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Can Consciousness Be Defined

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Salty Booger, Jan 13, 2021.

  1. Salty Booger

    Salty Booger Royal Crown Cola (RC)

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    It's not an object that can be observed as can anything else. Can you define consciousness?

    pexels-adil-2801579.jpg
    Photo by Adil from Pexels
     
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  2. blü 2

    blü 2 Well-Known Member
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    Having browsed my dictionaries and checked the net, I'd say it was the state of being

    awake, and aware (or, able to be aware) of your existence, sensations, thoughts, emotions and environment.
    This rather begs the question of what 'aware' means ─ how it can be defined without reference to consciousness ─ but you didn't ask that.
     
    #2 blü 2, Jan 13, 2021
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2021
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  3. MikeF

    MikeF Proponent of RAEism
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    Do we not notice changes to cognitive function and personality if we start taking away parts of the central nervous system? What about the effects of anesthesia? Does that not make one unconscious, unaware? Are these not examples of observed changes? The object being observed is the operation and function of the neural net of the central nervous system.

    A human brain is quite complex, but I would say that consciousness or awareness is simply the executive function areas of the brain's ability to communicate with the storage areas of the brain; to retrieve, analyze, and store information. To have awareness outside the mind, the executive centers must also be able to receive information from the senses. Interruption of these pathways limits, or shuts off consciousness.
     
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  4. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Veteran Member
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    I can propose a definition. It would be better not to, except that technology is moving us very close to a point at which we will need to decide what is and isn't conscious. I don't mean that we must decide today, but it could be soon.
     
  5. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    Being aware of ones self in relationship to ones environment. That is as basic as I can think. It is a biological process rather than a thing one can hold. It is measured by behavior or if you are a HOT believer (higher order thought) measured through language (which I disagree with). Considering the complexity of the brains of animals it is not surprising that it is difficult to measure but we are making progress.
     
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  6. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    As you asked this under "Philosophy" and I assume that you want a relevant definition, I'd say, "no I can't".
    To explain, or only to define consciousness in a philosophical context is an ongoing process for a long time and all proposed definitions haven't found consensus yet. I suspect that is by design.
    We still don't have enough hard, undeniable facts. I think that science has to come up with a definition first, supported by measurements, for philosophers to be pressed to consent on their definition.
     
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  7. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Shadow Wolf's Aspie sibling

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    The problem you have is that consciousness is subjective. So here is how the subjective as a human behavior works including consciousness. It has no objective referent. Further if something as behavior can be done subjectively, anybody can get away claim that their subjective understanding is objective. How? Because you can subjectively claim something is objective as long as what you do is subjective.

    So here is the answer for what consciousness is:
    The Thomas Theorem:
    https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803104247382
    "A concept formulated by the American sociologist William Isaac Thomas (1863–1967) that ‘“*facts” do not have a uniform existence apart from the persons who observe and interpret them. Rather, the “real” facts are the ways in which different people come into and define situations’. Famously, as he and his research assistant and wife Dorothy Swaine Thomas (1899–1977) put it in 1928, ‘If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences’. Such a ‘subjective’ definition of the situation by a social actor, group, or subculture is what Merton came to call a self-fulfilling prophecy (as in cases of ‘mind over matter’). It is at the heart of symbolic interactionism. See also constructionism; frame of reference; framing; perspectivism."

    So here is your problem: Any definition done by any human including any human doing science for something, which is subjective, can't be observed using science. You start by being subjective based on you considering your definition to be correct. But it is not correct, true or a fact. It is a subjective belief, which works (is real to you), but I simply use another subjective definition, which works for me.

    The problem is that neither of us can use science as a methodology to test, which one definition is correct. How? Because neither definition has no objective referent.
    In effect you wouldn't be doing science, you would be doing philosophy like everybody else including me. I just know that it is so for both of us. Where as you in effect believe that your definition would be scientific, because you say so. It wouldn't because it would have no objective referent.
     
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  8. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for demonstrating my points.
     
    #8 Heyo, Jan 14, 2021 at 4:17 AM
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2021 at 4:25 AM
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  9. blü 2

    blü 2 Well-Known Member
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    Don't be ridiculous. Science is well aware of subjectivity and scientific method has as one of its aims the maximizing of objectivity. A world exists external to the self, and our senses are capable of informing us about that world, and science proceeds to do so.

    Which is how come your computer exists and how come the net is here for you to use ─ accurate statements about reality that you not only agree with but rely on.
     
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  10. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium Ānanda
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    In terms of eastern or western philosophy? Both look at consciousness differently.

    In western philosophy, consciousness is a property of qualia and the mind; a product of sense perception. In eastern philosophy, it is devoid of intentionality and mental representations; a pure awareness which transcends the senses.
     
  11. Jaiket

    Jaiket Well-Known Member
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    Any and all experience.
     
  12. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium Ānanda
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    What is it that observes or is aware of any and all experience?
     
  13. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Shadow Wolf's Aspie sibling

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    That I agree, doesn't exist external to the self. You are subjective!!!
     
  14. Jaiket

    Jaiket Well-Known Member
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    That's an interesting question but not one I think we have to answer when we're trying to get a grip on what it is we mean when we say consciousness.

    If you press me I'd say something vague like, observers. Or conscious agents. In short, things that can have experiences. I wouldn't want to postulate too deeply on the nature of what these are because it is an absolute rabbit hole that I get lost in quite quickly

    Advaita Vedanta philosophy has quite a bit to say about this, yes?

    Edit: I think the swami I was listening to called it 'the witness' or something to that effect.
     
    #14 Jaiket, Jan 14, 2021 at 8:41 AM
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  15. blü 2

    blü 2 Well-Known Member
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    Then how is it possible for you to have communicated that to me?
    Yes, everyone is subjective. And yes, evolution has equipped humans to interpret the external world in particular ways (those beneficial to survival and breeding). Human language, with its ability to label particular real things, and then to go beyond that with the extensive use of concepts, abstractions, generalizations, categories, and so on, is a handy demonstration of this. And yes, even such a direct activity as counting requires the observer to select the thing to be counted, and the field in which it is to be counted, before there can be instantiations of two, three, four &c.

    But none of that has prevented science from exploring, describing, and seeking to explain the world external to the self ─ nor has it prevented you from using and relying on the products of science and its shadow, technology.
     
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  16. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Shadow Wolf's Aspie sibling

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    Because you apparently don't understand inter-subjectivity.
     
  17. blü 2

    blü 2 Well-Known Member
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    *chuckle* Very droll!
     
  18. Straw Dog

    Straw Dog Well-Known Member

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    No, I cannot define ‘consciousness’, but the physical and mental environment can define it.
     
  19. blü 2

    blü 2 Well-Known Member
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    Or let me put it this way. Science is the best system of exploring reality that we have, and that's not because it has any access to absolutes, since they don't exist, but because it works.
     
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  20. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium Ānanda
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    Yes, it does. Per Advaita Vedanta, consciousness is, as you accurately stated above, the witness (or Sakshi in Sanskrit, though this term is used more in the Samkhya school of philosophy).

    In Advaita, it is often referred to as the Atman, which is the eternal immutable consciousness devoid of bias, attachment, or any other quality or attribute. It is that which experiences...the impartial observer of not only the sense objects, but of the sense organs themselves, the impartial observer of thought and the mind. It is Satcitananda, which means existence/consciousness/bliss.
     
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