• charles ferraro
    238
    Is there a Consciousness in General?

    Or does consciousness always only occur, or exist, from a given frame-of-reference, from a particular point-of-view or perspective?

    That is, must consciousness always only occur, or exist, in a first person, present tense mode?

    And if only the latter is the case, then why is it the case?

    What is it about consciousness that it must always be personified, or require personhood?

    Any thoughts on this topic?
  • T Clark
    5.4k
    That is, must consciousness always only occur, or exist, in a first person, present tense mode?charles ferraro

    "Consciousness" means many things. You should specify which one you are referring to. Failure to do that has lead and will continue to lead to many misunderstandings and fruitless discussions.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.1k

    Those are very interesting questions and something I have wondered in an attempt to understand ideas like panpsychism.

    I like to think of consciousness as a form of integrated information. Frame-of-reference is information as location relative to another location. When information about location relative to another location is not part of the system, can the system be defined as being conscious?
  • Apollodorus
    1.3k


    I see consciousness as primarily self-awareness.

    Of course individual consciousness may be aware of other consciousnesses, or the Collective Consciousness may be aware of itself and of the individual consciousnesses within itself.

    But self-awareness remains the defining feature of consciousness at all times on the background of which awareness of other things arises and subsides.
  • Daemon
    217
    Consciousness, by which I mean feeling things, hearing things, seeing things and so on, is a development of non-conscious biological capabilities like "sensing". A bacterium is able to swim towards a desirable chemical in water, or swim away from an undesirable chemical. We understand every detail of how this is achieved and it is a biochemical process. Google "chemotaxis" to learn more.

    The roots of the individual, personalised nature of our highly developed consciousness are here, and evolved billions of years ago. For the bacterium there is a "self" and an "other". Of course the bacterium has no awareness of this, but it's there. There's an "inside" and an "outside", delineated by the cell wall.
  • sime
    564
    That is, must consciousness always only occur, or exist, in a first person, present tense mode?charles ferraro

    That position has the advantage of deflating away the "hard problem", for consciousness becomes merely a synonym for present and actual objects.
  • charles ferraro
    238


    Then I assume you are indicating that personal consciousness can also exist, in the first person present tense mode, but with an orientation to the past "remembered objects" and an orientation to the future "imagined objects".
  • charles ferraro
    238


    No problem with the scientific/biological process you are describing to account for the evolution of consciousness.

    Questions: But at what crucial point in the process does self-consciousness arise? And who experiences it? Were Neanderthals self-conscious in the same way and to the same degree as Homo Sapiens? What evolutionary purpose(s) does self-consciousness serve?
  • charles ferraro
    238


    What's your definition of consciousness?
  • Joshs
    1.4k
    Here’s a good argument from Hilary Putnam for why the subjective dimension of experience cannot be separated from our objective , empirical descriptions of the world , including our attempts to reduce consciousness to biological structures. Since subjectivity is inseparable
    from consciousness , this is at the same time an argument for the irreducible character of 1st personal
    experience, the impossibility of splitting it off from or reducing it to 3rd person accounts.

    Knowledge is taken to consist in a faithful mirroring of a mind-independent reality. It is taken to be of a reality which exists independently of that knowledge, and indeed independently of any thought and experience (Williams 2005, 48). If we want to know true reality, we should aim at describing the way the world is, not just independently of its being believed to be that way, but independently of all the ways in which it happens to present itself to us human beings. An absolute conception would be a dehumanized conception, a conception from which all traces of ourselves had been removed. Nothing would remain that would indicate whose conception it is, how those who form or possess that conception experience the world, and when or where they find themselves in it. It would be as impersonal, impartial, and objective a picture of the world as we could possibly achieve (Stroud 2000, 30). How are we supposed to reach this conception? Metaphysical realism assumes that everyday experience combines subjective and objective features and that we can reach an objective picture of what the world is really like by stripping away the subjective. It consequently argues that there is a clear distinction to be drawn between the properties things have “in themselves” and the properties which are “projected by us”.

