Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Discussions on the nature of being, existence, reality and knowledge. What is? How do we know?

Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Braininvat on April 10th, 2017, 5:19 pm 

Badge, I was making a simpler point than was clear, I guess. Just saying that an entity doesn't have to know it is conscious to be conscious. IOW, you don't need to grasp consciousness as a concept to enjoy the state of being conscious. Or simpler still: you don't need language to be conscious.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 11th, 2017, 12:23 am 

Biv -

AH! Okay, sorry. Sadly we agree here then :(

I can add though that I do believe that 'language', in its broadest sense, is something often overlooked. If we can extend its use we can address new questions. My view is philosophy is about stretching, and even extending, language to its limits.

Rasp -

Your argument doesn't make sense to me, sorry. Your explanation fails to address what I was saying. You've added on another term 'real'. What does it mean to say "consciousness is real?", or for that matter, that it is not real? 'Reality' is a very plastic term. I tend not to see the need for it when thinking about matters regarding consciousness.

Replacing the term 'consciousness' with 'X' shows you've no idea what I am talking about. Like Biv says above, we don't need language to be conscious. In the terms I am talking there is no sentence in which to place 'X', consciousness doesn't worry about 'real', it just gets on with stuff. Travelling to the Moon is not real for a dog, its conceptual framework has no use of such a thing.

The dream I had last night was real, I was in a state of consciousness.

I can look in a mirror and say both "there I am", and "here I am". The pedant would argue for one being 'wrong' and another being 'right'.

Does Dennett say "X is not real"? Are my dreams not 'real'? What do you mean by "real"? Hopefully you can see where this leads you? It is a very peculiar place that interests me a lot.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 11th, 2017, 4:23 am 

Further more, if my "consciousness" is an illusion then the "me" of the "my" is absent. I am not consciously writing this now. It is merely an "illusion" of some as yet unidentified "non-consciousness".

Rasp -

If you wish to saw away the branch called "consciousness" you are sitting on, go ahead. If you don't fall tell me why and how if you can. If this analogy is unfitting then try to highlight where it veers away from whatever it is you are saying.

Dennett, as far as I remember, has a very particular position in regards to consciousness. By this I mean he appears to be viewing the issue from the singular position of physical datum. He of course has every right to assume position X as correct. He is correct from his position, but knows 'proof' is essentially ineffectual in divulging the heart of consciousness.

I imagine it may well be possible to say in the future that X pattern of neurons are required for consciousness. Try as I might I can try and explain what consciousness "feels like" to a table, or even another human, but my position will always remain my singular position, and my position is confirmed to me by witnessing actions. I think you may be really questioning free will here rather than consciousness. Is free will an illusion? Is that what you are really asking here? I am starting to assume it is because not much you've been saying makes much sense to me. If not then explain why if you can.

Note : I am not massively inclined to debate "free will", but go there if you must briefly.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Old Rasputin on April 11th, 2017, 2:32 pm 

Old Rasputin wrote:Sure, let me try this approach; I’ll remove the confusing language (“consciousness”) and replace it with the variable X. Let’s start with Daniel Dennett saying -- “X is not real”.

Badger then says -- “I know that X is real (dammit!), because if X were not real, then I could not know that X is real”.

And similarly, a Christian might say -- “The Bible is the true word of God (gosh darn it!), because if it were not true, then it would say so here in this Bible.”

Notice that the starting premise and the conclusion are essentially one-in-the-same. Both Badger and the Christian are guilty of committing a logical reasoning error (begging-the-question; pre-assuming the conclusion).

BadgerJelly wrote:Does Dennett say "X is not real"?

Dennett says “consciousness is an illusion”. And if we remove/replace the ‘confusing language’ with less confusing language/variables, we get -- Dennett says “X is not real

Consciousness = X
Illusion = not real; does not exist

BadgerJelly wrote:Are my dreams not 'real'?

Dennett only says “consciousness” (not dreams) is not real.

Question #1: If you knew/know absolutely nothing about “consciousness” (including the word itself), would you still have experienced your dream?

Question #2: Why can’t we experience stuff without the need of this thing called consciousness?

BadgerJelly wrote:What do you mean by "real"? Hopefully you can see where this leads you?

“Real” is that which exists with certainty, and independent of (not reliant upon) one’s perceptions/experiences.

BadgerJelly wrote:What does it mean to say "consciousness is real?", or for that matter, that it is not real? 'Reality' is a very plastic term. I tend not to see the need for it when thinking about matters regarding consciousness.

So then why are you insisting that consciousness itself is real?

BadgerJelly wrote:The dream I had last night was real, I was in a state of consciousness.

How do you know? What tells you that you were/are in a state of consciousness? What are the tell-tale signs? How does one know they are conscious, when the only things they can experience are experiences?

All one can know is that they ‘experience’ stuff. The presumed causal connection/linkage between “consciousness” and “experiencing” is purely ‘academic’ and speculative at best; it is one that has been ‘taught’ (indoctrinated/brainwashed) into our heads. It is no different than any other religious belief.

Badger, how can you be so certain that “consciousness exists” considering that you can only experience experiences? Why not just say “experiencing exists”?

BadgerJelly wrote:Further more, if my "consciousness" is an illusion then the "me" of the "my" is absent.

The (concept of) “me” is just another experience.

BadgerJelly wrote:If you wish to saw away the branch called "consciousness" you are sitting on, go ahead. If you don't fall tell me why and how if you can. If this analogy is unfitting then try to highlight where it veers away from whatever it is you are saying.

