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Are we ever unconscious?

  1. Jan 15, 2005 #1
    To be conscious, one must either be perceiving, remembering, imagining, feeling, or thinking. To be unconscious is to lack any of these. Even when we are asleep, we are still imagining (e.g. dreams) and/or feeling.

    Therefore, would the only time in which we are completely unconscious be at death?
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  3. Jan 15, 2005 #2


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    Dreaming only occurs at intervals (REM sleep). Between them we are apparently not doing any of the things you mentioned. Also have you ever been knocked out or anesthetized? I have, and I remember nothing from the periods when I was out. Doesn't mean there weren't any, but my continuity of consciousness was certainly broken.
  4. Jan 15, 2005 #3
    When you say that "to be conscious, one must be perceiving, remembering, etc", do you mean that consciousness requires these thing to be happening in order for it to continue? Or do you mean that consciousness is the process of perceiving, etc, and thus your question is "Is there ever a time when we are not perceiving, imagining, etc?"?
  5. Jan 16, 2005 #4
    Your _illusion_ of continuity of consciousness was what was broken. Just your memory of it. There may have been continuous consciousness all through the time you were anesthetized.
  6. Jan 16, 2005 #5


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    If my continuity of consciousness is an illusion then perhaps so is my consciousness? Actually I have no warrant to believe in this "illusion" and neither do you; what is being fooled?
  7. Jan 16, 2005 #6
    One thing that is not yet understood, let alone discussed, is VISUAL PRIORITY LEVEL. That is, how consciousness spirals from one priority level to the next in a downward movement into the deepest level of consciousness is currently wholly neglected. And even more problematic is the fact we tend to naively assume that 'VISUAL ATTENTION' to conscious state ceases at the deeper level of the human consciousness. We even deny that the body has any role to play in conscious visual attention, especially as we approach the deeper level. If this were true, how do you explain the following instances:

    (1) A woman in the kitchen singing very loud voice, dancing and pealing an onion with a very sharp knife at the same time without looking? How does she manage to visually attend to the singing, dancing and onion pealing acts at the same time? Is she conscious of these three events at the same time? Or is her body auto-reactionally assisting in some way?

    2) A young boy is descending the staircase without looking at the individual steps while at the same time whistling and carrying a large box that blocks his view? He succesfully does all these almost effortlessly? Is he conscious of the descending, whistling and the box carrying acts at once? Or is his body assisting in any way?

    3) A professional dancer is taking part in a dance where she has to memorise and follow very complex sets of dance steps and music score, while at the same time singing her own part of the song. Is she conscious of the music score, the steps that follow the music and the lyrics of the song that also follow the same musc at the same time? Or is her body assisting in any way?

    Well, these are just a few examples of instances where multiple parts of an event may be contemporaneously apportioned and synchronised to different visual priority levels in a conscious self. For it seems that most of the things that the body is capable of doing without upper conscious level visual attention are deprioritised and given low but sufficient visual attention at the inner conscious level. This suggests that the body is probably capable of learning and tracking things and events at different visual priority levels.

    On the issue of the sleep state and dreaming, this may very well represent the lowest level of consciousness that the body is still capable of visually attending to things normally in form of dreams and nightmares. Death on the other hand may very well be be a total disconnection of self from the lowest conscious level.

    NOTE: The Deprioritising Principle of simultaneous conscious states is not yet known, let alone discussed, in relation to diverse versions of dualism, physicalism, epiphenominalism etc. The ability of human being to do many things at once is usually investigated under Philosophy of Action. The reason philosophy is interested in simulataneous human actions is because some of these actions are very odd and they have far-reaching implications in ethics. Like the above instances, some of the simultaneous human actions are very successful. Yet, at the same time many of them are very strange such as involuntary actions (picking a nose, for example) while simultaneously concentrating on other serious activities. What is puzzling to philosophers is how to reconcile voluntary and involuntary actions, expecially with regards to ethical behaviour.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2005
  8. Jan 16, 2005 #7
    Your consciousness is the only thing you have available to you, so it can't be illusory. Instead of "illusion," perhaps I should have said "appearance"; it "appears" to you, based on your memory, that you were conscious in the past. This appearance may be illusion and it may be real; there is no discernable difference between the two possibilities.

    I do not understand what you mean to say in the second sentence.
  9. Jan 17, 2005 #8
    I'm a little confused. When you refer to "priority levels" of consciousness, are you talking about the difference between the co-existent processes of digestion and typing on the computer (all the while humming a song by Flaw, that I heard earlier this morning), or is it more like the co-existence of innumerable neurological processes occuring in my neocortex, some of which produce an utterance, and some of which don't?

