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    Thread: Your definition of Consciousness

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      Your definition of Consciousness

      If you don't mind, I'd like to hear a variety of people's opinions on what they believe consciousness is, and what differs a conscious being from one that does not have consciousness, or a conscious intelligence from one that does not have consciousness.

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      Consciousness is being self aware of yourself in relation to the world. I don't know if that made sense

      Something that doesn't have a conscious intelligence, ex. a dog, acts primarily on instincts. I think the main thing that separates a conscious being from a non-conscious being is the ability to question things.

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      That makes sense, but how do we know that animals don't have self-awareness? Certain animals form groups and societies like dolphins and chimps. Some chimps have even been known to display mourning over dead members of their group. Would this constitute as consciousness in that case?

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      Make up my mind for me. You want an opinion or a definition?

      A definition is no more than the preservation of the social convention which equates the name of a thing with the name of that things various forms and the names of the material differences in those forms.

      now, if consciousness is not a thing, but a form or a material difference it cannot be defined.

      If it is a thing, you are looking for the names of that things form, or forms, and the names of that things material differences in those forms.

      Oh, how awful to have so much to think about.

      If we define the mind (definition) we must first defined the general class and then add its specifics for the individual members of that class.

      An environmental acquisition system of a living organism is that system which must acquire something from the environment, abstract from that thing and with that abstraction produce something which maintains and promotes the life of that organism.

      The human mind is one such system:

      The human mind is that environmental acquisition system which must acquire experience and abstract from those experiences forms of behavior which maintain and promote the life of the body.

      Consciousness is the process of the human mind doing its job.

    5. #5
      Xei
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      Consciousness means the sum total of experiences.

      Rocks aren't conscious because they don't experience anything. Animals are because they experience their environments, etcetera.

      Self-consciousness has absolutely nothing to do with it, people just confuse the two concepts. Of course, to be conscious of oneself you must first be conscious, but not vice versa.
      PhilosopherStoned likes this.

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      Rational Spiritualist DrunkenArse's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by Raphael View Post
      Something that doesn't have a conscious intelligence, ex. a dog, acts primarily on instincts. I think the main thing that separates a conscious being from a non-conscious being is the ability to question things.
      Most homo sapiens that I have ever met act purely on instincts as near as I can determine. Also, how is acting on instincts the opposite of being aware of self? Also, what is "aware of self"?
      Previously PhilosopherStoned

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      I apologize for the inconsistencies in the OP. I wanted opinions rather than definitions, even though I used the word definition, for a perspective on the members in the Phil. section.

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      People know very little about consciousness so why bother specculating what we think it is?

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      Rational Spiritualist DrunkenArse's Avatar
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      I sort of agree with you. On the other hand, having a clear definition of it might help to understand it. A clear definition of it is a major undertaking as near as I can determine. So pretty much the only contribution I have to make to this thread, other than shooting down blatant anthropocentrism, is to say that it should be about a definition rather than opinions. I can't really contribute to that definition right now.
      Previously PhilosopherStoned

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      Quote Originally Posted by PhilosopherStoned View Post
      I sort of agree with you. On the other hand, having a clear definition of it might help to understand it. A clear definition of it is a major undertaking as near as I can determine. So pretty much the only contribution I have to make to this thread, other than shooting down blatant anthropocentrism, is to say that it should be about a definition rather than opinions. I can't really contribute to that definition right now.
      Yeah i can agree with that.

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      I do not think that consciousness can be solidly defined. It would be like trying to define darkness. To be honest, I believe that consciousness is the only thing that does exist.
      Having said that, if consciousness has anything to do with being self aware, then the greatest psychedellic trips, and journeys through meditation must occur when one is not conscious. If that is true, then how would we have memories of these things? Is one conscious during a lucid dream?
      ---o--- my DCs say I'm dreamy.

