What do you mean by consciousness?

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jun 26, 2013 9:44 pm UTC

Egging dangerously close to evolutionary psychology here.

Babies do a lot of things because it is evolutionarily advantageous to do so. It is advantageous because learning, and practicing learning, is important, but that their mimicry also makes them more likely to be cared for by sympathetic parents is certainly a factor.
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby Tomlidich the second » Wed Jun 26, 2013 9:49 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Egging dangerously close to evolutionary psychology here.

Babies do a lot of things because it is evolutionarily advantageous to do so. It is advantageous because learning, and practicing learning, is important, but that their mimicry also makes them more likely to be cared for by sympathetic parents is certainly a factor.


so when do we develop a conciousness then, if this is a preprogrammed evolutionary response?
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jun 26, 2013 10:23 pm UTC

I'd say when we become aware of being aware. Incidentally though, that is, I feel I've read, a potential by product of evolutionarily advantageous social intelligence.
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby CesarioRose » Wed Jun 26, 2013 11:10 pm UTC

Tomlidich the second wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:Egging dangerously close to evolutionary psychology here.

Babies do a lot of things because it is evolutionarily advantageous to do so. It is advantageous because learning, and practicing learning, is important, but that their mimicry also makes them more likely to be cared for by sympathetic parents is certainly a factor.


so when do we develop a conciousness then, if this is a preprogrammed evolutionary response?


There really isn't much of a way to answer it without delving into schools of thought, and learned stuff. Legally speaking, it depends; because, from my very limited amount of actual legal knowledge is pretty slim, laws are usually designed around consciousness being required to even begin being held accountable. Intent and all that.

Babies laugh for the above mentioned reasons. It's in their best evolutionary interests to be cared for and not just loved, but have their needs met. All babies need food and water. They gotta poop and pee like the rest of us. They sometimes vomit, like the rest of us. And it's in their best interest to learn to survive. Survival of the fittest and all that nonsense. And besides, whats so wrong about egging so close to evolutionary psych? It's all good stuff any growin' boy (or girl) needs.

If anyone here can give me a solid literal definition of consciousness, I will seriously buy you a beer. No kid. I have spent countless billed hours trying to figure all this stuff out, it's not even funny.

"so then, are emotional responses conditioned, or are they concious?"

They're both. If you think about it. Frued said it pretty good once a long time ago. "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." I have placed a bit of a spin on that old saying. "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes that jerk cigar is totally spying on my intimate thoughts for the FBI and transmitting a non-detectable and alien frequency that the scientists I know can't decipher with his mechanically red eyes of soul eating intensity!" But it's usually just a harmless cigar.

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:54 am UTC

Every living thing is self aware in the sense of existing apart from the environment. That may be overreach but I'll stand by it. Viruses??? The more complex the more self aware. A rabbit is aware, and it moves through and is aware of it's environment. It's driven at least in part by emotional memory. Fear of predators, desirability of food, sexual desire, and so on. But with no way to generalize, to abstract the world, it's memory is limited. But I would say it is conscious. Color for instance would exist only in relationship to some emotional consideration. Think of Cardinals here. Humans seem to upstream on this continuum. The add complexity by abstracting over the top of emotions. Which lets them have conversations about the idea of consciousness. Language is the discriminator.

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Jun 27, 2013 3:26 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Every living thing is self aware in the sense of existing apart from the environment.
I think this is demonstrably false actually. The ability to recognize your 'self' and other 'selfs' is not universal to all life, by a long shot.

Also, color is not a product of language, it's a product of specialized cells able to differenciate between different wavelengths of light. It's an evolutionary adaptation, not a construct of society.
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jun 27, 2013 4:31 pm UTC

I'll clarify, self awareness as a sense of being different then the environment. Not in the sense of the mirror test. In the sense of being able to differentiate between say food and itself. This would seem to me to be true more so for multi cellular organisms. And the more complex the more aware of this separation. The point being before you can pass the mirror test you must understand that you exist apart from the environment. Self awareness as demonstrated by the mirror test requires something more. But the difference would seem to me to be a matter of degree.

I'll debate the idea of red means anything without the vocabulary to state it. You brain doesn't see per se. It experiences electrical signaling or at least something close to that. A rabbits brain paints a picture of the world, but red is an abstraction naming that signaling. Not the signal itself. What would be the evolutionary point. The spectrum available to the rabbit leads to a enhanced ability to make associations with the requisite emotions required to protect itself from predators. Naming it isn't useful without other tools which the rabbit apparently doesn't possess.

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Jun 27, 2013 4:44 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:I'll clarify, self awareness as a sense of being different then the environment. Not in the sense of the mirror test. In the sense of being able to differentiate between say food and itself. This would seem to me to be true more so for multi cellular organisms. And the more complex the more aware of this separation. The point being before you can pass the mirror test you must understand that you exist apart from the environment. Self awareness as demonstrated by the mirror test requires something more. But the difference would seem to me to be a matter of degree.

If your definition is 'able to recognize food from self', then your definition is so all encompassing as to be useless. You might as well say 'uses DNA as information carrying molecule'.
morriswalters wrote:I'll debate the idea of red means anything without the vocabulary to state it. You brain doesn't see per se. It experiences electrical signaling or at least something close to that. A rabbits brain paints a picture of the world, but red is an abstraction naming that signaling. Not the signal itself. What would be the evolutionary point. The spectrum available to the rabbit leads to a enhanced ability to make associations with the requisite emotions required to protect itself from predators. Naming it isn't useful without other tools which the rabbit apparently doesn't possess.
I'm not sure what you're trying to argue here; red absolutely exists without the word 'red' invented by humans, even the 'red' as perceived by living organisms. Arguably, so too does the ability to communicate 'red'. All manner of senses do; pain is not a concept invented by humanity, it's the evolutionary response to stimuli which may harm you. Many 'complex' emotions are also things humans didn't invent; 'love' for example, is the bond to a mate to better ensure offspring survival.

