• Art48
    464
    Possibly.

    Q: Why should we believe our consciousness is present during deep sleep?
    A: Because if we completely lacked consciousness, then loud noises would not wake us up. For a noise to wake us up, we must be able to perceive the noise. Conclusion: consciousness is present during deep sleep. It is the mind, in particular, memory, which is not present, that is, not functioning. So, when we wake up, we have no memory of having slept deeply.

    Q: What about when we are under anesthesia, as during surgery, when loud noises do not wake us up?
    A: Consider first when we have local anesthesia, as when the dentist does a root canal. It is obvious that we are conscious. We do not feel the pain because the anesthesia prevents the pain signals from reaching consciousness. It’s possible when under a general anesthesia during surgery, the situation is the same: consciousness is present but the pain signals (as well as loud noises) are not reaching consciousness.
  • wonderer1
    1.8k
    Q: Why should we believe our consciousness is present during deep sleep?
    A: Because if we completely lacked consciousness, then loud noises would not wake us up. For a noise to wake us up, we must be able to perceive the noise. Conclusion: consciousness is present during deep sleep. It is the mind, in particular, memory, which is not present, that is, not functioning. So, when we wake up, we have no memory of having slept deeply.
    Art48

    Hey Art,

    Why think consciousness is required to be awakened from deep sleep by a noise, rather than a subconscious process monitoring input from the ears and starting a subconscious arousal process?
  • Art48
    464
    Why think consciousness is required to be awakened from deep sleep by a noise, rather than a subconscious process monitoring input from the ears and starting a subconscious arousal process?wonderer1
    I'm using "consciousness" in a broad way, as something that perceives, something which is aware. Under that (admittedly broad) definition, a subconscious process would be a form of awareness, i.e., consciousness.
  • wonderer1
    1.8k


    Do you think computer's are conscious?
  • apokrisis
    6.8k
    This illustrates how “consciousness” is just a misleading term when it comes to the architecture of cognition. Neurobiologists prefer to talk about the contrast between attentional and habitual levels of “processing”.

    So the brain is in fact set up to ignore the world as much as possible. It aims to minimise its attentional “consciousness” by being able to deal with as much of the world as it can out of learnt and routinised habit.

    Thus the expectation that “being conscious” is the essential quality of mindfulness is 180 degrees wrong. The goal of neurobiology is to deal with reality at the most routine, predictable and automatic level possible.

    By definition, that then leaves the brain with the least attentive work to do. It only has to stop and deliberate when things get surprising or otherwise exceptional and memorable.

    So “consciousness” is used as an umbrella term that has to cover this dichotomous neural architecture. It is a one-note description of a polarised architecture,

    And on top of that, it makes it sound like full attention is the true ground state when instead, practiced inattention is the general goal of the brain.

    We aspire to demonstrate mastery and flow by living life with the minimum of thought. Life of course is then always full of accidents and surprises. So we need attention. But the goal is still to minimise its employment.

    The brain has no off switch. But deep sleep stifles all but the most basic levels of habitual response, such as the startle reflex to loud and otherwise unexpected noises.

    What this bottom-up activity has to do is reach an attentional level response where the brain is awake and can apply the full resources of the higher brain, such as the prefrontal planning and working memory areas. The noise can be “held in mind” and examined for its meaning.

    We could call this reaching “consciousness” rather than attention. But then that leads you into a paradoxical issue of where habits sit in terms of this consciousness, and why we would even have this “second best” level of awareness rather than always using full attention on every mental event.

    Consciousness is simply a bad word as it has come to build in a set of wrong beliefs about the architecture of mind.
  • jgill
    3.6k


    As usual, your post is a superb antidote to the mind-numbing babbles on "consciousness" that pervade this forum.

    And on top of that, it makes it sound like full attention is the true ground state when instead, practiced inattention is the general goal of the brainapokrisis

    And does that general goal produce pleasure?

    I was a mathematician on one hand and a rock climber on the other - and the dichotomy is interesting. An intellectual pursuit is obviously one end of the spectrum - although even here a period of relaxation allows notions to bubble to the surface - but surprisingly perhaps, climbing can attain its goals at both ends.

