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.]
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.
I haven't read enough yet to recall or use the best terminology, but I'm guessing we'll eventually categorize differing degrees and several types of awareness, including their temporal dynamics, feedback loops, and so on. Then those (and other) characterizations (such as perception abilities) can be summarized in terms of the kind of consciousness an individual might be experiencing.
(Just thinking out loud here.)
Glad I watched that Searle Tedx again, all that popped into mind at first recall was "and the damned thing goes up!", reminding me more about Free Will (please let's not take that tangent, yet!).
I finally get what he says about how consciousness can not be just an illusion.
The arm going up is used by several modern philosophers when discussing free will and consciousness.
Off the top of my head, I can't think of any obvious connection between the "Are we really as free as we feel?" and "What is it to be conscious?" discussions. So, you are probably spared that particular tangent.
LOL, yay... I'll keep an idea or two on that to myself for a while.
Reply by Strega 1 hour ago
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?
Again, if ONE LEVEL is not "aware of" what happened, other levels can be...so, some levels are aware, and some are not.
The word "conscious" is being dissected as time goes on. So, yes, part of your brain is conscious of a subliminal image that was flashed between frames in a movie or commercial, etc...but, part of your brain is not.
If you only "count" the top most layer or so, MOST of what's going on in your head is sub-conscious to that.
Again, this is why you suddenly remember an actors name you wondered about 2 weeks earlier and "forgot about"...when while cooking or doing something completely unrelated for example, your lower level consciousness, that had been working on it for ~ 2 weeks, suddenly interrupts your upper consciousness to excitedly inform you of the actor's name.
Its ALSO why for example, most people are completely unaware of the way information that threatens their world view causes them to be UNABLE TO process the information rationally, the way nonthreatening information can be processed. Fear centers in the brain activate when a threat is perceived. That activation actually disables the ability to allow that information into upper consciousness...and communicates that you are under attack.
This is one of the reasons that, for example, simply saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is considered "an attack" or part of "The War on Christmas", etc....and why ALL of us look MORE skeptically at ANY information that challenges our worldview.
If you believe that the global warming issues are man made and represent real science, if you see an article that says:
Global warming is actually now found to be part of a 150,000 year cycle in the fossil record, and, isotopes of carbon thought to only be produced by the burning of fossil fuels, were actually also produced by a newly discovered species of plankton that lead to the current misunderstanding of our impact of climate change.
Your INITIAL reaction would be that something about the study or finding was flawed...it MUST be wrong, because otherwise, everything you believe about the climate would have to change, you'd have to apologize to big oil, your republican buddies you had argued about this over, etc.
On the other hand, if you ALREADY considered global climate change to be hog wash....the headline would be all you need to consider the article as gospel, and accept it as valid w/o hesitation.
On the OTHER other hand, as a believer in the changes, if the article merely CONFIRMED the isotope ratios as proving man made changes to the climate, you would tend to instantly assume its true, as it supports your position.
We ALL do it, to a degree. SOME people have more active fear/threat centers than others do...so, more of these areas light up when conflicting info arises. No one is CONSCIOUS of this activity, it is ALL deep down in your lower consciousness levels.
All you are aware of is that your "gut instincts" are telling you this is true or bullshit.
So, almost ALL of "your thoughts" are happening where your upper consciousness layers are in the dark about them....with messages being sent up as hormones, emotions, gut feelings, etc, and, sometimes, articulated positions and answers to specific questions.
I'm interested in Type 1 and Type 2 thinking which someone has just told me about.
Type 1 is the automatic, hard-wired, fight-or-flight and skills type thinking. Deep-brain processing which we don't get to see.
Type 2 is slower and more deliberate, where we get a chance to think through our response using our forebrain / frontal cortex / executive functions / conscious ego.
In mindfulness meditation, there is more type 2 thinking and after a while, the frontal cortex becomes strengthened and thickened.
I'm aware that this is a garbled version of how it really is.
An interesting factor is that in meditation, one is using higher executive functions in order to tame and control the conscious mind. In my experience, this quickly leads to the entire ego being reformed, tamed and matured, which results in (for example) more self control and less easily giving into pleasurable stimuli. It's said that the immature ego listens mainly to the emotions, while the mature ego balances these with the super-ego, conscience or long-term moral thinking.
When I was depressed I used to hallucinate all sorts of things, all of them symbols of death, decay, destruction, malice and menace. For example, a dead baby upside down on a crucifix, demons flying out of the wall trying to grab me and drag me back to hell, pairs of eyes popping out of nowhere or a tiger's eyes just staring. Any round thing would look like a grinning skull. My bedroom looked like this:
Thanks Strega! Never better. This was years ago. Now I'm one happy bunny (probably for having left all that rubbish behind).
Essentially, Dogs evolved to be better dogs, people evolved to be better people.
So, a wolf in the wild is very clever and tenacious, but, terrible at reading a human's tone or body language, gestures or expressions, etc.
