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How to define consciousness?
Posted: 18 August 2010 04:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]
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I just saw an experiment on TV, which proved that consciousness lies in the cortex of the brain, but that consciousness itself may be seperate from the brain. Apparently the interaction of the various parts in the cortex (processing information and responses) creates consciousness.
Actually the experiments were quite simple but showed persuasive results.
Consciousness occurs when the cortex is stimulated and almost the entire cortex responds, by exchanging information to and from the various areas (pertinent to the stimulation) in the cortex. The experiment showed this by attaching recording electrodes to the skull and then stimulation the brain with one single (seperate) electrical shock. It was clearly demonstrated that this single local stimulation activated all pertinent areas of the brain for several seconds as recorded by the electrodes. The experiment was repeated when the subject was asleep.
It clearly showed that only the main receptor of the brain responded to the direct stimulus, but the rest of the cortex showed no activity. The conclusion was that when we are asleep we are not conscious but on autopilot.
The experiment then showed that consciousness may be seperated from the body (brain). The subject was placed in a chair with tv goggles. Two cameras (eyes) were placed several feet behind the subject and turned on. The subject saw himself sitting in the chair. Now the experimenter tapped the subject physically on the chest with a pen (out of view of the cameras) and at the same time (with the other hand) moved a pen towards the cameras (in view of the cameras) in a tapping motion. This was very disconcerting to the subject as he felt the tap from one pen and saw the motion of the other pen coming toward his point of view (the cameras). After the subject was conditioned, the experimenter used a baseball bat and swung it towards the cameras only. The subject was convinced that it was directed at himself (in the chair) and cringed with the expected impact. While this was an illusory condition, to the subject it was real and he reacted in a manner as he would have if the bat actually had been directed at him. The conclusion was that the subject’s consciousness had been seperated from the body and was observing the body (in the chair) from another viewpoint (the cameras), yet responded as if it was the body which was in danger.
Valid?

[ Edited: 18 August 2010 05:05 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 18 August 2010 09:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]
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GdB - 18 August 2010 04:46 AM
Axegrrl - 18 August 2010 03:22 AM

Has anyone here ever had a discussion/debate with someone who espouses a “things only ‘exist’ when we perceive them, when we’re conscious of them; therefore, there must be a larger consciousness out there that ‘keeps’ everything in place” type argument?

I’ve encountered a few people who’ve argued this, and for the life of me, I cannot comprehend how anyone can arrive at the conclusion that that’s how things must be (which is what I’ve seen argued)

See: George Berkeley.


`
Yeah, I’m aware that Berkeley is the chief proponent (thanks for the link:) ......but as anyone ever talked to someone who espouses it?  How do people come to accept such assertions?  I’m fascinated by this.


`

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Posted: 18 August 2010 11:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]
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Write4U - 18 August 2010 04:39 PM

I just saw an experiment on TV, which proved that consciousness lies in the cortex of the brain, but that consciousness itself may be seperate from the brain. Apparently the interaction of the various parts in the cortex (processing information and responses) creates consciousness.
Actually the experiments were quite simple but showed persuasive results.
Consciousness occurs when the cortex is stimulated and almost the entire cortex responds, by exchanging information to and from the various areas (pertinent to the stimulation) in the cortex. The experiment showed this by attaching recording electrodes to the skull and then stimulation the brain with one single (seperate) electrical shock. It was clearly demonstrated that this single local stimulation activated all pertinent areas of the brain for several seconds as recorded by the electrodes. The experiment was repeated when the subject was asleep.
It clearly showed that only the main receptor of the brain responded to the direct stimulus, but the rest of the cortex showed no activity. The conclusion was that when we are asleep we are not conscious but on autopilot.
The experiment then showed that consciousness may be seperated from the body (brain). The subject was placed in a chair with tv goggles. Two cameras (eyes) were placed several feet behind the subject and turned on. The subject saw himself sitting in the chair. Now the experimenter tapped the subject physically on the chest with a pen (out of view of the cameras) and at the same time (with the other hand) moved a pen towards the cameras (in view of the cameras) in a tapping motion. This was very disconcerting to the subject as he felt the tap from one pen and saw the motion of the other pen coming toward his point of view (the cameras). After the subject was conditioned, the experimenter used a baseball bat and swung it towards the cameras only. The subject was convinced that it was directed at himself (in the chair) and cringed with the expected impact. While this was an illusory condition, to the subject it was real and he reacted in a manner as he would have if the bat actually had been directed at him. The conclusion was that the subject’s consciousness had been seperated from the body and was observing the body (in the chair) from another viewpoint (the cameras), yet responded as if it was the body which was in danger.
Valid?

