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Medical Is consciousness essential for life to exist

  1. Dec 28, 2012 #1
    How is it possible a patient looses consciousness and at the same time remain alive?
    in anesthesia, coma or unconsciousness due to injury/accident.

    Because I believe it is the consciousness that give life to a living being. Isn't it become an inert body without consciousness.

    Or in reality, the consciousness doesn't go completely, in such cases.

    In sleep, I believe it would be wrong to say consciousness doesn't exist. Because we dream and therefore the mind is also present. But in deep sleep, the mind is totally absent, only consciousness exist. Also it is the deep sleep cycle in our sleep state that give us a feeling that we had a sound sleep. If in our sleep we didn't go through deep sleep state and just went through dream cycle. We wouldn't feel that we had a sleep at all, instead we would feel that just now we went to be bed and right now we got awake. Because while dreaming, the brain is still active and only at rest(or minimum activity) in deep sleep state where only consciousness exist.

    So it is the presence of consciousness in deep sleep state that let us realize that we had a sound sleep. The amount of sound sleep that we experience on awoke is equivalent to the time spent on deep sleep state/cycle. Or deep sleep state is a measurement of time or give us a sense of time passed in our sleep.

    Unlike in anesthesia, coma or unconsciousness due to injury/accident, the patient do not feel any time gap on regaining consciousness. That is I believe during this time he was totally in a state of unconsciousness or there was no consciousness(and no mind) at all to let him know any time gap.

    As I had a believe that without consciousness in a body, it shouldn't be alive.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 28, 2012 #2


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    Cabbage is alive, but not conscious.
  4. Dec 28, 2012 #3
    I guess even plants are consciousness to some extent and cannot be devoid of it, so does all living being, only the level of consciousness differ.
  5. Dec 28, 2012 #4


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    I think that's utterly ridiculous. Do you REALLY think a cabbage has any consciousness? Do you even understand what consciousness IS? I suggest you look it up.
  6. Dec 28, 2012 #5
    Its true, seems ridiculous to say cabbage is conscious but cabbage plant or just any other plants may not be. But as I said consciousness differ and may not be defined as we perceive. Consciousness can be associated with sensation.

    We humans have 5 sense i.e touch, taste, smell, sight & hearing.

    Out of which plant has just one sensation i.e touch.
  7. Dec 28, 2012 #6


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    Firstly, recognize that consciousness is a big subject and often, different people have a different idea of what you're talking about when you use the word. You seem to refer to the subjective experience aspect of consciousness (that we have an experience associated with our behavior and actions).

    It's unclear what neural structures may be required for subjective experience or if other structures can work too. For instance, plants have "brain-like" information processing organs[1] and in single-celled organisms have molecular networks that can be viewed as analogous to associative memory[2]. All this evidence does is show that limited intelligence can be demonstrated in other organisms. Depending on whether or not you associate the ability to have a subjective experience with intelligence, this kind of evidence may or may not be meaningful.

    The problem is that, even with humans, we can only infer other humans have consciousness from similar behavior; there's no rigorous evidence-based test for consciousness. We can test intelligence and look at information processing in organisms, but we'll probably never know whether (or how) other organisms experience things.

    Excepting, of course, a solution to the so-called "hard problem of consciousness"[3]. I personally find that, at it's core, this is no different than, say, a 'hard problem of entropy'. I.e. we don't know what entropy is or why it should be; it just is. I don't expect "problems" like these to ever be solved.

    However, we, everyday, solve pieces of the easy problem. The functional story of how neurons behave. And to some extent, we can associate our personal experiences with those functions (something called "neural correlates of consciousness") but there's no obvious way to carry that analogy to something like a plant, where no homologous brain structures occur.

    [1] http://ds9.botanik.uni-bonn.de/zellbio/AG-Baluska-Volkmann/plantneuro/pdf/NeuroPlantTZ-Biologia.pdf

    [2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2582189/

    [3] http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Hard_problem_of_consciousness
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2012
  8. Dec 28, 2012 #7


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    Again, I suggest you look up the word consciousness. You can't just make up your own definitions. Do you really think a cabbage is self-aware?
  9. Dec 28, 2012 #8
    Yes thats true, there's no rigorous evidence-based test for consciousness. For e.g there is no test available or just not possible or yet possible or could be possible for e.g a doctor to tell how a patient feel/experience from his report, blood or any test. He has to ask the patient and then prescribe him accordingly. Which is all about subjective experience.

    All five sense organ project their sense on consciousness screen. For e.g vision is projected on consciousness which seems to be inaccessible.
  10. Dec 28, 2012 #9
    Then again:

  11. Dec 28, 2012 #10
    If you believe consciousness can go partially away, then is the person whose only partially conscious less alive? If consciousness is a gradient, is life a gradient?

