• philosophy
    30
    According to views like panpsychism, ''consciousness'' is in some way fundamental to reality. Similarly, idealism maintains that nothing can exist independently of consciousness. The latter view was perhaps most famously expressed in Berkeley's dictum: ''To be is to be perceived.'' Whichever way you express it, such schools consider consciousness to be in some sense fundamental.

    However, the existence of the unconscious, as explored in the works of Nietzsche, Freud, and Jung (amongst many others), seems to undermine such aforesaid views. Indeed, what thinkers like Nietzsche, Freud, and Jung showed is that consciousness is but a mere surface phenomenon. By means of an analogy, consciousness can be thought of as the tip of the surface of a vast and deep ocean that is the mind. To quote Nietzsche:

    'Leibniz's incomparable insight that has been vindicated not only against Descartes but against everybody who had philosophized before him - that consciousness is merely an accidens of experience and not its necessary and essential attribute; that, in other words, what we call consciousness constitutes only one state of our spiritual and psychic world (perhaps a pathological state) and not by any means the whole of it.' (The Gay Science, 357)

    Similar passages can be found in the works of the various depth psychologists, famously Freud and Jung.

    Now, if consciousness is a mere surface phenomenon then it seems incorrect to claim that it is fundamental to the nature of reality. It seems that the only way that panpsychists and idealists can argue against this is if they somehow deny the existence of the unconscious.

    I am interested to hear what others think on this?
  • SophistiCat
    581
    I personally wouldn't use Nietzsche, Freud, and Jung as authorities on consciousness; I put more trust into more modern psychology and cognitive science, and philosophy of mind even.

    Anyway, I think you are conflating consciousness with awareness. We are aware of only a few things at a time, but our conscious activity covers a lot more ground. So it is awareness that is a "surface phenomenon," but awareness is only a small part of consciousness.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    I don't know if I've ever run into a brand of idealism that posits that (you can know or there only are) conscious ideas or minds. Maybe I just never ran into those idealists, though, or just never realized that many idealists think something like that.

    Likewise with panpsychism. The online Stanford Enyclopedia of Philosophy, for example, says, "Panpsychism is the view that mentality is fundamental and ubiquitous in the natural world."

    "Mentality" isn't the same thing as "consciousness." If one believes that there are unconscious thoughts, desires, etc., those would still fall under "mentality."

    At any rate, I'm neither an idealist nor panpsychist, but I don't believe there is any good reason to believe that any nonconscious brain activity amounts to mental phenomena.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    Distinctions ought to be recognised between conscious awareness, subconscious and the unconscious.

    In any case, the main point at issue is, I think, a subtle but pervasive confusion about the sense in which consciousness or mind can be understood as a ‘constituent’. The notion that mind is a ‘substance’ in that sense is incorrect, I’m sure. I think idealist philosophies generally are oriented around an awareness of the role of mind and consciousness as the major constituent of knowledge of the world. So it’s not as if mind is posited by these philosophies as an objective constituent, but rather as the foundation of knowledge and experience, by virtue of which we know anything whatever.

    In transcendental idealism, the categories of the understanding and the other elements of sense and intellect provide the foundations of reason. But they themselves are not disclosed to experience - that is why they’re ‘transcendental’. But they’re not ‘objective’ - they provide the basis on which judgements about what is objective are formulated.

    I view panpsychism as a mistake exactly because it wishes to discern consciousness as something objective or independendently existing. It is too literal a reading of a basically metaphorical description. I discuss this point here.
  • Pattern-chaser
    629
    I think you are conflating consciousness with awareness. We are aware of only a few things at a time, but our conscious activity covers a lot more ground. So it is awareness that is a "surface phenomenon," but awareness is only a small part of consciousness.SophistiCat

    Interesting. In discussions like this one, "conscious" and "aware" are often considered synonyms. Would you care to expand on how/where conscious activity covers a lot more ground than awareness?

    I am interested to hear what others think on this?philosophy

    I think some confusion is introduced into discussions like this one by our conception of our own minds. As far as we know, each of us has a mind. And we are aware of a small part of our minds, which we have come to call our 'conscious mind'. The rest of our minds, when we think of it at all, we call our 'unconscious mind'. But, because we are only aware of our conscious minds, it is easy for us to fall into the trap of assuming that our minds are our conscious minds, and nothing else. We sometimes forget the major part of our minds, that we call the unconscious.

    So sometimes we refer to our minds when what we actually mean is our conscious mind. At other times, we use 'mind' to refer to all of the human mind. And we don't distinguish between these two cases, because we don't notice or realise we're doing it.

    So, is it that ''consciousness' is in some way fundamental to reality", or do we mean to refer to the whole mind here?