Mind you, I'm not suggesting all human experiences are simply the boring by product of evolutionary pressures or something like that. I'm also starting to hijack this thread with evolutionary behavior stuff, which is annoying, so I'll cut back.
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Jun 27, 2013 6:08 pm UTC

I'm suggesting the consciousness is a continuum. Starting with that point. Rather than something that springs into full bloom at once. You have to start there.

The electrical signal exists. In point of fact the whole spectrum exists. A rose is not red, it's what you sensors are constructed to see. And red describes a range of colors. But that isn't the point. A rabbit wouldn't seem to be able to abstract the idea of color. Take someone born without hearing, not exposed to language at all. How could you make him aware of color? Understand it a a property . I can tell a blind person that the colors exist. And even if that person never experiences color, they can understand the properties of the color red and the differences between red and blue as an abstraction. But the word color enables red as a specific thing. And color is an abstraction, not a noun. It's not something you can point to or illustrate. At least not easily, if at all. The point being that red as a qualia is by nature an individual experience. Information theory explains why. The transmission between people is lossy because language is one dimensional and doesn't carry the associations that exist internally. This confuses the issue of consciousness. It leads to the illusion that your verbal stream represents the total picture and it doesn't. So how do you define the difference in consciousness between a you and a man born deaf and having never experienced language? The only difference between you and him is language. Given that he is conscious, by extension then how does a man differ from an ape except for language. My position would then be that it is a matter of degree when you take away language. This may be total bullshit, but it is how I think.

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby Tomlidich the second » Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:02 pm UTC

CesarioRose wrote:If anyone here can give me a solid literal definition of consciousness, I will seriously buy you a beer. No kid. I have spent countless billed hours trying to figure all this stuff out, it's not even funny.

oh lord, i must try to figure this out now.

nothing gets me going like a good craft beer.

sorry, off subject.
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby Bad Hair Man » Sat Jun 29, 2013 4:11 pm UTC

Tomlidich the second wrote:your brain is always aware of every idea you have had, are currently having, and future ideas already forming.

This is absurd. Do you think our brains come with a lifetime supply of empty space that every idea we ever have gets permanently stored in? (If so, how did evolution know that technology would increase our lifespans so much in order to provide us in advance with so much extra, previously unneeded storage space for all our old ideas?)

morriswalters wrote:But the word color enables red as a specific thing. And color is an abstraction, not a noun. It's not something you can point to or illustrate.

You have this totally backwards. It is red as a specific thing (specifically as an experience) in combination with at least one other color as a specific thing (i.e. another, noticeably different experience) that enables color as an abstraction. It is not the abstraction of the idea of color that allows us to have the experience of seeing colors, the experience of seeing colors can exist just fine on its own without the abstraction.

Likewise, color is a very easy thing to both point to and illustrate. You can't see me, but I'm pointing to two different colors right now!
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby morriswalters » Sat Jun 29, 2013 6:24 pm UTC

The problem is that red can't be a specific thing without the ability to abstract. It doesn't exist specifically. Aside from the difference in the subtlety of the shades of red, color is a defined value. Red is red because we say it is. The obvious thing is that I could raise a child to think that red represents what you know as the color blue. This is so ingrained in the way that you think that it is difficult to see. The qualia is the complete set of internal associations that each individual has that are created by his personal experiences. The word rose is an agreement over the general idea of a rose rather than each of our experiences of a rose. Enabled because we have language. The point of the foregoing is that consciousness is a set of things working together rather than a monolithic thing. An ever more complex experience as you move from less complex life to more complex life. Again this is how I look at it rather than a thing I know.

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat Jun 29, 2013 7:04 pm UTC

As pointed out to you twice now though, red itself is not an abstraction. You can teach a kid that the word for light in the 600nm area of the spectrum is blorgtrop, but ligh.t in the 600nm area of the spectrum it will still be.

You have confused the existence of human language as a means for communicating labels, abstract and concrete, with the existence of... Well... Real things.
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby morriswalters » Sat Jun 29, 2013 8:09 pm UTC

Ok. That point on the visible spectrum certainly does exist. But I don't see the isolated parts of the spectrum. And we can only both see it given that the equipment that we were born with is the same. As can a rabbit, assuming it has the right receptors. But the point is not that a given frequency exists. The experience of red is definably different because of language. So if you never acquire language what does red mean? The question I'm asking is if consciousness exists for us then is there a quantitative difference between you and the rabbit other the the complexity required to have language? And if you don't have language are you truly conscious?

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby Bad Hair Man » Sun Jun 30, 2013 9:22 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:The experience of red is definably different because of language. So if you never acquire language what does red mean?

I'm starting to think that what you mean by the word "red", is actually "the word "red"". I think making this substitution might clear up a lot of the confusion and disagreement in the last few posts.

As in:
The experience of the word "red" is definably different because of language. So if you never acquire language what does the word "red" mean?


See? Nothing there to object to. Whereas if I think of the word "red" as meaning "the color red" (which I much more often do), then it suddenly becomes very strange to me that you would seem to be suggesting that sensory experiences such as feeling cold, tasting sweet, or seeing red, would somehow become "definably different", that they would become different sensory experiences just because the subject experiencing them happened to have language.

A further case in point:
morriswalters wrote:Red is red because we say it is. The obvious thing is that I could raise a child to think that red represents what you know as the color blue.

No, red is red because we evolved to be capable of distinguishing it from things that are blue or green or yellow or orange or white or black or etc.. But now I'm clearly tilting at a strawman, aren't I? Because the second sentence in that quote only makes sense if by the word "red" you really do mean "the word "red"".