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      Quote Originally Posted by LucidFlanders View Post
      People know very little about consciousness so why bother specculating what we think it is?
      We have no idea how electricity works, so why bother speculating on the subject?
      We have no idea how extra dimensions work, so why bother speculating about how we think they work?
      We have no idea how magnetism works.
      We have no idea how microscopic particles work.
      ---o--- my DCs say I'm dreamy.

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      Quote Originally Posted by sloth View Post
      We have no idea how electricity works, so why bother speculating on the subject?
      We have no idea how extra dimensions work, so why bother speculating about how we think they work?
      We have no idea how magnetism works.
      We have no idea how microscopic particles work.
      Because one cannot have an idea of first principles. See Plato. Two-Element Metaphysics. All we can do is name them. However, just like any craft we construct things with these elements for survival.

      We abstract one of the two elements from things, we cannot abstract from an abstraction. i.e. cannot be known.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Philosopher8659 View Post
      Because one cannot have an idea of first principles. See Plato. Two-Element Metaphysics. All we can do is name them. However, just like any craft we construct things with these elements for survival.

      We abstract one of the two elements from things, we cannot abstract from an abstraction. i.e. cannot be known.
      To be honest, I do not feel like reading the entire library by Plato, searching for a hint about what you are talking about. It sounds like you are saying that we study things like electricity because we construct things using these concepts, though if that is what you are saying you have decorated it to the point that I feel I am decoding something.

      When primitive man began playing with rocks, they were not attempting to build a particle accelerator. They were just learning about it's physical properties, and the nature of rocks themselves. Later, they were able to make tools out of these objects.
      When we discuss things like the nature of consciousness, we are studying the nature of this thing, even if we do not understand it.

      I believe my explanation was valid to the question that LucidFlanders posed, which was "People know very little about consciousness so why bother specculating what we think it is?".
      kidjordan likes this.
      ---o--- my DCs say I'm dreamy.

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      Quote Originally Posted by sloth View Post
      We have no idea how electricity works, so why bother speculating on the subject?
      This is the one that I must disagree, we do know how electricity works, and magnetism to a degree.

      Unfortunately we don't know the WHY. That goes for consciousness, too. As much as we may know HOW they work, we do not know WHY they work, which really is the biggest question for everything... Why? Why to life?

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      Quote Originally Posted by ThePreserver View Post
      This is the one that I must disagree, we do know how electricity works, and magnetism to a degree.



      Unfortunately we don't know the WHY. That goes for consciousness, too. As much as we may know HOW they work, we do not know WHY they work, which really is the biggest question for everything... Why? Why to life?


      We know aspects of how and why electricity works. However, we do not have the full picture of either. We do not know how an electron gets from one side of a transister to another.



      Even if you were/are correct, my point stands. One possible reason why we discuss the nature of consciousness is because it is that aspect of our minds; the tendancy to explore the ideas of things that we cannot yet explain; that has lead to our survival so far.



      Another possible reason why we discuss the nature of consciousness is for smrt-making.



      I am afraid to say anything more on the subject. The subject of this thread is defining consciousness, not the reason why we are defining consciousness.
      Perhaps I should have ignored the question posed by LucidFlanders.
      Last edited by sloth; 03-18-2011 at 10:10 PM.
      ---o--- my DCs say I'm dreamy.

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      (I haven't read the other posts yet.)
      I define consciousness as subjective experience. The best way to explain what I mean is with the color example. There is an experience of the color red that no one can describe but which everyone who isn't red-green colorblind experiences. That subjective experience of redness that you get when you imagine or see the color is the conscious experience of it. Consciousness itself is the awareness that is able to experience those things.

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      Lots of good books on this out there. The very short introduction series has a book on consciousness that I liked.

      I think the phenomenon of perception is the basis of consciousness. It's all perception. What distinguishes a human being from an automated robot that does everything a human does is that the human perceives and acts and the robot just reacts deterministically based on it's computer programming.

      Really all we can truly know is that we perceive. I'm not a solipsist, but if I were, I would essentially contend that everyone around me doesn't perceive. They just react.

