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The Problem of Consciousness

 
 
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 10:40 am
For the purpose of debate in this thread, consciousness will henceforth be defined as follows.

Consciousness: the sum of all experience*.

(*subjective experience)

We ask that anyone who participates in this debate use this definition. If you would like to know why this definition has been chosen from among many possibilities, see 'Consciousness is a Biological Problem,' especially the latter fifteen or so pages.

I'll try to get the ball rolling by asking a few questions:

1. What is the relationship between consciousness and the 'real world,' i.e. the world which (we assume) exists external and independent of our experience of it.

2. Why do we make that assumption, namely, that there is something 'real' which we experience the sensation of, when all we actually experience is the sense itself. When we say 'tree,' are we referring to a set of experiences (the feel of bark, the sight of 'tree,' the smell of sap, etc.) considered as one 'thing' or are we refering to that 'real' thing outside of our experience, which we are having the experience of?
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richrf
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 11:37 am
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon;87136 wrote:
For the purpose of debate in this thread, consciousness will henceforth be defined as follows.

Consciousness: the sum of all experience. (i.e. subjective experience)

I'll try to get the ball rolling by asking a few questions:

1. What is the relationship between consciousness and the 'real world,' i.e. the world which (we assume) exists external and independent of our experience of it.


Yes, I believe, consciousness is the sum of all experiences at two levels.

The first is the individual consciousness (call it the soul if you wish) which spans multiple physical lives. It is experiencing the universe, storing memory of it (instincts, inherited characteristics, innate skills, etc.) and using these experiences to create. It is creating reality out of itself. This includes the physical, biological body that it is using to explore, by utilizing the motor and sense functions within the human body. Creating the human body is one of the things that consciousness has learned to do.

Then there is the universal consciousness which is the sum of the experience of all of the individual consciousnesses.

Rich
TickTockMan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 12:25 pm
@richrf,
richrf;87152 wrote:
It is experiencing the universe, storing memory of it (instincts, inherited characteristics, innate skills, etc.) and using these experiences to create. It is creating reality out of itself.

Rich


Whose reality? Surely you can't be suggesting that your individual consciousness is creating my individual reality.
richrf
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 12:28 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan;87162 wrote:
Whose reality? Surely you can't be suggesting that your individual consciousness is creating my individual reality.


No, each individual consciousness emerges from the movement of the universal consciousness. Bohm would call this universal consciousness the Implicate Order that flows. I see it as spirals, like the many galaxies forming in the universe:

http://originalbeauty.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/spiral20galaxy.jpg

I believe that the macro reflects the micro and the micro the macro.

John Stewart Bell, in a paper entitled "The Moral Aspect of Quantum Mechanics wrote:

"It remains a logical possibility that it is the act of consciousness which is ultimately responsible for the reduction of the wave packet."

Rich
TickTockMan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 01:44 pm
@richrf,
richrf;87165 wrote:
No, each individual consciousness emerges from the movement of the universal consciousness.


In your view, where does the idea of free will (or the lack thereof) fit in with the theory of universal consciousness?

Does individual consciousness have any choice whether or not it emerges from the universal consciousness?

And finally, what gives rise to the universal consciousness? Did it arise from nothingness, or did it emerge from some other, higher dimensional form of consciousness that we lack the faculties to comprehend?
BrightNoon
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 03:06 pm
@richrf,
richrf;87152 wrote:
Yes, I believe, consciousness is the sum of all experiences at two levels.

The first is the individual consciousness (call it the soul if you wish) which spans multiple physical lives. It is experiencing the universe, storing memory of it (instincts, inherited characteristics, innate skills, etc.) and using these experiences to create. It is creating reality out of itself. This includes the physical, biological body that it is using to explore, by utilizing the motor and sense functions within the human body. Creating the human body is one of the things that consciousness has learned to do.

Then there is the universal consciousness which is the sum of the experience of all of the individual consciousnesses.

Rich


I agree with your notion that consciousness creates reality, but I have to ask you in what sense you are using the word 'reality?' Do you mean experienced reality? Or do you mean the reality which (as assume) exists external to and independently of our experienced reality? If the latter, I have to disagree. While I think that consciousness does generate the experienced world, which is another way of saying that consciousness IS the experienced world, or that the world as we know it is purely phenomenological and composed of experiences in relation to one another (whether as sensations or thoughts), I do not think that consciousness generates the external world; if it did, that world would not be external, it would be experienced; we would be conscious of it by definition, no?

