Consciousness - the elephant in the room

What is a human being? What is life? Can science give us reliable answers to such questions? The electricity of life. The meaning of human consciousness. Are we alone? Are the traditional contests between science and religion still relevant? Does the word "spirit" still hold meaning today?

Moderators: MGmirkin, bboyer

Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby Sparky » Sun Oct 23, 2011 10:30 am

(I suspect from what you wrote above, that you are a proponent of the premise that consciousness is an innate property of all life, that it has levels.


that is a true statement, whether one recognizes it or not. It may be quite a stretch to suggest that a bacterium has a basic form of consciousness, but who is to say that their reaction to a stimuli is not. All animal life that i have observed appears to have a level of consciousness. Each of my pets has it's own personality, they reason, and seem to have awareness of themselves, though there are a few retards in that respect, just like in humanity... ;)
"It is dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong."
"Doubt is not an agreeable condition, but certainty is an absurd one."
"Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities." Voltaire
Sparky
 
Posts: 3517
Joined: Tue Jul 20, 2010 2:20 pm

Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby tayga » Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:19 am

Sparky wrote:All animal life that i have observed appears to have a level of consciousness. Each of my pets has it's own personality, they reason, and seem to have awareness of themselves, though there are a few retards in that respect, just like in humanity... ;)


Awareness is one of the many things with which consciousness tends to confused. Referring to Nick C's post above, Jayne's talks about introspection. I've heard the same concept being described as 'awareness of awareness'.

I've just started reading Jaynes which is why I've only cited his introduction but regarding 'retards' I am seriously beginning to think that some humans are not capable of introspection. That would certainly tie in with the inability of some individuals to comprehend such phenomena as depression and the internal origin of 'state of mind'.
tayga


It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong.

- Richard P. Feynman

Normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory and, when successful, finds none.
- Thomas Kuhn
User avatar
tayga
 
Posts: 668
Joined: Wed Nov 19, 2008 7:54 am

Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby mjv1121 » Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:55 am

Is this discussion on the subject of "consciousness"? Or is it more like "sentience" or the relationship of "thought" to brain function ?.

What we know for certain is that "thought" is fundamentally a physical mechanical process - your need to include chemistry, electromagnetism and possibly some kind of quantum level something or other.

Unless and until we can develop of solid understanding, or at least coherent theories, of the basic interactions between atoms and atomic constituents, there is little hope of understanding "thought". We need to know how quantum particle, electrons, protons and atoms interact - the elephant in the room is very small.

Michael
mjv1121
Guest
 

Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby tayga » Sun Oct 23, 2011 1:54 pm

mjv1121 wrote:Is this discussion on the subject of "consciousness"? Or is it more like "sentience" or the relationship of "thought" to brain function ?


I hope it's about consciousness. :?
tayga


It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong.

- Richard P. Feynman

Normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory and, when successful, finds none.
- Thomas Kuhn
User avatar
tayga
 
Posts: 668
Joined: Wed Nov 19, 2008 7:54 am

Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby mjv1121 » Mon Oct 24, 2011 2:06 am

tayga,

the more he thinks of (is conscious of) the process of shooting a basketball the harder it gets and his shooting percentage goes down. Consciousness can authorise the basketball player to practice his shot so that he can perform it automatically (unconsciously) during a game.


The process of teaching muscle activity to perform "unconsciously" is called to as kinaesthetics - allowing motor activity seemingly automatically without apparent concentration. As such the basketball player is a bad example of "unconscious" activity, since it is not concentration on the activity that causes an increase in failure, it is the invasion of distraction - "I must get this or we may lose the game" type of distraction - this can be referred to as "arousal". Yes, you are teaching your motor controls to perform a task as independently from your state of arousal, but equally you are training your "mind" to ignore distraction.

Consciousness is, in at least one sense, what we are.


Are we "consciousness" or are we "self-awareness" (Sentience?) or are we "thoughts" (whether conscious or unconscious). My point being that Scott has used the "word" consciousness to ask the question, but it is not precisely clear how he is using that word. Until you provide a definition of terms you could well find that you are asking 10 different people 10 subtly different questions, due to their personal interpretation of your wording.
The basketball player example seemed reasonable, but has nothing to do with conscious versus unconscious or even sub-conscious.

As such, my point stands, in order to understand the process of sentient, conscious thought you first need to understand the underlying physical mechanisms, otherwise you may fall into romanticising about the human condition or wasting effort on irrelevant analysis. Thus I would ask Scott a question: What is your question?

Michael
mjv1121
Guest
 

Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby Scott MC » Mon Oct 24, 2011 3:02 am

You've made a good point or two there Michael,

Maybe the difference between consciousness and inertness isn't as important as I think, but I'm saying that topic of consciousness is neglected.

My terms , consciousness.
It seems to awaken before birth within the womb and remains constant throughout a lifetime throughout all kinds of varied personal circumstances.
It seems to be variable, eg sleep, 10.30am, emergency, etc.
It seems to be closely correlated to 'life'; life is another tricky subject
It seems to be related to 'awareness' and 'knowledge'

Antonyms: dead, dull, more than oblivious(?), inert, inanimate

So from this perspective my question is, why does the basic question of our awareness (and life etc.) seem neglected by the sciences?


Also, what if the causes of life are not to be found in physical mechanisms? People have been looking there a long time to know the difference between a living body and a dead body.
99.999+% of everything can't be that simple, can it?
User avatar
Scott MC
 
Posts: 85
Joined: Fri Oct 07, 2011 3:00 pm
Location: Tweed Valley, NSW

Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby mjv1121 » Mon Oct 24, 2011 4:36 am

Scott,

Not meaning to be semantic pedantic, but from what you say I gather that you are asking more about "sentience" or "self-awareness" - a characteristic or property appearing to be something above and beyond autonomic or "instinctive" brain function.

Also, what if the causes of life are not to be found in physical mechanisms?


Preceding on the basis that my assumption above is correct, I think a lot of the thinking and discussion on the subject, both lay and scientific/academic has centred on the premise that it is a philosophical question - highlighted by your question regarding underlying physical mechanisms. The cold hard truth is that everything stems from, at some level or other, the laws of motion - basic physical mechanisms. Any intellectual attempt to construct layers of mysticism will ultimately only serve to obscure our view of reality. The universe was here before us and it will still be here long after we are gone. All that we are derives from the fundamental mechanics from which "life" and "thought" originated. One may "feel" that art and music are in some way proof of an extension beyond the process, but that is just a cognitively refined delusion. Argument one against my statement is that usually something along the lines of, I lack the imagination to see limitless beauty of the universe, but unfortunately nowhere is it written that objectivity has to be pretty.

Michael
mjv1121
Guest
 

Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby StevenJay » Mon Oct 24, 2011 8:05 am

mjv1121 wrote:The cold hard truth is that everything stems from, at some level or other, the laws of motion - basic physical mechanisms.

so, are you saying that physicality stems from itself? :?

mjv1121 wrote:Any intellectual attempt to construct layers of mysticism will ultimately only serve to obscure our view of reality.

And what, precisely, constitutes "reality" (good luck with that one)??

mjv1121 wrote:All that we are derives from the fundamental mechanics from which "life" and "thought" originated.

I, and the rest of humanity would love to know what those "fundamental mechanics" actually are. Because it would have to involve something beyond the mechanics of mere physicality.

mjv1121 wrote:One may "feel" that art and music are in some way proof of an extension beyond the process, but that is just a cognitively refined delusion.

One might also interperet that statement as being every bit as cognitively delusional. ;)

I know that a lot of people would prefer to shoehorn Consciousness into a tidy little physical box. But there's just no way it's gonna fit without a lot of drastic trimming. :P

mjv1121 wrote:[...]nowhere is it written that objectivity has to be pretty.

"Objectivity" is merely a cognitive perception of subjective experience - and all experience is essentially subjective. In other words, "objectivity" merely represents various points of general agreement among multiple subjective views of basically the same thing. Beauty, for instance, is something that is more readily perceived from a higher state of awareness, than from a lower one. In other words, with a high degree of awareness, it's possible to see beauty and perfection in the most extreme scenarios imaginable.

As I've said elsewhere on this topic, it's all about awareness and perception. :geek:
It's all about perception.
User avatar
StevenJay
 
Posts: 506
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:02 am
Location: Northern Arizona

Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby mjv1121 » Mon Oct 24, 2011 9:20 am

Steven,

"Objectivity" is merely a cognitive perception of subjective experience - and all experience is essentially subjective. In other words, "objectivity" merely represents various points of general agreement among multiple subjective views of basically the same thing. Beauty, for instance, is something that is more readily perceived from a higher state of awareness, than from a lower one. In other words, with a high degree of awareness, it's possible to see beauty and perfection in the most extreme scenarios imaginable.


Fair point - perhaps I failed to define my terms precisely enough.

I don't want to get into the deep dark philosophical arts of "how do we know we exist?" and "rigorously prove that a table is a table in less than 800 pages". I will jump past all that doubt and start from the premise that we exist as human individuals on a planet, in a galaxy, in the universe. Therefore, yes, physicality stems from itself and is self-evident!!!!
Reality is our existence in the universe. I would love to know precisely the form of the "fundamental mechanics", but suffice to say it is the mechanics by which the universe operates. Furthermore, since the universe does not require humans or perception or awareness or sentience or consciousness the factual existence of a fundamental mechanism of universal operation is also self-evident.

mjv1121 wrote:One may "feel" that art and music are in some way proof of an extension beyond the process, but that is just a cognitively refined delusion.


One might also interperet that statement as being every bit as cognitively delusional. ;)


I see your point, but you are incorrect. I will repeat, since it is crucial to any understanding of human existence and human "consciousness": the universe does not require humans or perception or awareness or sentience or consciousness, so the suggestion that the process of thinking somehow extends beyond the boundaries of the universal existence is delusion, since the process by which we may come by such a suggestion must by definition involve the mechanical processes of the universe. The simple unfortunate fact that we are not aware of the detailed process by which our brain operates, leaves us with "thoughts" and "ideas" with no specific knowledge of the computational method by which they are achieved.

So, I return to my point that "consciousness" is an emergent property of the fundamental mechanics of the universe and thus undeserving of an elephant in the room status.

Michael
mjv1121
Guest
 

Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby Sparky » Mon Oct 24, 2011 9:22 am

Consciousness results from a serious deficiency of blood alcohol.

;)
"It is dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong."
"Doubt is not an agreeable condition, but certainty is an absurd one."
"Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities." Voltaire
Sparky
 
Posts: 3517
Joined: Tue Jul 20, 2010 2:20 pm

Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby mjv1121 » Mon Oct 24, 2011 10:08 am

Sparky, based on the logic of your argument, I think we should have a serious scientific discussion, Michael (hic)
mjv1121
Guest
 

Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby tayga » Mon Oct 24, 2011 11:27 am

mjv1121 wrote:the universe does not require humans or perception or awareness or sentience or consciousness


I hope you can see that that's an untestable assertion.

My heart sunk when you started to take this thread down a reductionist route. I can see that you're convinced that physical reality is at the bottom of everything. I doubt there's any way of proving that one way or the other but I fear this is a rabbit hole which won't shed any light on what consciousness is.
tayga


It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong.

- Richard P. Feynman

Normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory and, when successful, finds none.
- Thomas Kuhn
User avatar
tayga
 
Posts: 668
Joined: Wed Nov 19, 2008 7:54 am

Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby mjv1121 » Mon Oct 24, 2011 11:55 am

tayga,


mjv: the universe does not require humans or perception or awareness or sentience or consciousness


I hope you can see that that's an untestable assertion.


Quite possibly, but then no test or experiment is required, it is undeniably, completely and utterly self-evident!!!!

I am not suggesting that the topic is not of interest nor that it does not deserve discussion, simply that consciousness and all human existence is by definition emergent from the universe. In light of your sunken heart I will take my uninspiring reductionism (I know it is) and play somewhere else.

Regards

Michael
mjv1121
Guest
 

Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby Scott MC » Mon Oct 24, 2011 12:11 pm

It seems that because life & consciousness have remained utter mysteries to science, they have been set aside as unimportant. Or explained away by tunnel vision logic.

What if a proper understanding of life and consciousness is required for a proper understanding of everything else? Then, skipping it would be a major blunder.
99.999+% of everything can't be that simple, can it?
User avatar
Scott MC
 
Posts: 85
Joined: Fri Oct 07, 2011 3:00 pm
Location: Tweed Valley, NSW

Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby StevenJay » Mon Oct 24, 2011 12:37 pm

Scott MC wrote:It seems that because life & consciousness have remained utter mysteries to science, they have been set aside as unimportant. Or explained away by tunnel vision logic.

What if a proper understanding of life and consciousness is required for a proper understanding of everything else? Then, skipping it would be a major blunder.

Precisely, Scott. And I think the primary reason that Consciousness is omitted from scientific consideration for the simply because it is non-quantifiable, doesn't jive with any particle or wave theory, cannot be expressed mathematicaly (although, I think Hawking, in all of his delusional grandeur, keeps trying), and steadfastly refuses to be squeezed into a reductionist/materialist box.
It's all about perception.
User avatar
StevenJay
 
Posts: 506
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:02 am
Location: Northern Arizona

PreviousNext

Return to The Human Question

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest