Why Are We Conscious?
April 12, 2019 at 3:00 am #25894
Unseen are you questioning whether we humans are conscious? I am taking it for granted. And since we know we share so many genes and physiology and behavior with other animals it would be a surprise if we were the only conscious animal. Is that arguing from analogy? I suppose it is. I also think it is highly probative of the probabilities. Eventually when we identify the neural pathways, parts of the brain responsible for consciousness and any other objective manifestations of consciousness we will be able to test other animals. I am a professional gambler and i would wager heartily on the affirmative for many animals.
That is exactly an argument from analogy. Almost a textbook example.
Anyway, the question we were discussing before your analogical tangent was WHY we are conscious, not WHETHER we are conscious. Some might argue that the very question WHY grants that people ARE conscious, even though the best arguments for anyone other than myself being conscious (in the sense of experiencing themselves and the world) are simple analogies.April 12, 2019 at 4:13 am #25895
Pardon me, but that doesn’t prove anything. Behavior doesn’t prove that the one behaving is having experiences behind the behavior. Again, I refer you to a Turing Human who is simply responding in believable ways to inputs.
I can only speculate on that thought experiment, which may never even produce a satisfactory answer. I’ve just deleted bullet point arguments for trying to better define and measure consciousness in humans and in other animals, in order to trace back to the origin of consciousness as it may have emerged naturally through evolution. It sounded too much like a broken record.
So I’ll give up guessing about the why, now. But can you take a brave or fun whack at it, please!? 🙂April 12, 2019 at 11:28 am #25897
@unseen – I just think that your definition of consciousness is very vague and woolly.April 12, 2019 at 4:04 pm #25898April 12, 2019 at 8:36 pm #25899
we know what having experiences is and don’t need a detailed definition.
We “know” when we are having an experience, and we know what it is like to have an experience. I believe that Buddhism classes experiences into the contact of the various sense organs with the outside world – sight, taste, touch, smell, hearing, emotion, and conscious awareness or attention. We can describe these experiences using language or other metaphors or signs in our conscious and unconscious minds.
We don’t get a dissection of the concept of experience from the experience of having experiences, but from a rational analysis using the cogitative functions of the conscious mind.April 12, 2019 at 9:54 pm #25900
Reg the Fronkey FarmerModerator
@Simon….signs in our conscious and unconscious minds.
Good choice of words. When people use “subconscious” instead of “unconscious” it shows they are 20 or 30 years behind in the science of the mind.
Apologies in advance but you are much too jung to be a freud.April 12, 2019 at 11:36 pm #25901
Reg. There aren’t enough apologies in this world….April 12, 2019 at 11:57 pm #25902
Reg. There aren’t enough apologies in this world….
Yeah we are gonna need the pinochle of apologiesApril 13, 2019 at 12:14 am #25903
Reg the Fronkey FarmerModerator
I’m sure my daddy would be very proud of me for that one 🙂April 13, 2019 at 3:19 am #25904
Unseen, i reject your WHY question as irrelevant and meaningless since it is equally applicable and unanswerable when applied to any and all natural phenomena. Your reaction to consciousness is aesthetic. Instead of consciousness it might have been echo location, playing dead, venom, flying, ritualized mating dances, mimicry etc. The aforementioned biological attributes including consciousness are consistent with evolution.
You are in no position to judge of the utility of consciousness. If i understand it is your position that consciousness is avoidable in humans. It is a gratuitous and dispensable capability. But you are assuming a fact not in evidence. Furthermore it is unreasonable to make that assumption since it would represent a departure from what we know and understand about the natural world.
Unless and until we discover an animal that displays intelligence and is without consciousness we are misguided in treating consciousness as anything other than another natural phenomenon.April 13, 2019 at 1:22 pm #25906
conscious awareness or attention
There is a “modular” theory of consciousness which states that there are a number of adaptive “modules” in the brain each adapted towards meeting a different type of goal. So when we are presented with things that are relevant to our goals, one or more modules will present themselves to consciousness depending on which is the most pressing threat or opportunity and which goal(s) it is relevant to.April 13, 2019 at 1:23 pm #25907
@unseen, I don’t think it’s possible to talk about consciousness until you are more precise in your concepts.April 13, 2019 at 3:06 pm #25908
This is where we find mental activity that exists below the level of conscious awareness. There is evidence of it in unconscious ego defenses, where what is being perceived is hidden from consciousness by the unconscious, and therefore the resulting behaviour is strange and irrational.
A good example is passive aggression where some kind of threat is perceived but not consciously. Then, the person goes on the attack, but their aggressive behaviour is unnoticed by them themselves, because it is unconscious.April 14, 2019 at 3:44 pm #25915
This is where we find mental activity that exists below the level of conscious awareness. There is evidence of it in unconscious ego defenses, where what is being perceived is hidden from consciousness by the unconscious, and therefore the resulting behaviour is strange and irrational. A good example is passive aggression where some kind of threat is perceived but not consciously. Then, the person goes on the attack, but their aggressive behaviour is unnoticed by them themselves, because it is unconscious.
I think we often find that we have thoughts or opinions on things we know we haven’t thought about on a conscious level. How does that happen? I think the only answer that makes sense is that we have an active unconscious mind operating underneath our conscious mind. What I’ve been asking is, do we really need the conscious mind? Why do we have it? Would we be able to function without it? If not, why not?April 14, 2019 at 5:21 pm #25917
do we really need the conscious mind? Why do we have it? Would we be able to function without it? If not, why not?
It’s an interesting and relevant question, and I think we can only make headway in answering it if we ask, what is consciousness and what does it do?
In some ways the processing in the conscious mind is no different from that in other parts of the mind or brain, in that it’s just processing. But in the conscious mind the difference is it’s supposed to be high-level processing.
Jonathan Haidt talks a lot about the “rider” and the “horse” or “elephant” – the horse being the brain, and the rider being the conscious mind. The rider thinks it’s in charge, but really it’s just guiding the elephant around so that it doesn’t get into too much trouble.
Freud said that the ego is more likely to give way to the emotions rather than to conscious reasoning. Perhaps this is because he posited that part of the ego is unconscious and so can be affected without the conscious mind knowing about it. “The ego” contains conscious reasoning, and its function is to look after us (self-preservation). We see everything through its lens, which is why we don’t notice when we have invested external things (such as our actions, or possessions) with our hopes for self-preservation.
Conscious reasoning uses language and logic to try to make high-level decisions about what to do. But the difference with this kind of processing is that we can “hear” and “see” it in our mind’s ear and eye.
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