Rather, my supposition is that consciousness is the counterpart of the external world; i.e. any given consciousness is the sum of experience of being a certain part of the external world, from the perspective of just that distinct part.

So, there is no reason to assume then that the entire world, as a whole, does not also experience a sort of consciousness, so I could agree with you on that, but some qualfication might be needed. I do hold that all consciousnesses, from all perspectives, and there are infinitely many, are essentially of the same character, except perhaps for that one consciousness of the monistic world as a whole. That basic characterstic of all but perhaps that one consciousness is that of perspective: literally, seeing through. The seeing of the part is of the world (in its vicinity in any case), through the lens of the part's own structure. If we apply this same formula to the world as a whole, we seem to have a problem; how can the world see the world (itself) through the lens of itself (the world)? We might call this the only objective perspective, but then it is also the only truly self-less perspective; i.e. for the self to exist, there has to be that division between what is seen and that through which it is seen. If the two are one and the same, there is no self. I think, by this logic anyway, we can then abolish any idea of a directing or willing Great Consciousness. ..more on this later, I have something written somewhere that deals with this specifically.

Regarding TickTockMan's comments,
My view of is that experienced phenomena are not causal of anything in the 'real' external world, but rather the result, or rather correspondent, thereof. 'Free-will,' insofar as it refers to the experience which we commonly call 'deciding,' 'willing,' etc., does exist as that very experienced phenomena, but if 'free-will' is supposed to refer to an actual causal power, then it is pure imagination.

Also, the idea that consciousness, of any magnitude (whether of a frog, doormat, newsanchor, or the world as a whole), has to arise from a higher order to consciousness, is an error in my opinion: the same error made by the Socratics and Platonists in assuming that ideal Forms are the basis of reality, and in fact grant reality to ordinary, visible things by virtue of those things being like or unlike the various Forms. It's the other way round; existence precedes essence. It's also a very Judeo-Christian idea, top down creation. The Forms are abstractions from the specifics of reality in the same way that complex structures, and their corresponding orders of consciousness, are constructed from simpler structures. It's growth in complexity from the bottom up, as an autocatalytic process.

Also, if I didn't make myself clear, I don't think that a universal consciousness (i.e. any consicousness which the world as a whole may have) is neccessarily, or even probably, the highest order of consciousness. It's not the size of the entity, but rather its complexity, which determines the complexity of the entity's conscious life. Hoover dam no doubt enjoys a far less complex sort of consciousness than I do, despite its greater mass, volume, etc.
TickTockMan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 04:37 pm
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon;87190 wrote:
Hoover dam no doubt enjoys a far less complex sort of consciousness than I do, despite its greater mass, volume, etc.


One would hope so, as Hoover Dam is basically nothing more than an aggregate of concrete and steel and therefore not capable of any form of consciousness whatsoever!

Yes, out of everything you said, this is what I chose to latch onto. Ahh well, such is the nature of my consciousness.
0 Replies
 
KaseiJin
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 06:31 pm
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon;87136 wrote:

1. What is the relationship between consciousness and the 'real world,' i.e. the world which (we assume) exists external and independent of our experience of it.


Consciousness, as the sum of all subjective experience by vertebrates, and especially primates, is in relationship with the real world, as part of the real world, within the enclosure and domain of a translating process on behalf of the body which it is working on by the brain.

BrightNoon;87136 wrote:
2. Why do we make that assumption, namely, that there is something 'real' which we experience the sensation of, when all we actually experience is the sense itself. When we say 'tree,' are we referring to a set of experiences (the feel of bark, the sight of 'tree,' the smell of sap, etc.) considered as one 'thing' or are we refering to that 'real' thing outside of our experience, which we are having the experience of?


It is not, in the most precise explanation, an assumption, but a translation of both the external real world and the internal real world. It should be pointed out, however, that that of the internal real world is not a member of the external real world--although it may be an imagined copy of an external real world memory.