The word "red" is the word "red" because we say it is. The obvious thing is that I could raise a child to think that the word "red" represents what you know as the color blue.


I'm going to put on my "Mystery Solved (I Hope)" hat now, and move on from this tangent back to the main thread topic.

What I mean by consciousness, and also what I think most people mean by consciousness, is similar (well, practically identical) to what other people in this thread have already said. Except where they used the word sentience, I prefer subjectivity. Subjectivity is the ability to experience experiences, to have a point of view from which one observes the world and/or some of one's own inner mental states.

Other animals like dogs, rabbits, and humans (who aren't me) react to and interact with the world in ways that suggests that they have experiences that are similar to ones that I have. So it is reasonable to strongly suspect that they possess consciousnesses similar to my own. But entities like trees and viruses? Do they have subjective experiences? Do they "observe" the world around them? Do they have inner "mental states"? They certainly don't seem to have consciousnesses similar to my own, but do they have some sort of alien (to me) tree and virus consciousnesses instead? I think the definition of consciousness I'm using makes these questions too difficult for me to answer. Oh well.
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby morriswalters » Sun Jun 30, 2013 10:46 pm UTC

I guess I should give up, but I'm stubborn. But feel free to ignore me , at this point I'm talking more to myself.

Spoiler:
Bad Hair Man wrote:See? Nothing there to object to. Whereas if I think of the word "red" as meaning "the color red" (which I much more often do), then it suddenly becomes very strange to me that you would seem to be suggesting that sensory experiences such as feeling cold, tasting sweet, or seeing red, would somehow become "definably different", that they would become different sensory experiences just because the subject experiencing them happened to have language.
I'll propose a way of looking at it, take it for what it's worth. Unless we live in different world you will never see a thing which is truly red as defined by a point on the spectrum. Red is a broad range of very similar things, most generally things not entirely red, however you wish to think about it. Purity of color per se exists only in monochromatic light. Even the "red" of a rose will vary over time. Artists expect this and work to it by using indirect light or the constant light of artificial illumination. Apples aren't "red", roses aren't "red", and blood isn't "red". Red is a generalization of something that doesn't naturally exist. So yes "red" exists and your eyes see it.

ImageImage

Now tell me which red you are seeing. Those two images exist in two ways, as a rose and strawberry, or as two articles sharing similar colors as defined by a generalization of a specific thing we call "red" which neither of those articles is. When I think of either, the color can make me think of a candy apple red 65 Mustang that I wanted badly at one time, or a red glass of kool-aid, or the millions of things that share a commonality of some shade of red. This would be the definably different part to me.

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Jul 01, 2013 3:49 am UTC

Bad Hair Man wrote:What I mean by consciousness, and also what I think most people mean by consciousness, is similar (well, practically identical) to what other people in this thread have already said. Except where they used the word sentience, I prefer subjectivity. Subjectivity is the ability to experience experiences, to have a point of view from which one observes the world and/or some of one's own inner mental states.
The problem is 'perception' is not something unique to humans or even mammals. Even 'complexity of perception'. Even 'ability to respond in a complex manner to a complex variety of perceived stimuli'. The mantis shrimp for example and to continue morriswalters still odd sticking point, can detect and probably has personal self descriptors for, orders of magnitude more 'red' than we can. Non-human organisms that communicate abstractions (some cetaceans, some cephalopods, I'm sure there are others) will have their own methods and concepts and reactions based on how they biologically perceive their stimuli.

The problem with narrowing your definition to this is that it's fairly non-descriptive, and demands you set an arbitrary benchmark for 'level of complexity'. So fine, detecting polarized light with a color precision of ~.001nm is pretty complex, but humans have 'more complex' responses to stimuli despite having 'less complex' detectors for some forms of stimuli (virtually all, actually) than other organisms.

That's why I feel focusing on the emergent properties of the complex behaviors is where you can start defining it. Humans don't have a sapience gene or neural lobe; it seems to be the byproduct of a bunch of evolutionary solutions to complex social and behavioral problems.
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby morriswalters » Mon Jul 01, 2013 3:39 pm UTC

Consider what all all complex life must share in common. They exist separately from the environment. They have lower entropy.(pardon me if I get this backward) They have memory in the form of DNA or something like it. No matter what other trait that evolves these must exist. My contention(uneducated as it is) is that these form the basis of consciousness. They may be others, but I would think the process must have these. The more complex, the more structures to enhance these basic traits. From mechanisms allowing a life form to understand its bodies relation to space, to mechanisms which allow it to see itself as separate parts of the same organism. The change in complexity from one point to the next creates new ways that pure awareness(the starting three traits) can be abstracted. But the point is that the degree of consciousness is a function of the complexity of the associations(abstractions). Language enhances consciousness because it enhances complexity. So for the thought experiment of the women who knows about color but has never experienced color it follows(at least to me), that what she gains when she sees color for the first time is an additional amount of complexity(abstractions), and a definably different experience.

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Jul 01, 2013 3:48 pm UTC

Consciousness is not 'being biotic'. Language is something that likely makes consciousness possible, but there are species that have rudimentary language that I would not describe as conscious beings. Prairie dogs, for example, have dozens of different calls, squeeks and barks that all convey different things and have some syntactic modifiers; I would not call a prairie dog conscious.

You seem to be stuck on this notion of 'otherness'. Just because an entity is other than it's surroundings does not make it conscious, and to this end, the three things you listed (having DNA, having negative entropy, and being biotic[which is sort of moot; of course they're biotic, they have DNA]) are terribly non-specific and unhelpful definitions. Again, stop fixating on human language possessing abstractions as proof that abstraction equals consciousness.