    One might think that getting to the top of a climb first is all it's about, and assuredly most participants delight in achieving this goal, but at the other end of the spectrum there is reward in practiced performance, smooth, effortless. This was analyzed and researched by an old acquaintance of mine from the U of Chicago many years ago: Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. He defined this as "flow". Long ago I wrote a chapter on climbing as a mystical art form for a compendium on mountaineering, moving as far away from competition with it's intense focus as possible.

    I would guess action sports like basketball induce pleasure in both "spheres" :cool:
  • Jack Cummins
    5.1k

    The nature of consciousness may be different during sleep as opposed to absent. In particular, states of REM dreaming consciousness is present. During dreams people are aware of their own individual identity, with the narratives of experience being altered. There are degrees of depths of unconsciousness, which may show that consciousness is a spectrum, with presence and attention to outer reality being only the tip of the iceberg of awareness.

    This is in accordance with Henri Bergson's suggestion of the brain as being a filter of perception. The states of awareness of waking reality, as experienced during awareness may not be the only dimensions of consciousness. The waking states, as emphasised by the philosophy of realism are a basic starting point for negotiation of experience but consciousness may not be as straightforward.
  • bert1
    1.8k
    Yes, I think consciousness is present in deep sleep. But:

    Because if we completely lacked consciousness, then loud noises would not wake us up.Art48

    I don't think that's persuasive. The objcetion would presumably be that the brain remains receptive to some stimuli, and then on receipt of something sufficiently significant then more processes are started up.

    A: Consider first when we have local anesthesia, as when the dentist does a root canal. It is obvious that we are conscious. We do not feel the pain because the anesthesia prevents the pain signals from reaching consciousness. It’s possible when under a general anesthesia during surgery, the situation is the same: consciousness is present but the pain signals (as well as loud noises) are not reaching consciousness.Art48

    That's interesting. I hadn't considered that before.

    My own current view is that consciousness is always present, but psychological identity perhaps isn't. During deep sleep there are no memories, values, desires etc. The patient ceases to exist as a psychological entity. That might be consistent with your second point, I'm not sure. What I think can't happen is that consciousness 'turns off' (like a computer shutting down) and then boots up again. That would entail consciousness being a vague concept, and I don't think it is.
  • apokrisis
    6.8k
    Long ago I wrote a chapter on climbing as a mystical art form for a compendium on mountaineering, moving as far away from competition with it's intense focus as possible.jgill

    It gets trickier as the systems view of this is that dichotomies create the polarities that then can become the dynamical balances. So - as Kelso models - the brain wants to be in a sharply switchable meta critical state. If you have a system that is polarised in terms of attention and habit, it then can fluidly mix the two contrasting styles in a way that best fits the current task demands.

    Reductionists treat dichotomies as either/or choices. The holist says sharp contrast is how you arrive at the high definition picture. Attention feels so damn spotlit and experienced because it has that lived contrast with all was the contrastingly automatic and unconsidered backdrop.

    So Csíkszentmihályi‘s flow state is the brain both attending and running on automatic in a skilled and unbroken fashion. Everything is clicking as you do some challenging task.

    Could be climbing, trail-running, painting, writing, whatever. But it is demanding, hence there is adrenaline. Yet it is mostly working out, so it is pleasant in its surprises rather than the surprises being nasty ones. Habitual skill dominates. Yet there is also sufficient difficulty and novelty that you have to have an alert open-minded focus.

    Attentional style is also dichotomous. Left brain for endogenous or internal planning focus, right brain for exogenous outward vigilance. One selects and plans actions. The other is the kind of open mind that feels clear and ready to jump on whatever eventuates from any direction.

    So part of the pleasure of flow states is that it puts us into this “zen” mode of just being in the moment and not constructing actions step by laborious step. It feels clean and direct as we are riding the activity with the lightest of touches.

    I played a lot of sports and this combination of high arousal, yet a quiet vigilance that lets your habits really flow, is a familiar combination. I wouldn’t call it mystical as I knew the neurobiology that explained it. But it is counter-intuitive to the usual “consciousness has to be in complete charge” view of mind as you have to really concentrate to maximise vigilance while also really letting go and trusting to “instinct”.

