An Inquiry into the Meaning of Consciousness

An Inquiry into the Meaning of Consciousness

Consciousness may be defined as an awareness of the self and/or the environment. Consciousness enables the individual to react to changes in the self and/or the environment.

Consciousness may have varying levels of organization. Consciousness may or may not include organized thinking. Individuals may be conscious, and yet may not be capable of organized thinking.

Conscious individuals react to changes in their own physical being, or to changes in the environment. Thus, consciousness attempts to organize the self and/or the environment.

Consciousness may include self-consciousness, i.e. awareness of an individual’s own existence as a conscious being. Self-consciousness may include the awareness which individuals have of their own thoughts and feelings.

Consciousness may be subdefined as individual, group, class, collective, social, or universal.

Individual consciousness is the consciousnss of one individual. Group consciousness may include a group of individuals. Class consciousness may include a class of individuals. Collective consciousness may include a family, order, species, or other class of individuals. Social consciousness may include a whole society. Universal consciousness may be an order of consciousness which includes all consciousness.

Group or class consciousness is a consciousness shared by a group or class of individuals. Group consciousness may include each individual’s consciousness of the self in relation to the group. Group consciousness may also include the group’s consciousness of itself in relation to other groups, or in relation to a larger group such as society.

Collective consciousness is consciousness shared by many individuals. The term overlaps group, class, and social consciousness. A group, or class, or society, may be said to have a collective consciousness. Each individual in the group or class or society may have varying levels of consciousness. Thus, what is present in collective consciousness may not be present at the same level of consciousness in each individual.

Social consciousness is consciousness shared within a society. The term is ambiguous, however, because it may refer to an individual consciousness, or to a consciousness shared by many individuals.

The commonly used phrase, “socially conscious,” may refer to an individual’s consciousness of self in relation to society. This consciousness may become a collective consciousness if it is shared by many individuals.

On the other hand, social consciousness may also refer to a society’s consciousness of itself as a society.

Individual consciousness by definition is not a universal consciousness, unless the individual is assumed to be conscious of every other conscious being. Therefore, individual consciousness is limited and finite. Individual consciousness is usually confined to a limited area of the environment. Individual consciousness may seek to expand or contract itself.

The expansion or contraction of individual consciousness may be successful or unsuccessful, functional or dysfunctional, pleasureable or painful, satisfying or unsatisfying, necessary or unnecessary.

Individual consciousness is the consciousness of one individual. Individual consciousness is in-itself. No individual can experience the consciousness of another individual simultaneously and in exactly the same way as that individual experiences it.

Individual consciousness may communicate itself to other individual, group, collective. or social consciousness. Individual consciousness may also attempt to identify itself with the consciousness of another individual.

A part of individual consciousness may become collective or social consciousness.

Individual consciousness, by attempting to communicate itself and to merge with the consciousness of others, seeks to become shared, collective, or universal.

Individual consciousness seeks to universalize itself by communicating its contents. The degree to which individual consciousness can universalize itself is an indication of its success in communication. The universalization of individual consciousness does not in any way limit its uniqueness or expressiveness.

Individual consciousness, although it may seek universality, cannot become universal consciousness, unless it is already assumed to be conscious of every other conscious being. Universal consciousness cannot be achieved by finite individuals, unless finite consciousness universalizes itself, but universal consciousness may still communicate itself to individual consciousness.

Universal consciousness includes all individual consciousness. Universal consciousness includes the consciousness of all conscious beings.

Universal consciousness is the unity of all consciousness. Since consciousness may expand or contract, it may be possible for universal consciousness to expand or contract, along with the expansion or contraction of individual, group, class, or other forms of consciousness. Universal consciousness includes all consciousness.

If individual consciousness is finite, then it may be finite in terms of time and space. If universal consciousness includes the consciousness of every conscious being, then it may not be confined to one point in time or one position in space.

If universal consciousness may communicate itself to individual consciousness, then individual consciousness may be aware of universal consciousness as a transcendent reality.

Consciousness exists, but the unconscious also exists. Consciousness does not have the same meaning as existence, because objects that are not conscious can exist.

Consciousness exists in living beings. By definition, death causes a cessation of consciousness. Individual consciousness does not transcend the death of the individual. Individual consciousness begins with birth, and ends with death. Individual consciousness may seek to universalize itself in order to transcend death.

Universal consciousness is an order of consciousness which unites all conscious beings. Universal consciousness exists as long as there is conscious being. Universal consciousness transcends the birth or death of individual consciousness.

Consciousness is not an object, but may reduce other conscious beings to the status of objects. Consciousness is not only of objects. Consciousness may also be of a transcendent reality which does not exist as an object. Universal consciousness may itself be a transcendent reality.

The content of consciousness may include physical or mental phenomena. Consciousness may be physical or mental, or both. Conscious individuals may be capable of sensation but not of thinking.

The content of consciousness may include sensations, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. Thinking may include: reason, imagination, memory, recollection, reflection, contemplation, attention, intention, anticipation, expectation, judgment, opinion, belief, or higher levels of conceptual organization.

Sensations, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings may appear at varying levels of consciousness. They may enter or leave consciousness. Their presence or absence in consciousness may depend on whether they are new or previously experienced, recent or distant, usual or unusual, pleasant or unpleasant, weak or strong, temporary or persistent, constant or changing.

Contents and data of consciousness, such as sensations, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings, may coexist, and may simultaneously appear or disappear. They may successively appear and disappear. They may influence each other, and may stimulate or suppress each other. They may compete to appear in consciousness.

Consciousness may be regulated to some extent by the conscious individual. The conscious individual may, to some extent, be able to display alternative responses to the data of consciousness. Volition is the ability to choose between alternative modes of response or action.

Volition (choosing or willing) may direct physical or mental action. Volition may express itself, or may suspend itself. Volition may vary or fluctuate, like other aspects of consciousness.

Volition is influenced by motivation. A motive is something that influences or causes an individual to act or think in a certain way. Motivation may refer to single or multiple motives. Motives may combine or link to form a structure of motivation.

Motivation may arise out of physical or mental needs. Physical and mental needs may give rise to voluntary or involuntary action. Volition can cause voluntary action. Motives for volitional acts may include conscious or unconscious sensations, perceptions, thoughts, feelings, emotions, drives, needs, impulses, or intentions.

Emotions are modes of feeling, which may vary in duration. Emotions of shorter duration may be less likely to have long-term influence on the conscious individual. Emotions of longer duration may establish a mood of the conscious individual. Emotions may contribute to the disposition or tendency of an individual to act in a certain way.

Emotions may include: love, hate, joy, sorrow, fear, anger, despair, elation, pride, guilt, wonder, doubt, and other feelings experienced by the conscious individual.

Emotions may enter or leave consciousness. Emotions may be conscious or unconscious. Emotions may cause, or be caused by, sensations, perceptions, and thoughts. Feelings as a general category may include sensations, emotions, thoughts, and beliefs.

The conscious memory of a sensation, perception, or thought may cause an emotion. Emotion may be voluntary or involuntary. Emotions may be influenced by other emotions. Emotion may or may not be voluntarily regulated. Emotion may contribute to motivation and volition.

An impulse is a sudden, involuntary urge to do something. Impulses may be conscious or unconscious. An impulse may cause a volitional (voluntary) act. Volition may or may not be able to regulate unconscious impulses. Impulse-control is a volitional activity.

Volition and intentionality are similar but not identical aspects of consciousness. Volition may initiate and control a voluntary action. Intentionality may direct or guide the fulfillment of the object or goal of a voluntary action.

Thinking (thought) is a mental activity which produces ideas, beliefs, attitudes, judgments, etc. Thinking can be a means of structuring perceptions in order for the individual to respond to them. Thinking may be relatively structured or unstructured, coherent or incoherent, organized or disorganized.

Thought may include: reflection, contemplation, meditation, recollection, anticipation, expectation, evaluation, judgment, consideration, doubt, imagination, dreaming, reasoning, choosing, willing, problem-solving, decision-making, understanding, comprehending.

Conscious individuals may or may not be capable of remembering things. Memory is the capacity to recall previous impressions, sensations, thoughts, or experiences.

Memory is a process of being aware of information, storing information, and recalling information. Memory-encoding, storage, and recall may occur slowly or rapidly.

Memory may be conscious (an individual may be aware of remembering), or unconscious (an individual may be unaware of remembering). Memory may be intentional or unintentional. Memory data to-be-stored may be conscious or unconscious.

Memory contents may include sensations, perceptions, thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Sensory memory may be visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or gustatory.

Memory may organize, link, or structure data in order to transfer it for storage and recall. Memory contents may be stored for a short-term or long-term. Recall may be faster for short-term memory.

Loss of memory contents (forgetting) may, to some extent, be intentional or unintentional. Forgetting may occur slowly or rapidly. Forgetting may be temporary or permanent.