EDIT: As pointed out actually, maybe you should separate sapience from consciousness morris.
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby morriswalters » Mon Jul 01, 2013 6:12 pm UTC

I'm not interested in sapience, if by sapience you mean as defined by the first entry from the Wikipedia entry.
Sapience is often defined as wisdom, or the ability of an organism or entity to act with appropriate judgement, a mental faculty which is a component of intelligence or alternatively may be considered an additional faculty, apart from intelligence, with its own properties.

Izawwlgood wrote:Language is something that likely makes consciousness possible
And this is incomplete.

I see consciousness as a continuum. And I asked you a question. Cases have occurred where humans haven't received language of any kind by the time they have reached adulthood. So if language makes consciousness possible then are these people conscious? And if it doesn't, then what differences exist between a human who has never acquired language and and animals who never will, other than the equipment required for language?

Izawwlgood wrote: the three things you listed (having DNA, having negative entropy, and being biotic[which is sort of moot; of course they're biotic, they have DNA]) are terribly non-specific and unhelpful definitions
DNA is a convenience and could just as well be served by any non volatile method of storage which is reproducible. And it wouldn't have to be biotic, it's just that the only exemplars are. So consciousness could exist in some form in a device. As an example a Roomba would meet the simplest form. It moves through the world, exists apart from the environment, and has memory, albeit not on the device but in terms of a reproducible plan which can be modified, and has negative entropy.

Consciousness itself is vague and non specific. I suggest that consciousness and its various flavors are the property of the complexity of the thing which posses it, rather that a monolithic thing that arises out of smoke, full grown. So the difference between you and an ant is one of degree where consciousness is concerned. So an ant is as conscious as it can be.

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Jul 01, 2013 6:25 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:I'm not interested in sapience, if by sapience you mean as defined by the first entry from the Wikipedia entry.
The reason I mentioned it, and it was pointed out to you earlier, is because you seem to be defining 'awareness', which is kind of useless. Virtually all organisms are 'aware' in some way shape or form, and no one really cares about 'awareness' in this thread.

morriswalters wrote:I see consciousness as a continuum. And I asked you a question. Cases have occurred where humans haven't received language of any kind by the time they have reached adulthood. So if language makes consciousness possible then are these people conscious? And if it doesn't, then what differences exist between a human who has never acquired language and and animals who never will, other than the equipment required for language?
I'm not terribly familiar with feral children, but my understanding is they either develop a simple language of their own, or upon being exposed to language, almost instantly start picking it up. But sure, language might be a prerequisite for consciousness, but that doesn't mean anything with language is conscious; I was quite specific in that point in my last post. But sure, consciousness may be a continuum; perhaps we should define exactly what we're after here? I.e., sapience vs consciousness.

morriswalters wrote:DNA is a convenience and could just as well be served by any non volatile method of storage which is reproducible. And it wouldn't have to be biotic, it's just that the only exemplars are. So consciousness could exist in some form in a device. As an example a Roomba would meet the simplest form. It moves through the world, exists apart from the environment, and has memory, albeit not on the device but in terms of a reproducible plan which can be modified, and has negative entropy.
I mean, yes, that's why I was calling your definitions useless.

morriswalters wrote:Consciousness itself is vague and non specific. I suggest that consciousness and its various flavors are the property of the complexity of the thing which posses it, rather that a monolithic thing that arises out of smoke, full grown. So the difference between you and an ant is one of degree where consciousness is concerned. So an ant is as conscious as it can be.
I would argue that if we're looking at consciousness, there is a nearly binary difference between a human and an ant. Ants are, I would say, not conscious, and also not sapient. So your point about consciousness being a continuum here is somewhat silly; you've basically picked 'near zero' and '10' on your scale. Eusocial insects are a bad pick on your part, as most of their complex behavior stems from emergent properties of multiple organisms acting in coordination, not in singular entities doing something.
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby morriswalters » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:14 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:The reason I mentioned it, and it was pointed out to you earlier, is because you seem to be defining 'awareness', which is kind of useless. Virtually all organisms are 'aware' in some way shape or form, and no one really cares about 'awareness' in this thread.
Neither I'm I, other than I believe the base point of consciousness is derived from simple awareness.

Izawwlgood wrote:I'm not terribly familiar with feral children, but my understanding is they either develop a simple language of their own, or upon being exposed to language, almost instantly start picking it up. But sure, language might be a prerequisite for consciousness, but that doesn't mean anything with language is conscious; I was quite specific in that point in my last post. But sure, consciousness may be a continuum; perhaps we should define exactly what we're after here? I.e., sapience vs consciousness.
I was talking about full grown adults, it's uncommon but it does happen. Apparently they have a hard time explaining what it was like prior to being taught sign. I know of at least two cases.

Izawwlgood wrote:I mean, yes, that's why I was calling your definitions useless.
I'm crawling not walking. My thinking at this point isn't sophisticated enough to do it better.

Izawwlgood wrote:I would argue that if we're looking at consciousness, there is a nearly binary difference between a human and an ant. Ants are, I would say, not conscious, and also not sapient. So your point about consciousness being a continuum here is somewhat silly; you've basically picked 'near zero' and '10' on your scale. Eusocial insects are a bad pick on your part, as most of their complex behavior stems from emergent properties of multiple organisms acting in coordination, not in singular entities doing something.
It may well be silly. :D However if it a continuous transition from low to high then understanding the low end will help you understand the high end. I won't debate if ant's are either sapient or conscious. I assume they are conscious and sapience depends on where you are standing. If there is somebody who is an order or three magnitudes more "intelligent" than us, they may not see it the way you do. And I suggest without rancor that you consider how much different then ant's that we truly are. Is the difference only one of complexity? If it is I suggest it is only a matter of degree. I offer you a slightly skewed perspective, humans are intelligent because their are many of us working in tightly bound hierarchies. The same emergent properties of and ant's nest could be reasonably inferred for our civilization.

