Notes On Attention Paid

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Annaka Harris, Conscious, Chapter 4, Along for the Ride

… writes about parasitic infections as an indication that consciousness and behavior are impacted in many different ways we might consider foreign, or outside the system1… she talks specifically about Toxoplasma, a parasite that infects cats and other mammals but can only reproduce in cats… it is able to alter the brain chemistry of rats so that they will run towards, rather than away from cats… 2

… interestingly, humans can be infected and the incidence of schizophrenia is two to three times higher in individuals testing positive for Toxoplasma antibodies… she goes on to quote Natalie Angier:

When Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in Prague administered personality tests to two groups of people, one showing immunological signs of prior Toxoplasma infection and the other not, infected men scored comparatively higher than uninfected men in traits like suspicion of authority and a propensity to break rules, while infected women ranked relatively higher than noninfected women in measures of warmth, self-assurance and chattiness.3

… two things leap out at me… that men move towards suspicion and rules breaking while women move towards warmth and chattiness, supported by increased self assurance seems to confirm male/female behavior stereotypes?… and i wonder if the white male patriarchy problem is a cat problem?…

… and now Harris returns to the Descartes “I think, therefore I am” position, except, for her it is “I think about consciousness, therefore I am conscious”4… it is hard to see it as an improvement on the original, which has been called into question by subsequent philosophers… on the other hand, i don’t think many argue that we don’t have conscious experience, just that the role of that experience is not as central to our being as we like to believe…

… after digressing on the thought of consciousness being the evidence of consciousness, she admits it’s a personal sinkhole and that we are still left with an idea of consciousness that falls well short of being the command and control entity we like to believe it is…


  1. … i wonder though, whether this isn’t evidence of too small a concept of what consciousness is and is made of… foreign (immigrant?) influences in systems have to be viewed as of the whole system… the only distinction to be made is that things would be one way without immigrant influence, another with it… [return]
  2. Annaka Harris, Conscous, pp37-38 [return]
  3. Ibid, p 39 [return]
  4. Ibid, pp 42-3 [return]