Topic: consciousness

topics > science > Group: psychology

natural language
relationship between brain and behavior

limitations of artificial intelligence and cognitive science
meaning by use
philosophy of mind
people better than computers
people vs. computers
problem of other minds
sense perception
vitalism, the soul


Consciousness is our experience of the world and yet it doesn't fit with an objective, scientific world view. Somehow it must, or our science and understanding is limited. Maybe that's the case. That a scientific understanding is by definition objective and hence independent of consciousness and the mind.

First of all, consciousness is subjective. It's about our individual experience of the world. Consciousness is also about intentions or willing things to happen. We reach an understanding about reality and with that understanding change and act within that reality. Our experience includes a mood.

Consciousness is organized as objects and concepts. It is about the forest instead of the trees. In a way, it's even more than the forest since one can talk indefinitely about what one sees. It has temporal extension but we don't think of it as spatially extended (yet we continually locate ourselves in space). It is indivisible.

We talk of the unconscious mind. But that might be just trying to see l'homme en machine. Searle treats it as the potentially conscious--what could also be said or recalled if we thought about it.

But we can't get away from objectivity. Consciousness is rooted in the brain. Yet how can activities of the brain become subjective experience? One possibility is that consciousness pervades all of life. Searle thinks its a property of the brain, like liquidity of water.

Consciousness provides an evolutionary advantage (cbb 5/94)

Subtopic: consciousness up

Quote: a universe governed by laws that do not allow consciousness is no universe at all; current mathematical descriptions fail this criterion [»penrR_1989]
Quote: to study the mind, you must study consciousness; they are the same notion [»searJR_1992]
Quote: we believe that reality is objective but this clearly does not apply to our own subjective states [»searJR_1992]
Quote: consciousness is amazing; it is the central fact of human existence; without it, the universe is meaningless [»searJR_1984]
Quote: how can subjective mental phenomena accord with an objective, scientific reality? [»searJR_1984]
Quote: life is consciousness of space and time; competition for space is one of the primitive forms of biological interaction [»thomR_1975]
Quote: we cannot discover that we do not have minds with conscious, subjective mental states, nor that we do not at least try to engage in voluntary action
Quote: life and consciousness are inseparable [»bohrN_1934]
Quote: we are both onlookers and actors in the great drama of existence
Quote: most animals have rich thoughts and emotions but no system for communicating what they think to others [»hausMD_2000]

Subtopic: self-aware up

Quote: only humans appear to have a sense of self, to have unique and personal mental states and emotional experiences
Quote: only adult great apes and children over two pass Gallup's dye mark test of self-awareness; spontaneous behavior toward their mirror reflection [»hausMD_2000]
Note: fields are the abstraction of self-awareness [»cbb_2000, OK]

Subtopic: philosophy of consciousness up

Quote: the ontology of the mental is a first-person ontology, i.e., subjective [»searJR_1992]
Quote: attempting to connect sensations and physical objects without 'mind' or 'self' leads to dislocated sensations
Quote: the consciously known features of an object are precisely the conditions of satisfaction for my conscious experiences of them
Quote: the subjective experience of heat still exists after heat is redefined as molecular motion
Quote: Berkely refused to accept the redefinition of subjective concepts to objective ones
Quote: our current mood pervades all of our conscious forms of intentionality even though it is not itself intentional [»searJR_1992]

Subtopic: intentional states up

Quote: at the starting gate horses cannot burst free as quickly as the mind desires; voluntary motion has its impetus in thought [»lucr_55]
Quote: human infants infer the intentions and goals of others; for example, opening a jar that an adult failed to open [»hausMD_2000]
Quote: physical, design, and intentional stance; simple objects predicted by physical laws, designed objects modelled by their purpose, other people modelled by beliefs and intentions [»yeeKP12_2002]
Quote: conscious organisms represent the world and with intentional actions use their representations to change the world
Quote: consciousness is mostly intentional and intentional states are at least potentially conscious [»searJR_1992]
Quote: consciousness defined by intentionality; the intentionality of signs and symbols is secondary [»hallH_1992]
Quote: a conscious act is intentional, i.e., by its very nature of or directed toward some represented objective
Quote: the same bodily movements could be a dance, signaling, or exercise; and one type of action could be done by many different movements [»searJR_1984]
Quote: consciousness and intentionality are intrinsic and ineliminable, while computation is observer relative; contrary to the dominate position [»searJR_1992]
Quote: in the sense in which I cannot fail to will (Augustine), I cannot try to will either (Wittgenstein) [»wittL_1958a]
Quote: agency is a key component of first-person experience; even though may describe it without agents, the ability to do something is a criterion [»laurB_1991]
Quote: mental phenomena appear to cause physical results; if not, then the mind doesn't matter, like froth on a wave [»searJR_1984]