Izawwlgood wrote:But sure, consciousness may be a continuum; perhaps we should define exactly what we're after here? I.e., sapience vs consciousness.
Give me a measurable definition of sapience and we'll discuss it. Or alternatively define consciousness in a way the subsumes sapience or show sapience subsumes consciousness. I'm not trying to be a dick here. My position would be that language confuses the issue. When we discuss it, by the nature of the thing we use language. But because of the limitations of language we can't really expose the underlying works, so to speak. My assumption is that consciousness is awareness on steroids, a difference in degree. So a hamster isn't all that different from a horse in terms of it's conscious experience. Intelligence sits on top of that. A product of the grafting of language on top of existing mechanisms. I'm not selling this as any kind of truth. I'm offering my take on it.

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:32 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Give me a measurable definition of sapience and we'll discuss it ...So a hamster isn't all that different from a horse in terms of it's conscious experience. Intelligence sits on top of that. A product of the grafting of language on top of existing mechanisms. I'm not selling this as any kind of truth. I'm offering my take on it.
I did; 'being aware of being aware'. I agree; a hamster and a horse have probably comparable levels of sapience/consciousness, which is to say, fairly low. They have simple social hierarchies, minimal, almost certainly non-language based communication (NEIGH! means 'oh shit run!' and 'oh shit I'm scared!' and 'oh shit look it's Fred!' and 'oh shit this grass is tasty!'), etc.

But that said, 'awareness of ones awareness' is probably something that's not quite a binary. An animal may fail the mirror test but pass other complex social tests, or vice versa. I would argue that complex social involvement is a greater requirement for sapience than language; afterall, Ravens use tools, have culture, are extremely intelligent, capable of learning new tasks, and have extremely simple language communication, while dolphins and cuttlefish have extremely (EXTREMELY) sophisticated communication, but no tool use and minimal culture.

There are a variety of tests available for assessing sapience, and I think the whole shebang is likely handled (or should be) as the DSM; that is, if an individual exhibits positive results for >5 of 10 tests, it's sapient. Less, then it's not. The problem is, of course, tailoring the tests to the organism; a dolphin is probably a shitty painter for having poor manual dexterity, but an elephant can't communicate with the same range of complexity as a dolphin. It doesn't mean a dolphin can't appreciate abstraction, but it means you'll have to test it's ability to do so differently than you'd test a critter with a dextrous appendage.
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby addams » Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:27 pm UTC

Tomlidich the second wrote:
CesarioRose wrote:If anyone here can give me a solid literal definition of consciousness, I will seriously buy you a beer. No kid. I have spent countless billed hours trying to figure all this stuff out, it's not even funny.

oh lord, i must try to figure this out now.

nothing gets me going like a good craft beer.

sorry, off subject.

A very cold beer and a question like this is an afternoon Not Wasted.

How about what the old Zen guys said?
What did those old Zen guys say?

We Bow to The Rock.
Why? We like to.


Is the Rock alive?
Alive? Biology? Geology?
Self Conscious? Like a Teenager?

Who is Michael Angelo?

Those Zen guys were not always sophisticated.
Some of those old Zen guys had Never Jet-Setted around the Globe.
Some had never Taken an English Class.

What do They Know?
About the Nature of Consciousness?
What could they possibly Know?

Not one thing Internet people can not Know?

Some one typed, "Language confuses the issue."
That is funny. It is True.

It is the way we exhibit our Uniqueness and All Most All of us do it.
Nothing, really, Unique about it.

What is so Wonderful about Humans, Brian?
"Each one is an Individual!"

Like Rocks.
Some I like better than others.

Sure. Individual People move around a lot.
Rocks stay put. It is hard to find the same piece of gravel in a Gravel Pit.
It is hard to find the Same Human in a Crowd.

Some of those Old Zen Guys would declare a Rock Special.
Then the friends of That Guy would act the same way.

Then there were Little Rituals.
Gadds! It was a Place to stop, catch ones breath and Think.

Does the Rock care? No.
Those Zen guys said the Rock had time to Listen.
The Rock is Living in a different Rhythm from Humans.

The Rock does not Care if you Blow By without slowing down.
The Zen guy might be offended. He might also be curious about You.

You must be so much more lively than a Rock!
How can you be More Dull?
Life is, just, an exchange of electrons; It is up to us to give it meaning.

We are all in The Gutter.
Some of us see The Gutter.
Some of us see The Stars.
by mr. Oscar Wilde.

Those that want to Know; Know.
Those that do not Know; Don't tell them.
They do terrible things to people that Tell Them.

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jul 02, 2013 12:49 am UTC

Aware of being aware?
From the Wikipedia article on self awareness
Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals.

And this from the article on introspection.
Introspection is examination of one's own conscious thoughts and feelings.

I could be trite and say that by using introspection as part of the criteria for being aware of being aware that the definition is a case of it being defined as us. The third quote points out the problem as well as I can. To examine one's own thought's and feeling is to is to be able to have the framework to do so. To think about thinking you have to use language. If introspection is part of being self aware then you have to have language to be able to do it. You can't come at this and not run into that issue. The language doesn't need to be verbal, sign will work. ASL is every bit as robust as English. Some of the deaf sign in their sleep.
Izawwlgood wrote:But that said, 'awareness of ones awareness' is probably something that's not quite a binary. An animal may fail the mirror test but pass other complex social tests, or vice versa. I would argue that complex social involvement is a greater requirement for sapience than language; afterall, Ravens use tools, have culture, are extremely intelligent, capable of learning new tasks, and have extremely simple language communication, while dolphins and cuttlefish have extremely (EXTREMELY) sophisticated communication, but no tool use and minimal culture.
Most of the foregoing is true, or at least I think it is. However as a species we tend to have a mythic take on individuality. I would agree the the social part of the equation is very important. We as a species are intelligent in terms of our ability to manipulate the environment. As individuals somewhat less. But certain things have to exist or a thing like us couldn't exist. Language in and of itself wouldn't be valuable if you can't implement things with the capabilities. But no matter what else you have if that doesn't include language then you are at a dead end because you can never generate sufficient complexity to manipulate the environment the way we do. It isn't any one thing but the confluence of any number of things.

