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CONSCIOUSNESS is similar to energy in the matter

  1. Aug 2, 2010 #1
    I have an interesting question, do you think CONSCIOUSNESS is similar to energy in the matter that it cannot be created or destroyed but only borrowed and returned?

    If a human were to be pronounced dead by medical terms and was preserved cryogenic-ally and woken in the future do you think it would be the same person or something else?

    Hypotheticals set aside, is the mind bonded to the body or is it separate?

    Do you believe there is a specific location in the universe or parallel universes where a collective CONSCIOUSNESS is stored and can be manipulated?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 2, 2010 #2
    Re: Consciousness

    I believe that consciousness cannot be explained with modern science. Do I think it is similar to energy? No, because if it were that simple, the concept would probably already be explained. As for the cryogenics scenario, if that were even remotely possible, assuming consciousness was bonded to the body then yes it would probably be the same person but the memories might not be intact. For your question about a specific location, IMHO I couldn't tell ya.
  4. Aug 2, 2010 #3
    Re: Consciousness

    Define: Consciousness
    Then discuss...

    My personal opinion is that the general experience that we call consciousness or awareness is an "emergent" property of the physical neural state of the brain/body. Thus, presuming that most or all of that physical state could be preserved somehow, restarting the metabolic processes could re-instantiate the conscious state as well.
    This is a fairly common hypothesis that is so far from being testable that it might as well be religion, but at least it is strictly mechanistic and doesn't rely on spooky-effect-without-cause...
  5. Aug 2, 2010 #4


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    Re: Consciousness

    Talking about consciousness as a special kind of substance (an energy) or an emergent property does not really explain anything.

    Consciousness should be understood as a model of reality (which is not "true" but a constructed-for-a-purpose view of the world).

    So it is a function or a process, not a substance or a property.

    It is also a hierarchically organised process. So you have adaptation of the model over long timescales - reflexes, habits, automaticisms - and also very rapid "in the moment" adaptation of state that we call attention (or conscious awareness as opposed to preconcious, or sub conscious).

    Now consciousness feels like something because the model is constantly adapting, it is a moving point of view. And it is an anticipatory point of view. The wrong way to think about consciousness is as an input-output process. This may be how computers and machines work, but the brain works by generating states of expectation (output) and matching these against what actually happens (input), ignoring what actually happens unless it is somehow novel, surprising, or otherwise needs further after the fact processing - actions to adapt the model for better future prediction making.

    A further key point, not popularly understood, is that the special features of human consciousness are the result of language and the habits of thought that language can scaffold. So we are self-aware, have imagination and recollective memory, have socialised emotions and notions like "freewill", because these are language scaffolded actions (and habits that are socioculturally evolved - memes that adaptations at a cultural level and then taught to every new generation of humans).

    So in talking about consciousness, you are dealing with a complex adaptive system with multiple levels of description.

    The standard knot that people get into is dualism. They want to say that mental experience is just so different from material existence. But this is because they do not see the hierarchy of complexity that connects the material to the mental.

    This forces them to think that either mind is some kind of different substance - another of nature's materials, a soul-stuff - or that mind is somehow an emergent property. Of course, the mind is in a fashion "emergent" - you have to have matter in certain arrangements. But this is not a particularly useful thing to say as motorcars and tomatoes are also "emergent" in this sense.

    Philosophically, the real distinction being made here is between substance and form. Everything real is made of some local stuff and has some global shape or organisation.

    Once you grant form with the power of downward causality - the power to constrain - then you can answer even the question of how "consciousness controls the body". You can model the brain and its mental states as a dynamical self-organising system. As a complex adaptive system.
  6. Aug 2, 2010 #5
    Re: Consciousness

    Why mental experience? There is no logical or causal requirement that the mental experience should come out of ANY possible hierarchy of complexity.

    How are tomatoes emergent and what do you mean by 'emergent'? Tomatoes are self-aware?

    Form can constrain? What do you mean by 'form'? Lots of vague terms for such a definitive explanation.

