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Consciousness And The Universe

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Journal of Cosmology - Volume 14

 

Is consciousness an epiphenomenal happenstance of this particular universe? Or does the very concept of a universe depend upon its presence? Does consciousness merely perceive reality, or does reality depend upon it? Did consciousness simply emerge as an effect of evolution? Or was it, in some sense, always "out there" in the world? These questions and more, will be answered in this special edition.

 

http://journalofcosm...Contents14.html

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Rather than start a new thread on consciousness and the universe, I will resurrect this one as the title reflects what I am driving at.  Just a note the Journal of Cosmology does not have the best reputation. Anyway moving on.

Here's my perception of my consciousness:

  • Before I was born I have no recollection of being conscious of before my conception as an entity that at times I might think of myself: though there are some (generally dodgy, new age?) claims of recollections from past lives. 
  • As the components that came to be my parents, DNA, I have no recollection of being conscious.
  • At conception and afterwards during gestation I have no recollection of being conscious. To be fair I have heard some people claiming to have recollections from the womb, though based on my understanding of brain development I am highly sceptical of the few claims I have come across.
  • At birth and perhaps a year or two afterwards I have no clear recollection of being conscious, though I suspect I must have started to have what is commonly described as consciousness, eg I was learning language, memory and recollection must have been in place. 
  • Years go by, my sense of self and consciousness become stronger. My education grows and my sense of how the material world grows.
  • But nevertheless, each day I spend hours effectively unconscious.
  • At some point I lose my belief in free will, at this point there is conflict between my sense of self and what must be consciousness.
  • I start looking at how my conscious is actually working, a la Susan Blackmore
  • While I don't spend the years Blackmore does, in self examination, I do find the awakening that Blackmore describes on asking the question "Am I conscious now?"
  • More interestingly I find spend a good chunk of the time (if not all) in an autopilot mode.
  • I can, at moments, catch myself in complete confabulation. This is similar to Spong's having to say something first, before understanding.
  • Psychologists, seem to think the "now" seems to an agglomeration of the last 2 to 3 seconds, and may few tens of milliseconds for catching balls etc.
  • So what is consciousness? Is it just a play back of primarily sights and sounds we have heard in the last couple of seconds? There is no philosopher's homunculus?
  • We are almost completely unaware of subliminal influences forming our conscious choices.
  • We are completely unaware of the chemistry and physics going on, that form our conscious. There is loads of evidence that chemistry and physics underlie the basis of consciousness. The effects of anaesthetics, alcohol and psychedelic drugs are prime examples for chemistry. Electro and magneto stimulation of the brain are examples of the physics aspect.

At this point I can't help but become a little sceptical of the primacy of consciousness. Moving to the future.

  • Perhaps with some dementia my consciousness won't be what it was.
  • At death the complex structures that have allowed for the illusion of consciousness start to break down
  • Perhaps after revival, with varying degrees of damage, my consciousness has changed if not been extinguished to a simple autonomic response.
  • Some might point to after death experiences, where people report experiences derived from their cultures. Interestingly ketamine does the same thing, again pointing to a chemical nature consciousness, as ketamine is released during the dying process.

Just some thoughts on the supposed consciousness problem.

 

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I doubt consciousness is a unitary thing.  

Intelligence, soul, personality, several types of subconscious (including instinct and archetype), memory, imagination, perception of various types, emotion, talent &c.

 

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I don't think consciousness is an illusion but rather simply a product of the chemical reactions of our brain.  I would suggest we don't recall pre-birth consciousness because our brains haven't developed yet.  As we age our brains develop and so our 'consciousness' refines its process and becomes more and more.  I think there are people who genuinely believe they have lived before, but I think that is just what their brain is telling them due to the way it has connected its neurons during life's experiences.

I think our brains have evolved to a point that consciousness, intuition, memory, imagination, soul etc are all simply products of this functioning brain.  I think because we are yet to fully understand our brains we tend to think that soul and consciousness are somehow something outside of our physical brain.

When we die and the oxygen and blood ceases travelling to the brain the brain stops working and that is the end of our so-called soul, consciousness, and mental existence.

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I mostly agree with you Paul ... 

So what is charge: our chemistry or our mind?  A monist would have to say they are one and the same. Yet our descriptions of why we do things, responsibility etc, take on some form of dualism. So it is our chemistry controlling our chemistry at some more fundamental level? Our chemistry observing the going ons in the world?

So in this sense our consciousness cannot be what it seems (an illusion), especially if we take on a physicalist or materialist point of view.  Take a look around your room for a bright red object ... that object is almost certainly not the bright red you perceive. The redness of that object is a really useful evolutionary illusion. So we are agreed consciousness is an evolutionary trait, a useful one at that. Where we disagree is how representative of the universe is our consciousness.

And even if we take on a dualist point view, as does thormas, eg panentheism and purveyors of quantum consciousness there are aspects that cannot be reconciled with reality.

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14 hours ago, Burl said:

I doubt consciousness is a unitary thing.  

Intelligence, soul, personality, several types of subconscious (including instinct and archetype), memory, imagination, perception of various types, emotion, talent &c.

 

Ok just use consciousness as a collective noun (a verb is more likely accurate) for all that stuff.

 

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8 hours ago, romansh said:

I mostly agree with you Paul ... 

So what is charge: our chemistry or our mind?  A monist would have to say they are one and the same. Yet our descriptions of why we do things, responsibility etc, take on some form of dualism. So it is our chemistry controlling our chemistry at some more fundamental level? Our chemistry observing the going ons in the world?

If we were able to answer this conclusively Rom, we would probably be worth a lot of money!  Far greater chemical reactions than mine are at work on this question!

But I do think it is our chemistry driving us.  This chemistry has evolved over millennia and is currently at a point where it drives us the way it does.

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