Something to think about if you get bored. What does the internal dialog of the deaf become to them?

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jul 02, 2013 2:18 pm UTC

At the risk of getting into a word definition war with you, I feel like the wikipedia definition of consciousness includes introspection, and introspection is basically defined as 'being aware of ones awareness'. Which is what I said.

morriswalters wrote:However as a species we tend to have a mythic take on individuality. I would agree the the social part of the equation is very important. We as a species are intelligent in terms of our ability to manipulate the environment. As individuals somewhat less. But certain things have to exist or a thing like us couldn't exist. Language in and of itself wouldn't be valuable if you can't implement things with the capabilities. But no matter what else you have if that doesn't include language then you are at a dead end because you can never generate sufficient complexity to manipulate the environment the way we do. It isn't any one thing but the confluence of any number of things.

Something to think about if you get bored. What does the internal dialog of the deaf become to them?

So, again, a lot of our views of consciousness and our tests for it are based on our preliminary understanding of our own consciousness. We pass the mirror test, we can manipulate artistic supplies to make abstractions of our thoughts, we can communicate our abstract thoughts via language. To this end, expanding our concept of consciousness past 'human consciousness' is something worth thinking about, I feel. I.e., maybe individuality isn't important to consciousness; maybe a sapeint being exists out there that is capable of introspection and creativity and environment manipulation, but only when 1,000,000 of it's worker drones are in the same area together. Because our intelligence is an emergent property of our evolutionary adaptations.

To that end, maybe language *isn't* requisite, maybe that's just you and I being anthropocentric in our thinking. Maybe 'ability to manipulate surroundings' is just as important.

Also, the internal monologue of a deaf person is probably no different at it's root than a hearing person, except perhaps, more visual? Maybe they don't 'talk to themselves' as much as 'read to themselves', a steady flow of text across their minds eye?
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jul 02, 2013 3:19 pm UTC

Yes, I agree The Wikipedia article does indeed agree with you. And I accept it as describing what we do. But I find it lacking, at least in my own twisted way, completeness. When I think of consciousness, I tend to think of a puzzle of many parts, with consciousness as we experience it, as no more than the summation of certain parts in a certain way. Put together differently, with fewer, or more parts, and you get different forms of conscious experience. The greater the number of parts and the more "complex" the part, the more enhanced that particular experience is.

Consider time and memory. How much richer is the conscious experience because we can separate and catalog experience in time. Can that be done without language? And is it even richer when we add the ability to put numbers to it. This is what I meant by definably different when I talked about color, each complexity we add makes the experience of color more than it could be without it. Language makes red more "red". So comparing the experience of a rabbit to a man is not a matter of understanding the experience of "red" to a rabbit, but of understanding the parts the rabbit has available to experience "red" with. It's kind of like "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" since information and communications theory(at least with my narrow understanding of it) suggest that we can never really understand the experience of red for another person. Too much random noise in the way the synapses connect and too much noise in the verbal communications.

If you ever have the time or interest I suggest a book by a Oliver Sacks called "Seeing Voices". The question was to get you to think of the process or to possibly give you some small insight to the way I am warped.

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby addams » Tue Jul 02, 2013 4:34 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Aware of being aware?
From the Wikipedia article on self awareness
Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals.

And this from the article on introspection.
Introspection is examination of one's own conscious thoughts and feelings.

I could be trite and say that by using introspection as part of the criteria for being aware of being aware that the definition is a case of it being defined as us. The third quote points out the problem as well as I can. To examine one's own thought's and feeling is to is to be able to have the framework to do so. To think about thinking you have to use language. If introspection is part of being self aware then you have to have language to be able to do it. You can't come at this and not run into that issue. The language doesn't need to be verbal, sign will work. ASL is every bit as robust as English. Some of the deaf sign in their sleep.
Izawwlgood wrote:But that said, 'awareness of ones awareness' is probably something that's not quite a binary. An animal may fail the mirror test but pass other complex social tests, or vice versa. I would argue that complex social involvement is a greater requirement for sapience than language; afterall, Ravens use tools, have culture, are extremely intelligent, capable of learning new tasks, and have extremely simple language communication, while dolphins and cuttlefish have extremely (EXTREMELY) sophisticated communication, but no tool use and minimal culture.
Most of the foregoing is true, or at least I think it is. However as a species we tend to have a mythic take on individuality. I would agree the the social part of the equation is very important. We as a species are intelligent in terms of our ability to manipulate the environment. As individuals somewhat less. But certain things have to exist or a thing like us couldn't exist. Language in and of itself wouldn't be valuable if you can't implement things with the capabilities. But no matter what else you have if that doesn't include language then you are at a dead end because you can never generate sufficient complexity to manipulate the environment the way we do. It isn't any one thing but the confluence of any number of things.

Something to think about if you get bored. What does the internal dialog of the deaf become to them?

Children of a Lesser God?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Pb1vdt-SnQ

I know it is Pop Culture.
What are deaf children like, today?

What is the internal Dialoge or a Deaf Person Like? Ask.
It is so easy with The Internet. RIght?
Maybe, not. (shrug.)

How many deaf people do you know?
How deaf is deaf?