    "Mentality" isn't the same thing as "consciousness." If one believes that there are unconscious thoughts, desires, etc., those would still fall under "mentality."Terrapin Station

    Indeed.

    I don't believe there is any good reason to believe that any nonconscious brain activity amounts to mental phenomena.Terrapin Station

    Then what does it amount to? What label would you apply/assign to unconscious mental activity?
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    What label would you apply/assign to unconscious mental activity?Pattern-chaser

    Unconscious brain activity you mean? (I wouldn't say that anything is unconscious mental activity)

    Why wouldn't "unconscious brain activity" be a good enough label? There are other common labels for some of it, though, like "autonomic functions."
  • Pattern-chaser
    629
    What label would you apply/assign to unconscious mental activity? — Pattern-chaser


    Unconscious brain activity you mean? (I wouldn't say that anything is unconscious mental activity)

    Why wouldn't "unconscious brain activity" be a good enough label? There are other common labels for some it, though, like "autonomic functions."
    Terrapin Station

    I'm still wondering why you characterise unconscious brain activity - activity attributed to that part (or 'those parts') of the mind that we refer to as the 'unconscious mind' - as not being a mental phenomena?
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    Because there's no way to have good evidence that it is anything like mental phenomena.
  • Pattern-chaser
    629
    There are other common labels for some it, though, like "autonomic functions."Terrapin Station

    I just re-read this, and I wonder if you think that the unconscious mind embraces only hind-brain functions, and is nothing more than an automated system that makes sure I continue to breathe, without having to concentrate on it? Heartbeat likewise.

    I submit that the unconscious mind does the above, but also deals with driving home while we're (consciously) thinking of something else. And it comes up with solutions to problems we've been working on, but without conscious attention. Coleridge found that Kubla Khan emerged into his conscious mind as if from nowhere. This too is the work of the unconscious mind, I think. And when I 'consciously' move my finger, it turns out that my unconscious mind issued the instruction before I made the conscious decision to move....

    Because of the way we've defined the term, our 'unconscious minds' take care of anything and everything that is mental, but of which we are not aware (i.e. conscious).
  • Pattern-chaser
    629
    So, because you can't find a way of gathering evidence, you ignore or deny the activity? :chin:
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    If there are no good reasons to believe something, I don't believe it.
  • Pattern-chaser
    629
    If there are no good reasons to believe something, I don't believe it.Terrapin Station

    How sad that you will set aside the endless possibilities the Universe offers, just because you can't prove them. The world is a wonderful and uncertain place; embrace it. :wink:
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    This is nothing about proof. It's just about having (good) reasons to believe something. I don't believe things just randomly or for just any arbitrary reason, no matter the reason's merit. If you like doing that, okay.
  • Pattern-chaser
    629
    This is nothing about proof. It's just about having reasons to believe something. I don't believe things just randomly. If you like doing that, okay.Terrapin Station

    You misunderstand. I don't accept these possibilities as valid or true (without further consideration, evidence, etc.), I just refuse to discard them without good reason, to use your words and your thinking.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    So you neither believe that there are unconscious mental phenomena nor that there aren't unconscious mental phenomena?
  • Pattern-chaser
    629
    Pending further consideration, evidence, and so forth, yes. :up: It appears that there may be unconscious mental phenomena. I'm happy with that uncertain conclusion, because it describes the available evidence without contradiction, addition, omission, exaggeration, or any other sort of misrepresentation. That kind of self-honesty pleases me.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    Again, I'm not talking about certainty or proof or anything like that. Just belief and reasons to believe.

    "It appears that there may be unconscious mental phenomena" sounds like belief, and it sounds like you feel there are good reasons to take that stance rather than the alternative . It sounds like you feel there is something more than mere logical possibility for the "unconscious mind" side.
  • Pattern-chaser
    629
    "It appears that there may be unconscious mental phenomena" sounds like belief, and it sounds like you feel there are good reasons to take that stance rather than the alternative . It sounds like you feel there is something more than mere logical possibility for the "unconscious mind" side.Terrapin Station

    Too many "sounds like"s for me. :wink: I said what I meant; please ignore what you think it sounded like. :up:

    Belief is not knowing. Belief can result from possibility, assumption, maybes, that sort of thing. And I think it can be tentative. It can in my mind anyway. It's your illogic that confounds me. You (quite rightly) require evidence - conclusive evidence - before you will accept a particular proposition, but you will reject it on a whim, citing 'no reason to believe'. The correct and logical path, where there is no conclusive evidence, is to continue the superposition of accept/reject until something causes the probability function to collapse.

