What is the use of consciousness when it comes to thought?

Is the mind the same as the body? What is consciousness? Can machines have it?

Moderators: AMod, iMod

prothero
Posts: 92
Joined: Fri Aug 05, 2016 4:40 am

Re: What is the use of consciousness when it comes to thought?

Post by prothero » Wed Aug 24, 2016 2:05 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:I wouldn't say that one can have a thought that one isn't conscious of.
But what does it mean to "have a thought".
Does a dog chasing and catching a ball in the air "have a thought", or the lion chasing a gazelle.
Does a human driving down the highway daydreaming but still responding to traffic conditions have a thought about driving while on semi auto pilot.
Are other creatures "conscious", aware of and responding to environmental conditions even if they lack language and our self reflective inner dialogue?

User avatar
Terrapin Station
Posts: 1488
Joined: Wed Aug 03, 2016 7:18 pm
Location: NYC Man

Re: What is the use of consciousness when it comes to thought?

Post by Terrapin Station » Wed Aug 24, 2016 2:20 pm

prothero wrote:
Terrapin Station wrote:I wouldn't say that one can have a thought that one isn't conscious of.
But what does it mean to "have a thought".
That shouldn't be a mystery to you, unless you're some sort of unusual creature--maybe a robot or something. Having a thought is, for example, the phenomenon of "I'm going to type 'But what does it mean to 'have a thought''," prior to you typing it, prior to it being third-person observable to anyone else. It's the phenomenon of "Mmm, this tastes good" when you eat some food you love and you're not expressing that linguistically etc. to anyone. If you don't experience those sorts of things, there's something very unusual about you. If you do experience them, it shouldn't be a mystery what "having a thought" refers to.

Also, I'm not saying, by the way, just in case you have Aspieish tendencies, that one can't have a concomitant thought when one is expressing things so that they're third-person observable. I'm simply excluding that above to avoid a conflation, since you're mystified re what we're even referring to.
Does a dog chasing and catching a ball in the air "have a thought", or the lion chasing a gazelle.
We don't know very well just what sorts of thoughts dogs, lions, etc. would have. We're not dogs or lions, our brain structures are a bit different, etc., so it's difficult to figure that they're more or less just like us, and they don't speak languages (that we can understand at any rate).
Does a human driving down the highway daydreaming but still responding to traffic conditions have a thought about driving while on semi auto pilot.
Daydreaming is a thought, sure. Autonomic and habituated responses where there is no conscious content present is not a thought.
Are other creatures "conscious", aware of and responding to environmental conditions even if they lack language and our self reflective inner dialogue?
Again, we know very little about what other sorts of creatures' mentalities would be like, and that will remain an insurmountable epistemic area.

prothero
Posts: 92
Joined: Fri Aug 05, 2016 4:40 am

Re: What is the use of consciousness when it comes to thought?

Post by prothero » Thu Aug 25, 2016 1:59 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
prothero wrote:
Terrapin Station wrote:I wouldn't say that one can have a thought that one isn't conscious of.
But what does it mean to "have a thought".
That shouldn't be a mystery to you, unless you're some sort of unusual creature--maybe a robot or something. Having a thought is, for example, the phenomenon of "I'm going to type 'But what does it mean to 'have a thought''," prior to you typing it, prior to it being third-person observable to anyone else. It's the phenomenon of "Mmm, this tastes good" when you eat some food you love and you're not expressing that linguistically etc. to anyone. If you don't experience those sorts of things, there's something very unusual about you. If you do experience them, it shouldn't be a mystery what "having a thought" refers to.

Also, I'm not saying, by the way, just in case you have Aspieish tendencies, that one can't have a concomitant thought when one is expressing things so that they're third-person observable. I'm simply excluding that above to avoid a conflation, since you're mystified re what we're even referring to.
Does a dog chasing and catching a ball in the air "have a thought", or the lion chasing a gazelle.
We don't know very well just what sorts of thoughts dogs, lions, etc. would have. We're not dogs or lions, our brain structures are a bit different, etc., so it's difficult to figure that they're more or less just like us, and they don't speak languages (that we can understand at any rate).
Does a human driving down the highway daydreaming but still responding to traffic conditions have a thought about driving while on semi auto pilot.
Daydreaming is a thought, sure. Autonomic and habituated responses where there is no conscious content present is not a thought.
Are other creatures "conscious", aware of and responding to environmental conditions even if they lack language and our self reflective inner dialogue?
Again, we know very little about what other sorts of creatures' mentalities would be like, and that will remain an insurmountable epistemic area.
So we really don't (can't) know if "thoughts" require either language or consciousness? Isn't it just a matter of definition or prejudice then?
I mean I think animals have thoughts, plans, emotions and that evolution demands that there are a variety of different forms of minds and thinking and that there must be evolutionary precursors to human consciousness. Can't we use evidence like correlative neuro-anatomy, behavior, problem solving skills, and social interaction or do we just say it is "unknowable"?