To doubt that our senses are interpreting facts of the real world, in most cases, is for the most part nonsensical in the real world. Of course most will have to sleep, eat, find protection from the elements, carry out bodily functions, and hold on to the process and circumstances of being alive . . . it's real on this most pragmatic, basic level.
salima
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 06:39 pm
@BrightNoon,
to begin at the beginning, take the definition 'subjective experience' as opposed to 'the sum of all experience'. can we have experience that is not subjective? I would say not, but somehow it seems to me to change the feel of the definition somehow. for instance, subjective experience seems more to be dependent on the apparatus available to sense an experience, the capability to identify, interpret, evaluate and integrate data received through experience. also it seems to suggest there is a 'subject' that is experiencing. if the experience itself is consciousness, then who or what is the subject?

I think the primary issue causing a division concerning the nature of consciousness is one of cause and effect. there seem to be two major opinions; one party or camp sees consciousness as causing brain activity while the other sees brain activity as causing consciousness. what is at the back of these two ideas is that in the former the consciousness is not dependent on brain activity and in the latter it ceases as a result of the cessation of brain activity. the former opinion does not necessarily have to include a belief in spirit or life after death, but it does necessitate the understanding that consciousness is more than a biological process. it may include, while not being limited to, the possibility of consciousness being energy or formless matter.

how can this be resolved? is there anything in human consciousness (subjective experience) that is not biological?

what is the biological explanation of humor? if there is an area in the brain that is responsible and must be stimulated what is its purpose? a person slips on a banana peel and falls down-why would this be a stimulus to humor? it would seem to be to be a learned response, as a result of the social context in which a person lives. now the question is, by what mechanism does social environment cause one brain to react by laughing and another by crying? how does social interaction change the material in the human brain so that it generates opposite behaviors?
0 Replies
 
richrf
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 07:06 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan;87181 wrote:
In your view, where does the idea of free will (or the lack thereof) fit in with the theory of universal consciousness?


Free Will for me is more like Free to Move in a given direction. Everything is influenced by everything around it. Some influences are stronger than others. Just as a boat may be influenced by other boats, tides, winds that surround it. Consciousness has the ability to move and to choose the direction. But it cannot do what it wants since it is being influenced. This would be like a captain of a ship, who can choose which direction to go but must deal with any weather patterns, large waves, etc. that are encountered. There is no right way to do anything. It is a question of learning navigation skills.

TickTockMan;87181 wrote:
Does individual consciousness have any choice whether or not it emerges from the universal consciousness?


I have not observed anything that would lead me to believe one way or another on this question at this time.

TickTockMan;87181 wrote:
And finally, what gives rise to the universal consciousness? Did it arise from nothingness, or did it emerge from some other, higher dimensional form of consciousness that we lack the faculties to comprehend?


Emergence is a concept related to time and space. I have not formed any clear concepts on this point yet, but I think time and space is created in order to build order and structures. It is a tool of consciousness. While it is difficult to imagine what it is like without time and space, I do think that sleep provides some clues. So when we are asleep we are experiencing consciousness without space/time, and images appear and disappear.

So I do not think that emergence in a space/time framework will help understand the Universal Consciousness. Exactly how to picture it has so far alluded me. But it is something that I ponder.

Thanks for the questions.

Rich
0 Replies
 
BrightNoon
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 07:09 pm
@KaseiJin,
KaseiJin;87207 wrote:
Consciousness, as the sum of all subjective experience by vertebrates, and especially primates, is in relationship with the real world, as part of the real world, within the enclosure and domain of a translating process on behalve of the body which it is working on by the brain.


Could you explain further?

Quote:
It is not, in the most precise explanation, an assumption, but a translation of both the external real world and the internal real world. It should be pointed out, however, that that of the internal real world is not a member of the external real world--although it may be a imagined copy of an external real world memory.


If we define the external world as that which exists outside and independent of experience, then indeed to suggest that the external world exists is an assumption as, by definition, we cannot know whether or not it exists.

Quote:
To doubt that our senses are interpreting facts of the real world, in most cases, is for the most part nonsensical in the real world. Of course most will have to sleep, eat, find protection from the elements, carry out bodily functions, and hold on to the process and circumstances of being alive . . . it's real on this most pragmatic, basic level.