    I think 'no reason to believe' might actually mean 'this is hard thinking, harder than I can be bothered with, so I'll just ignore it, pretend it doesn't exist, and maybe it will go away'.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    Where are you getting "conclusive" from? It seems like you're just fishing for other words like "proof," "certainty," etc., and I dont know why.
  • Pattern-chaser
    629
    From logic: if your evidence isn't conclusive, logic does not permit you to draw a conclusion. Therefore if you accept a proposition, it must be because the evidence was conclusive, mustn't it?
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    if your evidence isn't conclusive, logic does not permit you to draw a conclusion.Pattern-chaser

    But where did I say anything even remotely resembling that? It's difficult to have a discussion if you're not even really listening to what I'm saying.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    261
    I’ve grown fond of your general tolerance of opposing beliefs that you’ve shown in other threads. Are you saying that you have no good reasons to call unconscious phenomena “mental phenomena”, but you are open to it provided compelling evidence to that effect? That’s how I took you.
  • Pattern-chaser
    629
    if your evidence isn't conclusive, logic does not permit you to draw a conclusion. — Pattern-chaser


    But where did I say anything even remotely resembling that?
    Terrapin Station

    You didn't. It was me that said that. But you surely don't disagree with it, being a logical sort of fellow? :wink:
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    Are you saying that you have no good reasons to call unconscious phenomena “mental phenomena”, but you are open to it provided compelling evidence to that effect? That’s how I took you.Noah Te Stroete

    Yes. I don't believe that there are any good reasons to believe that there are unconscious phenomena that are more or less like thoughts, concepts, desires, etc. etc., just with the exception that we're not aware of them.

    There are unconscious brain phenomena, obviously, and good reasons to believe so, but no good reasons for believing that phenomena is more or less just like concepts, etc.

    So we'd need some evidence, whether direct or not--well, and necessarily this would have to be indirect evidence, since (a) by definition the bearer is not aware of the phenomena, and (b) mental phenomena are not third-person observable--that would amount to a good reason to believe that we're talking about things just like thoughts etc. rather than phenomena that have significantly different qualities.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    I disagree with it because I think the idea of needing anything like certainty or conclusiveness for beliefs (and knowledge for that matter) is a very bad idea that has led a lot of philosophy way off the tracks.
  • Pattern-chaser
    629
    OK, so do you care to respond to the contrast between requiring justification to accept a proposition, and rejecting one on a whim?
  • Pattern-chaser
    629
    There are unconscious brain phenomena, obviously, and good reasons to believe so, but no good reasons for believing that phenomena is more or less just like concepts, etc.Terrapin Station

    So what do you think unconscious brain phenomena are, if there are "no good reasons" to think they resemble conscious brain phenomena? What do you think they might be? Go on, speculate instead of bemoaning the lack of justification. Lack of justification goes with the territory here, so let's accept it, and see how we can work with it?
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    The way I look at it is this:

    For most empirical claims (maybe even all of them) it's possible either that p or not-p. For example, it's possible that there is an unconscious mind, and it's possible that there is not.

    If all either p or not-p have going for them is possibility, I remain completely agnostic about whether p or not-p. I'll say in that case that I do not believe either option.

    However, if there are any good reasons for believing one or the other--so this is necessarily in addition to mere possibility, then I'll lean towards one and away from the other, proportional to just how good I think the support is.

    As with the case where all there is is possibility, I won't believe the side that has no good reasons of support. There would need to be something other than mere possibility. I'd need something I consider good reasons for belief.

    If there are equally good reasons to believe both sides, I'll again be agnostic.

    Otherwise belief will go towards the side that has better reasons in my opinion.
  • Pattern-chaser
    629
    For example, it's possible that there is an unconscious mind, and it's possible that there is not.Terrapin Station

    Hmm. "Unconscious mind" is the term we humans created to describe the human mind, minus the bit we call the conscious mind. The term exists. Our minds exist, as far as we can tell. So I think we might conclude that the unconscious mind exists, although it might not be quite what we think it is.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    "It's possible that there is an unconscious mind" isn't wondering if the term exists. It's wondering if what the term is supposed to conventionally pick out/refer to exists.

    And yeah, definitely minds exist.

    But I don't think it follows from that and the fact that the term "unconscious mind" exists that what "unconscious mind" is supposed to pick out exists.
  • Pattern-chaser
    629
    But I don't think it follows from that and the fact that the term "unconscious mind" exists that what "unconscious mind" is supposed to pick out exists.Terrapin Station

    But if the term is defined to mean 'that part of the human mind to which we have no conscious access, of which we are not aware", then either it exists, or there are no mind-doings that we aren't aware of? :chin:
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