Athanassios S. Fokas, PhD, MD
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Visual perception is achieved via the deconstruction of a given percept followed by its reconstruction. I will refer to the unconscious reconstruction of the percept as its mental representation. About a third of second after an unconscious reconstruction, the brain informs itself of what the brain already knows. Namely, the unconscious informs consciousness of the given percept.
At this moment, the first ‘big bang’ takes place: awareness. I will refer to the conscious construction of the percept as its mental image. The generalization of this process gives rise to the first hypothesis: every conscious experience is preceded by an unconscious process.
Many of our evolutionary predecessors possess consciousness. So why do we differ from them qualitatively? Of course, we have the privilege of language, which, enriches enormously our capacity to communicate. Many scholars have highlighted this great gift as the key difference between us and other creatures possessing consciousness. In my opinion, this is not entirely correct. Instead, I propose a second hypothesis: we possess a predisposition to construct real versions of our mental images and our mental representations, or to assign to them specific symbols. I label the emerging constructions or symbols re-representations.
This is the second ‘big bang’ of or mental evolution, which in addition to language, includes the re-representations of mathematics, computers, technology, and arts. It appears that the more direct the passage from the unconscious to re-representations the higher the value of an artistic creation. It will be argued that this is particularly the case for music.