Subtopic: meaning of consciousness up

Quote: syntax is not sufficient for semantics; the mental contents of human minds [»searJR1_1990]

Subtopic: orientation up

Quote: perception is organized into objects and features, not undifferentiated shapes; consciousness is of something as such and such [»searJR_1992]
Quote: familiarity is the source of much of the organization and order of conscious experience; even for an elephant in your room [»searJR_1992]
Quote: consciousness is temporally extended but it is not experienced as spatial [»searJR_1992]
Quote: spatial orientation, recognition memory, and language use different mentalities; e.g., Piaget's water pouring experiment [»lindO_1992]
Quote: mind different from body because the mind is always indivisible but a body is always divisible [»descR_1641]
Quote: conscious states "overflow" beyond their immediate content; e.g., can discuss a scene indefinitely [»searJR_1992]
Quote: reluctantly starting to be, fumbling awareness awakens and finds that it's me [»heinP_1972]

Subtopic: consciousness vs. perception up

Quote: perception is the internal state that represents external things, while consciousness is the reflective knowledge of that internal state [»leibGW_1714]
Quote: while souls have perceptions, they may not have consciousness of those perceptions; Descartes mistakenly regarded such perceptions as nothing

Subtopic: evolution of consciousness up

Quote: conscious organisms have a selectional advantage because of their better discrimination powers [»searJR_1992]
Quote: need a theory how perceiving keeps an animal in contact with reality for the successful conduct of its actions [»turvMT_1984]
Quote: natural selection does not explain consciousness and the development of man

Subtopic: biological basis of consciousness up

Quote: consciousness is a feature of the brain like liquidity is a feature of water; it is not "stuff" [»searJR_1992]
Quote: consciousness is a biological feature of human and certain animal brains; it is caused by neurobiological processes [»searJR_1992]
Quote: consciousness is an emergent property of the brain just like solidarity or liquidity of water; both mental and physical [»searJR_1992]
Quote: consciousness can not be reduced to neurophysiology because its reality is subjective appearances [»searJR_1992]
Quote: consciousness has a causal reduction but not an ontological reduction because it is inherently subjective and first-person [»searJR_1992]
Quote: can not identify mental states with brain states without leaving out the mental; both are rigid designators [»searJR_1992]
Quote: mental concepts are not definable in neural terms; totally different systems of description [»sowaJF_1984]
Quote: we think organization is the answer to intelligence from unintelligent components; but intelligence has third-person criteria that makes the question incoherent [»searJR_1992]

Subtopic: consciousness and physics up

Quote: a theory of consciousness or biology could conflict with accepted principles of physics [»wignEP2_1960]
Quote: personal identity and thinking is like particle and wave descriptions; in both cases, observation has an effect [»bohrN_1934]

Subtopic: recognition and consciousness up

Note: recognition is the foundation of thought and awareness [»cbb_2000, OK]

Subtopic: unconscious up

Quote: an unconscious mental state is always accessible to consciousness; e.g., the belief that the Eiffel Tower is in Paris [»searJR_1992]
Quote: we are consciousness of many things without them being the center of attention; they are not unconscious, e.g., hammering by a skilled carpenter [»searJR_1992]
Quote: the postulation of inaccessible mental phenomena is pre-Darwinian anthropomorphizing; e.g., mental models and universal grammars [»searJR_1992]

Related Topics up

Group: natural language   (16 topics, 539 quotes)
Group: relationship between brain and behavior   (9 topics, 332 quotes)

Topic: limitations of artificial intelligence and cognitive science (64 items)
Topic: meaning by use (58 items)
Topic: phenomenology (37 items)
Topic: philosophy of mind (78 items)
Topic: people better than computers (35 items)
Topic: people vs. computers (55 items)
Topic: problem of other minds (11 items)
Topic: recognition (50 items)
Topic: sense perception (55 items)
Topic: vitalism, the soul
(73 items)

Updated barberCB 4/2005
Copyright © 2002-2008 by C. Bradford Barber. All rights reserved.
Thesa is a trademark of C. Bradford Barber.