The vital activities you've mentioned are very real indeed, but aren't they experienced? If so, then they belong to the experienced world, not the 'real' (note the quotation marks, I mean this in a derogatory sense) world existing independently of our experience of it. I consider reality to be be purely phenomenalogical, but I feel compelled to give a simple name to the external world, so I call it 'real.' What is the relation between that 'real' world and the world of experience (i.e. everything which anyone could consider, mention, or bring up in the discussion)? Are you suggesting that the 'real' world is indeed as we imagine it from within our phenomenological world? And, if so, what of other perspectives? Is the phenomenological world of a chimp, which I assume is different from our own, not an accurate representation of reality? Why should that be; why should our perspective, among an infinity of others, be the only one which is not appeance, but instead be an accurate depiction of external reality? If there is an objective external reality, which is a dubious proposition, the idea that our vision alone of it is correct is nothing but vanity in my opinion.
richrf
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 07:19 pm
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon;87190 wrote:
I agree with your notion that consciousness creates reality, but I have to ask you in what sense you are using the word 'reality?' Do you mean experienced reality? Or do you mean the reality which (as assume) exists external to and independently of our experienced reality? If the latter, I have to disagree.


Yes, everything that I experience is created. One might say that my internal reality that I experience and create is my own creation while the external one is co-created. The actual substance is different. The innner reality (thought, emotion) is more ethereal than let's say an automobile, that is more dense. But the process is all the same. It is all a continuum in my view of things.

BrightNoon;87190 wrote:
I do not think that consciousness generates the external world; if it did, that world would not be external, it would be experienced; we would be conscious of it by definition, no?


I do not see separability in the world. This is somewhat confirmed by quantum physics, but intuitively where does something begin and end. It is all connected (this was one of my original thought experiments). However, influences vary, and while I may be indirectly involved with a typhoon in Indonesia my influence is negligible compared to other influences in the world. There is th Gaia hypothesis which correlates to my way of thinking.
[INDENT]The Gaia hypothesis is an ecological hypothesis proposing that the biosphere and the physical components of the Earth (atmosphere, cryosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere) are closely integrated to form a complex interacting system that maintains the climatic and biogeochemicalhomeostasis.
[/INDENT]
BrightNoon;87190 wrote:
Rather, my supposition is that consciousness is the counterpart of the external world; i.e. any given consciousness is the sum of experience of being a certain part of the external world, from the perspective of just that distinct part.


My supposition is entirely symmetrical and continuous. I do not see a difference in the internal and the external in terms of substance or creation. However, internal experiences certainly feel different and are large the result of the inability of external consciousness to sense my internal thoughts and feelings. Their sensory mechanisms are inadequate, though as we know some people claim to be able to sense what is going on in someone else.

BrightNoon;87190 wrote:
.. how can the world see the world (itself) through the lens of itself (the world)?


It cannot. It is like looking at one's own face. No matter how hard the individual conscious tries, it cannot see itself. So each person shares their own perspective with others. It is part of the exploration process.

BrightNoon;87190 wrote:
We might call this the only objective perspective,


I am not sure there is such a perspective. There doesn't seem to be one.

BrightNoon;87190 wrote:
but then it is also the only truly self-less perspective; i.e. for the self to exist, there has to be that division between what is seen and that through which it is seen.


Yes, I agree, there has to be a sense of self. And I believe that is the innate nature of the Individual Consciousness. It feels as it is individual and it is sharing with other individuals.

BrightNoon;87190 wrote:
If the two are one and the same, there is no self. I think, by this logic anyway, we can then abolish any idea of a directing or willing Great Consciousness. ..more on this later, I have something written somewhere that deals with this specifically.


They are not, in my view, one and the same. They are individual waves in the ocean that are distinct yet connected. They are differentiated yet all part of the same with no beginning and no end.

Thanks for sharing with me your ideas.

Rich
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 07:36 pm
@BrightNoon,
My take - conscious perception, while subjectively appearing to exist as a steady continuum, is actually composed of a heirarchical matrix of thousand, or millions, of interacting cellular transactions, commencing at the most basic level with the parasympathetic system which controls one's respiration, digestion, and so on, up through various levels to culminate in that peculiarly human ability of 'conscious thought' (and beyond, although this is beyond the scope of current science.)



When you perceive something - large, small, alive or inanimate, local or remote - there is a considerable amount of work involved in 'creating' an object from the raw material of perception. Your eyes receive the lightwaves reflected or emanated from it, your mind organises the image with regards to all of the other stimuli impacting your senses at that moment - either acknowledging it, or ignoring it, depending on how busy you are; your memory will then compare it to other objects you have seen, from whence you will (hopefully) recall its name, and perhaps know something about it ('star', 'tree', 'frog', etc).

And you will do all of this without you even noticing that you are doing it; it is largely unconscious.

