ranked in accordance with any particular need, but with a relative importance of each need. And that will depend on the expectations of when it becomes necessary for our satisfaction and how. A hierarchy that won't be consistent with the presently constituted need-ranking hypothesis.
And needs after all create purposes. And those purposes in turn progressively refine and add to the needs that serve them.
Giving me something new to think about which hadn't been on the conscious agenda at all before today.

(Since posting the above, I have noted that the "hierarchy of purpose" concept is not exactly new, as the psychologist William McDougall [1871 - 1938] viewed the mind as an hierarchically integrated system of purposes. I discovered this when I also thought "purposivism" might be a good word to coin, and found that term also used with respect to the 'purposive psychology' theories developed in large part by McDougall.)



1 comment:

Roy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.