    ...that is conscious of its own existence. A self-aware mental state that you call 'form' and which i fear leads us nowhere.

    A person is not a model of reality, is he? If i mistake some observation for evidence that my wife has cheated on me and feel deep emotional pain, which part of the world did my consciousness model/describe except that which only existed in my head?

    The first person perspective exists and is real, regardless if some circle of individuals do not approve of it. This mental experience is Me + the Model of the world. I exist.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2010
  7. Aug 2, 2010 #6
    Re: Consciousness

    This makes sense until someone comes along and asks - Why consciousness? Why not emergent angel? Or emergent unicorn?
  8. Aug 2, 2010 #7


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    Re: Consciousness

    But this is what you always say - we cannot possibly comprehend. It is only your personal view of course. I do not share it.

    This is now a misquoting. Consciousness as a process would be a systems property. A system is modelled as the interaction of local and global scale. Or material and formal causes in classical Aristotlean causality.

    And what we call consciousness actually divides in various ways. One key dichotomy is between habit and attention. Another is between biology and sociology. If we took any particular scale of organisation as our focus, we would find both material and formal causes in interaction.

    So generally speaking, awareness is modelling. But it can be a very slowly adapting model like a spinal reflex (evolved genetically over millenia), or a very rapid one (such as when you are surprised by the unexpected knock at the door).

    Language makes possible self-reference - self-modelling. And we can trace the history of the evolution of a social model of "the self" which we incorporate - the tale of what it is to be a self within our particular cultures.

    There is in fact less mystery about self-awareness than anything else to do with the mind. Sociology is much easier to master than neurology. Believe me, I've studied both. But even neuroscience is not impossible to comprehend, even if you might call it a work in progress.
  9. Aug 2, 2010 #8
    Re: Consciousness

    But you wouldn't find me or you. So what benefit does your model have when it cannot find me?

    Language exists ONLY because we have MINDS to process information! This is 100% certain. While certainly beneficial for better self-awareness, your language isn't consciousness or a scaffold for consciousness.

    Before an individual begins to socialize, he surely must possess a mind to perceive and process information about the environment and other perceiving people. Without a mind, that which we call "Information" is just gibberish, meaningless sequence of symbols. Without a human mind this sequence of symbols - "s.e.l.f. a.w.a.r.e.n.e.s.s." doesn't have a meaning, as meaning is related and resultant from the conscious mind.

    You've studied something that no one has a clear idea of yet, as evidenced by the inability to account for the first person perspective(the self). It's easy to become brain-washed into the doctrine that we don't exist. We do.

    It's much less indocrinating for people to think in terms of emergent self, then of a self that isn't there.

    Is there a logical or causal requirement that the mental experience should come out of ANY possible hierarchy of complexity?
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2010
  10. Aug 2, 2010 #9


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    Re: Consciousness

    But "you" in this magic soul-stuff sense does not exist.

    I can find "you" in your childhood and culture if I am looking for the socialised aspects of your thought processes. I can find "you" in the neuroanatomy of your cortico-thalamic loops, cerebellum and insular cortex if I was looking for the reasons you can catch a ball reflexively.

    There are many ways to find "you". The sum of these is you. Just not the kind of you that you are probably expecting. A soul. Some ghostly pure willing substance lit up with self-awareness that resides in, or emerges from, your brain.

    This view of you is a social construct - which is why you believe it. But it is not a scientific model.

    Again, you misquote. Yes, first we - like animals - have awareness. Then through the semiotic power of words, we have this more elaborated awareness. The kind of awareness animals lack.

    Another misquote. It is you who are defining the choice as exist/not exist. I am making the distinction between simply emergent and systems emergence.

    The usual popular notion of emergence is that you have a bunch of material and then a higher order property can emerge once the material has some particular organisation. This is a simple model that is sufficient for simple understandings of reality, but clearly not for a complex system like the mind/brain.

