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Saturday, June 02, 2012

What is Consciousness?

"What is Consciousness?" is not necessarily a single question, but a whole set of questions. Here are just a few: Why do we experience certain sensations not as information, but as qualities? Why, for example, do we experience a wavelength of light as blue, rather than as a colorless piece of data? How do we manage to experience things in the absence of sensations, such as in imagination and dreams? Why do our experience of things cohere as things, rather than as a distribution of points? Why, for example, do we see the world as we do, rather than as something like a surrealist painting? And why do our experiences seem connected over time, rather than as discrete events? Why do we hear a melody, and not a series of notes? How do things develop meaning? Why do they develop a coherence in the sense that we respond to them in a purposive fashion? Why do we experience ourselves as selves? How do we find a coherence that separates us from other aspects of our experiences? Where do we get the sense of self as subject or ego? Why doesn’t the information simply pass through us, as we assume it does in machines or very primitive creatures? 

The list could go on, and each question analyzed into more detailed questions, but this is more than enough to start with. The point of my observations is to help us to develop a coherent set of general answers to these questions from a judicious perspective. Ultimately, in my humble opinion, consciousness occurs when an organism is "interested" in its environment. This "interest" is based on an organism's neediness (desire, libido). We open ourselves to qualities in that which we have evolved and learned to find certain qualities relevant (meaningful) to us as organisms which must constantly adapt in order to continue to exist.

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