I want a camera with a God like view. Looking down from on above. Have to wonder what happens when consciousness seems so far removed from physical existence.

At least it would be easier to keep an eye out for pick-pockets.

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Posted: 18 August 2010 11:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]
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Axegrrl - 18 August 2010 09:40 PM

Yeah, I’m aware that Berkeley is the chief proponent (thanks for the link:) ......but as anyone ever talked to someone who espouses it?  How do people come to accept such assertions?

I think because there are a lot of stupid christians (esp in the USA?) who accept every argument that seems plausible to say some special super entity must exist. All of these arguments I know are wrong, and lack the step from ‘a super entity’ to JHWH, the old Jewish god of war.

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Posted: 18 August 2010 11:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]
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Axegrrl - 18 August 2010 03:22 AM


Has anyone here ever had a discussion/debate with someone who espouses a “things only ‘exist’ when we perceive them, when we’re conscious of them; therefore, there must be a larger consciousness out there that ‘keeps’ everything in place” type argument?
I’ve encountered a few people who’ve argued this, and for the life of me, I cannot comprehend how anyone can arrive at the conclusion that that’s how things must be (which is what I’ve seen argued).

I am really new to this subject so please forgive if I am obvious.
This notion of “things only exist when we perceive them” seems odd to me. When taken at face value we have to ask some clarifications. Does reality come into existence, because we perceive it? That of course would be contradictory. We can not perceive something before it comes into existence. So it had to be there (exist), but unseen (undiscovered) until we perceived it. Do we create reality by our imaginary visions (a dream, a musing). I think not. But we are subject to our self created reality.
Does that count as Reality?
The problem I see with defining perception and consciousness is, it is not quantifiable in terms of thought.  If I see reality as a blur from bad eyesight, is reality blurry for everyone else? Or sharp when I have 20/20 vision.
Then there is the question of Relativism. Perception from any point in spacetime will yield a slight difference, even if two observers stand side by side or a large difference, when the observers are far apart or say looking at each other. Each experiences a distinctly different reality, yet both can consciously agree on shared commonalities in the scene.
My conclusion so far is that perception of reality has nothing to do with creating or fixing anything. We discover reality and perceive it, but each in his/her own unique way. If doubt if we can ever “perceive (discover) all of it”.
Thus if the mind is not capable of creating reality (except for itself), and reality can exist indepent of observation, then there is no need for a Mind to “keep it all together”
Perception applies only to discovery, the gathering and processing of sensory input, and the final mental picture that emerges from the accumulated data. Conscious perceptions of sensory input by one observer can never be experienced identically by another observer, even if it were possible to eliminate all other conditions. A colorblind person cannot see certain colors, therefore his conscious visual perception of reality is different from all others.  But red in the visual spectrum remains red regardless of who looks at it and consciously perceives it.
Can there be a cosmic order that keeps it all together, I think so. Is this order conscious? How could we ever know?

[ Edited: 19 August 2010 12:51 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 19 August 2010 12:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]
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StephenLawrence - 18 August 2010 12:36 PM

And, what is objective reality in any case?

That part of reality that refuses to go away or change independent of my thoughts of it. (Somebody here has something like that as disclaimer.) Also, (I said it somewhere before) reality is that what we are talking about.

StephenLawrence - 18 August 2010 12:36 PM

I dunno GdB, I’m trying to stick with empirical evidence and see where it leads. I see a dark square and a lighter square in a case in which we “know” objectively they are both the same shade.

You say you have empirical evidence that qualia exist? But that means we should be able to verify them from a third person view!

StephenLawrence - 18 August 2010 12:36 PM

My question is where are the different coloured squares? Doug has answered “nowhere”, in the past. But it seems to me like they are in my external reality.

Yes, they seem to be different shades of gray. But follows from this that these different shades are somewhere? Does it follow from that I see the rail way tracks touch at the horizon that they touch at the horizon? Or in my head? Does it follow from the fact that when I am looking at a sunset at the shore, that the pillar of light reflecting the light of the sun really exists and is really pointing at me (and therefore not to others)? It really seems like that, that’s true, but is it so? Or can I explain why that seems the case? Do I need to define a place where this illusion is? Or is it enough to explain the illusion?

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Posted: 19 August 2010 12:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]
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Axegrrl - 18 August 2010 09:40 PM


Yeah, I’m aware that Berkeley is the chief proponent (thanks for the link:) ......but as anyone ever talked to someone who espouses it?  How do people come to accept such assertions?  I’m fascinated by this.

