Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Defining Consciousness

Consciousness: awareness
The word consciousness gets used in many different ways, but fundamentally, it is the quality of being aware of and responsive to phenomena.
It’s what Antionio D’Amasio called “the feeling of what happens,” or subjective experience.
It can also be defined as that which has perceptions, thoughts and/or feelings, or in which they occur.
As soon as we reach this definition, the word “that” in the previous sentence has a lot of work to do. What is that “that” exactly, other than being difficult to define? If we take the definition of subjective experience, we have to ask what objective experience would be in contrast, and whether our subjective experience can perceive the subjective experience of anyone else.
When people ask questions about consciousness here, it seems that they are not simply asking about whether we’re aware of some event or object. They’re asking about the “that”. The whole mind, which feels what happens, or perhaps only that part of the whole mind that feels what happens. In this meaning, it is the thing generated by a sufficiently sophisticated and intact brain, and “correlated” with its function. (Though “correlation” here does not seem to have the standard technical meaning either.)
Sometimes, in modern discourse, it is used as a replacement or synonym for the soul. Some, religiously minded, refer to it as a fragment or instance of God.
Sometimes, consciousness is suggested to be plural, to have different, possibly independent aspects. Some people differentiate, for example, between experience derived from the outside world through the senses, and that derived through introspection or examination of mental processes. Others differentiate between sense perception, introspection, general knowledge and intention. Still others split the concept into eight or ten or more categories. Others may think in scales of access to mental processes and contents—our knowledge of what we experience is smaller than what we experience, and both experience and knowledge are somewhat fluid.
Still others think that because of these intricacies, consciousness is an illusion, nonexistent, or existing only by convention (sticking a name on something that doesn’t really exist). Yet others think that consciousness is the only thing that exists or that we can prove exists, or that consciousness is the fundamental building block of the universe, and everything that is reduces to consciousness or something like it or it and a few other fundamental things.
Any or all of these definitions may be accurate; however, the problem comes with precision. Like a kind of Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle for consciousness, the more precise you try to be, the less accurate you become. You’re better off with a kind of loose, intuitive definition
More: Consciousness in Wikipedia has a surprisingly clear article on the subject and various debates on the definition of consciousness.
Originally posted on Quora at https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-most-recent-and-accurate-definition-of-Consciousness/answer/Scott-Gosnell

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