    The more sophisticated model of emergence links the global scale back to the local scale. What emerges globally acts back on what produced it locally. This was modelled simply as cybernetics - feedback. And more complexly as hierarchy theory and semiotics. So now we are saying that it is not just the higher scale that emerges (the form from the material) but the whole. The system as a whole emerges through the interaction of the local and the global, the substance and the form, the constructive materials and the constraining organisation.

    If you studied neuroscience at the systems level, you would know all this. Just as if you studied psychology (Vygotsky, Piaget) you would learn about the development of self-regulation.
  11. Aug 3, 2010 #10
    Re: Consciousness

    The first person perspective does exist. Call it mind instead of soul to remove the religeous connotations.

    But that is not 'me'. When i speak of 'me', that me is the mental picture that(is supposed) to represent the external world.

    The sum of electrical impulses between synapses does not add up to a mental picture and self-awareness. These are not the same. My mental picture is not a kind of self-aware electricity.

    That's not a misquote. You are 'dancing' on the fence between "we are our neurological signals and impulses" and "We are a fuzzy social construct". Both of which negate freewill and self-awareness and deny our objective existence as sovereign entities.

    It's the First Time! you mention "emergence". I have nothing against emergence and cannot currently argue against it, there are other examples of non-linear behavior that give support to the idea that emergence is a fact of nature.

    What does "simply emergent" mean to you?

    I am not arguing against the emergent self(the self-aware mental picture that can make choices and perceive and process INFORMATION!). I am arguing against the notion that this mental picture does not exist or is not real. While meaning is shaped by social interaction, you need a mind to process the information and turn it into "meaning(ful)".
  12. Aug 3, 2010 #11
    Re: Consciousness

    Prove the existence of 'consciousness' first.

    As modern physics, nor neurology seems to imply its existence or any such 'magical' things, surely we cannot use any of those sciences to reason about its property?

    As far as I'm concerned, there is no reason to believe that human beings are 'conscious' or that such a thing can even exist. All we know is that human beings claim that they are conscious.

    They (we) could all be just soulless automatons that claim so simply because evolution has shaped them in that way. Their brains just fire electrical impulses by the laws of physics, as such they are no more conscious or realize what they are doing than a rock does when it falls. It just does so because it couldn't be any other way by the laws of physics.
  13. Aug 3, 2010 #12
    Re: Consciousness

    Modern physics and neurology come to these conlcusions through that which they seem to deny. BTW, Neurology doesn't deny consciousness, or you are using a different definition of consciousness.

    To 'believe" anything, you first must have a mind. The fact that you believe something is undeniable evidence that you are conscious. There is a difference between being conscious and unconscious and there are ways to become unconscious.

    There is no "They (we)" as soon as you get rid of the first person perspective and the logic we use would no longer be logic but an artefact of the Big Bang. It's a self-defeating "logic".

    These deep questions that we are pondering are on the same level as the consciousness of a rock? You are denying "I think therefore I am" and what would you replace it with? It surely wouldn't contain an "I", so could you attempt to formulate a thought about what to exist means to you?

    "Something happens"?

    If so, that something has to happen to "someone"(a mind) that perceives the happenings.
  14. Aug 3, 2010 #13
    Re: Consciousness

    Doesn't imply != denies.

    Yes, but you have no proof of that I, or anybody in this thread, including yourself believe anything. All you have proof of is that we claim to believe things.

    It's the day old argument again, if an android manages to simulate perfect human behaviour, is he then conscious or does he just mimic this behaviour without having anything remotely related to feelings or introspection?

    The same argument also applies to human beings, after all, we are just machines.

    I don't follow.

    Again, you make a subtle circular reasoning, you assume that we are pondering these questions. All we know is that we mimic the behaviour of doing so, nothing more.
  15. Aug 3, 2010 #14
    Re: Consciousness

    In the end, i can only have proof that my personal experience exists. I take your statements that you believe something at face value, as i assume that you exist.

    How does the "I"(the first person perspective) relate to a simulated person? How would a simulated person be self-aware?

