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Is consciousness completely unpredictable?

  1. Jan 3, 2006 #1
    In the material universe we know, through science we have discovered all kinds of natural laws. But suppose we discovered that consciousness itself is more fundamental than matter, or that consciousness can exist independantly from the physical. I have heard people say that science would collapse and we would be thrown back into the dark ages of sorcery, witchcraft and voodoo. But is it possible that there are natural laws present within consciousness itself according to which it behaves? Or are we then really in the domain of complete uncertainty?

    For example:

    I believe all conscious beings (at least humans) try to have pleasant experiences. Can we then conclude that a natural law within consciousness is the urge for itself to experience pleasant things?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 3, 2006 #2
    I myself think you turn things upside down. I would define "pleasurable" as "satisfying an urge".
  4. Jan 3, 2006 #3
    Then the natural law would be that consciousness wants to satisfy its urges?
    Isnt an urge another word for wanting a pleasurable experience, or avoiding unpleasurable experiences?
  5. Jan 3, 2006 #4
    Of course it wants to satisfy its urges, they are urges after all.
  6. Jan 3, 2006 #5
    Consciousness is necessarily a product of evolution. Consciousness implies an awareness of something that exists by something possessing a capacity to perceive that which exists. Consciousness of nothing is a contradiction. Attempts to bypass the prerequisite being possessing consciousness, the means by which it achieves consciousness and a reality to be conscious of can only lead to an unconsciousness of reality.
  7. Jan 3, 2006 #6
    I agree that if there is nothing to be conscious of, then one is unconscious. But what about a consciousness that can perceive and influence itself, or other consciousnesses.
  8. Jan 3, 2006 #7
    I am sure you know more than I do about how I am influencing your consciousness but you are certainly influencing mine by way of our respective physical and computer interfaces. As for a consciousness influencing itself, isn’t that what we do when we think?
  9. Jan 5, 2006 #8
    When you say that "consciousness itself is more fundamental than matter" and "can exist independently from the physical", then you can only mean that consciousness is outside the equation E = Mc^2, which, rearranged is M = E/c^2. So, sure, if someone comes forth with data that there exists in the universe a form of existence that is, as you say, more fundamental than matter (which by Einstein means also more fundamental than energy), then "science as we know it would collapse", but not backward as you suggest, but forward to a new science, for the new data would have to also include all that we currently know about the science of E = Mc^2.
    But, there is no need to suggest that consciousness is outside E = Mc^2. If we hold consciousness to be a faculty of the mind involving electro-chemical wavefunctions across neurons, then "within" consciousness are "natural laws" of chemistry and physics "according to which it behaves" as you say. Finally, I quote from Ayn Rand on your suggestion that consciousness is not a "thing" (which is what your comment about being "outside matter" means ...thus also outside energy via Einstein). The short answer is no, (I put in bold her use of the term thing..."if nothing exists there can be no consciousness...a consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction of terms...before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something...if that which you claim to perceive does not exist [as a thing], what you possess is not consciousness".
  10. Jan 5, 2006 #9
    The definition of Consciousness has been divided and fed to the wolves by now. Freud, Jung and a host of gurus and swamis have totally decimated the original meaning of that word which to this day escapes me.

    A better tool for this discussion would be to use the word "aware" or "awareness" in place of the fuzzy-feelgood and shapelessly ill-defined term "consciousness".
  11. Jan 6, 2006 #10
    OK, but how does this change anything concerning the logic of the OP ? So, the OP statement was, "consciousness itself is more fundamental than matter" and "can exist independently from the physical". Now, let us replace with your term "awareness", and we get the statement "awareness itself is more fundamental than matter". Now, you tell me, how then do we arive at a "less fuzzy-feelgood situation" that you seek by simple word substitution ? I think a better approach is that we attempt to agree on a "definition" of the "concept" consciousness. Let me offer one approach. Let us agree that the "definition" of a "concept" is a process of peeling away layers of the unknown from the object that exists in reality upon which the concept is formed by the mind. Thus, how would you define the concept--consciousness (or awareness which = consciousness) ? Then perhaps we will see if consciousness can logically be more fundamental than matter, as suggested by the OP.
  12. Jan 7, 2006 #11
    If I may propose:
    We could invalidate the original by defining consciousness/awareness as an ability rather than an object. Let us say that matter and energy are objects that abide by a set of natural laws, for example, E=mc^2. Let us now say that consciousness, instead of being an object with the potential of being "more fundamental than matter," is the ability to be aware of oneself, or the ability to be aware of one's ability to be aware (or is that redundant?).

    Now, in my understanding abilities are a class of objects to which mathematical laws cannot be applied. Therefore, one cannot compare objects such as matter with abilities such as being aware, so one cannot make the comparison that "consciousness is more fundamental than matter."

    I do believe that you can define an independent set of natural laws for consciouness, but this would run parallel to the natural laws laid out for matter and energy.
  13. Jan 7, 2006 #12
    You place "consciousness" outside the set of "objects that exist" mathematically. But, to say one has "ability" is to say that one has "power" to some action, and power is well defined mathmatically, so, first, I do not think that your statement about ability being a "class of objects" outside mathematics holds. In fact, I would suggest that no such class of objects exists logically. To your point, can ability be aware of ability, I hold the answer to be no. This is the point of Rand above, before an "ability" can have cognition (either extrospection directed out, or introspection directed in) first there must be an object of which "ability" is aware. I see no logical way to not accept as an axiom that consciousness is an identity of the universe that follows the natural law of E = Mc^2, that is, that it is an object that exists with a specific nature.
  14. Jan 7, 2006 #13
    :cool: I agree QuantumCarl,
    it seems reasonable that to be aware of self is to be conscience. And to be aware of perceptions outside of self is the feeling of conscience awareness.