    Whereas the world of appearance, the world as it is for us in daily life, combines subjective and objective features, science captures the objective world, the world as it is in itself. But to think that science can provide us with an absolute description of reality, that is, a description from a view from nowhere; to think that science is the only road to metaphysical truth, and that science simply mirrors the way in which Nature classifies itself, is – according to Putnam – illusory. It is an illusion to think that the notions of “object” or “reality” or “world” have any sense outside of and independently of our conceptual schemes (Putnam 1992, 120). Putnam is not denying that there are “external facts”; he even thinks that we can say what they are; but as he writes, “what w e cannot say – because it makes no sense – is what the facts are independent of all conceptual choices” (Putnam 1987, 33). We cannot hold all our current beliefs about the world up against the world and somehow measure the degree of correspondence between the two.

    It is, in other words, nonsensical to suggest that we should try to peel our perceptions and beliefs off the world, as it were, in order to compare them in some direct way with what they are about (Stroud 2000, 27). This is not to say that our conceptual schemes create the world, but as Putnam writes, they don't just mirror it either (Putnam 1978, 1). Ultimately, what we call “reality” is so deeply suffused with mind- and language-dependent structures that it is altogether impossible to make a neat distinction between those parts of our beliefs that reflect the world “in itself” and those parts of our beliefs that simply express “our conceptual contribution.” The very idea that our cognition should be nothing but a re-presentation of something mind-independent consequently has to be abandoned (Putnam 1990, 28, 1981, 54, 1987, 77)
  • bongo fury
    1k
    does consciousness always only occur,charles ferraro

    Yes, just as redness only occurs. As red things.

    or exist,charles ferraro

    Indeed not. Not being, "itself", a thing.
  • Daemon
    217
    Questions: But at what crucial point in the process does self-consciousness arise? And who experiences it? Were Neanderthals self-conscious in the same way and to the same degree as Homo Sapiens? What evolutionary purpose(s) does self-consciousness serve?charles ferraro

    To be self-conscious is to be excessively aware of oneself, to be unduly concerned with how others might perceive one's appearance or actions. That isn't what I am talking about.

    I'm talking about consciousness, by which I mean feeling, hearing or seeing things.

    I don't know when in the evolutionary process feeling, hearing and seeing arose. Neanderthals I'm sure could feel, hear and see, I am pretty sure fish can feel hear and see, maybe worms can.

    What evolutionary purposes does being able to hear, see, feel have? Surely this is obvious? You can feel if you are too hot or too cold, see or hear predators or prey.
  • charles ferraro
    238


    Neither am I using the term self-consciousness in the sense of being preoccupied with how I appear to others.

    I am using it in the sense of being able to encounter myself as a subject, rather than as an object.

    Not studying the object as an object, nor studying the subject as an object, but studying the subject as a subject.

    Knowing myself as being nothing more than a unique subjective frame-of-reference from which to encounter the not-me.

    It is this meaning of self-consciousness that my questions referred to.
  • charles ferraro
    238


    Nice exposition of the possible relationship between the subjective and the objective. It is amazing how many variations and modifications there are of Kant's original insight.

    Is there a simple, reliable criterion one can use to isolate and identify precisely those characteristics the human mind contributes to the objects of experience? And would the same, or another, criterion be used to isolate and identify precisely those characteristics the human mind does not contribute to the objects of experience?

    By "objects of experience" I mean the objects that surround us in the world.
  • T Clark
    5.4k
    What's your definition of consciousness?charles ferraro

    As I noted, "consciousness" has many meanings. Since you started the discussion, it's your job to establish which one you are using. What point are you trying to make? People using different meanings are already muddying the discussion and causing misunderstanding.
  • charles ferraro
    238


    I have already given my definition of consciousness (see response to Daemon).

    Essentially, I agree with Sartre's characterization of Being-for-Itself consisting of both a Pre-Reflective and Reflective Consciousness and Consciousness being the source of Nihilating activity.

    Pre-Reflective consciousness does not require a positional awareness of self in order to occur, but Reflective consciousness does.
  • Daemon
    217
    People using different meanings are already muddying the discussion and causing misunderstanding.T Clark

    If you're talking about me, I was attempting to clarify the discussion, which has been muddy right from the start and is now only getting muddier. @Charles Ferraro began by talking about "consciousness", then switched to "self-consciousness", and now we've zoomed off on the downhill path leading inexorably to a messy collision with Sartre and his pretentious psychobabble.

