The brain conserves its resources by consigning the great bulk of its routine operations to automatic processing beyond conscious awareness. The automatic use of preset responses makes the brain action relatively effortless. The brain reserves most of its neuronal activity for the resource-greedy serial processing of consciously directed thought. Our language recognises the resemblance of the disparity to the inequities of class relationships in the group. It results from more than just coincidence. It drives to the fundamental role that “class” plays in organisations.
To gain power the masses, the cells in the brain as well as the members of the group, lose independence to serve and profit from the greater good. Not only do the higher classes consume more than the lower, they have far greater power. In the brain as in society they direct a complex hierarchical organisation. At its best the combined effort works remarkably well. At its worst a self-serving use of power by the upper class renders the whole group, whether it be the cells that makes up the individual or the members of a civilization, vulnerable to destruction.
The ancient Greeks conceived of the unit of class in thought as its indivisible unit. Modern science terms each unit of thought a category and its processing as categorisation. An idea can be simple enough to seem an indivisible unit, but most often contains many interconnected instances, for example, the concept of Christianity or even a simple physical object such as a table. The meaning of the idea makes the category. The steps taken by the brain to arrive at its appreciation of class reveals its nature.
The brain begins to acquire knowledge through the automatic processing of experience that arrives at the conscious meaning for the infant of each perceived instance. The remarkably developed grasp and manipulation of meanings gives homo sapiens its power. Some measure of its potential can be seen in the mind exercise of the Ancients about matter. It brought Democritus remarkably close to understanding the nature of the atom. I will return to his deductions in a later post. The exercise about the mind itself, or more particularly thought, did not lead the ancients to anything like the depth of the insights Democritus gained about matter. While clearly appreciating the power of the idea over the human mind, the analysis progressed no further until Thomas Kuhn developed the concept of the paradigm.