What is The Internet like for The Blind?
Something very interesting to other people and dull as dust to the Blind Guy?

yuck. This conversation is headed Down Hill Fast. excuse me.

Mr. Holland's Opus, too.
Just, Pop Culture.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c68Z7-qVu7g
Life is, just, an exchange of electrons; It is up to us to give it meaning.

We are all in The Gutter.
Some of us see The Gutter.
Some of us see The Stars.
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Those that do not Know; Don't tell them.
They do terrible things to people that Tell Them.

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jul 02, 2013 4:46 pm UTC

I actually tried to ask a deaf person, but I haven't found one who I can communicate with wellenough for the answer to make any sense. Do you think in rhyme?

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby addams » Tue Jul 02, 2013 5:54 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:I actually tried to ask a deaf person, but I haven't found one who I can communicate with wellenough for the answer to make any sense. Do you think in rhyme?

What?
Do I think in Rhyme?

Do you Know Why you don't know very many deaf people?

Here is My Guess.
Spoiler:
measles vaccinations.


There are still a few left here and there.
The Internet Could Unearth a Few, maybe.

Do you think they Talk Funny?
Do they sound Retarded?

Can you Read Sign?
What is the difference between a bunch of American Wiggers and a Bunch of Deaf People?

The deaf people may attempt to communicate with you. Or; Not.
The Wiggers may also attempt to communicate with you.
Don't Run. Walk away and pretend to be deaf.

Can You Read Sign? I can't. Unless That person Wants me to be able to understand them.
Deaf people can Get Testy! How can you Not Hear ME?! Damn.

Some can be so sweet, too.
Just like Everyone else.

A deaf girl bit me so hard My Body flushed Cold and Hot.
I swear. I sat there and umm. She bit me.

Why? Because, She was trying So Hard to Understand Me!
She was such a sweet girl. I said, "when" She did not see it.

She saw "Bite" I had my thumb between her teeth at The Time. ouch.
So; Ask Deaf People. Why do you guys get testy?

Same reason everyone else does and Then some!
Do you dream in Touch? Do you dream in Color?

Does the World have a Rhythm? Is there a Rhyme to it All?

What Rhymes to a Deaf Person? Some colors Rhyme better than Others.
Some people like Discordant Jazz. Some people like Smooth Jazz.

When you see The Trees moving in The Wind, is it Rock and Roll or Bach?
Remember Reggae? That stuff used to get tangled up in The Trees.

It is so nice people can hear.
Spoiler:
Measles Vaccines!


Did you Hear about the Deaf People that did not want to Hear?
I did not talk to any. Did you?

Maybe, I did. It was a Questionable stance.
Like Abortion. People talked to professionals about it.

Deaf people must seek out other deaf people. Right?
What a Weird experience to be The Only Deaf Person.

Kind of Freeing. Deaf people don't hear all the background noise. Right?
I met a man that is The Only Blind Guy for Miles and Miles in any direction.
Life is, just, an exchange of electrons; It is up to us to give it meaning.

We are all in The Gutter.
Some of us see The Gutter.
Some of us see The Stars.
by mr. Oscar Wilde.

Those that want to Know; Know.
Those that do not Know; Don't tell them.
They do terrible things to people that Tell Them.

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby Tomlidich the second » Tue Jul 02, 2013 6:00 pm UTC

i have quite a few deaf relatives, it runs on my dads side.

i would say as far as internal monologue, they are exactly identical to any other person.
the way the express themselves to the world is a little odd if you don't know what is going on.

its mainly necessitatives because of the way they perceive things, if you talk to them about a bag of chips, they are going to not experience the "crunch" or whatnot the same way you do.
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jul 02, 2013 6:44 pm UTC

@Tomlidich the second
Does your monolog exist of words? Mine doesn't entirely, I don't think.[/unsure] But it is silent and as I write this text I speak the words in my mind. So when a family member previews his thoughts before he starts to sign, what is his experience? Your brain is deaf, dumb and blind. I hear the voice of my internal dialog, but the reality is that there isn't one. So the voice I seem to hear is the representation of how language and thought is presented to my consciousness. It represents another process I can't access directly. But it is a product of the way I acquired language, so I hear it as a voice. What would a deaf person "hear" instead of the voice? Not the easiest question to pose to someone who shares a commonality of equipment. I'm not certain that I could understand the answer if they gave it to me.

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby Tomlidich the second » Tue Jul 02, 2013 11:09 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:@Tomlidich the second
Does your monolog exist of words? Mine doesn't entirely, I don't think.[/unsure] But it is silent and as I write this text I speak the words in my mind. So when a family member previews his thoughts before he starts to sign, what is his experience? Your brain is deaf, dumb and blind. I hear the voice of my internal dialog, but the reality is that there isn't one. So the voice I seem to hear is the representation of how language and thought is presented to my consciousness. It represents another process I can't access directly. But it is a product of the way I acquired language, so I hear it as a voice. What would a deaf person "hear" instead of the voice? Not the easiest question to pose to someone who shares a commonality of equipment. I'm not certain that I could understand the answer if they gave it to me.

well i am actually dyslexic, and with that comes some changes in the brain.

i would say i think in images/video/ existential concept more than words really.

i relate to deaf people better that way, they seem to do the same thing. when they express a concept, its really about what it IS, rather than what the words that describe it are.

it gets to be difficult to describe, as it is sort of a subjective and murky process.
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Jul 07, 2013 4:33 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:To examine one's own thought's and feeling is to is to be able to have the framework to do so. To think about thinking you have to use language. If introspection is part of being self aware then you have to have language to be able to do it.
No, to talk about thinking you have to use language. You have provided no evidence whatsoever that merely thinking about it also requires language. The fact that previously non-linguistic adults have a hard time communicating their pre-language lives only proves that it's hard to communicate things with language when they entered your memory before you had language.