    I don't understand too. What did you mean by "they(we)"? You said: "They (we) could all be just soulless automatons that claim"

    To be able to claim anything(i.e. transfer information and ideas), you need to have a mind. When you deny that a mind exists, what is IT that claims and transfers information?

    You said - "we know", so you assume there is "we" that exist and can know through information exchange of thoughts and ideas. If you can know, your mind exists.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2010
  16. Aug 3, 2010 #15
    Re: Consciousness

    O.k. I feel as though we've hit some roadblocks. Sometimes I feel as though things that shouldn't be debated are debated. What do you even mean that we "claim" to have beliefs, but we do not? or that we "claim" to be conscious? We define what it is to be conscious, we know of conscioussness's existence through our own experience, that isn't to say that hypothetically some thing cannot posess "more" self awareness, but to completely deny that we are conscious and have beliefs seems to me pure sophistry and scholasticism. For me, we must reason from experience, and our beliefs must hold in the face of action, you clearly "believe" what you just espoused, for you were willing to act on the belief by propogating it. What do you mean that "you only claimed to have the belief" what is the pragmatic difference? Everyday we do things that require decision, reasoning, and belief and conscioussness, to deny such basic things is silly. The philosophizing is poor, you assume science and "the laws of physics" and proceed to deny conscioussnes, yet you fail to realize that "the laws of physics" can be seens as regularities in observed experience, formulated by your conscious mind (or at least discovered by it) HOw do you explain creativity in you non-conscious evolution idea? The "illusion" of creativity?
    I may also see some mis communication between Cantor and apeiron, I see what apeiron is saying, but I can also see what Cantor is saying regarding his existence of a self of an "i" that he must experience through. i agree with both views and do not see them as mutually exclusive, I do find that systems and dynamical modelling and behavior yield a very fruitful way to think about various issues of mind/brain and life. That said, I do not think that we can reduce the "I" as personally experienced to the systems that must stand in certain relations and processes for it to exist. In my understanding the systems and complexity must exist for the "I" to form, but the "I" to which we refer has a different quality to that of the systems themselves. It is the idea of phenomenological consciousness and the idea of scientific theories being a second order expression of that which is first-order, consciousness. Conscious experience is entirely subjective and must be understood as being through the "I" and cannot be understood 100% through simplly second order modelling of first person experience. That said I do not know if you guys would or would not agree.
    though I would say that the idea of the "i" is not or should not be treated too common-sensically. That is, the idea of I being nothing more than a "fuzzy social construct" or "our neurological signals and impules" is certainly not true, but it is certainly not ENTIRELY false. Your conception of "I" or your self is definatley shaped by social factos and neurological factors, I do not think anybody will eny this. Deep down in the fabric of your "Self" including how you experience everyday and how you intuit perception there lies a web of prior experience/belief that have been imparted to you by your culture, society, family, childhood etc that sometimes subtley sometimes very apparently shape your decisions and experience. And I do think that neurological factors shape your experience. Again, though, I do not wish to say we simply are these things. In fact, often times discussion so "self" and discussions of "Awareness and conscioussnes" seem completely intertwined, and to a large extent they are, but there are certain experiences in life, that you can cultivate, where there is an existence of awareness that is entirely different from everyday awareness and entirely different from your common-sense experience of your "self". I cannot comment on the subjective nature of these experiences, for I personally cannot cultivate them, though I have experienced their qualities in various moments, but I am referring mainly to those things such as deep meditation, spiritual yogic practices, and experiences explicated upon by William James in his chapter on "mysticism" in "The Varieties of Religous Experience"....
  17. Aug 3, 2010 #16
    Re: Consciousness

    I think this does not compare. Consciousness is the faculty of living organism that developed a brain structure to respond to outside stimuli and has grown in the course of evolution.

    Based on that, it clearly shows that consciousness arose and developed, while at the start of the evolution, there was no consciousness (or just in very rudimentary and primitive form, since even bacteria seem to be able to adapt to their invironment, but they don't have any organ that plays the role of processing that information and consciously responding to it).