    In summary, flow is about letting the brain do its thing as a fast and unbroken skill. Habit dominates. But attentional style is also dichotomised. And an open-minded concentration is needed to stop unwanted interruptions from the brain’s other fusspot, micromanaging, style of running the show.
  • sime
    1k
    When I awoke this morning, I felt as if time had passed. This coheres with biological hypotheses that some level attention was present, at least sporadically, throughout the night.

    However, the question isn't only a matter of psychobiology, but also a question of phenomenology, perspective and empirical logic that neuroscientists tend to overlook:

    A subject in an ideal sleep lacks consciousness from the perspective of external observers according to behavioural definitions of ' "consciousness" that refer to inter-subjectively ascertainable criteria such as stimulus responses, memory recall and directed attention. And yet from the subjective phenomenological point of view, the first person never sleeps. After all, I cannot experience myself sleeping, and so I cannot have direct knowledge that I have ever been previously unconscious in the pure sense.

    If I awaken from a coma, I might infer that I was previously unconscious on the basis of my present state of amnesia, together with reports I am told from external observers who monitored my behaviour. The question is, are these grounds sufficient for me to establish the proposition I was previously unconscious in the phenomenological sense of "experiencing nothing"? Shouldn't a hard-nosed empiricist who demands verification criteria, reject this commonly held conclusion as meaningless or false?
  • Art48
    464
    Do you think computer's are conscious?wonderer1
    I don't think they are now. Not sure about the future.

    Consciousness is simply a bad word as it has come to build in a set of wrong beliefs about the architecture of mind.apokrisis
    You seem to say "consciousness" is a bad word for describing brain activity. If we limit consciousness to biological activity, that would imply a computer (or other silicon-based, non-biological entity) could never become consciousness. Would you agree?

    Also, I've heard that psychedelics reduce brain activity but increase awareness. If true, would that suggest that consciousness and brain activity are two different phenomena. Comment?

    The objection would presumably be that the brain remains receptive to some stimulibert1
    I'd say that the brain being receptive implies consciousness

    My own current view is that consciousness is always present, but psychological identity perhaps isn't. During deep sleep there are no memories, values, desires etc. The patient ceases to exist as a psychological entity. That might be consistent with your second pointbert1
    It is consistent.
  • wonderer1
    1.8k
    Shouldn't a hard-nosed empiricist who demands verification criteria, reject this commonly held conclusion as meaningless or false?sime

    Who is such a hard nosed empiricist that he can't learn from someone else? People tell me I snore. Despite having no conscious recollection of snoring, I believe them.
  • wonderer1
    1.8k
    Do you think computer's are conscious?
    — wonderer1
    I don't think they are now. Not sure about the future.
    Art48

    But even simple computers now (with the right peripherals) could monitor the environment for loud noises, and in the event of detecting such a noise, power up a sophisticated AI system that could then evaluate and respond to the environment in a more sophisticated way.

    It seems to me that sort of scenario is more analogous to my experience of being aroused from sleep by a loud noise, than that I am conscious during deep sleep. (REM sleep being a different matter.)
  • sime
    1k
    Who is such a hard nosed empiricist that he can't learn from someone else? People tell me I snore. Despite having no conscious recollection of snoring, I believe them.wonderer1

    Other people can hear your snoring, but they cannot observe an absence of your experiences on your behalf, and neither can you. All they can observe is an absence of your experiences on their behalf in terms of their behavioural definitions of your experiences.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    Consciousness is simply a bad word as it has come to build in a set of wrong beliefs about the architecture of mind.apokrisis

    I wouldn't say its a bad word, its just a misapplied word. Consciousness is at its core, built on the subjective sense of self. When people ask, "What is consciousness", I think they're really asking how we have a sense of self, what is it, and how it fits into the larger understanding of the brain.
  • Alkis Piskas
    2.1k
    Is consciousness present during deep sleep?Art48
    Consciousness is not something that can be created and then disappear, now be present and the next moment be absent.
    Consciousness is connected to life. Once it is attached to a life it will be there until life stops.