Berkeley’s philosophy was idealism.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idealism

He wasn’t the chief proponent of that,  many philosophers, perhaps most? have been idealists.

He did come to a particular conclusion about God, perhaps he was the chief proponent of that, although I’m not sure that other idealist weren’t saying something similar. I think I’ll explore.

Stephen

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Posted: 19 August 2010 12:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]
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Write4U - 18 August 2010 04:39 PM

It clearly showed that only the main receptor of the brain responded to the direct stimulus, but the rest of the cortex showed no activity. The conclusion was that when we are asleep we are not conscious but on autopilot.

Not more activity than average brain activity, you mean. The brain is always active.

Write4U - 18 August 2010 04:39 PM

The conclusion was that the subject’s consciousness had been seperated from the body and was observing the body (in the chair) from another viewpoint (the cameras), yet responded as if it was the body which was in danger.

Why would you say the consciousness was separated? I would just say the person was fooled about the location of what happens where. The experiment is interesting, I agree, but shows at most that our identification with our bodies is customary, is learned.
But what is the difference that when I see a thriller with mountain climbers that threaten to fall in the deep, I get warm feet? (It’s really so!). Or that my whole body shocks when I am falling in the deep playing a computer game with off the road vehicles?

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Posted: 19 August 2010 12:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]
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GdB - 19 August 2010 12:56 AM

[Does it follow from that I see the rail way tracks touch at the horizon that they touch at the horizon?

No it follows that what you see and objective reality are two different things.

The label for what you see is qualia.

Stephen

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Posted: 19 August 2010 08:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 70 ]
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GdB - 19 August 2010 12:56 AM
Write4U - 18 August 2010 04:39 PM

It clearly showed that only the main receptor of the brain responded to the direct stimulus, but the rest of the cortex showed no activity. The conclusion was that when we are asleep we are not conscious but on autopilot.

Not more activity than average brain activity, you mean. The brain is always active.

Write4U - 18 August 2010 04:39 PM

The conclusion was that the subject’s consciousness had been seperated from the body and was observing the body (in the chair) from another viewpoint (the cameras), yet responded as if it was the body which was in danger.

Why would you say the consciousness was separated? I would just say the person was fooled about the location of what happens where. The experiment is interesting, I agree, but shows at most that our identification with our bodies is customary, is learned.
But what is the difference that when I see a thriller with mountain climbers that threaten to fall in the deep, I get warm feet? (It’s really so!). Or that my whole body shocks when I am falling in the deep playing a computer game with off the road vehicles?

GdB

The brain is always active but not necessarily conscious. Motor functions (breathing, heart) remain even as a person is unconscious. That type of activity is not consciousness (as I understand it). These functions are not associated with the cortex but in a deeper area of the brain (the sub-conscious). Consciousness happens when the cortex (thinking) is involved. The experiment showed that while the subject was asleep his brain registered the stimulus, but the cortex did not process it. Thus it may be said that the person was not consciously aware of the stimulus.
I agree that playing a computer game requires consciousness and one may identify with the simulation. But does it involve transferrence of consciousness to the simulated driver or does consciousness remain fixed inside the body playing a game. The experiment tried to show that we can “fool” the mind to transfer its consciousness outside of the body, even as it sees itself seated in front of himself. There may be a different spatial perception involved, than when playing a simulation. The personal experience you cited may well be an example of a physical reaction to mental stimulus. But was it the heater of the simulated car that warmed your feet. What if you turned on the imaginary airconditioner in the simulation. Would your feet be cooled? But then, if indeed one can identify with the simulation the same way as with the experiment, can we then not still call it an out of body experience? As I understand it we have the ability to feel (experience) someone elses pain (such as in giving birth).  But the male is not able to experience the same physical pain as he is not a woman. It is a sympathetic pain (I believe it is called a mirror effect) . Where that places it in the scheme of out of body consciousness I don’t know.

[ Edited: 19 August 2010 09:00 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 22 August 2010 02:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 71 ]
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Write4U - 18 August 2010 11:56 PM
Axegrrl - 18 August 2010 03:22 AM


Has anyone here ever had a discussion/debate with someone who espouses a “things only ‘exist’ when we perceive them, when we’re conscious of them; therefore, there must be a larger consciousness out there that ‘keeps’ everything in place” type argument?
I’ve encountered a few people who’ve argued this, and for the life of me, I cannot comprehend how anyone can arrive at the conclusion that that’s how things must be (which is what I’ve seen argued).