    If his brain structure survived that without too much damage, it would be the same person. Like a person which would wake up out of a coma.

    What do you think? Or are you familiar with any form of consciousness that is not attached to a body and brain. Please tell us.

    Silly question. The collective consciousness is 'located' in the brains of the individuals.
  18. Aug 3, 2010 #17
    Re: Consciousness

    Consciousness is just another word and it's meaning changes according to the context. For example, a researcher into conscious might have a much more elaborate definition than is commonly used, just as a biologist might use a more elaborate and concrete definition of "life" than the ordinary person. To insist that everyone already knows from experience what consciousness is not particularly helpful since, of course, everything everyone knows comes from experience!

    In addition, the "I" is what is more commonly referred to as the "ego" and by many definitions of the term the ego is not conscious.
  19. Aug 3, 2010 #18
    Re: Consciousness

    Someone mentioned emergent tomatoes in this thread. I would say, of course some properties of sufficiently complex systems probably emerge from the system itself. Someone else mentioned "downward causality" which is another way to describe this phenomenon. There isn't just one instance of emergent behavior, like tinkerbell, if you believe, it's all around you... It's not much yet, but it's the best explanation I know.

    Emergence is a slippery thing. It means different things to different people and I haven't seen a fully worked and quantified example anywhere. On one hand you can say that the laws of thermodynamics emerge from statistical mechanics. Without an energetic system of molecules there is no such thing as "temperature". On the other hand we can hand-wave away the dualistic idea of spirit by saying, "Ah, it just emerges from the brain." It is a path to extricate ourselves from reductionism without giving up scientific method. We might have to re-examine Causality, but that has been a bit flimsy since Hume anyway.

    These conference proceedings are interesting, although perhaps too broad:
    http://www.ctnsstars.org/conferences/conferences_3.html" [Broken]
    I found the Paul Davies to be useful even though he is a Believer.

    Now I have a little thought experiment, like Chalmer's Zombie argument... What is the inner experience of a thermostat? Does it feel hot or cold and respond accordingly? Is it "conscious" in that respect? Compare and contrast to your observations of another human's (or animal, and maybe plant for that matter) behavior. Can "consciousness" be externally verified or only self-reported? What about experiences with a concussion or under anesthesia? -- I ask this because I have had multiple experiences of people reporting me to be conscious or responsive where I have no memory of such (some would say that holds most of the time for me anyway).
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  20. Aug 3, 2010 #19
    Re: Consciousness

    Now this can't be true, if there is no difference between a human and a machine, we would need to claim that machines are conscious too. Of course there are differences. Like there is no machine yet that reaches the level of complexity of the human brain.
    I'm not denying that at some appropriate level the inner working of our mind and body have machine like aspects, but it is certainly not true that we are 'just' machines.
  21. Aug 3, 2010 #20


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    Re: Consciousness

    Of course I agree that modelling does not give you the ultimate "what it is like to be" first person perspective - although it may give you "a little bit of what it might be like".

    So if you asked me to explain why red looks like red, then I can't see any way that a verbal or mathematical model would account for that in some final completely satisfactory fashion. But we know enough about the visual system to say why brown does not look like blackish yellow, why neon colours look neon, etc. Or about the western social construction of identity to say why Georg insists on taking a particular view of freewill.

    But then this links back to the reductionist vs systems debate. The demand that we should be able to explain naked properties like redness or I-ness is based on the reductionist presumption that naked atomistic local additive properties exist. You have qualia which are then glued together to construct subjective fields of experience.

    The systems view is that nothing can exist locally except via the shaping hand of top-down constraint. So that is why I can explain the experience of brownness instead of blackish yellow (which is about contextual mechanism), but not brownness all on its ownsome.

    The same with I-ness. If you demand that it be explained as a local naked qualia, then a systems approach cannot do that because that is insisting all the formative context be stripped out of the explanation. When that is the basis of the explanation.
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