    This is my stop and I'm getting out.
  • TheMadFool
    10k
    User Illusion

    The user illusion is the illusion created for the user by a human–computer interface, for example the visual metaphor of a desktop used in many graphical user interfaces. The phrase originated at Xerox PARC

    Some philosophers of mind have argued that consciousness is a form of user illusion. This notion is explored by Tor Nørretranders in his 1991 Danish book Mærk verden, issued in a 1998 English edition as The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size
    — Wikipedia

    Self Model

    People are thus what Metzinger calls naïve realists, who believe they are perceiving reality directly when in actuality they are only perceiving representations of reality. The data structures and transport mechanisms of the data are "transparent" so that people can introspect on their representations of perceptions, but cannot introspect on the data or mechanisms themselves — Wikipedia

    The last quote needs a brief explanation. Assuming physicalism, every thought, from day-dreaming to logical analysis, every action, from picking one's nose to throwing that javelin that wins the gold medal, is actually, in layman's terms, electrical phenomenon in the neurons but try as one might, we can't access brain phenomena at that level at all. Can you for instance become aware of the action potentials (electrical phenomena) in the neurons of your eyes and visual cortex as you read this post? You can't, try it. On the off chance that you can, visit your nearest neuroscience research center. :joke: In other words, consciousness is some kind of graphical user interface (GUI) much like the desktop on your laptop or PC. Its purpose seems to mirror that of a GUI - to make using the brain & the body easier, after all, there's this interface (consciousness) that makes this possible. Reminds me of driving - after a couple of years of it, we can drive without actually being aware of driving, it becomes automatic and turning left/right almost feels the same as raising your hand or stamping your feet. You get the picture, right?

    Consciousness is an illusion — Daniel C. Dennett
  • T Clark
    5.4k
    If you're talking about me, I was attempting to clarify the discussion, which has been muddy right from the start and is now only getting muddier.Daemon

    No, I wasn't finding fault with you at all. My initial post was written before you had made any response. Your initial post did exactly what I was suggesting that @charles ferraro should do - you were specific about what you meant when you said "consciousness." It was clear from other responses that "consciousness" meant something different to other responders. That could have been avoided with clear definitions in the OP. Which was my point.
  • T Clark
    5.4k
    I have already given my definition of consciousnesscharles ferraro

    You had not provided that definition when I wrote my initial post in this discussion.
  • bongo fury
    1k
    Define it or use it.

    Just...

    Don't hypostatise it.
  • Joshs
    1.4k
    People are thus what Metzinger calls naïve realists, who believe they are perceiving reality directly when in actuality they are only perceiving representations of reality. — Wikipedia

    Here’s Husserl’s critique of Metzinger’s representationaliam, according to Zahavi:

    Representationalism notoriously courts scepticism: Why should awareness of one thing (an inner object) enable awareness of a quite different thing (an external object), and how can we ever know that what is internally accessible actually corresponds to something external? On Husserl's anti-representationalist view, however, the fit and link between mind and world – between perception and reality – isn't merely external or coincidental: “consciousness (mental process) and real being are anything but coordinate kinds of being, which dwell peaceably side by side and occasionally become ‘related to' or ‘connected with' one another” (Husserl 1982: 111

    “For Husserl, physical nature makes itself known in what appears perceptually. The very idea of defining the really real reality as the unknown cause of our experience, and to suggest that the investigated object is a mere sign of a distinct hidden object whose real nature must remain unknown and which can never be apprehended according to its own determinations, is for Husserl nothing but a piece of mythologizing (Husserl 1982: 122). Rather than defining objective reality as what is there in itself, rather than distinguishing how things are for us from how they are simpliciter in order then to insist that
    the investigation of the latter is the truly important one, Husserl urges us to face up to the fact that our
    access to as well as the very nature of objectivity necessarily involves both subjectivity and
    intersubjectivity. Indeed, rather than being the antipode of objectivity, rather than constituting an obstacle and hindrance to scientific knowledge, (inter)subjectivity is for Husserl a necessary enabling condition. “
  • Joshs
    1.4k
    Is there a simple, reliable criterion one can use to isolate and identify precisely those characteristics the human mind contributes to the objects of experience?charles ferraro

