Re: Consciousness

From: Topping Jane (
Date: Wed May 22 1996 - 14:43:07 BST

What is consciousness?

We are all conscious beings yet no one fully understands exactly what
consciousness is. We know what consciousness isn't - a rock isn't
conscious . So, how can we define consciousness? There are two
distinctions which need to be made. Firstly we, as human beings, are
conscious of events, properties and knowledge which has been termed by
Dretske as "creature consciousness." This is a straight forward
definition- rocks are not conscious of any of these things. "State
consciousness" however, refers to certain mental states ( either
conscious or unconscious) which occur within a conscious person. Thus,
a distinction is made between conscious beings (creature consciousness)
and conscious beings having conscious thoughts and feelings( conscious
states). States are only conscious if the animal in whom it occurs is
conscious of them. An important part of consciousness is awareness. For
example seeing is visual awareness. A person may not be paying
attention to what they see but they are still conscious of it. A higher
order awareness of an experience can be in the form of a thought (you
think that you are experiencing something), or in the form of an
experience ( the experience itself makes the creature aware of
something). It is also useful to explain how brains extract what is
important, to define consciousness. This can be done using
neuropsychology and relating consciousness to firing or non-firing in
cell assemblies. However, it must be remembered that neuron assemblies
are only conscious if the creature in whom they exist, is conscious of
their processes.

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