Friedrich Schelling coined the term the unconscious mind in the 18th century . To quote wikipedia:

The unconscious mind consists of the processes in the mind that occur automatically and are not available to introspection, and include thought processes, memory, affect, and motivation. Even though these processes exist well under the surface of conscious awareness they are theorized to exert an impact on behavior.

I’m currently taking part in an online course about free will. This area has always been an interest of mine (see posts passim) and I hope to finally understand some of the concepts that have eluded me for some time.

One of the things we’re bound to discuss is the idea, often used by compatibilists, that we do have choice in what we do but that those decisions are at a subconscious level to circumvent the so-called Libert problem.

This all came to mind (pardon the pun) when I was attending the last Citizen Beta civil technology meetup. I had the pleasure of hearing Matt Burgess talking about freedom of information requests to government.

As this article from The Guardian explains there may soon be an updating of the rules for FOI requests. To quote:

The government has now set up a commission to review the act, with a remit to consider whether it ‘adequately recognises the need for a safe space for policy development and frank advice’.

What they are referring to is the concept that ministers should be able to be advised and have discussions with each other with the knowledge that their meetings won’t be recorded. This allows for a frank exchange of views without the concern that bringing up potential negative impacts of proposed policy will be used to criticise them and the government in future.

This makes me wonder – is this “safe space” an equivalent to an individual’s unconscious mind? Is the unconscious a “safe space” to “discuss” concepts before they are brought before consciousness to finish the job?

Evolution has had a long time to enable us to interrogate our unconscious mind but it’s never been a strong enough trait to be selected. While I’m a strong believer in the principle of FOI this rather over-stretched metaphor does make me wonder about the benefits of some things staying behind closed doors.

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