I want descriptions, not necessarily scientific definitions (yet). So much of (our) consciousness seems mysterious, yet most of our experiences feel unquestionably genuine, and at times profoundly enlightening, or indeed indescribably profound.

Take dreams, for example. They feel to me like foggy windows into my subconscious, as I can usually--but not always--attribute their origins to something that's significantly emotional or challenging in my recent or memorable experiences when awake.

Or we could be experiencing total boredom at times, a very uninteresting period of consciousness. If nothing else, I'd like to emphasize the colossal *scope* of shareable, conscious experiences, from babies to old folks, different moods, fight vs flight in the nervous system, and... this topic is huge!

Whether you have a particularly mysterious or, oppositely, a mundane or cliche experience, I say it's relevant to "our" description of consciousness.

One day we should be able to share descriptions in more scientifically universal/empirical terms, but until then, the only shareable "data" we have is from personal experience, and (here, at least) via words in English... which, btw is a very *artificial* way to communicate feelings! But language leads to science.

I hope we can occasionally revisit this topic when someone has a particularly profound or personal insight that she/he believes others can empathize with. One day science will have more empirical descriptions of consciousness, and its foggy mysteries.

[This post edited days later when not handicapped by tiny mobile phone input/output.]

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I think he made some good points in the TedX talk.

He agrees with me as to the many levels of consciousness, and that you are not 100% unconscious when asleep for example...or else there would be no way to be awoken by a noise for example, etc....even though there was no noise to BE conscious OF, until there was, etc.


He's right about it being a brain function, and valid for biological study, etc.

He's also right that it is not metaphysical, etc.

So, nothing new in the science of consciousness, but, on target as to what we do know at least.

Parts of your body still operate and maintain awareness even when you are unconscious. When my cat is sleeping, if I get up and walk around the room, hear ears turn to follow me. She is sleeping and unconscious and yet she's aware. While our ears don't turn when we hear things, a certain level of awareness is maintained, but I wouldn't call it consciousness. 

Even when conscious, we are apparently unaware of decisions we have made until a fraction of a second up to several seconds after we have made it. Things continue to go on in our minds on a level removed from consciousness. 

I think when a loud noise wakes you from sleep, the vibrations, when strong enough, stimulate neurons to kickstart consciousness. So, bascically, something goes on in the nervous system, not the brain, and at a certain level, it tells the brain to become conscious.

There is an unconscious or preconscious process which decides what to be conscious of, what's worth processing and what is not.

Example 1: often, after a collision involving a care and a bicycle, the driver will insist that s/he didn't see the bike and will insist the s/he was constantly using his/her mirrors. This is a familiar phenomenon to psychologists: your brain will ignore information it isn't looking for. Most of the threats on the road come from other heavy vehicles, so the mind tends to ignore other information.

Example 2; If you run into someone you were with yesterday, ask them if they can remember the shirt you wore yesterday (assuming it wasn't a topic of conversation yesterday). If it wasn't a particularly "loud" attention getting shirt, they are unlikely to remember something that was clearly present to their senses. 

If we're to undersand consciousness, we need to distinguish it from awareness. You are aware to a degree while you sleep, but that isn't the same as being conscious.


Parts of your body still operate and maintain awareness even when you are unconscious.


Your BODY is not where consciousness occurs.  That's were perception occurs.

Your BRAIN is what receives the information that something was perceived.

So, your brain is "conscious" of the fact that a message from the body might be sent, and, is watching/waiting for the messages.

It has to BE CONSCIOUS to be able to receive the information.

So, there are levels of consciousness, and, when asleep for example, if slightly more conscious, you might remember what you dreamt, or, perhaps that you thought you heard some thunder in the night, etc.  If less conscious, say, when under some anesthesia for surgery for example, you may not even hear the doctors discussing your condition or feel them removing your heart, etc, let alone remember a dream or hear an alarm clock.

IE: IF your brain's ability to scan for potential incoming signals is squelched, you are less conscious.  This is different from the signals being squelched.

Numbing you, so signals are not sent, did not change your level of consciousness, but it did change the supply of incoming stimuli.

So, you are conscious, but, due to the Novocaine for example, you are not conscious of any THING in particular, just waiting for incoming signals that have not shown up.

IF the signals arrive, you are waiting, in a state of consciousness.

So, really, its just all about the DEGREE of consciousness...as its not an on/off switch.

The common usage of the word lacks the ability to describe the degrees though...other than vague terms such as a "deep sleep" as compared to being a "light sleeper", knocked for a loop vs knocked out vs knocked unconscious....and so forth.

These are not clinical definitions.

So, as you said, the brain DOES ignore some incoming information as superfluous to the task at hand for example, and, can even add details that were not there to fill in gaps as noticed.

So, as I mentioned, subliminal advertising takes advantage of that...because part of the brain was "conscious" of what your "conscious brain" missed...so a  quickly flashed image is registered, but, not by your "conscious state"...but by a state of consciousness beneath that layer of consciousness.

Its probably turtles all the way down.


It has to BE CONSCIOUS to be able to receive the information.

Can you prove that? I say it's a function of the autonomic nervous system.

You are arguing for a contradiction. You are effectively saying that one is conscious even when unconscious. In that case, consciousness is a meaningless concept. One isn't conscious or unconscious. One is alive or dead and the word consciousness is simply a synonym for being alive. 

All sorts of things go on unconsciously, even when we are fully awake. Yet our body is in control of them. Digestion, breathing, reflexes. I see no problem with that part of the physical body being able to switch on the consciousness.


I'm saying its NOT on/off, but layered.

