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Define Consciousness


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#1 Haech

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 03:41 AM

a collection of neural-networks and chemicals signals (... perhaps?)

What's your definition/explanation?

There is a nice long article on wikipedia with many physical and philosophical ideas about consciousness; however, I found most of the explanations and theories rather unsatisfying. The most sensible theory to me was the Quantum Mind hypothesis, but it really is no more an explanation than an excuse to say that we find it rather mysterious. Anyway, what do the educated/smart readers of the forum think.

#2 lawcat

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 05:50 PM

Self instruction

#3 lemit

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 06:08 PM

To paraphrase Potter Stewart, "I know it if I see."

--lemit

#4 Essay

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 10:35 PM

a collection of neural-networks and chemicals signals (... perhaps?)

Sounds good to me.... ~ :confused:

and...
Lemit, the key to your point, in that coined phrase, is the definition of "see."
Because, as you see, it implys that one is making sense of--or coordinating--the visual information. ~ :(
===

I find the phenomenon of "blind sight" particularly revealing; especially when combined with Varela's findings.
Blindsight - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In Type 1 blindsight subjects have no awareness whatsoever of any stimuli, but yet are able to predict, at levels significantly above chance, aspects of a visual stimulus, such as location, or type of movement, often in a forced-response or guessing situation.

...like catching a ball coming from the blind "spot."
===

...and then, combined with Varela's work....

Varela's hypothesis establishes a neurological basis for the distinction between conscious and unconscious cognition.... According to Varela, the primary conscious experience, common to all higher vertebrates, is not located in a specific part of the brain, nor can it be identified in terms of specific neural structures. It is the manifestation of a particular cognitive process--a transient synchronization of diverse, rhythmically oscillating neural circuits. ~Web of Life, p.293

The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems by Fritjof Capra
"This book is about a new scientific understanding of life at all levels of living systems-organisms, social systems, and ecosystems..."
Excerpt - on Page 85: " ... Hermann Haken and Manfred Eigen in Germany, James Lovelock in England, Lynn Margulis in the United States, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela in Chile. ... "
Key Phrases: Lynn Margulis, Francisco Varela, Norbert Wiener, James Lovelock, Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Gregory Bateson, autopoietic network, continual embodiment, organismic biologists, binary networks, deep ecological awareness.... ~ Amazon.com: "Francisco Varela": Key Phrase page
===

Consciousness?

"It is the manifestation of a particular cognitive process--a transient synchronization of diverse, rhythmically oscillating neural circuits." ~Capra

#5 arkain101

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 11:33 PM

Consciousness almost has no meaning without awareness...

Can you have consciousness when you remove knowledge? When you remove knowledge you remove awareness.

In that sense, a child is born pretty well unconscious. It is not aware, it lacks almost all possible knowledge. Even considering the ability to focus its eyes.

Our consciousness evolves with our growth of knowledge. From childhood to adult hood we (hopefully) transform our sense of awareness and consciousness.

When you think back to your youngest age... do you find your consciousness was different? You can only think back as far as your sense of awareness, and most likely your sense of self awareness of self. By self awareness I mean things like, feeling you should change your cloths in private. Developing a preference of music, books, and toys. You begin awakening into the world of choice and preference.

I believe consciousness is bounded by beliefs. And we must always reside under a belief set. It is almost as though you are ensared.

However, you can evolve your snare. You can, like Neo in the matrix, unplug for them world and belief set, then you can plug back in, because you have to plug back in to take part in anything, but you can plug back in with a different boundry.

Human consciousness has evolved. We have unplugged and plugged back into the matrix of reality many many times. To the animal world we are NEO the magician. With our mind, we create houses, and roads, and buildings, and cars, and computers and internet, and spaceships.. etc... etc..

We dont even break free from the matrix of consciousness, we can only evolve our boundry of belief. Disbelief is one of the greatest obstacles of advancement. For as long as man believed it is impossible to fly, they did not fly.

Consciousness has gone through a series of transformations. Each of different levels and complexity.

I wouldnt know how to produce an accurate list..

But the most recent transformation was the one where we broke out of the tribal mind into the culture mind. Or whatever transformation that enabled our creativity and inventive communication to break free form the animal mind..

One mistake I think we make is that this evolution is permanent. It is not.

Our consciousness is our knowledge, and our knowledge is floating in the wind as it were. It developed through cooperation, and is continually taught back to more cooperators.

If we ever lost our ability to teach.. If we lost 99% of the world population.. Our consciousness would easily fall back into a tribal animal state.


So I think by this explaination, to understand consciousness, then one should learn all there is no know about knowledge. How we store, it, share it, make it, communicate it, define it.

It is that consciousness' level of meaning is related to its knowledge.. Your only as conscious as the meaning you develop out of chaos.