    Here’s the problem. One can look at a printed word and perceive it only as a random series of physical shapes, one could recognize it as a string of letters, or one could perceive it only as its semantic meaning. Now, are we justified in saying that each perception is of an objective fact independent of what our perspective contributes to it? Or are the phenomenologists correct in claiming that it is incoherent to assume a world of facts outside of our apprehension of them? Is there instead in each case only what appears to me in the mode in which it appears to me and nothing behind it, no thing-in-itself?
  • TheMadFool
    10k
    Representationalism notoriously courts scepticism: Why should awareness of one thing (an inner object) enable awareness of a quite different thing (an external object), and how can we ever know that what is internally accessible actually corresponds to something external? On Husserl's anti-representationalist view, however, the fit and link between mind and world – between perception and reality – isn't merely external or coincidental: “consciousness (mental process) and real being are anything but coordinate kinds of being, which dwell peaceably side by side and occasionally become ‘related to' or ‘connected with' one another” (Husserl 1982: 111Joshs

    I may have completely misunderstood representationalism and anti-representationalism both but I recall writing in another thread that if the former is false, everytime someone thinks of (say) the Eiffel tower, the whole tower, all 300 m of it must be somehow inside that person's head. Representationalism thus, in other matters too, is but a colloraly of the simple truth that when one looks at the Eiffel tower, only a representation of it exists, if that is even the right word to describe it, inside one's mind.

    For Husserl, physical nature makes itself known in what appears perceptually. The very idea of defining the really real reality as the unknown cause of our experience, and to suggest that the investigated object is a mere sign of a distinct hidden object whose real nature must remain unknown and which can never be apprehended according to its own determinations, is for Husserl nothing but a piece of mythologizing (Husserl 1982: 122). Rather than defining objective reality as what is there in itself, rather than distinguishing how things are for us from how they are simpliciter in order then to insist that
    the investigation of the latter is the truly important one, Husserl urges us to face up to the fact that our
    access to as well as the very nature of objectivity necessarily involves both subjectivity and
    intersubjectivity. Indeed, rather than being the antipode of objectivity, rather than constituting an obstacle and hindrance to scientific knowledge, (inter)subjectivity is for Husserl a necessary enabling condition. “
    Joshs

    I more or less agree with Husserl. Firstly because there really is no point in complaining about what one can't do anything about (subjectivity); disliking your hat is not as foolish as being unhappy about your baldness - you can do something about the hat but nothing about your receding hairline. Subjectivity is part and parcel of conscious beings; intersubjectivity then is nothing more than shared subjectivity like, for instance, mass hysteria or folie à deux.  
  • charles ferraro
    238


    Does it matter that the very existence of the "artificially occurring" object of experience you chose to make your point, i.e., a printed word, already, by definition, must presuppose human involvement?

    Show me how you think the same argument would still hold if, instead, you began by saying something like: "One can look at the "naturally occurring" object of experience, e.g., the planet Mars, and perceive it only as "x," or recognize it as "y," or one could perceive it only as "z."

    Wouldn't we then be more justified in claiming that each perception is of an objective fact that is independent of what our perspective contributes to it?

    Our minds are not able to create the existence of a naturally occurring objective fact, but our minds are able to interpret, in a variety of ways, the meaning of the existence and nature of a naturally occurring objective fact.
  • Mww
    2.5k


    Are you in agreement with Putnam and Husserl, re: the representational human cognitive system, or are you using them just as some informational response to the OP?
  • Pop
    782
    Is there instead in each case only what appears to me in the mode in which it appears to me and nothing behind it, no thing-in-itself?Joshs

    No, I think the relational nature of the universe would exclude such a view (epistemic solipsism). There is a thing in itself, but we have no direct access to it, needing to conceptually construct the thing in terms of the information we have about it ( idealism ). We get closer and closer to the thing in itself but can never have perfect understanding, perhaps because the thing in itself is an evolving process, as are we.

    Is there a Consciousness in General?

    Or does consciousness always only occur, or exist, from a given frame-of-reference, from a particular point-of-view or perspective?

    That is, must consciousness always only occur, or exist, in a first person, present tense mode?

    And if only the latter is the case, then why is it the case?/quote]
    charles ferraro


    Consciousness is an evolving process of self organization. In the process of integrating external information, and conceiving a world view ( status quo ), it also adjusts and aligns a self in relation to that information. So the process is self creating. It is principally self interested.

    To put it another way, consciousness is not about arbitrarily integrating external information ( the objects of experience ), but about resolving how that information relates to self. This is where phenomenology comes in; cognition is disruptive to self ( Capra ), but there is an inbuilt bias to integrate, so consciousness must find a solution that reestablishes integrity, in order to maintain the self as much as possible.