Walker
Posts: 4336
Joined: Thu Nov 05, 2015 12:00 am

Re: What is the use of consciousness when it comes to thought?

Post by Walker » Thu Aug 25, 2016 8:36 am

Arising_uk wrote:Is he talking about consciousness or self- consciousness?
Well, what we do know is that the elephant is everything, and that everything is nothing. Self-consciousness is a portion of everything, and not all entities access all the same portions of the elephant. These portions are all fractions of nothing.

*

“Awareness is primordial; it is the original state, beginningless, endless, uncaused, unsupported, without parts, without change. Consciousness is on contact, a reflection against a surface, a state of duality. There can be no consciousness without awareness, but there can be awareness without consciousness, as in deep sleep. Awareness is absolute, consciousness is relative to its content; consciousness is always of something. Consciousness is partial and changeful, awareness is total, changeless, calm and silent. And it is the common matrix of every experience.”
- Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
I AM THAT
Chapter 11: Awareness and Consciousness

User avatar
Terrapin Station
Posts: 1488
Joined: Wed Aug 03, 2016 7:18 pm
Location: NYC Man

Re: What is the use of consciousness when it comes to thought?

Post by Terrapin Station » Thu Aug 25, 2016 12:25 pm

prothero wrote:So we really don't (can't) know if "thoughts" require either language or consciousness? Isn't it just a matter of definition or prejudice then?
I don't know where you'd be getting that from from anything I said.

We definitely know that thoughts do not require language. How? Well, both other people like me and I have thoughts that are non-linguistic. Now, definitely some people feel that language is involved in all thought, and they believe that so firmly that I don't doubt that some people only do think linguistically. But some of us can think non-linguistically, too. I'm not implying any value judgment about that. It's not better to think different ways. It's just different.

Re consciousness, this whole subthread was begun by me saying, "I wouldn't say that one can have a thought that one isn't conscious of." I didn't change my view on that. It wasn't an off-the-cuff comment that I had put no thought into. So thoughts definitely require consciousness in my view.
I mean I think animals have thoughts, plans, emotions and that evolution demands that there are a variety of different forms of minds and thinking and that there must be evolutionary precursors to human consciousness.
I don't agree with the last part (that evolution demands that--logically, there can be a creature that is the first in which consciousness obtains, and humans could be it), but sure, I agree that there are probably a number of other animals that have consciousness, etc. That's because there are a number of other animals with brains that are pretty close in composition and function to ours.
Can't we use evidence like correlative neuro-anatomy, behavior, problem solving skills, and social interaction or do we just say it is "unknowable"?
It's unknowable by acquaintance. Third person observations of anatomy, behavior, etc. can't give us knowledge-by-acquaintance of other minds. But sure, we can assume that some animals other than humans have mental content, just like we assume that other humans have mental content. The assumption seems reasonable proportionate to just how similar brain composition and function is.

User avatar
Arising_uk
Posts: 10935
Joined: Wed Oct 17, 2007 2:31 am

Re: What is the use of consciousness when it comes to thought?

Post by Arising_uk » Thu Aug 25, 2016 1:03 pm

Walker wrote:... Chapter 11: Awareness and Consciousness
Does he know these are synonyms in English?

If not what do you think he means by 'awareness', i.e. what is he referring to?

What 'awareness' is there in deep sleep?

Walker
Posts: 4336
Joined: Thu Nov 05, 2015 12:00 am

Re: What is the use of consciousness when it comes to thought?

Post by Walker » Thu Aug 25, 2016 4:47 pm

Arising_uk wrote:
Walker wrote:... Chapter 11: Awareness and Consciousness
Does he know these are synonyms in English?

If not what do you think he means by 'awareness', i.e. what is he referring to?

What 'awareness' is there in deep sleep?
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj did not speak English, though he knew a few words.

Awareness is who you really are.
Awareness precedes consciousness.
When sleeping, even a minor, out-of-place sound can cause a non-volitional resumption of waking consciousness.

