Re: Orwellian and Stalinesque Revision

From: HARNAD Stevan (
Date: Tue Jun 04 1996 - 21:35:21 BST

> From: "Darling, Andrea" <>
> Date: Fri, 24 May 1996 15:32:48 GMT
> Orwellian and Stalinesque revision are two different ways of explaining
> a phenomenon of human (and animal?) consciousness. This is a phenomenon
> which occurs many times in everyday life. I will use an example of
> walking down the road and seeing a cat on a fence (yes, it sounds
> silly!). Suppose you see this cat and it is white with brown eyes.
> Earlier on in the day a white spotty dog with brown eyes had run in
> front front of your car, you dodged...fortunatley for the dog. Later on
> a friend questions you about your day and you tell them you saw a white
> cat with black spots. How did this happen? the cat was white with brown
> eyes!!! An Orwellian revision account would state that you percieved
> the cat as white, yet the memory of the spotted dog had interfered with
> this memory and you had recalled incorrectly. A Stalinesque account
> would propose that you had inaccuratley percieved the cat at the time
> of seeing it, (in a way you hallucinated the spots) and so you
> remembered incorrectly, (it really did have spots in your
> consciousness). The problem with the Orwellian revision account is that
> of timing. Were you first conscious of a white cat with no spots,(you
> remembered this) and then later conscious of a white cat with spots
> which wiped out the first experience) or was the very first thing you
> were conscious of was a spotty cat? The problem with Stalinesque is WHY
> we hallucinate the spots.
> Overall, do we make a mistake on recall due to interference (Orwellian)
> or do we accurately recall a perceptual mistake we actually
> experienced? (Stalinesque)

This is a good kid-sib account of the two kinds of error, but it doesn't
DO anything with it! Dennett's point was that since neither the subject
of the experience nor anyone else can determine what really happened,
it follows that there is no fact of the matter: Consciousness is not a
Cartesian Theatre in which things happen in a certain order; it is just
an amalgam of many different drafts, all subject to revision.

For an A, this needs to be related to Libet on mental timing, and to the
mind/body problem.

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