    So, why can't we feel anything under total anesthesia? Because we are unconscious. "Unconscious" does not mean "without consciousness". It means that we cannot perceive, feel, etc. Why? because substances such as drugs, alcohol, etc., shocks, bumps on the head, etc. block parts of the brain, preventing neurons in different brain regions from communicating with each other, with the result that the brain cannot transmit signals that consciousness can receive. In such a state, consciousness is attenuated to the degree of how strong, powerful the drug, shock, bump, etc. is. So, we can be unconscious in part or totally.
  • wonderer1
    1.8k
    Consciousness is not something that can be created and then disappear, now be present and the next moment be absent.
    Consciousness is connected to life. Once it is attached to a life it will be there until life stops.
    Alkis Piskas

    You seem to have your own idiosyncratic definition of "consciousness" that doesn't seem to have much overlap with what is commonly meant by the term.

    For example, the UK NHS says on brain death:

    Brain death (also known as brain stem death) is when a person on an artificial life support machine no longer has any brain functions. This means they will not regain consciousness...
  • Patterner
    672
    Consciousness is not something that can be created and then disappear, now be present and the next moment be absent.
    Consciousness is connected to life. Once it is attached to a life it will be there until life stops.
    Alkis Piskas
    Not sure about this. I believe consciousness is a process. Some processes that are connected to life cannot stop without ending the life. Respiration, for example. The process of movement, otoh, can stop. I think consciousness is dependent on a lot of structures and other processes working together. Maybe it's possible to stop those structures and processes from working together, literally ending consciousness, without the body, or even those things and processes, dying.
  • Alkis Piskas
    2.1k
    You seem to have your own idiosyncratic definition of "consciousness"wonderer1
    I have not given any definition of consciousness, "idiosyncratic" (!) or other sort.

    ... that doesn't seem to have much overlap with what is commonly meant by the termwonderer1
    What is commonly meant by the term? In your own words.

    The reference that you brought up says ecactly what I said:
    "Brain death (also known as brain stem death) is when a person on an artificial life support machine no longer has any brain functions. This means they will not regain consciousness or be able to breathe without support."
    "But they will not ever regain consciousness or start breathing on their own again. They have already died."

    Isn't this what I said (in different words)? Didn't I say "Once it is attached to a life it will be there until life stops"?
    Maybe your comments refer to some other reply than my own ...
  • Alkis Piskas
    2.1k
    I believe consciousness is a process.Patterner
    What kind of process? A process involves a series of actions or operations. Does consciousness act or operates in any way?

    Some processes that are connected to life cannot stop without ending the life."Patterner
    Process or not, isn't what I said (in different words)? Didn't I say "Once it is attached to a life it will be there until life stops"? I think that "stops" and "ends" mean the same thing here, don't they?
  • wonderer1
    1.8k
    I have not given any definition of consciousness, "idiosyncratic" (!) or other sort.Alkis Piskas

    I'm assuming you have some working definition "consciousness" (however vague that might be) which effects how you use the word.

    What is commonly meant by the term? In your own words.Alkis Piskas

    I'd think something like, "A state of being in which phenomenal experience occurs."

    The reference that you brought up says ecactly what I said:
    "Brain death (also known as brain stem death) is when a person on an artificial life support machine no longer has any brain functions. This means they will not regain consciousness or be able to breathe without support."
    "But they will not ever regain consciousness or start breathing on their own again. They have already died."

    Isn't this what I said (in different words)? Didn't I say "Once it is attached to a life it will be there until life stops"?
    Maybe your comments refer to some other reply than my own ...

    It doesn't seem to me like what you said, since a brain dead person typically has the majority of their cells still living. Also, things you have said other places gave me the impression that you think that individual cells have consciousness.
  • Patterner
    672
    What kind of process? A process involves a series of actions or operations. Does consciousness act or operates in any way?Alkis Piskas
    What I mean is, if we were able to freeze time around someone, or even if we literally froze them, we would be able to point to their hands, feet, eyes, hair, internal organs, brain, etc. But we could not point to their consciousness, respiration, digestion, etc.

    Process or not, isn't what I said (in different words)? Didn't I say "Once it is attached to a life it will be there until life stops"? I think that "stops" and "ends" mean the same thing here, don't they?Alkis Piskas
    I'm suggesting it might not be there even though life has not stopped.
  • Alkis Piskas
    2.1k
    "A state of being in which phenomenal experience occurs."wonderer1
    Nice. I like that. :up: However, I don'r how it is in conflct with what I said ... Can this experience exist when life ends?