Consciousness is not a single, constant state, it can fluctuate between varying levels. Fluctuations and transformations can occur between varying levels of consciousness.

Consciousness can emerge from unconsciousness. Consciousness can revert to unconsciousness. The unconscious may become conscious, the conscious may become unconscious.

The preconscious or subconscious may be a state of transitional awareness between the conscious and the unconscious. The preconscious or subconscious may be more readily accessible to consciousness than the unconscious. The preconscious may enter the conscious, or may return to the unconscious.

The unconscious mind is the part of the mind of which the conscious mind is unaware. The conscious mind may be influenced by the unconscious, even though the conscious mind is unaware of what is in the unconscious. The conscious may or may not be able to regulate what is in the unconscious.

The mind is a part of consciousness which reasons, thinks, understands, feels emotions, and can direct or control other functions.

Self-consciousness may include awareness of the limits of consciousness. Awareness of the limits of consciousness may be felt as a lack of freedom. Mystical and religious experiences may seek to transcend the limits of individual consciousness.

The more that consciousness is aware of its own limits, the more that it may seek to expand itself. The less that consciousness is aware of its limits, the less that it may be concerned with its freedom.

Consciousness requires existence of a conscious being, but may not require the existence of a conscious mind. In this sense, “mind” refers to the presence of thinking, reasoning, imagining, emoting, feeling.

An insect, such as a grasshopper or a roach, may be said to be conscious, in its awareness of its environment. A grasshopper or a roach can react to changes in its environment If you wave your hand at a grasshopper, it will fly away. If you put your foot down to try to step on a roach, it will crawl away. The grasshopper and the roach are conscious in the sense that they can react with purposeful action. But neither the grasshopper nor the roach can be said to have a mind, in the sense of having conscious thought or organized thinking.

Human consciousness may include consciousness of the self as conscious being. Human consciousness may also include higher levels of organized thinking. Human consciousness may be limited by time and space. Human consciousness may seek the unity of universal consciousness, which may not be limited by time and space.

Human consciousness may also seek to universalize itself as the mode of consciousness for all conscious being.

In order for consciousness to exist, there must be some existing being who is conscious. Consciousness of the self and/or the environment may require a being who is conscious of his/her or its own self and/or environment. Consciousness may not be able to exist without the existence of a conscious being.

In order for consciousness to transcend time or space, there may, or may not, have to be some conscious being who is capable of transcending time or space. Universal consciousness may be a form of consciousness which is capable of transcending time and space.

Thinking is evidence of the existence of a conscious being. Thinking is part of human consciousness. Consciousness cannot logically deny that it exists as conscious being.

Consciousness is an important capability of human beings. That human consciousness may assign meaning (or lack of meaning) to its existence may be its own most basic meaning.

What does it mean to be conscious? To be conscious is to be aware of the self and/or environment.

If individual consciousness may not assign its own meaning (or lack of meaning) to its own existence, then this meaning or lack of meaning may be assigned to it by universal consciousness. However, individual consciousness may not necessarily be able to determine whether or not it will be assigned meaning by universal consciousness, and may have to confront this situation of basic uncertainty.

What is the meaning of universal consciousness? Individual consciousness may be conscious of the existence of universal consciousness, but may not be able to determine its meaning.

"Being" may be used as a descriptive term, referring to the fact that something is actual or real. "Being" may also be used as a more general term referring to what is, in contradistinction to what is not.

Being is what is. "Being" is not the same as "a being." A being has being, but being may belong to passive objects as well as active beings.

A grain of sand is an object. A grain of sand is not a being. If consciousness cannot occur in an object unless that object becomes a being, then a grain of sand would somehow have to become a being in order to be able to become conscious.

A computer may have many aspects of consciousness. A computer may be capable of sensation, but may not necessarily be capable of feeling. Motion detection, temperature sensing, and speech recognition are examples of computer sensation. A computer may be capable of perception, attention, and memory.

Depending on how thought is defined, a computer may, or may not, be capable of thinking. Acceptance or rejection of the concept of computer consciousness may be related to the way in which it is compared with human consciousness.

Consciousness is not static, but is dynamically changing. Consciousness may be altered by changes in the mind or body of the conscious subject. Alterations of consciousness may be caused by: physical maturation, physical injury or degeneration, physical or mental illness, physical changes in the conscious subject, changes in mental states, changes in the environment, and by drugs, fatigue, relaxation, sleep, wakefulness, and other factors influencing the mind or body of the conscious subject.

Disorders of consciousness may be global or selective. Global disorders of consciousness include disorders of arousal or activation, and involve many aspects of consciousness simultaneously. Selective disorders of consciousness involve only selective aspects, such as sensation, perception, attention. or memory.

Global disorders of consciousness include: disorders of arousal or activation, such as coma, stupor, lethargy, agitation, and delirium.

Coma is characterized by complete unarousability, and by complete unconsciousness. Stupor and lethargy are more vaguely-defined conditions characterized by markedly or moderately decreased arousability, and by markedly or moderately decreased alertness.

Agitation is a condition which is characterized by hyperarousability, restlessness, excitability, and varying levels of alertness. Delirium is a condition which is characterized by marked hyperarousability, restlessness, excitability, varying levels of alertness, disturbances of perception, disturbances of attention, and disturbances of other aspects of consciousness.

Selective disorders of consciousness include: disorders of sensation, perception, attention, or memory.

Selective disorders of sensation include: loss of vision (blindness), loss of hearing (deafness), loss of sensation of touch (anesthesia), loss of sensation of taste (ageusia), and loss of sensation of smell (anosmia).

Selective disorders of perception include: aphasias, agnosias, apraxias, and mental disorders.

An aphasia is a loss of the ability to recognize or produce spoken or written language. Aphasias can include defects in auditory or visual perception. Sensory aphasias are defects in recognition of language. Sounds may be heard but not recognized. Words may be seen but not recognized. Motor aphasias are defects in production of language. Global aphasias involve both the recognition and production of language.

Alexia (loss of the ability to read) may be associated with sensory aphasia or agnosia. Agraphia (loss of the ability to write) may be associated with aphasia or apraxia. Alexia may occur with or without agraphia.

An agnosia is a loss of the ability to recognize sensory stimuli. Agnosias may involve defects in visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or gustatory perception.

Visual agnosias include: visual object agnosia (inability to recognize particular visual objects), autotopagnosia (inability to recognize parts of the individual's own body), prosopagnosia (inability to recognize familiar faces), and other disorders of visual-spatial perception.

Tactile agnosias include: astereognosis (inability to recognize the form of an object by touch).

Auditory agnosias can cause inability to recognize sounds.

An apraxia is a loss of the ability to perform purposeful motor actions, despite the presence of preserved motor function. Apraxias may include defects in visual-spatial perception.

Hallucinations are disorders of perception in which perception occurs without any corresponding sensory stimulus. Hallucinations may be visual, suditory, tactile, olfactory, or gustatory.

Selective disorders of attention include: attention-deficit disorder, hypervigilance, and mental disorders.

Selective disorders of memory include: amnesia, confabulation, and mental disorders. Amnesia is complete or partial loss of memory in a conscious individual. Amnesia can be anterograde (loss of memory for subsequent events), or retrograde (loss of memory for previous events). Confabulation is the appearance in memory of events that never happened.

Disorders of self-consciousness include: personality disorders, depressive disorders, and schizophrenia.

Disorders of wakefulness and sleep include: insomnia (inability to fall asleep), hypersomnia (frequent falling asleep), and narcolepsy (characterized by sudden sleep attacks).

Wakefulness and sleep may be related as modes of consciousness. Wakefulness and sleep may be regarded as a continuum. Varying levels of alertness occur in wakefulness and sleep.

Wakefulness can lead to drowsiness, and drowsiness can lead to sleep. Light sleep can lead to deep sleep. Dreaming can occur during deep sleep. Deep sleep can lead to light sleep. Falling asleep may be followed by waking up. Waking up may include arousal from sleep, followed by increasing levels of alertness. The awake individual may be partly awake, or fully awake.

Sleep is a state in which the individual temporarily releases control of alertness. This process continues through stages of sleep. Sleeping individuals are conscious, and continue to be aware of internal and external stimuli. Waking up is a process that occurs in stages, enabling the individual to take control of alertness.

What is the relation of perception to consciousness? Perception may be defined as the reception of a physical or mental stimulus, leading to its physical or mental recognition. Perception of physical or mental phenomena may enter or leave consciousness.

Perceptions may be conscious or unconscious. Perceptions may appear at varying levels of consciousness.

Perceptions may occur as relatively true or false representations of physical or mental phenomena. The truth or falsehood of a perception may or may not change its level of consciousness.

A conscious perception may continue or may cease to be conscious. Memory of a perception may enter or leave consciousness. Consciousness is present before the beginning of a perception. Consciousness remains after a perception has ended.

Copyright© 2000AlexScott