In other words, your consciousness is not the passive recipient of sensory objects which exist irrespective of your perception of them. Instead, your consciousness is an active agent which constructs reality partially on the basis of sensory input, but also on the basis of an enormous number of unconscious processes, memories, intentions, and so on.

Some other points - consciousness is collective. It is not 'yours' and 'mine' except for on the very upper levels. The deeper you go into the structure, the less individuated it is, because individuation only occured very late in evolution, in culture and therefore in the psyche. This disposes of a lot of the problems over 'whose' consciousness we are talking about. This can be seen another way as well, in that the vast bulk of the activities of consciousness comprise autonomic actions which are the same for everyone, and then even at higher levels, information is organised by common intellectual functions which are species-specific (albeit with some cultural differentiation - maybe here is where the Forms come from).

Second, these attempts to anchor the experiences to what is 'external' or 'objective' or 'really there' are misplaced. I think from a phenonmenological viewpoint, the act of perception comprises object seen-subject seeing-act of cognition. I don't know why you ould want to assume that any one of these aspects are more real than the other. Or then, maybe I do. It is because science assumes that 'objective is real'. Which, as far as a working hypothesis goes, is perfectly sound. However it does not apply to the first-person analysis of the activities and nature of consciousness itself, because in this instance we are not separate from the object of knowledge. (I think phenomonologists know this, but have to some more reading. I think the key thinker is Maurice Merleau Ponty.)

In any case as soon as you get into analysis of conscious experience, you are talking 'meta-cognition', which is a whole different ball game to empirical science.
0 Replies
 
Pathfinder
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 08:32 pm
@BrightNoon,
Does the brain of a chimp and the brain of a human, both sitting in a field together looking at a tree, operate in the same way with regard to how it biologically/mechanically interprets what they think they are looking at?
KaseiJin
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 08:48 pm
@BrightNoon,
KaseiJin;87207 wrote:
Consciousness, as the sum of all subjective experience by vertebrates, and especially primates, is in relationship with the real world, as part of the real world, within the enclosure and domain of a translating process on behalf of the body which it is working on by the brain.


In amplifying this (and please note that I did edit to correct language mistakes--spelling) it is firstly to demonstrate that I am only referring to a narrow band of experience, namely that of vertebrates, and especially of the primates--since in one manner of understanding, we could feasibly think of, for example, a sandstone rock sheet as having had the experience of being pressed into a rock sheet. Next, I am further limiting subjection to that of the organ which is the major carrier of presentable subjectiveness--the brain--as the interpreter of sensory input. Finally, I am also pointing out that that organ, and the body it works on, is a member of the real world--(but here I am using the term 'real world' to express that it is, afterall, real).

Therefore, in answer to your:

[indent]
BrightNoon;87136 wrote:

1. What is the relationship between consciousness and the 'real world,' i.e. the world which (we assume) exists external and independent of our experience of it.
[/indent]

I was pointing out that the relationship is one of interpretation--very much like the interpretation from one language to another.




BrightNoon;87217 wrote:
If we define the external world as that which exists outside and independent of experience, then indeed to suggest that the external world exists is an assumption as, by definition, we cannot know whether or not it exists.


As a mental exercise, taking such a definition can be fun, of course, yet to deny that I am a member of the real world is as nonsensical as denying that removal of my hippocampi will destroy my ablility to sum my experience. The link is the translation, and that what might have been left out in your proposition. The end of sensory input from the outside, real world, is the brain, and after some processing some of that out, or reducing it, awareness of it in the reportable state of consciousness.

I would suggest that the philosophical view you may have adapted is where the weak link is, and is where the disconnect may well lie. In that a sensory experience usually is spurred by actual external stimuli, we can know that the world is--no need to doubt that at all. What would be the real point of trying to question whether a real snake just bit you on the leg? a real traffic light just turned red? or the real sounds of following footsteps behind you on an empty street late at night?

Sensory signals are translated in process by brain, and what goes into the realm of access consciousness is what amounts to the sum of subjective experience that we can know of, be aware of, and report on. It has been shown that memory traces can, and do alter ever so slightly (especially much more so in some cases), but that is not to describe that present world reality, but to replay the trace. (I'm talking about memory here) If there are faults or errors in that, it is an internal (relative to the brain) reality, and that might not make an accurate model of that external (realtive to the brain) reality. However, this really presents no big problem, we humans (and surely other animals as well) have been dealing with mismemory correction by the consensus of others (and personal review) for years.

