Monday, May 24, 2010

Thinking vs Acting

I still don't understand exactly the "internal" difference between doing and just..... thinking about doing. Imagining it.

If I now intend to make a physical action, such as wiggle one of my toes, there's something happening in my mind that precedes that action--an anticipatory "planning" or intention stage. (If I remember correctly, studies by Benjamin Libet suggest that we don't even become conscious of our brain's decision to initiate an action until some 200-500ms after our brain starts setting it in motion.) But I can think about wiggling a toe without actually doing it--in fact, that's what I'm doing now as I make these observations, and what you the reader will likely be doing as these words call forth involuntary recollections in your mind. I can imagine wiggling a toe, even. Since most of us are such visual creatures, this will probably be first and foremost a mentally created image of my own toe wiggling (somehow); as I add detail to the imagining, I can recall the other sensations that accompany such a feat: the quale of my toe shifting position, the accompanying movement of my skin, the small shifts in texture or whatever that my skin will register if my movement causes it to encounter new surfaces/objects, etc.

I can even try to mentally re-create (simulate) the very willing, or whatever it is, that causes genuine movement. I can do this at a somewhat intuitive level, I think, but I feel I have a very poor grasp on what is actually happening.

Now, the curious thing about my imaginings here, is that imagining itself is another type of action; so, while I'm tinkering with how my mind translates thought into action, I am meanwhile doing just that in order to "experiment" at all. (Proper scientists will be horrified to here such phenomenological investigation referred to as "experimentation", but hey, I'm not talking about proper scientific experiments in this context.)

It seems that there is always some kind of buffer or gap that I cannot quite cross here.