This also happens in formal, sitting meditation practice where thoughts slow, release and disappear. In the absence of thought, and with the sensory gates closed to mind, there is no consciousness.

Thought resumes after consciousness spontaneously resumes. The time-lag between consciousness resuming and thought resuming, varies.

Awareness is the emptiness upon which consciousness appears. Awareness always is.

In you and everyone else consciousness with thought intersperses with thought-free consciousness throughout the day, though refinement of attention is required for awareness to bring this reality to the attention of consciousness (in much the same way awareness brings the out-of-place noise to the attention of consciousness from the sleep state). The thought-free states go unnoticed because the sensory gates are open and because of the mind's tendency towards habitual continuity.

Awareness is who you are.
Non-dual.
One.

Consciousness is awareness + of.
Dual.
Two.
You and thought, or you and sensory perception.

Your Construct
Posts: 25
Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2015 1:43 am
Contact:

Re: What is the use of consciousness when it comes to thought?

Post by Your Construct » Thu Aug 25, 2016 8:55 pm

Walker wrote:
Arising_uk wrote:
Walker wrote:... Chapter 11: Awareness and Consciousness
Does he know these are synonyms in English?

If not what do you think he means by 'awareness', i.e. what is he referring to?

What 'awareness' is there in deep sleep?
Awareness is who you are.
Non-dual.
One.

Consciousness is awareness + of.
Dual.
Two.
You and thought, or you and sensory perception.
Hi Walker,

As with Arising_uk, I tend to think of awareness and consciousness as the same thing; but nevertheless you have provided a very good clarification. I had an intuitive understanding of duality but I could never verbalize it, thank you. If you are in the state of "awareness", then you don't even realize you exist. Once you realize you exist, you would now be in the state of "consciousness". Is the state of awareness actual existence? It doesn't seem like you would actually exist in the state of awareness because nothing happens. So we are non-existent and in the state of awareness between the brief instant of time that we fall asleep and wake up. This does seem to be analogous to some theoretical physics regarding virtual particles. Virtual particles literally just pop in and out of existence. This would also imply that life simply creates itself out of nothing. And again, going by your definitions, there is no mechanism for consciousness to happen; which would mean then that it just happens and existence is NOT a choice.

Anyway, this wasn't really meant to be a question I was looking for an answer for. I am just sorting out my own thoughts.

Best Regards,
Your Construct

Walker
Posts: 4336
Joined: Thu Nov 05, 2015 12:00 am

Re: What is the use of consciousness when it comes to thought?

Post by Walker » Fri Aug 26, 2016 10:43 am

Hello Your Construct,

Awareness isn’t really a state of mind. What we call mind is thought. Consciousness distinguishes change of thought, or anything else. Change is movement. Stillness is no movement. No mind movement is no thought, which is no mind. The still center of the storm.

The stillness of one thought can give way to no thought. Holding onto one thought is at first an act of will, which uses a lot of mental energy and cannot be sustained, though the attempt causes a change in consciousness. A big breakthrough is learning to hold one thought without will, or effortlessly. The surrender to one is a subtle and quiet state of mind, whereas will is not. With only one unchanging thought the mind does not change. Since one thought can be interrupted by other thoughts, in practical terms one thought is when the mind non-volitionally turns to the same simple thought exclusively at every opportunity, until eventually all other thoughts are gone. “Who Am I?” is a thought into which one projects meaning.

No-mind resulting from no-thought means no ego existence. Ego can’t control non-volitional. To preserve itself it distracts from one thought, or no thought, by discovering insights that require mind movement. Ego exists because of thought, or mind movement. Ego's loss of control can also cause ego to fear loss of existence, a big distraction that invites all kinds of mind movement. Choice is another way ego asserts control.

User avatar
Arising_uk
Posts: 10935
Joined: Wed Oct 17, 2007 2:31 am

Re: What is the use of consciousness when it comes to thought?

Post by Arising_uk » Sat Aug 27, 2016 11:10 am

Walker wrote:Awareness is who you really are. ...
Body with senses in an external environment is who I truly am. That's where this 'awareness' lies.
Awareness precedes consciousness.
If you make one the body and the other self-awareness or self-consciousness then sure.
When sleeping, even a minor, out-of-place sound can cause a non-volitional resumption of waking consciousness. ...
Depends in what condition the body is before it goes to sleep.
This also happens in formal, sitting meditation practice where thoughts slow, release and disappear. In the absence of thought, and with the sensory gates closed to mind, there is no consciousness. ...
For sure in the sense of self-consciousness.
Thought resumes after consciousness spontaneously resumes. The time-lag between consciousness resuming and thought resuming, varies.