A domesticated dog can be clever, but typically gives up sooner than a wolf when presented with a challenge, but is amazing at perceiving humans' behavior. Domesticated dogs are also used to humans solving their problems for them. The ball is under the couch...bark, etc...and a human will get it for you. :)
Each evolved into its niche.
So, dogs and humans are just as "evolved", but each into its own niche.
Humans have a MUCH more advanced ability to see a problem holistically, and come up with solutions...than dogs OR wolves for example.
A simple experiment where two stakes are driven into the ground, and a leash goes from one stake, and to the other, such as to now be too short for the tethered canine to reach a food source.
All the canine needs to do is go AWAY from the food, so as to get the leash off the second stake, so the leash is now long enough...but, none of them see that, and just strain at the leash towards the food.
A racoon will back up and solve the problem, as will some other clever critters, such as most humans, even toddlers, but dogs and wolves just don't seem to get it.
The ability to talk, and to be able to think symbolically, is not unique to humans either, but we are definitely really good at it.
As to reality, no one knows what that is, definitively. We ALL have approximations of it, and, for the most part, they are at least close, as we all converge upon the same points in common conclusions...a consensus standard if you will.
Optical illusions, and other scenarios, can make us misperceive reality. The way our brains store information can make us misperceive reality...and so forth.
We evolved to have what is, in reality, photoreceptors in our eyes, send signals to our brains for processing, and, in turn, to have a "virtual" version of what is in front of us as a 3 dimensional picture.
The fact that the ONLY information ACTUALLY received is a single rod or cone cell fired or didn't...
...and the brain then compares the signals from each one, makes essentially a stipple drawing, with each color and intensity for each dot...and, then, assumes that if there is a darker area, it is a shadow, a lighter area might be illuminated by a light source, that if an object of known size (an elephant for example) appears to be a small percentage of the field of view, it is probably not a teeny elephant, but a normal elephant further away, etc.
This is why many animals have lighter coloring on the lower sides and bottoms...as it compensates for the shadow a predator or its prey would expect, reducing the expected darkened appearance, and so forth.
In native societies where huts are round, and no right angles exist at all...there are no square or rectangles in their environment, none of the optical illusions involving right angles work on them...as they never learned to assume a window or door had right angles...so seeing a parallelogram on a house doesn't trick them, etc.
So, we have an imperfect system to detect our environment, but, we did not evolve to be able to see through optical illusions, we evolved to interpret lighting and shadows and distances in our given environment.
The same with language, tone, etc. We might perceive a loud voice as angry, if we were raised so that if loud, it was angry. The speaker might have been hard of hearing, or thought you were, or just excited, etc, and not angry at all, yet, you might perceive anger...and/or recall them as angry later.
There are many similar nuances to our interpretation of the world around us...and, we can be wrong w/o knowing it.
We, as all critters do, do the best we can with what we have. Compensation techniques, where you can break down stimuli from an experience to the basic units, trying to avoid interpretation...can help to at least warn you of where your brain is likely to "fool you".
For example, if you are prone to depression, and have low self esteem, you may, as a default, tend to interpret any ambiguous stimuli as a default negative.
IE: In the lack of clear knowledge of what something might have meant, you assign a negative place holder, as your default interpretation.
You can also tend to interpret a compliment or other potentially positive input as really negative.
This can be subtle, or, direct...but will be highly individual.
So, someone says you look great, and, you assume they are lying, and then don't trust them/wonder what they really think or if they are trying to manipulate you, etc...
...or says a common phrase, such as "How are you my friend?"
And you hear it as them questioning why you are their friend...and not as a greeting or inquiry as to your condition, etc.
And so forth.
It can be very complicated, because other people don't always say what they mean accurately, or mean what they say...and, that potential vagueness can add to the range of subsequent interpretations.
The deeper levels of the brain respond more emotionally, and, that emotional response is what burbles up to the higher levels and fuels a cascade of progressively nuanced reactions.
So, the "impression" that the "how are you my friend" was the supposed friend questioning your friendship, is the given the subsequent layers are given to process....and, well, garbage in/garbage out is the common term for the results.
If retelling the story, you may just describe it as Fred demanding to know why we were friends, out of the blue, and how upset that made you because you had THOUGHT you were friends, and never questioned it. He may have been smiling at you when he said it, but, your brain remembers a scowl, because it filled in the blanks to make it all make more sense.
And so forth.
If, when some one says or does something, and your initial/gut reaction is hurt or that you were insulted, etc....IMMEDIATELY recall the actual words, tone, body language and expressions as best you can...before the brain has a chance to color them negatively.
Even better, work on perceiving these things before a word is said.
IE: You are meeting someone, and, expect a greeting...if they are smiling, they are probably not angry, if their body language is open, they are probably not defensive, and so forth...so, before anything ELSE happens, you have a more realistic context.
That's easier said than done of course.
Dogs are better than wolves only FOR US. They aren't better animals, more fit to survive on their own. Really, they are less so. They are damaged goods if you take humankind out of the equation. They are deformed wolves.