    What is it about consciousness that it must always be personified, or require personhood?
    charles ferraro

    This is very anthropocentric. All natural objects are an evolving process of self organization.
  • Joshs
    1.4k
    Our minds are not able to create the existence of a naturally occurring objective fact, but our minds are able to interpret, in a variety of ways, the meaning of the existence and nature of a naturally occurring objective fact.charles ferraro

    A ‘naturally occurring objective fact’ implies certain consequences, properties and relations, and all of these only make sense i relation to a body that interacts with them. Put differently, it is impossible to think about a so-called objective fact about nature without that fact implying and specifying systems of interactions between us and the object. That in fact is what an ‘object’ is , a system of correlated interactions between us and it, both actual and anticipated. When we change our thinking about the object, we are producing a new system of actual and anticipated interactions. To say that it ‘exists’ independently of us is to say nothing at all.

    “To be objective, the interpretationist points out, one would have to have some set of mind-independent objects to be designated by language or known by science. But can we find any such objects? Let us look at an extended example from the philosopher Nelson Goodman.

    A point in space seems to be perfectly objective. But how are we to define the points of our everyday world? Points can be taken either as primitive elements, as intersecting lines, as certain triples of intersecting planes, or as certain classes of nesting volumes. These definitions are equally adequate, and yet they are incompatible: what a point is will vary with each form of description. For example, only in the first "version," to use Goodman's term, will a point be a primitive element. The objectivist, however, demands, "What are points really?" Goodman's response to this demand is worth quoting at length:

    If the composition of points out of lines or of lines out of points is conventional rather than factual, points and lines themselves are no less so. ... If we say that our sample space is a combination of points, or of lines, or of regions, or a combination of combinations of points, or lines, or regions, or a combination of all these together, or is a single lump, then since none is identical with any of the rest, we are giving one among countless alternative conflicting descriptions of what the space is. And so we may regard the disagreements as not about the facts but as due to differences in the conventions-adopted in organizing or describing the space. What, then, is the neutral fact or thing described in these different terms? Neither the space (a) as an undivided whole nor (b) as a combination of everything involved in the several accounts; for (a) and (b) are but two among the various ways of organizing it. But what is it that is so organized? When we strip off as layers of convention all differences among ways of describing it, what is left? The onion is peeled down to its empty core.”

    Francisco Varela, Embodied Mind
  • Joshs
    1.4k

    Are you in agreement with Putnam and Husserl, re: the representational human cognitive system, or are you using them just as some informational response to the OP?Mww

    I am in agreement with them. I was too lazy to write my own response.
  • Joshs
    1.4k
    Is there instead in each case only what appears to me in the mode in which it appears to me and nothing behind it, no thing-in-itself?
    — Joshs

    No, I think the relational nature of the universe would exclude such a view (epistemic solipsism). There is a thing in itself, but we have no direct access to it, needing to conceptually construct the thing in terms of the information we have about it ( idealism ). We get closer and closer to the thing in itself but can never have perfect understanding, perhaps because the thing in itself is an evolving process, as are we.
    Pop

    That’s pretty much the default position on this site , but it isnt the view of phenomenology or post-structuralism.
    Their position isn’t epistemical solipsism, since the subject cannot simply imagine any reality they want and have it be pragmatically useful to them. Some construalsare more ‘valid’ than others, because the world which is in inseparable interaction with us imposes affordances and constraints, but those affordances and constraints are reciprocally shaped and transformed by our construals. These are the ‘things in themselves’ but only as appearances which become new ‘things in themselves’ as my experience changes.

    If you want to say that the thing in itself is an evolving process that co-evolves with us in inextricable fashion , then I would agree.

    In the process of integrating external information, and conceiving a world view ( status quo ), it also adjusts and aligns a self in relation to that information.charles ferraro

    This is just one side of the equation. The environmental ‘information’ is reciprocally adjusted and aligned in relation to the normative aims of self-organization. Making it a one way street in which only the organism adapts to environment is the neo- Kantian realist move.

    You might find this comparison of the phenomenological position with representationalism interesting:

    https://www.academia.edu/34265366/Brain_Mind_World_Predictive_coding_neo_Kantianism_and_transcendental_idealism
  • Mww
    2.5k


    Cool. Thanks.
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