    Also, define "level" as you are using it. I don't mean to sound to nit-picky, but "level" is often used in different ways (e.g. levels of importance, levels of sophistication or complexity, levels of constancy) and I want to make sure we won't be talking over each other :smile:.
  10. Jan 17, 2005 #9
    I read that what we see is only what we are focusing on, the rest is a scene built up from memory and the brain fills in the background. If we saw in detail everything within our field of vision we wouldn't be able to process all the information effectively and still do other stuff...

    ...multi tasking without visual reference is merely projecting your consciousness such that your body obeys without cluttering your brain with irrelevent detail.

    When we drive a car in the city we are using the brain by analysing and reacting to stuff on the road and going thru the motions of driving based on repetition of activity but our minds maybe elsewhere, in the next street, round the corner and so on to our eventual destination where we might be already having a drink by the pool, getting irie and talking about black holes at the edge of the universe with a friend...

    It's all about projection

    BTW I think the only time we are truly conscious is at death and i don't think we retain that knowledge for any period before we are off on the next adventure
  11. Jan 18, 2005 #10

    Don't worry about being confused......I used to be more so when I started looking into ACTION in relation to CONSCIOUSNESS many years ago. 'Multitasking Without Visual Referencing', as RingoKid otherwise calls it, seems to give a much clearer picture. So, why is this puzzling and what has it got to do with 'VISUAL PRIORITY LEVELS'? Well, let's look at Ringokid's 'CAR-DRIVING' example:

    Ok, driving a car requires giving 'VISUAL ATTENTION' to the followings ACTIONS (which presumably are conscious processes):

    (a) Seeing and Monitoring the visual contents of where the driver is going

    (b) Actioning all the steps invloved in driving (changing gear, speeding, applying brakes, observing the highway codes, etc.)

    (c) Doing many other things that have nothing to do with driving (Such as Listening to music, speaking on a mobile phone, eating sweet, singing, whistling, etc.)

    If you treat (a), (b) and (c) as sets of actions, the fundamenal question is this:

    Does the driver visually attend to these sets of events at once? How does the driver manage to attend to action set(a), which in this case appears more important and life-critical, while at the same time attending to the actual business of driving in action set (b) and the more trivial activities in action set (c)? Does the driver give these three sets of events the same 'LEVEL' of 'VISUAL ATTENTION'?

    Well, my own argument, which I want to introduce via my so-called 'DEPRIORITISING PRINCIPLE' or 'THE PRINCIPLE OF DEPRIORITISING SIMULATANEOUS VISUAL STATES', is that ACTION SETS (b) and (c) are deprioritised and transfered to other parts of the body and given low but sufficient visual attention once the driver has mastered them through learning, but that ACTION SET (a) is left to visual organs ( e.g. eye, ear etc.) and given HIGHER VISUAL PRIORITY to look after the life-critical business of 'SEEING WHERE THE DRIVER IS GOING'. Here, as usual, I give the term 'VISUAL' a wider interpretation

    NOTE: In some countries, simultaneously attending to some of the Action Set (c) while driving (such as making a phone call on a mobile while driving) is against the law. But nevertherless there is no denial that, by balance of probability, most drivers do succeed in doing so in countless instances. Yes, it is not a 100% perfect natural process, but at the same time it is undeniable that HUMAN BEINGS ARE MULTITASKING CREATURES. The only major interest of this to philosophy (and who knows, maybe to science as well) is as I have previously stated; the need to reconcile voluntary and involuntary actions with regards to ethics.

    Question: If multitasking is important in the whole business of co-existence, can it be scientifically perfected in us?
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2005
  12. Jan 18, 2005 #11
    Ringokid, when philosophers and scientists (or should I call them cognitive scientists) are examining 'ACTION-CONSCIOUSNESS RELATION', they tend to almost completely ignore one most important logical component:


    Now, the problem here is that researchers in this field fail to recognise that a huge percentage of the purportedly multitasking or simulataneous actions or evenst are decisively sequential in actual facts. The same is true of most human actions. There is an even worse problem of trying to determine whether memory has a 'FIXED LOCATION' in the human body (the brain being the most widely assumed) or whether it is a set of 'POOLED MEMORY CENTRES'. Determining whether we have a fixed or pooled memory is very important, because it should help us fully understand how the whole notion of consciousness is mapped onto it. If we do not know this, how could we fully explain consciousness, let alone the voluntary and involuntary actions(some of life-critical scales) that it produces?

    Alternatively, you could join the dualist bandwagon and claim that the action of driving a car on the street is controlled by a mysterious immaterial consciousness or soul or whatever you may wish to call it; well, this would create a spooky logical structure that some philosophers love to hate:

    A driver insider a driver

    That is, an independent soul or consciousness is driving the driver of the car. Don't be supprised, because this is what the Cartesian version of Dualism suggests. If you were a Cartersian dualist, you would be logically and quantitativelly implying that whenever you see a man driving a car on the street, that the driver of the car is driven by an independent immatrial soul or consciousness. And when the driver starts to multitask visually, as you suggest, that the cartesian soul or consciousness is independently orchestrating all the actions invloved. Spooky, isn't it?