I am really new to this subject so please forgive if I am obvious.
This notion of “things only exist when we perceive them” seems odd to me. When taken at face value we have to ask some clarifications. Does reality come into existence, because we perceive it? That of course would be contradictory. We can not perceive something before it comes into existence. So it had to be there (exist), but unseen (undiscovered) until we perceived it.


`
I think that, already, would raise disagreement from the people I’ve talked to who espouse this theory.  For some reason, no matter how much talking they do, they never explain/justify the huge leap they take from “when i perceive something, it then ‘exists’ for me” to “what i perceive doesn’t exist until i perceive it”......and then an even bigger leap to “the moon doesn’t ‘disappear’ when i’m not perceiving it, therefore there has to be a ‘larger consciousness’ that’s keeping it in place


`

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Posted: 22 August 2010 02:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 72 ]
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Axegrrl - 22 August 2010 02:30 PM

I think that, already, would raise disagreement from the people I’ve talked to who espouse this theory.  For some reason, no matter how much talking they do, they never explain/justify the huge leap they take from “when i perceive something, it then ‘exists’ for me” to “what i perceive doesn’t exist until i perceive it”

Well, in what sense does what you perceive exist when you’re not perceiving it? If what you percieve is how it appears to you, then there is only how something appears to you when you are perceiving it.

So that doesn’t seem like a huge leap at all.

......and then an even bigger leap to “the moon doesn’t ‘disappear’ when i’m not perceiving it, therefore there has to be a ‘larger consciousness’ that’s keeping it in place


`

Yes that’s a leap.

Stephen

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Posted: 23 August 2010 02:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 73 ]
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Carl Jung said that “eros is the cosmogonos”, ig. giving birth he the universe.

I would simply define consciousness as being something erotic, by its nature. The opposite of consciousness would be asexuality. Such person would lack awareness. There could be different levels of consciousness, such as we have in psychology: oral, anal and genital. There could be also different levels, such as genitals, or lower body, stomach, the heart, eyes, the brain. 

Repression battles with the force of consciousness, so I believe many people never experience consciousness at the higher levels - level of heart or brain. Their brain may be just chaos of so called “memes” - social conditionings, or people might just parrot what they have heard from television or other people. Such people may appear clever, and might think extremely fast, so I don’t believe there is a clear correlation between consciousness and what is perceived as intelligence or rationality. The nature of consciousness may be irrational.

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Posted: 25 August 2010 07:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 74 ]
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Tomos - 23 August 2010 02:50 AM

Carl Jung said that “eros is the cosmogonos”, ig. giving birth he the universe.

I would simply define consciousness as being something erotic, by its nature. The opposite of consciousness would be asexuality. Such person would lack awareness. There could be different levels of consciousness, such as we have in psychology: oral, anal and genital. There could be also different levels, such as genitals, or lower body, stomach, the heart, eyes, the brain. 

Repression battles with the force of consciousness, so I believe many people never experience consciousness at the higher levels - level of heart or brain. Their brain may be just chaos of so called “memes” - social conditionings, or people might just parrot what they have heard from television or other people. Such people may appear clever, and might think extremely fast, so I don’t believe there is a clear correlation between consciousness and what is perceived as intelligence or rationality. The nature of consciousness may be irrational.

From the paper by Max Velmans:

In classical Indian writings such as the Upanishads, consciousness is thought to be the essence of Ātman, a primal, immanent self that is ultimately identified with Brāhman—a pure, transcendental, subject-object-less consciousness that underlies and provides the ground of being of both Man and Nature

And the wiki on Eros

In the first, he is a primeval deity who embodies not only the force of love but also the creative urge of ever-flowing nature,

According to Max Velmans, there is co-evolution of consciousness and matter/energy in the universe.

In his philosophy of reflexive monism

Reflexive Monism, a philosophical position developed by Max Velmans to account for the problems of consciousness in his book Understanding Consciousness, is a modern version of an ancient view that the basic stuff of which the universe is composed has the potential to manifest both physically and as conscious experience (a dual-aspect theory in the tradition of Spinoza).

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Posted: 26 August 2010 12:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 75 ]
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kkwan - 25 August 2010 07:39 PM

In his philosophy of reflexive monism

Reflexive Monism, a philosophical position developed by Max Velmans to account for the problems of consciousness in his book Understanding Consciousness, is a modern version of an ancient view that the basic stuff of which the universe is composed has the potential to manifest both physically and as conscious experience (a dual-aspect theory in the tradition of Spinoza).

I hope Velmans has an explanation why it is that consciousness manifests the strongest in the complexest structures, like brains?

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