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What is consciousness?
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MrRINGOffline
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PostPosted: 17-05-2003 23:02    Post subject: What is consciousness? Reply with quote

Well, what is it? Can it be scientifically proved, or is it something in our every day experience that we never really question but that we have no good scientific basis to prove it's existance?
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MrRINGOffline
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PostPosted: 17-05-2003 23:20    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, here is the possibly interesting thing: if we can't prove that conciousness exists, then we have a big ol' wopping experience that everybody shares in but it can't be proved using the scientific method.

What would that then say about how extreme claims require extreme proof if a shared experience that everybody has witness to can't be proved in a satisfactorily scientific way?
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MrRINGOffline
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PostPosted: 17-05-2003 23:58    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was just reading the Alan Moore interview in Eddie Campbell's Egomania and I thought he made a good point about conciousness being the sort of thing that is unproveable scientificly, yet in a way that's all we are as humans, the spark that gives rise to our personality and the like.

To quote a bit (and this is just the tip of the iceberg of a great interview):

"All we directly experience is our own conciousness of the universe. Conciousness, this lovely and mysterious gift, is the only thing that any of us truly have or are. Science is probably the most accurate tool that conciousness has developed with which to probe reality, but ironically science cannot discuss or explore conciousness itself, since scientific reality is based entirely upon empirical phenomena that can be reproduced in a laboratory setting. Conciousness clearly does not fall into this category, and as such, being annoyingly beyond the provence of science, becomes the 'ghost in the machine'. Conciousness cannot prove it's own existance. Th 'I' is it's own blind spot. Like a ghost, nobody really knows what conciousness is, or where it comes from, and the only tool we have crated to test reality is incapable of detecting or measuring it. "

He goes on to explain that science tries to prove conciousness with memes and other kind of word jargon, but he takes it down as just semantics... I thought it was interesting, to think of an everyday experience as being indefensible to scientific proof, particulaly in a Fortean context... I'm sure Mr. Moore could explain 300 times better than myself, I just thought it might be a good thought for a topic.
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MrSnowmanOffline
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PostPosted: 18-05-2003 01:46    Post subject: Reply with quote

i.e. it's an unquantifiable abstract, yet, like outer space, we know it's there, you just can't hold it in your hand.
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Philo_TOffline
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PostPosted: 18-05-2003 03:15    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, another good, yet difficult question Mr. R.I.N.G. !

I think that's one of those things that people have quite nailed down yet. Whether it is possible to define is still up for debate.

I have several interesting models I could point to as to how people think it might function. But as to what it is, who knows.

My current working theory is along the lines of NLP. Conciousness is the awareness of your own thinking processes. (And possibly also having the ability to modify those processes.)


--------------------------------------------

I saw within the last week a reference to a study by a psychologist with infers that the same strategies that we apply to others to understand their thinking, we also apply to ourselves. That we don't directly know our own thoughts, but infer them the same way we do when dealing with others.
(Aside from Philo T : but we all know that Clever Hans can't really count! We're good at fooling ourselves sometimes.)

That, and something involving strange loops. It's gotta have a basis on a strange loop. (Someday I should get around to actually reading GEB.)
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marionXXXOffline
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PostPosted: 18-05-2003 03:25    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well all the times I've been unconcious its been very different to my usual state which I would assume to be concious. If that proves anything.
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zardozzzOffline
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PostPosted: 18-05-2003 05:44    Post subject: Reply with quote

Most of us westerners aren't really 'concious' at all most of the time. We think we are, but were rarely thinking about what is actually happening around us, or really concentrating on the task at hand whilst all the time being aware of ourselves.
Its actually extremely difficult for us to do this now. If you try and sit and think strongly about being alive at this second and be aware of yourself thinking this thought, you cant do it for longer than a m inute before your mind wanders off to something else. Often much less than a minute. Anyone who has a knowledge of the works and ways of G.I.Gurdjieff will know what i mean.
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Anonymous
PostPosted: 18-05-2003 09:25    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is nothing in the world that I can do to prove to you that I am conscious,
and not just a very comprehensive non-sentient computer program or a clever joke of Maxwell's demon...
there is nothing that you can do that can prove to me that you are conscious either.

Even if, in twenty years time or less, an intelligent computer is created which thinks that it is conscious, and regularly says things like
"I think therefore I am"
and
"Can't you see what I'm trying to tell you; I love you!"
there would still be no proof that it was conscious.
The whole world could be full of fake personalities pretending to be people, and no-one would know.

And if they don't know, it doesn't really matter.