#6 arkain101

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Posted 09 May 2009 - 03:26 AM

I consider my reply a rash one. I haven't brushed up on any of this material in awhile. Except a recent Matrix essay and discussion.

I am not satisfied with that response.. I will respond again after giving it some thought.

But I will leave you all with this.

What is NOT consciousness?

By that question I mean, Is it possible for us to conceive anything with the exclusion consciousness?

#7 carlton-temple

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Posted 26 August 2009 - 10:13 AM

I have just finished my first reading of professor Roger Penrose's book: Shadows of the mind,(vintage books), which I can highly recommend. Mainly the book is a speculation on the biological processes that might promote conciousness. My own opinion, for what its worth, is that conciousness is a result of compounded awareness synergisms and is to some extent or degree present in all organisms. No organism can be viable without some measure of decisive capacity that is able to optimally exploit its environment and an evolutionary "compounding" of these "capacities" founds heightened conciousness.

#8 UncleAl

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Posted 26 August 2009 - 12:04 PM

Consciousness is the ability to feel sad.
It is the only intellection that requires more than internal existence.

--
Uncle Al
UNDER SATAN'S LEFT FOOT
Vote a 10 for the experiments!

#9 Michael Mooney

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Posted 26 August 2009 - 01:42 PM

Consciousness can be functionally defined as that which/whom is aware.
The question, "aware of what" is about content of awareness. One can say, "I am consciousness," but it is false to say "I am that of which I am conscious."
It is indeed a deep subject. Mystics see consciousness as one omnipresent awareness... (not to say, God!... which opens The Big Can-O-Worms about religious belief.)

My favorite author on consciousness was Franklin Merell-Wolff. His masterpiece was "The Philosophy of Consciousness Without an Object," but the most accessible intro to his work was an address given by a friend of mine, Thomas McFarlane :The Heart of Franklin Merrell-Wolff's Philosophy

Great topic.
Michael

#10 freeztar

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Posted 26 August 2009 - 01:46 PM

Consciousness is the ability to feel sad.
It is the only intellection that requires more than internal existence.


Can you elaborate on this, Al?
Instead of "feel sad", why not say "feel emotion"? Though even then I find it an inadequate definition of consciousness.

#11 UncleAl

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Posted 27 August 2009 - 11:42 AM

Consciousness is the ability to feel sad. It is not a conscious entity unless it separates "I" from "not I," recognizes other sentience, and cares about it. Nature does not care, we do. That's consciousness. Responsive external action is trivially mimicked - an ICBM delivering its load with a small CEP. If you want consciousness, then it's Dark Star and Bomb #20.

Dark Star’s Darkest Hour – Carpenter / O’ Bannon « Θυμαρι

"Sad" specifically. Happy people don't care, given the alternatives.

--
Uncle Al
UNDER SATAN'S LEFT FOOT
Vote a 10 for the experiments!

#12 Larv

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Posted 27 August 2009 - 12:04 PM

Consciousness is the human ability to reflect on an experience. As such, it is not an existential thing. Consciousness is not required to have an experience; it is required only to make sense of an experience. A mouse will have a cheese-eating experience in someone's kitchen, but it has no consciousness with which to analyze that experience. Whereas when a human has a mouse experience in her kitchen she will go out and buy a mousetrap, using her consciousness to make that decision.

#13 HydrogenBond

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Posted 28 August 2009 - 01:03 PM

Humans have two levels of consciousness. We have what animals have, which I will call the primary center of consciousness. This is based on the DNA. Humans also have a secondary center which allows us to become aware of the primary. An animal can feel sad because the owner went away. A human can also do this. But while the sadness is active, humans can step outside the feelings, as they occur, and begin to ponder why they feel sad. There are two things going on simultaneously in the human. The animal will only have the primary and feel sad, because they don't have the secondary.

The primary has a connection to the DNA since this is very natural. The secondary, on the other hand, allows free will, including choices that can willfully conflict with the primary connected to the DNA. I can willfully go on a hunger strike, which is not programmed into the primary by the DNA. An animal can't consciousness make this choice, in violation of the DNA's primary consciousness effect.

Relative to the chemical basis, the primary, to optimize the DNA, would need to be rooted in the most conservative brain matter. This seems to be the brain stem and center of the brain. The cerebral has more neuron connections, than we have genes, by many orders of magnitude. This opens the possibility of cerebral choices that are not fully designed in the DNA. This is the logical place to center the secondary. This allows the secondary to create entropy in the primary.

If we saw something in the environment, the signal goes to the primary or central brain to create first awareness. Any animal can do this. Once the awareness is centered in the cerebral, we have all types of options, even those that can make us react differently than nature. In the animal, cerebral extrapolation, by starting from center, is still centered in the DNA. The secondary, by being more centered in the cerebral can center itself apart from the primary.