    It doesn't seem to me like what you said, since a brain dead person typically has the majority of their cells still living.wonderer1
    This is maybe correct,. I'm not very knowledgeable on the subject. But if so, brain death belongs to the case of being unconscious, only to a much greater degree. E.g. total anesthesia, as I have said earlier to @Art48, blocks the brain to such a degree that it can't function on a stimulus-response anymore. The effect is the same (as far as consciousness is concerned).

    Also, things you have said other places gave me the impression that you think that individual cells have consciousness.wonderer1
    Oh, far from that! :smile: Not only the cells, but even the whole brain has no consciousness. I talked about that yesterday, in the discussion of "What constitutes evidence of consciousness?" (https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/813171)
  • sime
    1k
    So, why can't we feel anything under total anesthesia? Because we are unconscious.Alkis Piskas

    Not feeling anything is a definition of unconsciousness.

    But how can you verify that you feel nothing under anaesthesia?
  • wonderer1
    1.8k
    But how can you verify that you feel nothing under anaesthesia?sime

    By watching a video of how I reacted while being cut open with a scalpel and comparing that to how I'm likely to react to being cut open while conscious?
  • Alkis Piskas
    2.1k
    [Re: What kind of process?] What I mean is, if we were able to freeze time around someone, or even if we literally froze them, we would be able to point to their hands, feet, eyes, hair, internal organs, brain, etc. But we could not point to their consciousness, respiration, digestion, etc.Patterner
    Re "But we could not point to their consciousness": Right. However, the examples of respiration and digestion are indeed procecess, in fact well defined ones. But how does consciouness function as a processs? Thi is what I asked.

    But where is the "process" that you are talking about in all this? Or do you mean that consciousness, respiration, digestion, etc.

    I'm suggesting it might not be there even though life has not stopped.Patterner
    I wonder how that can be the case ... And if so, how could we know that? Science does not even know what exactly is consciousness, where it is located, how it functions, etc.
  • Alkis Piskas
    2.1k
    Not feeling anything is a definition of unconsciousness.sime
    Well, also not being able to perceive anything with our senses, and other things ...

    But how can you verify that you feel nothing under anaesthesia?sime
    I can't, since I'm unconsious! :smile:
    I don't think even anesthesiologists do. They might have some kind of indications of slight bodily movements-reactions, etc. but I guess that not even these can an evidence that the patient actually "feels" ...
  • jgill
    3.6k
    Lucid dreaming brings one to a state of full awareness, but it's sleep state is shallow rather than deep.
  • Patterner
    672
    Re "But we could not point to their consciousness": Right. However, the examples of respiration and digestion are indeed procecess, in fact well defined ones. But how does consciouness function as a processs? Thi is what I asked.

    But where is the "process" that you are talking about in all this? Or do you mean that consciousness, respiration, digestion, etc.
    Alkis Piskas
    I couldn't say the specifics. But my point is that, if there is no activity, like if the brain is frozen, or dead for some other reason (or if it was frozen in time in some sci-fi way), then there is no consciousness. It is not a static thing; not an object.
  • wonderer1
    1.8k


    Ah, you were right. I was confusing thing apokrisis said, as having been things you said.

    I guess my brain has been filing things under "starts with an A and has four syllables".

    Sorry about that.
  • apokrisis
    6.8k
    Also, I've heard that psychedelics reduce brain activity but increase awareness. If true, would that suggest that consciousness and brain activity are two different phenomena.Art48

    Either that or the loss of attentive filtering is a reduction of global activity that lets the selective spotlight of high level processing get flooded with a lot of “unsorted data”.

    An organised mind is very accurately predicting its whole world and so minimising its need to be “aware” of everything. It is focused on a sharp sense of something as being what is unexpected, notable or concerning.

    A disorganised mind would be just full of a blooming, buzzing, confusion. Like a dream state.

    Most of the connections in the brain are inhibitory. The mind gains its high definition contrast by sculpting a pattern of neural excitation.

    EEG recordings show this happening. The P300 wave is a wave of inhibition that comes about a third of a second after some salient or attention-worthy stimulus. It is a wave of positivity as firing is widely suppressed to create narrowed focus.
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