Last edited by Guest on 18-05-2003 09:33; edited 1 time in total
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MattattattattOffline
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PostPosted: 18-05-2003 23:13    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's an odd thought - what if everything is conscious, just not aware. All we are is a collection of complex molecules. Surely on at least some level the potential for conciousness exists in matter itself, the matter that forms sentient life.
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Anonymous
PostPosted: 19-05-2003 08:11    Post subject: THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF STONES Reply with quote

Certainly the matter that makes up the earth has had an interesting life so far-
born as hydrogen and helium in an acausal big bang, it has collapsed under it's own weight into a protogalaxy and then into a giant, short-lived star, which exploded as a supernova creating a hundred different elements, then as a cloud it drifted until another supernova nearby compressed it again until it collapsed...
little lumps of matter bashed into others, until there were two huge lumps, one slightly smaller than the Earth, and one as big as Mars-
these collided and splashed about until one became the Earth, and the now much smaller one the Moon.
Matter has an interesting life story of its own, and even without the development of life there would be much for the possible consciousness of matter to consider.
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PostPosted: 19-05-2003 10:41    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's

existence-
life -
consiousness-
self-awareness-

Which combination(s) are we discussing here?
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Anonymous
PostPosted: 19-05-2003 11:00    Post subject: Reply with quote

My mate would say that conciousness is the result of evolution, where to survive in this world, only those beings with conciousness of sufficient balls would last the distance to breed.

That's a good view on how we are concious or have conciousness, but it doesn't tell us what conciousness is. I ask him that and all I get is a blank stare.

Where do you start? Is it a law that all living beings are concious? Is it simply part of the key to life?

I like to think that the bio electric field generated by animate organisms spontaneously generates a conciousness or spirit, but I can't go any further than that, unless I start theorising that our thoughtspace is another dimension and that raises many more questions about the nature of reality.

I think I should lie down now......... QS not used to thinking like this.....
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PostPosted: 19-05-2003 11:16    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.studentnewspaper.org/view_article.php?article_id=20030506173129

Quote:
EDINBURGH PARAPSYCHOLOGISTS have claimed that it is possible for the mind to exist outwith the body.

The controversial ‘discovery’ came about after years of research into near death experiences (NDEs).

Professor Robert Morris of the University's Koestler parapsychology unit was one of the key members of the team, who presented their findings at the Edinburgh Science Festival.

One incident that startled the scientists involved a man who recalled a nurse removing his dentures while he was clinically dead.

The team claims to have collected many similar stories from patients who were temporarily dead.

If it is proven conclusively that NDEs occur, then for the first time, scientists will have shown that the mind exists independently of the body.

The research could change the way scientists look at the mind forever.

Understandably, the team's findings have been met with mixed reactions by the scientific community.

Dr Peter Fenwick, another member of the team, has called for funding to further research in this field.

His “Horizon Foundation” wants to investigate NDEs by placing cards above the heads of patients who have entered a death-like state.

The cards would only be visible from the ceiling of the operating theatre, meaning that any patient who could recall the card would become further evidence of NDEs.
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Fats_TuesdayOffline
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PostPosted: 22-05-2003 17:11    Post subject: Reply with quote

Susan Blackmore and others postulate that consciousness is a very powerful illusion; kind of an uber-meme or super-religion, lagging slightly behind real-time events and constructing an effectively fictitious version of those events at the same time as convincing itself of its own over-riding power.

The best example of this, I think, is when someone speaks, you don't need to wait until the very end of their sentence until you suddenly get the impression that you fully understand their meaning. If consciousness was real-time then you would expect that to be the case.

http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/journalism/ns02.htm

Sorry - there are no illustrations there with the article.

I don't think this devalues conciousness - it's still the thing that essentially makes us what we are. We still make future decisions and plans based upon it.

I'm currently reading "The Mind and the Brain" by Jeffrey M. Schwartz (http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060393556/026-9001060-4544409), which argues that current scientific theories somewhat undervalue the mind and includes evidence that the mind can physically re-map the brain by the power of mental force and directed concentration.

I see 2 possibilities:

1) It's an illusion, convinced it rules the roost in your head but really containing no more sense than any other religion, hence its similar lack of explicability.

2) It's a process that has arisen through the biology of the brain, which has developed into far more than just the sum of the physical processes which constitute it.

I'm still on the fence myself. Perhaps the meme is just too darned difficult to shift!
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Fats_TuesdayOffline
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PostPosted: 23-05-2003 12:58    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jobbo wrote:

Susan Blackmore and others postulate that consciousness is a very powerful illusion; kind of an uber-meme or super-religion, lagging slightly behind real-time events and constructing an effectively fictitious version of those events at the same time as convincing itself of its own over-riding power.

The best example of this, I think, is when someone speaks, you don't need to wait until the very end of their sentence until you suddenly get the impression that you fully understand their meaning. If consciousness was real-time then you would expect that to be the case.

http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/journalism/ns02.htm

Sorry - there are no illustrations there with the article.

I don't think this devalues conciousness - it's still the thing that essentially makes us what we are. We still make future decisions and plans based upon it.

I'm currently reading "The Mind and the Brain" by Jeffrey M. Schwartz (http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060393556/026-9001060-4544409), which argues that current scientific theories somewhat undervalue the mind and includes evidence that the mind can physically re-map the brain by the power of mental force and directed concentration.

I see 2 possibilities:

1) It's an illusion, convinced it rules the roost in your head but really containing no more sense than any other religion, hence its similar lack of explicability.

2) It's a process that has arisen through the biology of the brain, which has developed into far more than just the sum of the physical processes which constitute it.

I'm still on the fence myself. Perhaps the meme is just too darned difficult to shift!


Oh, and of course there's a third possibility, consciousness could be both of the above - they're not mutually exclusive.
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