    If plants only have the sense of touch, as you propose, are they less conscious, hence less alive, than people?
  12. Dec 28, 2012 #11
    What you are speaking of is essentially Bergson's concept of the "elan vital," or the vital force of life. It is a force or "spark" he thought to be infused into matter that gives it life, self-organization, and in some non-specific way some kind of consciousness. But using the elan vital in some synonomous sense with consciounsess these days I think is an abuse of the term. When we think of consciousness as people, we think about human consciousness, self awareness, and the ability for us to pose the question all under the rubric of "consciousness." If you are speaking of any type of consciouness other than what I just described, you are abstracting some sort of phenomenonological capability in non-human organisms that you do not have access to and therefore cannot scientifically comment on.

    Therefore, before you assert that it is consciousness that gives life to a living being, it is important to define the properties of the consciousness you speak of. Is it self aware, can it form thoughts in an operational manner as described by Piaget, does it have access to and can it communicate and introspective report, etc. Otherwisw, any discussion on the subject is what I call gypsy philosophy.
  13. Dec 28, 2012 #12
    Do you agree, it is the deep sleep that give us a sound sleep which is absent under anesthesia, coma or unconsciousness state.
  14. Dec 28, 2012 #13
    Well, I would agree, but my pet cabbage tells me otherwise. Could you elaborate, please?
  15. Dec 28, 2012 #14


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    Well, Michael Jackson would not have agreed with you.
  16. Dec 30, 2012 #15
    When a person sleeps, they are never completely unconscious of their surroundings. I suspect the same is true for people under anesthesia and as well as many coma patients.

    I think much of this depends on how consciousness is defined and no clear distinction exists between conscious and unconscious. For example, consciousness can be defined as being aware of one's own sensations and surroundings. I can make an argument that plants are aware of light and shadows, day/night cycles, and gravity. Some plants have been shown to communicate with each other using odors. Plants also have immune systems. Immune systems need to be able to distinguish between harmful pathogens and the plants own cells.

    I think a lot of people would say that a grasshopper has consciousness. If a grasshopper is conscious, then why not a box jellyfish? The box jellyfish might not have a brain, but it has sophisticated eyes with which it can use to see and actively chase after it's prey. Other jellyfish exhibit social behavior.
  17. Dec 30, 2012 #16


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    That seems to apply more so to the definition of sentience.

    Most ambiguities on this subject were delt with in "The Measure of a Man"...

    Thanks to the interpretations of Phillipa Louvois...

    "The Quality of Life" is certainly relevant, too.

  18. Dec 30, 2012 #17
    As someone who gives talks at conferences on the brain and consciousness, I would suggest that commentors first define how they are using the term consciousness before making claims as to who or what is conscious and what is not. Very often you'll find that after hours of argument, you and your debater were defining the term entirely differently. This is just a time and confusing saving device. For example, some people define consciousness as merely being "awake" instead of asleep. Others define it as the subjective experience of qualia, others define it as the ability to give an introspective report of a sentient experience, and so on, and so on. It looks as thought the OP defines it as anything that moves on its own accord. See what I mean? So, I think this thread is more about the elan vital, what is the spark of life, and why do some lumps of matter have it and some don't? The OP's question really has nothing to do with the emergence of consciousness proper.
  19. Jan 3, 2013 #18
    In sleep a person mind is totally absent only in deep sleep where only pure consciousness exist.
    This moment is experienced as a good sleep or you can call a time gap where mind didn't existed.

    But a person under anesthesia do not realize any time gap, since it lack deep sleep stage. So both person, one who only dreamed and got awoken and a person who got awoken after unconsciousness/coma, both wouldn't realizes any time gap.

    A person who was tired and slept so that he can get some rest. But he only dreamed(no deep sleep state) in his sleep, on awoken he will still find himself tired as he was before sleep.
  20. Jan 3, 2013 #19
    When one talk of consciousness only , it is only consciousness or just being aware of being and not self awareness unless one talk of human being and few other animals(as claimed to be).

    Plants can only be conscious of touch but cannot be self awareness and therefore can't act self-consciousnessly. Similarly other living being whose senses are limited, can be conscious respectively.
  21. Jan 3, 2013 #20
    I guess you are talking of cabbage plant and not cabbage(uprooted) only. All living being or organism are conscious.So a cabbage plant is not self-aware but is only conscious to touch. Just like animals who are not self-aware but are only conscious of their sense. In addition animals have brain which plant doesn't have. That is why plants do not decide where as animals decide but it is driven by their instinct.
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