      However, we are very anthropomorphic in our view of consciousness. We aren't solipsists in regards to other human beings, but when it comes to animals, bacteria, elements, we become more and more solipsistic. We can't know whether a tree perceives any more than we can know if another human being perceives.

      BUT, I think if you could do shared dreaming then that would disprove solipsism. I haven't had one myself. BUT that is my goal. Also, quantum physics disproves solipsism because consciousness is what collapses wavefunctions. However, an extreme solipsist could contend that it's all a construct of his mind. You can't really refute it. I axiomatically assume that solipsism is false. Although, I would really like to read a good solipsistic philosopher. Any suggestions?

      Also, sorry if this post was off-topic or confusing. However, this is such a broad and difficult topic that I didn't know how else to reply.

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      Quote Originally Posted by kidjordan View Post
      What distinguishes a human being from an automated robot that does everything a human does is that the human perceives and acts and the robot just reacts deterministically based on it's computer programming.
      A human may still do things deterministically based on genetic programming and experience, but I know what you're saying. A 'robot' would be nothing more than that, and would lack any subjective experience/perception of things (as far as we know).

      Quote Originally Posted by kidjordan View Post
      We aren't solipsists in regards to other human beings, but when it comes to animals, bacteria, elements, we become more and more solipsistic. We can't know whether a tree perceives any more than we can know if another human being perceives.
      I think we can. Our perceptions and thoughts have been correlated directly to brain processes, so it's very likely that our ability to perceive/think is dependent on a brain. Trees and bacteria don't have those. Does anyone really believe non-human animals (mammals, at least) aren't conscious?

      Quote Originally Posted by kidjordan View Post
      You can't really refute it. I axiomatically assume that solipsism is false.
      I don't think you have to axiomatically assume it's false. It can be deduced logically that it's very likely false. Consciousness is correlated to brain activity, and since other people have brains like yours, it's likely that they have consciousness too. Also, you react to your perceptions/thoughts/feelings. For example, you know that the conscious experience of finding something humorous causes you to laugh, so when you see someone else laughing, it's likely that it's caused by the same conscious experience. It's like, (this is a make-believe scenario) if we found out that our pull toward Earth is caused by gravity, but so far we haven't realized that other massive objects also have gravity, and we landed on the moon one day for the first time and found we were pulled toward it too, it would be logical to conclude that the moon also very likely has gravity.
      EDIT: (I'm assuming here that solipsism means the belief that the real world exists but that everyone but you is a 'zombie' (has no consciousness). I'm not sure about the real definition. For some reason I thought before reading your post that a solipsist also believes the world is in his mind. And if that were the case, the solipsist might believe that his mind is purposely creating other characters who seem conscious (like DCs). Maybe someone can tell me which definition of solipsism is the right one. I learned it, but I guess I forget the details.)

      Quote Originally Posted by kidjordan View Post
      I would really like to read a good solipsistic philosopher. Any suggestions?
      I've read somewhere (Mind: A Brief Introduction, by John Searle, I think) that there have never been any famous solipsistic philosophers. Then he joked that he guesses they wouldn't have any reason to try to convince anyone else of anything by arguing.
      Last edited by Dianeva; 03-29-2011 at 09:04 PM.

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      Has anyone read The Social Animal by David Brooks?

      Listening to it on audio book now, all 16 hours of it...

      It seems to be about how our subconscious works with our conscious mind.
      Last night I dreamed I ate a ten-pound marshmallow, and when I woke up the pillow was gone.
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      Quote Originally Posted by theMagician View Post
      Has anyone read The Social Animal by David Brooks?

      Listening to it on audio book now, all 16 hours of it...

      It seems to be about how our subconscious works with our conscious mind.
      I'm not going to read it simply because David Brooks isn't an expert in anything he's talking about. He's a writer not a scientist. Also, he was on the Colbert Report and he looked like a fool. IMO, you should save your time.

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