Bridgeman's (1992) focus on planning as symptomatic of human life makes good sense. The idea that consciousness is the spin-off product of the execution of planned conduct also makes sense. The argument, however, becomes convoluted regarding the significance of language to the execution of plans. A system already so well-organised as to be able to generate language as one of its planned products should be able to deliver it neurally, rather than have to engage the complexities of articulation, acoustics, and phonetics. Also, the converse selective advantage to that suggested may be true, the roots of behaviour that enables signs to be used as symbols may lie in the withholding of plans.
1.2 The idea that consciousness is the spin-off product of the execution of planned conduct also makes sense, where "consciousness" is understood as referring to awareness of one's own conduct. That idea sits comfortably with views expressed by, for example, Harre and Secord (1972) and Toulmin (1982).
1.3 Where this commentator gets a bit lost is in Bridgeman's position regarding the significance of language to the execution of plans. The picture he gives is of an already well-advanced planning system (the planning "mechanism") which, on the perceptual side, equips the organism with "abstract codes" that present it with the "meaning" of a stimulus; and, on the motor side, it provides the means for holding the "synthesis of a plan," for imaging "intended achievement."
1.4 Language, itself witnessed as a product of the planning mechanism, introduces the advantage that one "hear's one's own speech." Thus, the plan- monitoring mechanism gets to know about the plan-executing mechanism's products. But wouldn't it be more effective for these two mechanisms to connect with each other directly, in the brain? With a system already so well-organised as to be able to generate language as one of its planned products, surely it should be able to deliver this neurally, rather than have to engage all the complexities of articulation, acoustics, and phonetics.
1.5 Bridgeman refers to a meaning of the concept of consciousness as "co-knowledge" and mentions the significance for Russian psychology of the communication of one's ideas to others as enhancing human awareness. Such a reading of this intellectual tradition does not capture the import of what was being argued. Vygotsky, particularly, must be read as arguing that the inter-psychological precedes the intra-psychological (Wertsch 1985); this procedural chain is the exact opposite of the one implied in Bridgeman's text. Ideas, in this tradition, are not the products of individual minds (or "planning mechanisms"): They are social products that individuals partake of in the course of their enculturation.
1.6 The evolutionary emergence of language is doubtless dependent on the capacity to control sequences of motor activity, but because language is a system involving the symbolic use of communicative signs, it is necessarily set in a bedrock of interpersonal convention. In an evolutionary argument taking account of the archaeological record, it has been posited that the symbolic use of signs depends upon the objectification, among users of communicative signs, of those signs themselves (Davidson & Noble 1989; Noble & Davidson 1991a). Furthermore, it is as a consequence of the emergence of the symbolic use of signs that planning becomes the hallmark of conduct. In this view, language is not another product of the "planning mechanism"; it establishes, interpersonally, means for making plans.
1.7 A final point. The selective advantage of behaviour that enables signs to be used as symbols may well lie in the withholding of information (including plans) rather than its ready transfer from one to another.
Bridgeman, Bruce (1992) On the Evolution of Consciousness and Language. PSYCOLOQUY 3 (15) consciousness.1
Davidson, I & Noble, W. (1989) The archaeology of perception: Traces of depiction and language. Current Anthropology 30: 125-155.
Harre, R. & Secord, P. F. (1972) The Explanation of Social Behaviour. Blackwell, Oxford.
Noble, W. & Davidson, I. (1991a) The evolutionary emergence of modern human behaviour: Language and its archaeology. Man 26: 223-253.
Noble, W. & Davidson, I. (1991b) Evolving remembrance of times past and future - braining behavior. Behavioral & Brain Sciences 14: 572.
Toulmin, S. (1982) The genealogy of "consciousness". In P. F. Secord (ed.) Explaining Human Behaviour. Sage, Beverly Hills.
Wertsch, J. V. (1985) Vygotsky and the Social Formation of Mind. Harvard University Press.