I would say that language use may be sufficient to show consciousness, but it is by no means necessary. Claiming that adults without language were "unconscious" before learning language is to twist that word far out of any correspondence with what it means to everyone else. Same goes for stroke survivors who can remember in vivid detail what happened to them despite their language centers going offline for the duration of the episode. Was Taylor unconscious during her stroke, despite the fact that she can remember it?

Edit: And speaking of introspection:
Tomlidich the second wrote:your brain is always aware of every idea you have had, are currently having, and future ideas already forming.
This is demonstrably false. Your brain is often not even aware of choices it has literally just made. What we think of as constant background introspection is mostly an illusion. We constantly make up stories about things we believe or have done or plan to do, and then we firmly maintain belief in these stories even if they turn out to be provably false.
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby morriswalters » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:33 pm UTC

cogito ergo sum. I don't know much about Decartes. In point of fact that phrase is about it. I think therefore I am. The power of the phrase other than it meaning in philosophy is that I see no way to have the thought without language. I agree with you in that, lacking language does does not preclude consciousness. I am sure that this is true. My point is and has been that consciousness is enhanced by language, that consciousness is something qualitatively different when you acquire language.

Losing the ability to speak is not the same as losing language. Every indicator is that the brain is permanently altered physically during speech acquisition. My uneducated thought is that the only way to lose language would be to destroy those structures developed during acquisition.

gmalivuk wrote:The fact that previously non-linguistic adults have a hard time communicating their pre-language lives only proves that it's hard to communicate things with language when they entered your memory before you had language.
No doubt. You can't use language associations to link to the memories.

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:46 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Losing the ability to speak is not the same as losing language. Every indicator is that the brain is permanently altered physically during speech acquisition. My uneducated thought is that the only way to lose language would be to destroy those structures developed during acquisition.
Yes, but this happens, and those people do not suddenly convert from 'conscious' to 'not conscious', as gmal suggested;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broca%27s_area
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wernicke%27s_area

Additionally, the physical changes that happen to your brain occur at a critical period in childhood. This is why feral children are particularly sad, and interesting. Would you call a feral child 'not conscious'?
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby morriswalters » Sun Jul 07, 2013 3:03 pm UTC

Am I not being clear? Your two links refer to speech. Not language. And feral children I would guess are fully conscious. I think that if you are alive you have some form of consciousness. The distinction I am making is in the definition of consciousness as we experience it. I suggest that it is no different than an apes, except for the complexities enabled by the structures needed to acquire language and use speech.

The basic structures exist for language even if we don't acquire it. The period of plasticity allows us create the structures needed to speak the particular form of spoken language that we use. But language isn't speech. As I understand it, and you are welcome to correct me if I understand incorrectly, language is a construction. A way of letting information have a meaningful pattern. Expressing time and position and relationships between whatever forms you use. Thus two very different metaphors, spoken English and ASL can be speech.

But in my opinion the underlying structures are required to make sense of the world even absent spoken language if expressed as simpler forms. What we define as sapience or intelligence is an expression of a qualitative increase in complexity of how we use that underlying structure. Red becomes more red when we use spoken language. So the feral child, and I think that is a misnomer since they aren't wild and are socialized, is still different than an ape, even absent speech. But he isn't operating at capacity so to speak. The nature of their experience lacks the complexity spoken language allows. But it is this additional complexity that we define as intelligence. That isn't a complete concept but is as close as I can get at this point.

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Jul 07, 2013 3:50 pm UTC

Broca's and Wernike's areas were first discovered and studied in relation to oral speech, but are actually involved in language production and comprehension itself, regardless of how that language is being produced or received.
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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby morriswalters » Sun Jul 07, 2013 5:50 pm UTC

I had actually listened to your link previously. And I have no doubt the the two complexes do what you say they do. Here from a transcript of the TED talk.

When I woke later that afternoon, I was shocked to discover that I was still alive. When I felt my spirit surrender, I said goodbye to my life. And my mind was now suspended between two very opposite planes of reality. Stimulation coming in through my sensory systems felt like pure pain. Light burned my brain like wildfire, and sounds were so loud and chaotic that I could not pick a voice out from the background noise, and I just wanted to escape. Because I could not identify the position of my body in space, I felt enormous and expansive, like a genie just liberated from her bottle. And my spirit soared free, like a great whale gliding through the sea of silent euphoria. Nirvana. I found Nirvana. And I remember thinking, there's no way I would ever be able to squeeze the enormousness of myself back inside this tiny little body.


Whatever happened to Jill Taylor in that moment didn't destroy all language so either those two complexes continued to function at some level or there was something else that could take up the slack.. Because she has memories and describes a narrative of the event. Since she also describes something similar to synesthesia. Had her ability to process language internally gone away along with the sensory distortion she experienced then you have to ask, would she have any coherent memories of the experience at all? I have no idea. Now ask yourself if the narrative as she relates it was what happened or a narrative of what the part of the brain that constructs narratives thinks happened. However thank you for reminding me of this link as it pertains to something I had discussed with Izawwlgood earlier. Referencing her sensation of losing touch with the boundaries of her body. This is part of the conscious experience, this sense of the body as something separate from the environment. One of the building blocks.

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Re: What do you mean by consciousness?

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Jul 07, 2013 6:44 pm UTC

Then you once again seem to be saying that she must have lost consciousness, if not through losing language than through losing that sense of boundary. And yet, the people themselves who have lost their sense of separation from the external world, whether through injury or drugs, somehow always seem to describe their experiences as if they were conscious at the time.

Are they all mistaken? Or is consciousness perhaps something that can exist without language or a sense of boundary?
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