Awareness is the emptiness upon which consciousness appears. Awareness always is.
As long as the body always is but I think you mean self-consciousness as awareness and consciousness are pretty much the same in English I think. I'm guessing but I think the two terms are probably the result of what the English language is, an amalgam of French and Germanic, so we often have two words for many things.
In you and everyone else consciousness with thought intersperses with thought-free consciousness throughout the day, though refinement of attention is required for awareness to bring this reality to the attention of consciousness (in much the same way awareness brings the out-of-place noise to the attention of consciousness from the sleep state). The thought-free states go unnoticed because the sensory gates are open and because of the mind's tendency towards habitual continuity. ...
If you are saying that a lot of time we don't notice the body processing sensory information then I agree.
Awareness is who you are.
Non-dual.
One.
Body with senses in an external world is what I am.
Consciousness is awareness + of.
Dual.
Two.
You and thought, or you and sensory perception.
Who I am is Body with senses in an external world plus memory and a language. But I think we generally agree about some things here, just different terminology.

Walker
Posts: 4336
Joined: Thu Nov 05, 2015 12:00 am

Re: What is the use of consciousness when it comes to thought?

Post by Walker » Sat Aug 27, 2016 3:04 pm

Awareness which is what you are, that is the matrix upon which states of consciousness appear, is infinite potentiality.

The body that you are is infinite potentiality formed according to physical laws identified by disciplines such as chemistry, the same laws that give shape to what we perceive as reality and which limit any particular manifestation of infinite potentiality.

That which animates meat is either a generator of energy, a receiver of energy, or a conduit of energy; though any separation of distinction in the energies is only conceptual since science can’t even say what energy is, let alone define life that animates meat.

prothero
Posts: 92
Joined: Fri Aug 05, 2016 4:40 am

Re: What is the use of consciousness when it comes to thought?

Post by prothero » Sun Aug 28, 2016 4:55 am

Terrapin Station wrote:We definitely know that thoughts do not require language. How? Well, both other people like me and I have thoughts that are non-linguistic. Now, definitely some people feel that language is involved in all thought, and they believe that so firmly that I don't doubt that some people only do think linguistically. But some of us can think non-linguistically, too. I'm not implying any value judgment about that. It's not better to think different ways. It's just different.
Re consciousness, this whole subthread was begun by me saying, "I wouldn't say that one can have a thought that one isn't conscious of." I didn't change my view on that. It wasn't an off-the-cuff comment that I had put no thought into. So thoughts definitely require consciousness in my view
I don't agree with the last part (that evolution demands that--logically, there can be a creature that is the first in which consciousness obtains, and humans could be it), but sure, I agree that there are probably a number of other animals that have consciousness, etc. That's because there are a number of other animals with brains that are pretty close in composition and function to ours.
Third person observations of anatomy, behavior, etc. can't give us knowledge-by-acquaintance of other minds. But sure, we can assume that some animals other than humans have mental content, just like we assume that other humans have mental content. The assumption seems reasonable proportionate to just how similar brain composition and function is.
I don’t think there is any agreed upon definition or meaning for terms like consciousness, awareness, perception, thoughts or experience. Different people (even experts and philosophers) use the terms in a variety of ways and in many different settings. Discussions often end up being arguments about the meaning of terms rather than notions of substance.

I don’t understand notions of extreme “human uniqueness”, notions like only humans have consciousness or only humans have awareness or experience. True only humans have extensive language but even there numerous species seem to communicate using sounds to indicate searching for mates, danger or other significant events. Watching corvids solve multiple step puzzles and honey badgers plotting escapes should clearly indicate the ability of other creatures to think, to feel, to plan, to experience, be aware and perceive. The evidence is enormous and mounting daily in all areas, neuroscience, behaviorism, anatomy, functional MRI, etc. Humans are in some ways unique but virtually all human abilities have precursors or parallels in the animal kingdom, and tracing these back in evolution shows they extend far back in nature.

