Consciousness, or the mind, is merely an ‘illusion’.

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09 Jan 2022 04:01 #365310 by Kit Fitso
You may have heard of the concept that consciousness, or the mind, is merely an ‘illusion’. The idea that consciousness is an illusion is primarily put forward to counter the dualistic stance that we, as humans, consist of a physical body and a separate ethereal consciousness or mind.

The concept of dualism was initially founded in ancient beliefs and philosophy which is thousands of years old and lacked the contextual benefit of contemporary physiology and science. Even so, I do not think that this is sufficient to explain why we developed dualism in the first place.

The belief in our ethereal selves also sprang from a desire to explain what we experienced in the past, and still experience today, as that undefinable seemingly undiscernible thing within ourselves that is perceived as a presence aware of our bodies, sentience and place in our environment.

So, what is this ‘thing’ that we seemingly observe in ourselves?

The concept that the mind or consciousness is an illusion does not mean that we are all mindless robots but rather our perception of this illusion is not what it seems. The interplay of subjective awareness can be explained by underlying biological processes within the human body. This body consists of a nervous system which contains multiple organs, one of which is the brain.

The body and the brain work together to produce sensory responses that form patterns of neuron-firing within the brain structure. I will call these patterns ‘activation matrices’ for want of a better term. Various activated matrices can affect cognitive areas of the brain prompting predisposed recognition and active response. This activity is supplemented by the release of neurotransmitter chemicals.

These matrices can also cause the formation of wave patterns across the brain structure which can activate different brain areas. These processes are further nuanced by time variance in that the quality of cognitive activation can vary dependant on the time delay between pattern propagation and brain area stimulation.

We are not conscious of these dynamic, complex and layered processes. We are only aware of their consequence. For example, when we pat a dog, we may experience seeing the dogs tail wag and feeling the texture of its coat.

We do not experience the light meeting our retina, travelling to our optic nerve as an electrical signal and into the brain structure and IT cortex where 16 million neurons activate in different patterns and register seeing a dog.

Nor do we experience the simultaneous chemical changes in the brain that may alter our mood and the firing of neurons in the somatosensory cortex that create a response that registers as ‘feeling dog hair’.

When we think about the dog, we do not experience the electrical activity of neurons in the visual and auditory cortexes, the prefrontal cortex or the activation of the motor cortex in preparation for saying ‘good dog’.

These consequences do not require an ethereal intermediary mind or consciousness entity to occur. They simply, or more accurately complexly, just happen. The combined inherent ability of the nervous system and brain to recognise and produce sensory responses simultaneously does all the work.

Our experience of our bodies, our sentience and its presence in our environment is a complex biological, electrical and chemical process. These processes are necessarily filtered and prioritised in order for us to efficiently react, intellectualise and behave in a way that makes sense in our environment.

I believe that nowadays, with the benefit of modern science and an understanding that the source ancient ‘thinking’ that led to dualism was relatively uninformed, we can dispense with the illusion of consciousness, or the mind, and shift our perspective away from these imagined ethereal forms.

Personally, I would like to see the terms consciousness and mind removed from the debate as they are evocative of dualism concepts and confound the understanding of the conversation.

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09 Jan 2022 05:52 #365312 by River

Kit Fitso wrote: Personally, I would like to see the terms consciousness and mind removed from the debate as they are evocative of dualism concepts and confound the understanding of the conversation.


What terms do you suggest we use to refer to self and the observer and the way that we interface with the material world?

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09 Jan 2022 09:03 - 09 Jan 2022 09:23 #365313 by Alexandre Orion
We don't know enough about these phenomena yet, River, to introduce new terms.

Besides, we didn't "develop" dualism in the same way we developed consciousness, Kit.

Dualism is merely our way of separating what we think we understand at the present time from what we don't. There's nothing very ethereal about it. (Cf. David Chalmers)

We know that people who through difformation or injury have no more prefrontal cortices of the brain, yet they remain very self-aware. Thus, we can be pretty sure that consciousness is not thought/cognition. But, on the other hand, in a very small region of the brainstem - the reticular activation zone - a 2mm lesion there will extinguish the candle and there'll be "no one at home", so to speak. (Cf. Mark Solms)

Our erstwhile compréhension is not useless though. It shows us how fragile what we call reason is. 200 years later, we know that Rousseau was right and Diderot was wishfully "thinking". Our best reasoning, our most rational, discerning thoughts, begin with affect (feeling) and not cognitive prowess.

I used to say :
"We think about our feelings and we feel about our thinkings, but the bridge between the two is rather narrow."
I've had to revise this :
"We think because of our feelings, and feel about our thoughts, but there are two bridges ; the one leading from feeling to thought is a 10-lane carriageway whereas the one from thought to feeling is a narrow one. It's a perpetual traffic jam. Weather conditions (our psychological states) are also an important factor."

Dualism doesn't mean now what it did for Descartes, but it's not going away any time soon, no matter how clever we think we are.

Proposal thus denied. ;)

Also, if these terms were removed it would shut down the conversation in several other very related fields. That would be even more confusing - handicapping even. And that wouldn't help us advance at all.

Be a philosopher ; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.
~ David Hume

Chaque homme a des devoirs envers l'homme en tant qu'homme.
~ Henri Bergson
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10 Jan 2022 05:37 #365349 by Adder
I don't think its fair to attribute the term 'consciousness' only/solely to Descartes 'mind'?

I tend to think these days it represents a threshold in ones measure of being awake, ie 'psychological arousal', that enables the brain to generate self awareness.
At least that is how I seem to use it, and by comparison I use the term sub-conscious to mean mental activity below but approaching that threshold and unconscious to mean mental activity below but not approaching that threshold (or lack of mental activity entirely in a living person).

I guess it choosing working language for any problem solving we gotta define the frameworks for understanding both the problem and the solution and making sure don't contradict themselves, and so for me it's mostly about how is it experienced, how can that experience be changed, and how changes change how it's experienced - each mode having it's own particular approaches seemingly.

But more saliently, I feel like the 'what' of being self aware is like some form of self-referential process of modelling and simulating a window of interrelations, that is attributed to what we understand as time (its rate of change as indexed to objective reality). Not to suggest we live in a simulation, but rather we are each a simulation which just happens to be very much aligned (though not fully) with what we actually are.

Knight ~ introverted extropian, mechatronic neurothealogizing, technogaian buddhist. Likes integration, visualization, elucidation and transformation.
Jou ~ Deg ~ Vlo ~ Sem ~ Mod ~ Med ~ Dis
TM: Grand Master Mark Anjuu

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16 Jan 2022 01:02 #365486 by Kit Fitso
Upon reflection, I am thinking that a better understanding and definition of what consciousness is is the way to go.

Consciousness itself is just an abstract word for the process that involves our internal quasi-perceptual awareness combined with what we are able to perceive directly.

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16 Jan 2022 01:35 #365487 by Kit Fitso

Alexandre Orion wrote: We don't know enough about these phenomena yet, River, to introduce new terms.

Proposal thus denied. ;)

Also, if these terms were removed it would shut down the conversation in several other very related fields. That would be even more confusing - handicapping even. And that wouldn't help us advance at all.


Consciousness.

What we perceive, feel, and think is experienced from a unique internal perspective. According to the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ some of these mental states are separate to and not reducible to physical systems in the human body.

This includes the inner aspect of thought and perception. The way things feel when we experience visual sensations, music, happiness or the mediative quality of a moment lost in thought. That seemingly undiscernible thing within ourselves that coalesces into a unique individual.

This is opposed to the ‘easy problem of consciousness’ where objective mechanisms of the cognitive system are reducible to physical processes. These include discriminating sensory stimuli, reacting to stimuli, speech, intellectual thought and integrating information to control behaviour.

For me it seems intuitive that the ‘easy stuff’ would be harder to explain than the ‘hard stuff’ that we all have a direct and personal relationship. But that’s me.

As far as the complex processes of the body that spark a consciousness go, I suspect that activated matrices of neurons and electromagnetic (EM) fields play a part in activating dispersed areas of the brain to form coherent qualitative conscious responses.

This would somewhat explain our preoccupation with consciousness being an ethereal non-physical thing, as EM fields are essentially invisible to human perception. It would also seem to explain the relative transience of consciousness that can sleep, be unconscious and ‘zone out’ without any great force being exerted upon it.

I think it is also interesting that consciousness combines two perspectives of ourselves; our inner view and external view. By combining these two perspectives we are able to identify our capabilities and competencies and the direction of how best to use these in order to meet the demands of our environment and gain a competitive advantage. This likely creates an evolutionary priority effect.

I think that it is likely that the concurrent experience of these two perspectives is what we experience as consciousness. Our internal quasi-perceptual awareness combined with what we are able to perceive directly.

As an example, you may feel the apprehension that someone has broken into your house on the basis of actually perceiving a broken window and an empty space where the TV used to be.

Another observation I will make is that newborn infants display features characteristic of what may be referred to as ‘basic consciousness’ but they still have to mature to reach the level of adult consciousness. This would seem to draw a correlation between physical growth and consciousness.

So, there would seem to be an evolutionary advantage in having both ‘hard’ and ‘easy’ consciousness, a correlation to physical development and an imperceivable reducible process, or 'force' that might explain how it manifests.

Having both an inner and outer appreciation of self and environment is integral to consciousness. Consciousness itself is just an abstract word for this process.

Any organism that can construct a concurrent internal and external viewpoint is able to identify capabilities and the direction of how best to use these in order to meet the demands of their environment and gain a competitive advantage; be conscious.

Internal and External Environments.

If there is anything that is steadfast and unchanging, it is change itself. Change is inevitable, and organisms that don't accept change and make adjustments to their behaviour to keep up with changes are doomed to fail. There are events or situations that occur that affect an organism in a positive or negative way. These events or situations can have either a positive or a negative impact on an organism and are called environmental factors.

There are two types of environmental factors: internal environmental factors and external environmental factors. Internal environmental factors are events that occur within an organism. Generally speaking, internal environmental factors are easier to control than external environmental factors. Some examples of internal environmental factors are:

• Shift in priorities
• Morale
• Evolutionary priority effects
• Other issues

External environmental factors are events that take place outside of the organism and are harder to predict and control. External environmental factors can be more dangerous for an organism given the fact they are unpredictable, hard to prepare for, and often bewildering. Some examples of external environmental factors are:

• Changes to economy (quid pro quo)
• Threats from competition
• Social factors
• Accepted normalities
• The organism’s species itself

Consciousness allows a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis to take place that looks at internal and external factors that can affect an organism. Internal factors are your strengths and weaknesses. External factors are the threats and opportunities.

This is not a linear but a dynamic process.

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16 Jan 2022 02:36 #365489 by Kit Fitso

Kit Fitso wrote: Consciousness allows a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis to take place that looks at internal and external factors that can affect an organism. Internal factors are your strengths and weaknesses. External factors are the threats and opportunities.

This is not a linear but a dynamic process.


It occurs to me, after writing this, that this dynamic process is a balance between internal subjective priorities and perceived external factors. This enables an individual to appraise their positive and negative attributes regarding a particular goal or situation, the impact of external factors on the goal or situation, and guide them to make rational choices based on this analysis.

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16 Jan 2022 10:05 #365490 by Alexandre Orion

Kit Fitso wrote:

Kit Fitso wrote: Consciousness allows a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis to take place that looks at internal and external factors that can affect an organism. Internal factors are your strengths and weaknesses. External factors are the threats and opportunities.

This is not a linear but a dynamic process.


It occurs to me, after writing this, that this dynamic process is a balance between internal subjective priorities and perceived external factors. This enables an individual to appraise their positive and negative attributes regarding a particular goal or situation, the impact of external factors on the goal or situation, and guide them to make rational choices based on this analysis.


This has been well considered, but is still far from complete.

What I find striking is that in the anti-posted epilogue, you've gotten basically to the same conclusions as Heidegger (1927).
B)

Be a philosopher ; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.
~ David Hume

Chaque homme a des devoirs envers l'homme en tant qu'homme.
~ Henri Bergson
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17 Jan 2022 01:20 #365509 by Adder
I tend to use the label 'affordances' for that part of the process of orientating some concept of self to the whole set of accessible stimulus;
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affordance
I can't go as far as to say whether it's required though, maybe. But it's a fun exercise to adjust how one perceives things in relational terms to ones own existence - as distinct from detachment but rather the stripping of concepts learnt which define things by their utility and therefore value (either negative or positive). It's that level and manner of analysis I associate to somethings 'essence' in comparison to it's more complex relationships to its environment (which I'd call its 'nature'). If you can boil down that redefinition of all things to a common denominator that it can in an experiential way serve as an analog of a ubiquitous underlying, fundamental nature (note essence becoming nature by virtue of being experienced, just not to contradict myself) ie the Force; in so far as to what might be possible with conscious awareness.
That sort of thing is quite foundational to many spiritual traditions, to dissolve acquired conceptual frameworks so one can make progress and stabilize oneself onto a rewarding path by developing an efficient vehicle of consciousness.

Knight ~ introverted extropian, mechatronic neurothealogizing, technogaian buddhist. Likes integration, visualization, elucidation and transformation.
Jou ~ Deg ~ Vlo ~ Sem ~ Mod ~ Med ~ Dis
TM: Grand Master Mark Anjuu

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