IE: When asleep, you might be in MANY differing states of consciousness...even at the same time.

Remember, the brain is where signals GO.  ALL stimuli are sent to the brain, so, it doesn't matter if awake or asleep...that's ALWAYS the case.

For sounds...the eardrum vibrates for example, and, the nerves detect the motions and send electrical signals to the brain to process them.

That is, again, the way it works whether awake or asleep.

So, its not that "you are conscious when unconscious" as that is a false dichotomy.

Its more like they are more conscious than you think a person is, when they sleep.

Again, the brain has to be "on" to RECEIVE and PROCESS the nerve conductions from proprioreceptors, etc...and its simply more on at some times, and less on at others.

When asleep, its less on for example, but you are still on enough to process sounds for example, and, that's WHY a mom might sleep through a garbage truck outside making a racket, but spring up the second the baby cries.

Her brain was processing the sounds, and, dismissed the garbage truck as not needing action...but, processed the cry as needing action, and, triggering the more awake condition.

It was not just "noise", and some ear thingie magically rousing the brain thingie.

The ear drum ALWAYS vibrates when there is a sound, even when you are asleep...and ALWAYS sends the vibe info to the brain...and the brain is either conscious at that time, and able to process the sound data, or, even less conscious, and unable to process it.

So, again, its not just on/off, its all just varying degrees of "on".


An example of the layering would be the above garbage truck vs baby crying scenario.

For example, the truck is making a racket...the brain is processing sound data, and might surface a little bit to access a slightly higher level of consciousness, where the sound can be analyzed a bit more..and, it might process enough to decide its garbage day...so, everything is fine, and then drift down to the lower state of consciousness (All while you are asleep, and might not even remember the noise the next am, etc)...

...or, might process the truck noise, compare the garbage day schedule, decide its NOT garbage day, and surface a little more to get additional processing, and remember its moving day and the movers are here early...

...or, not remember its moving day, and ignore the movers because the noise was assumed to be the garbage truck...and drift back asleep.

Then the door bell might ring, and that might start yet another contemplation escalation, and so forth.

The other routes can include incorporation of the sound into an ongoing dream, where suddenly that sound is in the dream, and there's a truck in the dream, or a motorboat, or raccoons knocking over garbage cans, etc...in the dream but not in real life per se.

If the sound in the dream is too incongruous to work, the dream can change to suit it, or, that escalation process can start, and, the person might start to wake up, and so forth.

Even an internal stimuli can have that effect.

Many a kid had to pee really badly while asleep, and, had a dream where they were peeing...and, wet the bed.

The bladder data was added to the dream the same way the sound data was, and, the kid's brain either adds the bladder data to the dream, and then might dream he's taking a leak...or, might escalate the processing enough to get up and use the bathroom instead of the bedroom....or, hold it in til morning...



You're great on describing degrees of consciousness. 

Now, describe unconsciousness so it isn't a synonym for death.

Well, if its about layers of consciousness,, when dead, you have reached zero/no level remaining.


When they declare a patient "Brain Dead", that perhaps might be the most unconscious you might get.

Even in comas, patients have varying degrees of unconsciousness.  

Some remember nothing from the time in the coma, others remember being able to hear conversations but being unable to respond/react.

My youngest brother was in a coma, and the doctor said he won't make it til the morning.

A few days later, he came out of the coma, and told the doctor he HEARD him say he was not going to make it til morning.

He also told him that, just for that, he was NEVER going to die, just to get even.


How much consciousness does one have under a general anaesthetic for an operation?


What are the units used to describe "how much"?

We seem to have VARIED levels of consciousness under anesthesia.  Depending on how deeply under the tech takes you, you might be aware, but not care, or, remember nothing at all after you started to count backwards, etc.

Brain waves correlate, to a degree, so, depressed wave functions indicate less activity in the brain.

Some wave forms are more associated with activity in certain parts of the brain, and can help understand the level of consciousness, but, specifically, it is hard to CONFIRM what a subject's "sub-conscious" was thinking about, if it was not shared with a higher level they could communicate to us.


Laughs thanks TJ. I had a recent colonoscopy with that so-called anaesthetic that isn't a real one. I think I accused the Doctor of using date-rape drugs on me. However, gladdened by my absence of memory, I still felt time had passed, whilst all this was going on.

Conversely, I had an appendectomy in 1975 where they hadn't the new kinds of anaesthesia available, and it was as if no time had passed at all. I'm guessing that was a deeper 'sleep'.

Either way, if you're not conscious of being conscious, then are you really conscious?

TJ? He's the one who seems to think one is either conscious or one is dead. When under at least some general anesthetics, one has no consciousness whatsoever. No "degree" or "layer" of consciouness at all. They even have to take care of autonomic processes for you, like breathing.

it is hard to CONFIRM what a subject's "sub-conscious" was thinking about, if it was not shared with a higher level they could communicate to us.

It seems that where there is no evidence at all of consciousness, you (TJ) simply assume it.

From Strega:

Either way, if you're not conscious of being conscious, then are you really conscious?

Similar to the the question about a tree falling in a forest when no one's around to hear it. IMO now we also need to ask in this hypothetical if any creature's auditory senses became aware of a falling tree sound.

From Unseen (to TJ):

It seems that where there is no evidence at all of consciousness, you (TJ) simply assume it.

Related to Strega's anecdotes, there are experiences people have reported to be not conscious of, but in actuality there were witnesses sure that the experiencer was conscious at the time. Sleepwalking, for example. It seems more likely she/he was conscious, but simply did not retain memory of the experience.


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