Let me give an example, humans have the genes to be omnivores. It makes sense the primary is optimized this way, since the DNA has this capability. Using education, with the secondary centered in the cerebral, we can create entropy relative to the DNA and become a vegetarian. With will power, the secondary we can override the primary. I am not saying this is a bad choice, but this choice is centered in the cerebral mind based on philosophy.

The DNA extension of the primary, into the cerebral, would be expected to parallel the DNA. One will not find omnivore animals (in their DNA) willfully choosing one or the other in an all or not basis. Their DNA will extrapolate the primary, into the cerebral, so the cerebral uses the capacity of the DNA. There is no secondary to alter the cerebral with conscious choices that conflict the DNA.

For example

#14 modest

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Posted 28 August 2009 - 05:38 PM

Consciousness by the dictionary definition is to be aware of yourself and your situation. As a practical means of segregating lifeforms which have consciousness from those the don't I suggest:

Consciousness is the ability to look in a mirror and recognize oneself.

If you place a mirror with a hominid or dolphin and mark their body in an area they cannot see unaided they will examine the mark in the mirror. A cat or a dog won't do that. My dog, for example, recognizes that the mirror is a reflection. If I am behind my dog while she looks at me through the mirror and I hold up a treat she will turn around to get the treat. She understands that the object she wants is behind her. In the most primitive sense, she understands that it is a reflection. But, she does not recognize herself in the reflection. She would not pass mirror self-recognition tests. What seems to be lacking is self-recognition (an awareness of oneself / consciousness).

Mirror self-recognition in the bottlenose dolphin: A case of cognitive convergence — PNAS

~modest

#15 Larv

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Posted 29 August 2009 - 10:50 AM

This my undocumented opinion, which is essentially ungoogleable:

Consciousness (of the human kind) is not an existential thing. It occupies no position in space or time; it reveals itself only in a cryptic manner. Consciousness is what a human mind makes of an experience. There are no metaphors for human consciousness, only vague references to mirror images and intelligent ghosts. Human consciousness can deduce the laws of gravity or turn a toasted-cheese sandwich into a vision of the Virgin Mary. As such, it is neither wise nor foolish. It is only what humans do with their experiences to try to make sense of them.

My best guess for the origin of human consciousness: the invention of symbolic language with syntax. Humans gained a new and useful perspective on their experiences when they learned how to record, analyze, and communicate them using a symbolic language with syntax. Prior to that humanoids could only do what bears and butterflies do: grunt and flutter around without any ability to “understand.”

(I will get assailed for this, but I’ll say it anyway) Julian Jaynes still offers me more to think about than any other author when I try to “understand” consciousness. Although in an important way I do see human consciousness differently than Jaynes does, I still think he’s on the right track. Jaynes differentiates human consciousness from bicamerality, which is a condition of the mind that hears voices from God and makes decisions based on His commands. This, according to Jaynes, is not too far from schizophrenia. I have to agree with this, because I regard religion as a disease of the mind, one that impairs the acuity of a fully functioning consciousness.

At the very least, however, I have to agree with Jaynes that human consciousness evolved on the back of a symbolic language with syntax. [I say “with syntax” because other animals have languages, too, ostensibly even symbolic ones. Primates have all kinds of vocal signals for serving survival, social, and reproductive needs. Insects, such as bees, have a dancing kind of language that communicates resource and logistical information. The difference between those “symbolic” languages and ours is the assembly of syntax. (e.g., “I love you” and “I hate you” are symbolic expressions that rely entirely on syntax for communication.)]

#16 HydrogenBond

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Posted 30 August 2009 - 09:29 AM

Consciousness is a function of awareness. The more levels of awareness one has, for a given situation, the more conscious we are. An animal will aware of a food object , so he is conscious. Humans are not only aware of that, they might also be aware of its nutritional value. This extra layer of consciousness is based on learning, memory, and language, which filters animal awareness broadening consciousness.

If we add the human ability for logic and argument, one can move the mind around within our static memory, and deduce additional level of awareness we may not have learned directly or is not in static memory. We see the food and know all its food value content. We might then examine it further, noting color, softness and smell and deduce it is not yet ripe to perfection.

As I leave the farm stand, I begin to wonder, why was I attracted to that particular fruit stand and not the other one, who had the same fruit? In either place, I could have had the same level of fruit awareness? I was not aware of this gravitation, until now.

The gravitation did not consciously filter through my conscious memory, which is why i was not aware. The unconscious may have been aware of preferences due to habits and routines and did its own filtering for me. In this case, my unconscious was like the animal, who is aware, without using a conscious filter.

Now I am aware of something, below my level of awareness. As it turned out during the multi-task, I was semi-conscious, thinking I was fully conscious. Now I am aware I was not fully aware.

#17 watcher

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Posted 30 August 2009 - 09:05 PM

the knowledge of an individuality is referred to by that knowing as self. self is expressed as I AM. i AM is consciousness. consciousness is therefore the knowing that one exists.