While the human brain build is quite regular (and there is hardwiring too), it is also not that far off from the Great Ape brain build, and in lesser degrees of similarity on down to other species. This will mean that most interpretation of sensory input will be quite similar. Interpretation is the point. If we humans do not have the sensory equipment to experience electric field charges in some particular way, so what? If cats do not have the equipment to experience sweetness as we do, what of it? It is not practical to consider electrical field charges or sweetness as properties of external reality simply because our translation equipment is different to some degree--the stuff is still there.

Therefore, while it might be good to be careful with the term 'objective,' and not so pressing a need (in some cases) to be concerned with interpretation or memory accuracy, it would most certainly be impractical to assert that it would be dubious to understand that the world, including ourselves, is real.

Other points towards backing up my presentation here, however, will most likely take place on the original consciousness-related thread, much more often than not...since focus is important, and I don't have time to spread myself out too much. Apologies for that.

You have put forth some things that I hope to (basically intend to, but . . .) get to on the other thread, salima baheen.

---------- Post added 09-01-2009 at 11:51 AM ----------

Pathfinder;87231 wrote:
Does the brain of a chimp and the brain of a human, both sitting in a field together looking at a tree, operate in the same way with regard to how it biologically/mechanically interprets what they think they are looking at?


The average of the best evidence collected so far, says that the two organs work very much alike, with some subtile differences here and there (such as a slightly different number of neurons for color assimulation, for example...and so on).
0 Replies
 
richrf
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 08:56 pm
@Pathfinder,
Pathfinder;87231 wrote:
Does the brain of a chimp and the brain of a human, both sitting in a field together looking at a tree, operate in the same way with regard to how it biologically/mechanically interprets what they think they are looking at?


As David Bohm might say:

There are differences in the similarities and similarity in the differences.

Rich
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 08:57 pm
@BrightNoon,
My completely uneducated guess would be, they would operate in a similar way, but the brain of the human would be going 'hey nice tree. Flowered early this year. That reminds me, must get flowers on way home....'

etc etc
0 Replies
 
ACB
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 10:02 pm
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon;87217 wrote:
I consider reality to be be purely phenomenological, but I feel compelled to give a simple name to the external world, so I call it 'real.' What is the relation between that 'real' world and the world of experience (i.e. everything which anyone could consider, mention, or bring up in the discussion)? Are you suggesting that the 'real' world is indeed as we imagine it from within our phenomenological world?


If the external world does not really exist, doesn't that make my experiences solipsistic? Nobody else has any real existence outside my consciousness. I exist directly, but everyone else exists only in a kind of derivative sense. Isn't that the implication?

BrightNoon;87217 wrote:
And, if so, what of other perspectives? Is the phenomenological world of a chimp, which I assume is different from our own, not an accurate representation of reality? Why should that be; why should our perspective, among an infinity of others, be the only one which is not appeance, but instead be an accurate depiction of external reality? If there is an objective external reality, which is a dubious proposition, the idea that our vision alone of it is correct is nothing but vanity in my opinion.


If there is not an objective external reality, how can there be perspectives? A perspective must by definition be of something. On the other hand, if there is an objective external reality, there is a logical contradiction if you maintain that a human's and a chimp's perspectives are different yet both 'accurate', since the same external world would then have to have two conflicting descriptions at the same time. Logically, there can be only one or no completely correct descriptions of external reality (if it exists), not more.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 10:21 pm
@BrightNoon,
The purpose of this post is just to draw attention to some over-arching issues about orientations with regards to consciousness and experience.

It seems to me there are four main groups into which all the discussions about consciousness fall in the forum.

1. Scientific: One is the 'objective' accounts of consciousness based on a neuro-sciences approach. It refers to computational models, findings from neuro-science research, and comparative studies of humans and other animal species to describe consciousness. It seems to me that the neuoro-scientific account generally views humans 'biologically', that is as a species to be examined in relationship to its environment, and consciousness as an object to be described in relation to brain functions. I would think Dennett's 'Consciousness Explained' is an example of this approach. Its main criterion of truth is rigorous objectivity and an insistence on scientific rigor.