    Rade, you use the term mind
    not to digress too much but speaking for my sense of self, I feel conscience of a central location within my body in my head that I conceive of as being my Mind however it extends out beyond my physical body into space to a degree and I label that my awareness or conscience awareness but when I sleep I’m only aware of the inner sense of being or conscience in sleep of mind . This quality appears to be intangible so that I think it is reasonable to assert that it isn’t matter, perhaps an energy field or something else, I don’t even pretend to know. My question to you is if this is something you sense/feel would it qualify as the object Pit2 seeks in your opinion? Pit2, what you do you think?
  15. Jan 7, 2006 #14
    Matter does not (or may as well not) exist without an awareness of matter. Therefore awareness is basic or "fundamental" to the existence of matter. See Quantum Mechanics.

    I realize this model sounds "aware-centric" but, it is a strong model which seems subjective yet holds a large component of objectivity.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2006
  16. Jan 8, 2006 #15
    First to your question at last sentence, no, as I understand what you propose, this "intangible something" would be classically explained as being the E in the equation E = Mc^2. So, no, this is not the "object" Pit2 seeks, for Pit2 seeks that which is more fundamental than matter, thus outside E = Mc^2. Second, I note that you use the term "conscience" and not "conscious". Be careful, these are two different terms--related but not identical. Third, I do not agree that the "it" that you extend outward can be called "conscience awareness" as you suggest. I hold that your extended "it" is first an unconscious entanglement of physical wavefunctions of that which exists as an extended object [O] forming union with that which exists as an object with a power of perception [P] derived from the uncounscious. Thus, I view your extended "it" as a neutral monism of two objects [O+P] and this superposition is given to your mind via the unconscious by a process we term "perception" (e.g. a group of sensations automatically retained but not known), then filtered (at the time scale of milli-sec), and then given to what you call "conscience awareness" During sleep, the unconscious deconstructs many differ types of [O+P] objects, attempts many random new arrangments of the [O]s....Oa, Ob, Oc, etc. If you "wake" during this process of unconscious integration, your conscious faculty can be "aware" of many strange things indeed created by the unconscious--but, this is also a process with potential for great creativity, for out of the random may emerge order, a flow of new and potentially useful information from unconscious to conscious. Sorry if this is so abstract, but your question is abstract.
  17. Jan 8, 2006 #16
    This is not what QM concludes :bugeye: --QM does not conclude that the moon does not in reality exist until some human came along in the universe--you cannot use QM to claim that "awareness" is more fundamental than "matter". QM predicts that E = Mc^2 is a priori fundamental to any awareness of relationship. You confuse QM discussion of Bell type locality-nonlocality problems of entangled superpositions with those objects "out-there" such as the moon that are bound by the strong force. Do me a favor, go to the QM section of the forum and ask the question--"Does QM predict that the moon does not exist until a human looks at it", then report back on the answer you get from the physicists that moderate that section of the forum.
  18. Jan 8, 2006 #17
    Without posting a thread about it, you're probably right... because the two halves of the equation are:

    no matter = no awareness.

    no awareness = no (awareness of) matter.

    However, by every standard, proof that there is a moon is reliant upon perception and awareness........ or....... belief and acceptance of what the senses dictate. That is fundamental to constructing and maintaining a human understanding of matter... so far.
  19. Jan 9, 2006 #18
    Thanks for the pull up, I mean 'CONSCIOUS'.
    I think I understand what you are saying - that [O] and [P] mesh/intergrate to create our perspective or our view of life.

    During sleep the making and remaking of new and different connections of ideas and thoughts likely do occur probably as dreams but I'm refering to a sense of being and existence while I sleep quite apart from the assimulation and reevaluation of the previous days stimuli.

    In the book 'Schordingers Cat'(spelling) it is pointed out that energy is in the form of wave functions that upon being observed by an observer collaspe to form the matter or event they see.

    BOT, consciousness is predictable in that everyone who is alive reacts to being living in one way or another. The reactions and actions themselves may be unpredictable.
  20. Jan 9, 2006 #19
    Maybe not necessarily a human observer, but there is an interpretation of QM in which consciousness causes the collapse of the wavefunction:
    (scroll down two-thirds of the page and look at the green/pink table).
    For this to work, it would have to be a universal consciousness i believe, as opposed to multiple seperate consciousnesses.

    In that case, i think consciousness is more fundamental than matter, in the sense that it causes it to exist.

    It depends on what it is. My main thought behind the topic was more like what would happen if the entire universe dissappeared (or shrunk as if u were travelling at lightspeed) and all that is left is consciousness. How would it behave in a place with nothing else?
  21. Jan 9, 2006 #20
    Ok, that question to my thinking touches on theology. If there is a God, it would have had to have exsted during a period where there was nothing - no time, energy, matter or thought (sensation?). It would have to posses volition and consiousness of its volition. Now I wonder why it did what it did.
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