A form of dualism, the bipolar opposites of consciously directable mental function versus the brain’s unconscious automatic operations, governs brain action (see Descartes). ‘I think, therefore I am” gives consciously directed thought deserved preeminence. The many different ways that brains bring to awareness thought and action differentiates animal life. Most species have concentrated on a specific range of sensory and motor superiorities. Homo has specialised in the conscious processing of ideas. And yet, amazingly, the studies of cognitive science fail to recognise its salience. They do not separate rigorously the contribution to thought of consciously conceived ideas from unconscious programmed automatic processing. Some cognitive scientists even argue that consciousness is an accidental epiphenomon.
Of course the animal brain engages in far more than the processing apparent to conscious introspection. Indeed, the conscious mental content of thought cannot exist without the precursor of automatic, hence unconscious, processing of the brain’s sensory input. By adult life it arrives in consciousness with the perceptual meaning of things already achieved. Similarly, although the conscious initiates the opposite direction of the brain’s output such as purposive movement, a highly complex postcursor automatic function gives the output the complexity that makes it effective. Together with programmed instinct and experience, automatic processing provides the bulk of the adult’s daily brain action. It satisfies routine everyday demands. But bulk should not obscure the difference in quality. If any function of the animal brain deserves salience, the consciousness of its input and output deserves key eminence. Cognitive science suffers from its disregard for the dualistic framework.
Descartes’ aphorism returns us to a key element of human thought, self-awareness. Zoltan Torey (2009) explains how the proprioceptive feedback of the motor function of speech provides this conceptual ability. From it flows its obverse, the awareness that has prompted the long search for knowledge of the not-self.
The fashionable disdain these days for dualism cannot liberate us from the subjective sense of dualism or deny its practical value. We cannot encompass both of them by addressing just one (Riese, 1960). We do not have to doubt the common corporate substance of mind and body to recognise their subjective dualistic reality.