Mind has evolved in nature and nature is filled with various forms of perception, awareness and experience. The most fundamental feature of life is internal homeostasis which implies a certain form of boundaries (self, not self) and perception, awareness and experience (attraction, aversion). The evolution of perceptual organs for seeing, for hearing, for touching, for smelling, and tasting is clear and such abilities show both convergent and divergent evolution. The evolution of the brain is well described across species and similar areas of the brain often serve similar functions in different species. The evidence from trauma, injuries, tumors indicating anatomic mental ability correlates is overwhelming. People rattle on about these subjects seemingly with very little knowledge of or attention to the vast scientific literature which indicates the widespread extent of perception, awareness, experience and other mental abilities (similar to and precursors of similar human abilities. It can even be show animals suffer from the many of the same mental disorders as humans (obsessive compulsive disorders, seizures, anxiety, depression) and respond to similar treatments.

Some people for religious or other reasons (species arrogance) want to think that only humans can think, or have experience, or perceive or have consciousness, or have feelings but the real evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of these mental abilities having a long evolutionary lineage and being found throughout nature. Reason and evolution both demand that we accord experience to nature and thought and feeling to most “higher” forms (and in a more primitive manner) to most “lower” forms of life.

For more fun one can entertain the notion of non-conscious experience, and even non conscious reason or problem solving. Who has not woken up in the morning with a solution to a problem worked on (but not solved) last evening or had a answer pop into their head after giving up on remembering. Most human mental experience takes place below the level of consciousness and most human activity is conducted without translation to language. Humans are entirely too hung up on their internal linguistic dialogue and highly developed sense of “self”. Such activities represent only a fraction (tip of the iceberg) of mental functioning, processing and activity even in our own species. Perception (awareness, experience) need not be conscious. Thought need not be linguistic. To confine such terms to humans only is to ignore the vast mountain of evidence and begs the question of what to call such mental activities and mental operations in non human species.

User avatar
Terrapin Station
Posts: 1488
Joined: Wed Aug 03, 2016 7:18 pm
Location: NYC Man

Re: What is the use of consciousness when it comes to thought?

Post by Terrapin Station » Mon Aug 29, 2016 3:06 pm

prothero wrote:I don’t understand notions of extreme “human uniqueness" . . .
i said the following at least a couple times in different words: "I agree that there are probably a number of other animals that have consciousness, etc. That's because there are a number of other animals with brains that are pretty close in composition and function to ours."

Re unconscious thought, though, I don't buy the idea. I don't agree that there's any good reason to believe it.

prothero
Posts: 92
Joined: Fri Aug 05, 2016 4:40 am

Re: What is the use of consciousness when it comes to thought?

Post by prothero » Mon Aug 29, 2016 8:24 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:I said the following at least a couple times in different words: "I agree that there are probably a number of other animals that have consciousness, etc. That's because there are a number of other animals with brains that are pretty close in composition and function to ours."

Re unconscious thought, though, I don't buy the idea. I don't agree that there's any good reason to believe it.
I am just not clear on what you think "consciousness" entails and what entities have it and which do not. How does consciousness differ from awareness, perception or experience.
Likewise I am not clear on what you think goes on in the mind of a corvid when it solves an 8 step puzzle or a honey badger when it plots a multi step escape (thoughts without language?).
Humans frequently seem to solve problems on a sub conscious level, and well trained professionals react appropriately without deliberative conscious decision making (the entire point of training it seems, you don't have time to think about it or consider your options). Many mental operations are entirely subconscious or beyond conscious control (so if not unconscious thought, what are they, what term would you use?) It can easily be shown humans were/are aware of things which never enter the realm of conscious deliberation or linguistic conversion.

User avatar
Terrapin Station
Posts: 1488
Joined: Wed Aug 03, 2016 7:18 pm
Location: NYC Man

Re: What is the use of consciousness when it comes to thought?

Post by Terrapin Station » Mon Aug 29, 2016 9:30 pm

prothero wrote:I am just not clear on what you think "consciousness" entails and what entities have it and which do not. How does consciousness differ from awareness, perception or experience.
It's an umbrella term for all mental activities, including awareness, perception and experience.
Likewise I am not clear on what you think goes on in the mind of a corvid when it solves an 8 step puzzle or a honey badger when it plots a multi step escape (thoughts without language?).
I think that we have no idea what mental phenomena might be like for a corvid, and anyone who says they do have a good idea of that is full of crap. All we can do is study them from a strong behaviorist perspective and remain "agnostic" about what, if anything, their mental phenomena might be like.
Humans frequently seem to solve problems on a sub conscious level,
How could they seem to do that? Any seeming there would have to be empirical evidence of mental activity qua mental activity, but if it's that, there's nothing unconscious about it.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests