Why Are We Conscious?

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This topic contains 168 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  Simon Paynton 2 months ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 136 through 150 (of 169 total)
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  • #25918

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    In short, we need a space where we can collect and organise centrally the information we need to preserve ourselves, for the purpose of making high-level decisions.  We talk and listen to ourselves internally as if we were talking and listening to someone else.

    #25919

    I think the only answer that makes sense is that we have an active unconscious mind operating underneath our conscious mind.

    I think that there is a concept of duality with that idea. I look at it as “one mind” with consciousness part of the mind that lets us “watch” the images we visualize and “hear” our inner voice. It is the factory where our thoughts, ideas and insights are assembled. These are based upon what our senses have perceived.

    The unconsciousness part is for survival – “I have no recollection of driving the last 10 miles” but I did not crash or my “flight” response kicked in before I knew if it was a tiger or not. Maybe our facial recognition works at that level too.

    OK, that is rather simplistic but for something to work with it is sufficient for now. I have used the word “part” but only to infer 2 parts of the same mind which are the unconscious and the conscious aspects of it, rather than an unconscious mind and a conscious mind.

    We evolved consciousness in order to survive. I suspect it happened in parallel with the development of language. It allowed us to describe the associations of the imagery our mind held. We could then relate our thoughts to the group. It helped to pass on important information about where the herd was, where the dangers were and how to organize hunting parties. When we had more time on our hands (hunger sated and no dangers today) we started to ask ourselves some bigger questions. But with our lack of knowledge we allowed the subconscious to fill in the blanks. When we look back most of our early attempts at reasoning were incorrect but they were “good enough” to see off the competition. We survived by using our minds to solve tasks and did so as part of groups that could communicate those thoughts to each other. We would not have survived without having evolved that ability.

    #25922

    Unseen
    Participant

    I think the only answer that makes sense is that we have an active unconscious mind operating underneath our conscious mind. I think that there is a concept of duality with that idea. I look at it as “one mind” with consciousness part of the mind that lets us “watch” the images we visualize and “hear” our inner voice. It is the factory where our thoughts, ideas and insights are assembled. These are based upon what our senses have perceived. The unconsciousness part is for survival – “I have no recollection of driving the last 10 miles” but I did not crash or my “flight” response kicked in before I knew if it was a tiger or not. Maybe our facial recognition works at that level too. OK, that is rather simplistic but for something to work with it is sufficient for now. I have used the word “part” but only to infer 2 parts of the same mind which are the unconscious and the conscious aspects of it, rather than an unconscious mind and a conscious mind. We evolved consciousness in order to survive. I suspect it happened in parallel with the development of language. It allowed us to describe the associations of the imagery our mind held. We could then relate our thoughts to the group. It helped to pass on important information about where the herd was, where the dangers were and how to organize hunting parties. When we had more time on our hands (hunger sated and no dangers today) we started to ask ourselves some bigger questions. But with our lack of knowledge we allowed the subconscious to fill in the blanks. When we look back most of our early attempts at reasoning were incorrect but they were “good enough” to see off the competition. We survived by using our minds to solve tasks and did so as part of groups that could communicate those thoughts to each other. We would not have survived without having evolved that ability.

    The dualism isn’t the matter/spirit dualism of classic philosophy. Both are epiphenomena of the physical body (the brain and nervous system in particular).

    A recent Scientific American article by philosopher Peter Carruthers claimed that there really is no such thing as “conscious thought.” In that case, the apparent dualism evaporates, at least in terms of being a relevant distinction, because by the time we become conscious of what we are thinking, we already thought it. In other words, what we call “the conscious mind” or “consciousness” is merely an observer of what has already happened below the consciousness. The consciousness as an observer is not the actor. That role goes to the sub- or pre-conscious mind.

    Assuming that view is true, consciousness is gratuitous. We COULD do what we do, think what we think, behave just as we do with nobody home in the sense of no experiences going on.

    “We survived by using our minds to solve tasks and did so as part of groups that could communicate those thoughts to each other. We would not have survived without having evolved that ability,” you say. However, that presupposes that the consciousness is active and in control of he mind, which is a highly dubious assumption.

    Who we are is in our brain, where the actual thinking goes on in a an un- or pre-conscious process. This is where our identity is, because the conscious mind is like a pool somewhere in a creek, where the pool is always there but the contents are ever-changing. Identity, thus, can’t be attributed to the conscious mind.

    • This reply was modified 2 months ago by  Unseen.
    #25924

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Assuming that view is true, consciousness is gratuitous.

    That’s assuming a lot.  The guy isn’t necessarily right.  You are both assuming that no processing goes on in the conscious mind, which is silly.

    Why should consciousness be the only part of the brain where no processing goes on?  We have emotional reactions to everything that happens to us, including to seeing mathematical symbols, but that’s not the same as all processing stopping once it reaches the conscious mind.

    #25925

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I can accept and agree that consciousness works together with the rest of the brain – but that’s the point – it does work.

    #25929

    Unseen
    Participant

    Assuming that view is true, consciousness is gratuitous.

    That’s assuming a lot. The guy isn’t necessarily right. You are both assuming that no processing goes on in the conscious mind, which is silly. Why should consciousness be the only part of the brain where no processing goes on? We have emotional reactions to everything that happens to us, including to seeing mathematical symbols, but that’s not the same as all processing stopping once it reaches the conscious mind.

    He seems to be right, however. We already know that decisions happen before we are aware that we made them, by anything from a small fraction of a second to up to several seconds to being totally unaware (doing various activities on “autopilot” as it were). Being conscious is just the experience of being aware, and we are unaware of most of what’s going on in our mind.

    #25930

    Being conscious is just the experience of being aware, and we are unaware of most of what’s going on in our mind.

    That is a good one line description of consciousness.

    #25931

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    We already know that decisions happen before we are aware that we made them,

    Making decisions is one thing (deciding what to do); reasoning is something else, another kind of processing that the conscious mind does.

    #25934

    Now, when physiologists study the living brain of an ape, they have no grounds for supposing that they are dealing with a dual structure. The brain is not a tenement inhabited by a spirit or soul. The spirit or soul is but a name for the manifestations of the living brain. The leading neurologists of the world are agreed that the same is true of the human brain. It was only when they abandoned the dual conception—an inheritance from the dark ages of medicine—that they began to understand the disorders of man’s mind and how to treat them.

    Modern medicine thus strikes at the very root of Christian doctrine. For, if man is truly mortal, if death ends all, if the human soul is but the manifestation of the living brain, as light and heat are the manifestations of a glowing bar of steel, then there can be no resurrection of the dead. Man has the seeds of immortality in him, but the gift is for the race, not for the individual.

    Sir Arthur Keith, circa 1905.

    #25935

    Unseen
    Participant

    Being conscious is just the experience of being aware, and we are unaware of most of what’s going on in our mind. That is a good one line description of consciousness.

    Anything you object to in my definition of “having experiences”?

    #25936

    Unseen
    Participant

    We already know that decisions happen before we are aware that we made them,

    Making decisions is one thing (deciding what to do); reasoning is something else, another kind of processing that the conscious mind does.

    Reasoning is just making decisions, is it not?

    #25937

    Unseen
    Participant

    Now, when physiologists study the living brain of an ape, they have no grounds for supposing that they are dealing with a dual structure. The brain is not a tenement inhabited by a spirit or soul. The spirit or soul is but a name for the manifestations of the living brain. The leading neurologists of the world are agreed that the same is true of the human brain. It was only when they abandoned the dual conception—an inheritance from the dark ages of medicine—that they began to understand the disorders of man’s mind and how to treat them. Modern medicine thus strikes at the very root of Christian doctrine. For, if man is truly mortal, if death ends all, if the human soul is but the manifestation of the living brain, as light and heat are the manifestations of a glowing bar of steel, then there can be no resurrection of the dead. Man has the seeds of immortality in him, but the gift is for the race, not for the individual. Sir Arthur Keith, circa 1905.

    It seems to me that the mind is an epiphenomenon of the brain, as a rainbow is an epiphenomenon of sunlight being diffracted water mist. Note that the rainbow is determined by the diffraction, not vice versa.

     

    #25938

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Reasoning is just making decisions, is it not?

    Reasoning is mental manipulation of ideas.  It seems to be true that other parts of the brain (for example, emotions) are involved in the process.

    #25939

    Anything you object to in my definition of “having experiences”?

    Having experiences is just to have reactions to stimuli.  We experience the world through our senses and process them as they enter our brain. Much of how we react to these experiences is involuntary, as if our “awareness sentry” never notices them. We hear a sudden loud noise and react immediately, without making a conscious decision to do so. If someone shouts “fire” in the theatre our body prepares for flight without instruction. Much of our daily life is like this. We are aware and react to the experience at the level any other other animal does. Consciousness, at the level of being aware that “something is happening” is all that is needed to survive.

    After the event we can process what happened at a deeper level of consciousness, involving reason, memory recollection and most importantly, future event planning should a similar scenario present itself. It is this ability that helped us survive. When most of our daily lives were spent on the Savannah this ability to increase our chances of survival, by being able to quickly process stimuli to our senses and put our improved “flight plan” into operation or to avoid the danger in the first place, allow those fittest to their environment to last longer.

    This ability to process and to “think” enabled us to evolve. It was a trait worth keeping.  Once we satisfied the base of our pyramid of needs we had time on our hand to find the patterns and work out that if “I do A then B is the result”. Eventually, like a new born child, we started to ask “Why” and because we were an ignorant species we had to wait until very recently to figure out that the “Why” was not because of volcanoes erupting or the forest gods being angry or a God of gods being concerned about our sex lives.

    Maybe we will explain the Universe to itself, maybe we will go extinct. How our collective consciousness evolves will determine our future.

    Damn, I have evolved to need coffee before I can give a straight answer 🙂

     

     

    #25940

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    We experience the world through our senses and process them as they enter our brain.

    I think that conscious attention or awareness, and the emotions, can also be considered sense organs.

    More precisely, the emotions emanate from the emotional system as tokens of meaning.

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