    OUTSTANDING PROBLEM: In Philosophy of Action, one of the most puzzling features of multitasking is whether all the actions invloved are consciously controlled, especially as some of them usually appear 'Involunatary' in outlook? This is still largely controversial. Infact, this is what prompted me to invoke a physicalist conceptual scheme of PRIORITISING EVENTS and mapping them to VISUAL PRIORITY LEVELS in the overall VISUAL ATTENTION CAPACITY of the human actor (see my response to Mentat above for detail). I could be wrong, but that's my own position anyway, at least until further notice.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2005
  13. Jan 18, 2005 #12
    "That is, an independent soul or consciousness is driving the driver of the car. Don't be supprised, because this is what the Cartesian version of Dualism suggests."

    what if it's just our sub-consciousness driving the car? and the nature of sub-consciousness driver could be as well automated mechanism (learnt automation, most of which is learnt during our first years for various tasks like walking, proved empirically by psychology) or the higher astral self.

    but then, do you think that when a child who just learns how to walk and has to actually concentrate on walking, and then after some time he learns to walk without concentration, is then being led thru movement by astral self or smtn?

    and, most important, i think in this case we would not have to teach ourselved how to walk. we would just know it.

    if the astral self has to learn how to walk or drive a car, well is it an all powehful astral self?:-)

    the same goes for inexperienced driver...remember yourself when you first sat behind the wheel of a car...your senses were at their peak and you were actually concentrated ONLY on how to LEARN TO drive a car...now that you've been driving the car for a year or 2 you can simultaneously eat a chocolate smoke a cigarette or whatever.

    but the process itself is, well, thru simple observation, what we call learning and getting skilled at driving the car. whatever "learning" and "memory" might be, true.

    but the sequentialism and constant of the learning process is what is very strong here.
    it does seem to build thru our experience and cognitive learning, no matter the IQ or even wisdom, even einstein had to learn maths... and well, it all fits too well if you take a look at the entire picture of a person's learning processes from his most early youth to his old age, that i would think of an astral self being behind this.

    if there is, he's damn lazy and mean, as he must have learnt how to walk or breathe in one of his previous lives or smtn:-)
  14. Jan 18, 2005 #13
    Could "deprioritizing" be explained in terms of how often one checks up on something (visually or otherwise)? After all, your eyes never completely focus on one point. They shift constantly (one "saccade" per fraction of a second (1/3 or so, I think)). Thus, the things that take visual "priority" could be referred to as those things to which your eye glances back more frequently, right?
  15. Jan 18, 2005 #14
    cheers for that Philocrat but I don't actually find that spooky

    I believe consciousness is a compacted dimension of thought extant of the body/brain that we access and project from and input into by subjective experience.

    An analogy of a computer would be that our brains have two hard wired memory components like RAM that serves to perform functions like reason and logic. ROM is our subconcious instinct and intutition and covers things like maintenance but for general storage we have the hard drive external dimension of consciousness which is essentially our collective mind.

    I only access the hard drive when I want to retrieve previously stored data to create or project an image on to my 4d screen or to save data to be worked on in the future.

    All are memory of a sort, but not the same kinds of memory, because they're measured in the same units, users often confuse a computer's RAM, ROM, and storage capacity.

    a unit of consciousness seem like a good next step.
  16. Jan 21, 2005 #15
    "are we ever unconscious?"

    lets try to complicate this a bunch :)

    one time i was in a BAD car wreck... I remember impact.... then i remember circling mass eye & ear in a heli. The in between was 'blackness'.

    Now this beggs the question... is the, for lack of a more definitive term off my head, 'blackness' that i experienced me being conscious of 'something kinda empty and vaguely blackish' .... or is that 'blackness' actually missing consciousness?

    is the 'idea' of blackness applied by me to the situation post trauma?
  17. Jan 24, 2005 #16
    *krakley loudspeaker* -charlie brown principal sounding psychiatric ward nurse speaks- "jung, is there a jung in the house?"
  18. Jan 24, 2005 #17
    I think the blackness may be ‘applied’ both pre and post... It was the last thing I remembered before losing consciousness and awakening later with closed eyes I was once again in darkness. I cannot say the in between was anything at all, although there was blackness at either end. Make any sense to you?
  19. Jan 25, 2005 #18
    yes, my gut feeling... which i try to avoid until a scrutinize it, it that... for some time, i was 'without' consciousness.

    So are we all dead or am i alive? If i'm alive then maybe i did have a time without consciousness.

    "applied both pre and post" makes complete sense...
  20. Jan 25, 2005 #19
    Not remembering being conscious does not mean you were not conscious.
  21. Jan 25, 2005 #20
    But it is interesting that you remember up to a certain point, and begin remembering again at a certain point, but remember absolutely nothing of the period of time in between.
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