2. Phenomenological: An alternative account is the approach of phenomenal psychology. "In psychology, phenomenology is used to refer to subjective experiences or their study. The experiencing subject can be considered to be the person or self, for purposes of convenience. In phenomenological philosophy (and particularly in the work of Husserl, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty) 'experience' is a considerably more complex concept than it is usually taken to be in everyday use. Instead, experience (or Being, or existence itself) is an 'in-relation-to' phenomena, and it is defined by qualities of directedness, embodiment and worldliness which are evoked by the term 'Being-in-the-World'. Source. It insists that subjectivity is an irreducible component of conscious experience. An important text for a lot of this type of understanding is Merleau Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception. It also incorporates a lot of insights from existentialism.

3. Noetic/Gnostic/Mystical: Then you have various approaches from the broad spectrum of 'consciousness studies' which has roots in those Indian philosophical and yogic traditions which have taken root in the West (Buddhism, Vedanta, and others), and also in the Counter- Culture (Roszak et al) and the New England transcendentalists (Emerson, Thoreau). This area includes studies of mystical states, altered states, meditative techniques, and so on. This has its own specialized sub-vocabularies to describe not only various states of conscious experience but also attributes of consciousness and awareness as constituents of 'spiritual reality' and 'levels of reality'. I think William James could be regarded as one of the founders but if you include the various schools of transpersonal and integral psychology (i.e. Ken Wilber et al), and possibly also Jung, Hillman, etc this is an immense area of study in its own right, particularly because it draws on the immense technical vocabulary of the Hindu and Buddhist sacred traditions which have a very sophisticated lexicon around consciousness.

4. Philosophical last but not least the eternal dialog between Plato and Aristotle or idealism vs materialism, which gets re-invented every generation or so and which continually raises its head in various guises. Kant is still writ large in all of this, and should be.

(One of the major bones of contention seems to be between the different understandings of 'truth', especially between (1) and (2). The question keeps coming up, what is ultimately objective? What is actually really and truly real? But then that is the only real question in philosophy isn't it?)

Anyway I hope this helps to explain what I see as the lie of the land a little bit more and provides some orientation as to where some of us at least are coming from. Incidentally, I am coming from (3) and learning more about (2) so as better to combat (1).:bigsmile:
Kielicious
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 10:46 pm
@jeeprs,
salima;87208 wrote:
to begin at the beginning, take the definition 'subjective experience' as opposed to 'the sum of all experience'. can we have experience that is not subjective? I would say not, but somehow it seems to me to change the feel of the definition somehow. for instance, subjective experience seems more to be dependent on the apparatus available to sense an experience, the capability to identify, interpret, evaluate and integrate data received through experience. also it seems to suggest there is a 'subject' that is experiencing. if the experience itself is consciousness, then who or what is the subject?


It is the agent/organism. Just like perception implies a perciever, subjection implies a subject (i.e. that which is experiencing).

salima wrote:
I think the primary issue causing a division concerning the nature of consciousness is one of cause and effect. there seem to be two major opinions; one party or camp sees consciousness as causing brain activity while the other sees brain activity as causing consciousness. what is at the back of these two ideas is that in the former the consciousness is not dependent on brain activity and in the latter it ceases as a result of the cessation of brain activity. the former opinion does not necessarily have to include a belief in spirit or life after death, but it does necessitate the understanding that consciousness is more than a biological process. it may include, while not being limited to, the possibility of consciousness being energy or formless matter.


Why cant there be someone who sees the two as one and of the same? The brain in a specific state is the mind in a specific state. That would be why we have 'mind reading' machines that can interpret what you are thinking, and likewise why once your brain 'shutsdown' your mind does as well. Obviously, this doesnt sit well with the spiritualists and is perhaps the reason why there is such animosity on this subject?....

salima wrote:
how can this be resolved? is there anything in human consciousness (subjective experience) that is not biological?


Humans? No.

salima wrote:
what is the biological explanation of humor? if there is an area in the brain that is responsible and must be stimulated what is its purpose? a person slips on a banana peel and falls down-why would this be a stimulus to humor? it would seem to be to be a learned response, as a result of the social context in which a person lives. now the question is, by what mechanism does social environment cause one brain to react by laughing and another by crying? how does social interaction change the material in the human brain so that it generates opposite behaviors?


Social situations have massive influence on us whether we like it or not. What was once socially acceptable, is no longer. Likewise, when our views, values, whatever.... are in contrast with society it can change the way we think. Although, I think this is more of an ethical subject than dealing with the core issue of consciousness.
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