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Thread: Consciousness

  1. #1 Consciousness 
    Forum Masters Degree SuperNatendo's Avatar
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    Dec 2007
    Nashville, TN USA

    We take it for granted nearly every moment of our life.

    But what exactly IS Consciousness? What is the difference between the cells that transfer these signals in our brains, to the cells that allow us to make sense of it all?

    What is the difference between the matter in the sun to the way it is arranged within our heads to create the effect of Consciousness?

    Where are the cells, providing they are any different from the rest, that allow us to perceive this existence?

    Is the complexity of a system alone enough to spark Consciousness? There are many complex systems, not just our brains, yet these systems do not produce Consciousness.

    How do I know the groups of cells in someone else's brain are actually functioning to give them a sense of Consciousness, just as the Consciousness I am experiencing?

    "It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense." - Mark Twain
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  3. #2  
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    May 2008
    Some great questions that I don't think they are answers to.
    Hopefully in time science can explain some of these mysteries.

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  4. #3  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    Sep 2007
    Is the complexity of a system alone enough to spark Consciousness?
    I would answer yes, since where consciousness arises there is nothing else except the wet matter inside our heads. The Cartesian mistake of mind-body duality has led generations down the wrong path, and leaves us today with misleading categories of "mental" and "physical", when there is no real distinction between them.

    There are many complex systems, not just our brains, yet these systems do not produce Consciousness.
    Not yet.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Professor
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    Apr 2007
    In the circuitous haze of my mind
    Consciousness is the allowance of complex causation.
    Of all the wonders in the universe, none is likely more fascinating and complicated than human nature.

    "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."

    "Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence"


    Use your computing strength for science!
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  6. #5  
    Administrator KALSTER's Avatar
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    Sep 2007
    South Africa
    Quote Originally Posted by Cold Fusion
    Consciousness is the allowance of complex causation.
    I agree. Well put. :wink:
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
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  7. #6 Re: Consciousness 
    Time Lord
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    Apr 2008
    Quote Originally Posted by SuperNatendo
    But what exactly IS Consciousness?
    Try "reflection". I mean it in the crudest sense - no smoking jacket and goatee stroking. Just "reflection".

    You get these impulses through the spinal and cranial nerves, they continue forward... finally, after the frontal lobe, where can they go?
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  8. #7  
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    Feb 2008
    I live in Bertrand Russells teapot!
    Consciousness is a phenomena which still baffles science today and is probably still one of the biggest mysteries on earth.

    And there are many theories, which are still just that!

    David J. Chalmers in his excellent book The Conscious Mind - In search of a fundamental theory states about this lack of knowing what consciousness is:

    'It may be the largest outstanding obstacle in our quest for a scientific understanding of the universe.'

    Neurologists can map the processes in the brain and even the processes of emotions and ideas which consciousness is made up of, but it still doesn't explain why we are conscious and what is it? It still only explains the physical process.

    Consciousness could be described as 'causation of behaviour accompanied by a subjective inner life'

    Causation of behaviour can readily be explained through observing primitive instincts and survival skills. Our environment dictates much of our behaviour. We know that particular brain chemistry or the introductions into the body of particular chemicals can change our behaviour and we know neurologists manipulating particular parts of the brain can also influence it.

    But behaviour is not consciousness.

    What is consciousness is something far more subtle and imprenetable which seems to permeate everything.

    It's the subjective experience which makes us aware of our behaviour and more importantly question and wonder of it.

    Consciousness is experiencing our selves. It's experiencing the environment. And through our experience we have relationships.
    My subjective experience of the colour blue may be different from anothers.

    Consciousness is the inner life we inhabit that experiences, makes sense and forms relationships with everything.

    One of the most fundamental questions is why?

    Many species of animals get by quite alright by operating as a process acting on instinct and survival which often become automatic without the need for subjectivity.
    One may argue it must be a social necessity but then ants are incredibly social yet they function solely on instincts and automatic behaviour.

    Why do humans have the need to form relationships with things? Why do we experience blue as something profound which reminds us of the sea and the sky or invokes the mood of sadness or melancholy which might be so subjective it is difficult to describe to another.

    Why do humans feel the need to go on journeys and epics to find the self to discover and unlock it's secrets as if it were some precious jewel buried deep within?

    Consciousness is fascinating because even the very study of it's subject requires us to turn inward.
    For how can I or you study another's consciousness?
    How can i truly experience what they are experiencing?

    There seems to be only one place any individual scientist or lay can go to truly discover what consciousness is.
    The study of neurology and chemistry seems to only be able to go so far.

    This is why the subject of consciousness is so open to theories. It is still set firmly within the confines of philosophy and speculation because that is always where you ultimately go whenever you try to analyse or describe consciousness.

    Of course there is also religion, spirituality and esoteric practices which claim to have the answers.

    But the only person who can have real answers about consciousness is you.
    And the fascinating thing about consciousness, if after years of analysis i came to an AHA i know what it is now!

    It doesn't mean i have solved the matter for you.

    And if my observations are wholly personal how do i know i am right about it's true nature. After all it is consciousness itself that has reached this conclusion!

    And that is the problem of consciousness. Consciousness seeking out its own consciousness. Looking in the mirror and who is looking back, Could we possibly be making all this up?

    If you want to read a great book on the subject i would highly recommend the one above. It's a very in depth analysis of all the theories of consciousness from scientific to philosophical with an attempt to reach a clearer understanding.

    I would also recommend the lectures by The Teaching Company (TTC) especially Consciousness and Its Implications by Daniel N. Robinson
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