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Phenomenal Consciousness

  1. Aug 23, 2005 #1
    We don't know what part of the brain experiences events (I think). it probably goes throgh change, as other parts of the brain do (neurons move, make connections, change things). The question is: will my awareness change in such a way that my future experiences will be experienced by another awareness (a slightly different awareness)? In other words: do "I"/it have a future.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2005
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  3. Aug 23, 2005 #2

    hypnagogue

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    I don't understand what you're asking, could you clarify?
     
  4. Aug 23, 2005 #3
    Am I continually aware or does the part of me which experiences events change in such a way that each experience is unique, as though my next experience was of a different person.
     
  5. Aug 23, 2005 #4

    hypnagogue

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    I would argue for the latter. I think the sense we have that we are continuously perceiving subjects with an enduring sense of identity and so on is a cognitive construction more than a metaphysical truth.

    Amnesia, multiple personality disorder, fugue states and the like demonstrate the degree to which our sense of enduring identity on the level of personality is malleable and subject to change or disruption. Motion agnosia, a phenomenon in which brain damage causes a person to see the world as a series of still images rather than as a continuously evolving collage, suggests that even more basic perceptual faculties are moment-to-moment constructions rather than truly continuous phenomena.

    On a more abstract level, if I could instantaneously create an atom-for-atom copy of myself, this copy would likely experience itself as if it had been alive for some time and was just in the middle of typing this post, etc.

    Essentially, it looks like we are indeed unique phenomenal subjects from moment to moment, and our sense of enduring subjecthood with significant temporal breadth is lagrely a clever illusion concocted by the brain. Temporally, the series of unique phenomenal selves that compose us probably correspond to some form of the subjective instant, or what William James called the specious present.
     
  6. Aug 23, 2005 #5
    Consider a case of two people with almost identical neurology. If one person experiences an event and then he exeperiences another, how are these events linked more than an experience from each person is linked. By the time the first person has experienced the event his awareness may be changed so that it is a seperate awareness. In that case one awareness would be an illusion, resulting from memory.

    I hope I'm making sense.
     
  7. Aug 23, 2005 #6

    hypnagogue

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    Sorry, I'm a little confused again. I think I have an idea of what you're getting at, but some clarification would be helpful.
     
  8. Aug 23, 2005 #7
    I am considering that, as a result of the changes in the part of one's brain which experiences events, each moment of experience is experienced by what could be considered another awareness and that each moment of experience may be related only by memory, which may give an illusion of one constant awareness.
     
  9. Aug 23, 2005 #8

    hypnagogue

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    Ah, I see. Yes, I'd agree with that.
     
  10. Aug 23, 2005 #9
    This would mean that one couldn't be considered on conscious entity, but a holder of counscious entities which only exist for a moment before they are replaced.
     
  11. Aug 23, 2005 #10

    hypnagogue

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    I think that might be stating things too strongly. It depends on what you mean by 'consider' and 'entity.' For most purposes, there's not really any harm in considering ourselves as single conscious entities, if you mean by that thinking of ourselves as if our consciousness really were a continuous, temporally extended thing rather than a series of such things. It's actually quite useful to make that assumption in most walks of life, except perhaps in scientific/philosophical discussions like this one where we're most concerned with truth rather than utility. Also, even if the 'single consciousness' view is not strictly true, it might be a good approximation to the truth, like a smooth, continuous line can be a good approximation to a jagged line composed of many tiny line segments.

    There is also the issue of what relationship obtains between personal identity and phenomenal consciousness, and what exactly is meant by "conscious entity." Personal identity does not pick out one's moment-to-moment conscious life per se, so much as it picks out one's personality, history, skills, etc. I think the word "entity," when used to refer to humans, refers to something like one's personal identity. So to say that a person P is a conscious entity is to say that P has some identity that demarcates P as a particular human being, and also to draw attention to the fact that P has conscious experiences.

    In other words, I think in most cases the word "entity" is used to refer to more than just the totality of one's conscious experience at any particular moment, so I don't think the qualification about multiple conscious entities you endorse is needed. I understand what you're getting at, but perhaps you could use a more precise and appropriate word.
     
  12. Aug 23, 2005 #11
    I think phenomenal consciousness can be considered without having to consider personal identity, which is largely based on memories.
    Although my statement was counter-intuitive, I think I wasn't "stating things too strongly". I'll change the wording: This would mean that one may not be one phenomenal conscious being, but a holder of phenomenal counscious beings which only exist for a moment before they are replaced.
    Your " jagged line composed of many tiny line segments" analogy was a very good explanation. However there is another type of analogy: putting together a number of small circles doesn't create one large circle (yes, bad analogy, but it has a point).

    Sorry about my use of language. Being isn't the right word either, its too vauge.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2005
  13. Aug 24, 2005 #12
    We are all constantly evolving. As we experience life we change. We are the sum total of our experiences and as our experience of life changes from moment to moment so do we. Whether you concider this change physical, mentally or spiritually it is the same. If our brains change as we experience then we change. If it is mental changes that occur along with the physical brain then again we change. If we experience spiritual growth or change as we experience then still again we have changed.
    I am not the same person physically or mentally that I was when I began typing this reply but it is a continous change, a continuum, rather than a step by step change. I maintain my identity but that identity along with me is continually changing and growing as i experience more and more of life.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2005
  14. Aug 24, 2005 #13
    Although you peer across the same river, you never see the same river twice. It's all water under the bridge so to speak.
     
  15. Aug 24, 2005 #14
    Lets consider: we have T, one's initial phenomenal state and T2, one's final phenomenal state. We have two people who are exactly the same and go through the same experiences. How is person 1's T and T2 related so that they can be considered to be experienced by the same being overall, any more than person 1's T can be related to person 2's T2? They both contain different conscious beings, yet after time person 1's conscious being could be thought to be replaced by another conscious being, bearing as much relation to the first conscious being as it does to person 2's first conscious being.
    This example I have used illustrates my hypothesis that we are not single conscious beings.
    Of course, this theory isn't very appealing, as it means that one doesn't really experience the future as such.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2005
  16. Oct 8, 2005 #15
    :eek: Please ignore my last few posts. How could I have written like that!

    Hypnagogue wrote:
    How could that be?
    Hypnagogue, you don't seem interested in considering its validity. It may be because, if it is true, it would make much of what we do pointless.
    Does anyone know if there have been similar theories before. I think the question of wheater or not this is true is one of the most important in the philosophy of consciousness, as it directly affects peoples' lives. There wouldn't be any point in making decisions, we would have to 'live in the moment' or 'live for a moment'. :rofl:
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2005
  17. Oct 10, 2005 #16
    For the most I think your brain cells are the same throughout your life so you stay you.
     
  18. Oct 10, 2005 #17
    It's not about wheater you stay you, it's about wheater you have the same awareness. Although your brain cells stay in a similar arrangement, what difference would what your brain becomes be to that of a clone with the same memories. Would you and your clone form some sort of collective awareness? I doubt it.

    By the way, I shouldn't have said anything about "personal identity", before I found out what is means. And, I think, memory may have a role in phenomenal consciousness.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2005
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