The analogy is "unfitting" because you are starting with the (pre-) assumption that consciousness exists in the first place. And don’t worry, I won’t fall down. I will still continue experiencing experiences with or without the illusion or non-illusion of consciousness.

BadgerJelly wrote:Try as I might I can try and explain what consciousness "feels like" to a table, or even another human, but my position will always remain my singular position, and my position is confirmed to me by witnessing actions.

Any explanation of what consciousness is, or what it “feels like”, can only be a listing of ‘experiences’.

Maybe the reason we can’t explain consciousness, is because there is no consciousness. Maybe Dennett is right all along -- consciousness is just a made-up word to make us all feel important/special.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 11th, 2017, 5:16 pm 

OR,

I will make the following self-evident statements for the fourth time [I will not repeat them again]:

To have any experience one must be conscious. Those who are unconscious experience nothing. To be conscious one must experience something. If one experiences nothing, one is unconscious.

It is preposterous to believe that we only presume that we are conscious. For a presumption cannot exist outside of a conscious mind to begin with. Such a belief is an egregious example of circular reasoning. Presumptions themselves do not exist outside of conscious subjects [unless, of course, one takes the wholly unsupportable position that everything outside of us, the sun moon and the stars, is conscious.]

If you do not believe you are conscious, you must be a computer, for there is nothing more certain than the existence of one’s own consciousness, if one is human. It transcends proof, for it proves itself. It is a matter of direct knowledge, not a matter of logic. Nor is it a matter of empirical evidence, because it does not itself depend on the senses [as all such evidence ultimately does].

The will makes an immanent future event certain and is thus the cause of it. For example, if I form an intent to kill you, and, in furtherance of that intent, I point a gun at your head and pull the trigger, I put a series of evens into motion that will certainly result in your death. The hammer of the gun falls, the primer ignites, the main charge explodes, and the bullet is propelled out of the barrel travelling at great speed towards your head resulting in your death.

Now, no rational person would suggest that your death was not caused by my willful act. Only a madman would suggest that the classical causal rules of chemistry and physics, so far as they concern the operation of guns, were the actual causes of your death and that I was just an innocent bystander, simply because there was a time lag between my pulling the trigger and your death. Now that time lag is enormously longer than the time lag between the bullet entering your head and my experience of it. Certainly, both are irrelevant to the question of free will for reasons that should be abundantly clear.



Other Matters Taken Deeper (For All in the Forum):

If the present is only an idea, as I have suggested, that means that the present time does not exist outside of the mind.

What we call the present time is the variable duration of a current sensory experience. In order to have the latter, one must be conscious. If one is unconscious, one can experience neither sight, hearing, smell, taste nor touch; one cannot dream or imagine and cannot experience pain—nor can one make presumptions or entertain illusions of any kind.

Because one is conscious of perceptions, sensory experiences allow the exercise the will (are voluntary memories). They are memories because, without them, one would no longer experience (would “forget”) the “beginning” of a perceived event by the time one got to the “end.” This is equivalent to the Atkinson-Schiffrin notion of “sensory memory.”

This sensory memory is what we call the present. Short and long term memories we call the past. Things that have not yet happened [we have no sensory memory of] but may happen, we say belong to the future. All of these (past present and future) are only ideas that do not belong to the world.

It is quite ridiculous to say that only the past exists, for the past as an idea depends on the ideas of the present and future. The so-called present time embraces sensory memories, the past, short and long term memories. The present would be meaningless without the ideas of the past and future. In any event, the past simply does not exist in the real world.

Einstein’s relative-present-time does is not a present time independent of the mind merely because it is determined by the state of motion of the observer relative to what is observed. Relativity is itself only an idea, as much as the common notion of the present time is an idea. At best Einstein gives us only a refinement of that notion.

Because, in the deepest sense, there is no such thing as the present time in the real world, it is not possible to say that a certain experience occurs exactly before or after what is claimed to be a perfect expression of a present time independent of the mind (a present belonging to the world).

This does not mean that nothing occurs before or after anything else. It simply means that it is impossible to make a fully determined expression of what is before or after. All things are joined in the continuity of happening that is the world itself. There are no fully determined temporal intervals of any sort in the real world.

Although time is only an idea, it is an idea well founded in reality. We do experience happenings. This general experience corresponds to reality. We measure whatever happens in the real world by imagining space and time intervals that are said to provide fully determined measurements.

These measurements, although imperfect, are sufficient for all practical purposes. Yet, the intervals are imposed on the world by the mind, for there are no perfect borders in the real world. Everything there is inextricably conjoined but always changing. That change is relative to the world as a whole—that is, absolute. To appreciate it, one would have to stand outside the world. Unfortunately, the world has no outside.

I have said that a sensory experience corresponds to an “event” in the real world if the former corresponds to the sequence and character of the latter. Certainly, where the experience of sight is concerned, speed is also a vital factor, for it is indispensible as a means of gauging threats from the outside world.

BIV,

As I pointed out earlier, one should not equate the truth or falsity of the content of consciousness with consciousness itself, as Dennett does. While it is true that one cannot be consciousness of nothing, one must be conscious of an illusion. In fact a person who is unconscious cannot experience an illusion—or anything else for that matter.

So that the proposition, “Consciousness is an illusion” is manifest question begging. For, although, I happily admit that some experiences may be illusory, all experiences are conscious.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby vivian maxine on April 11th, 2017, 5:43 pm 

[quote="Neri"]If one is unconscious, one can experience neither sight, hearing, smell, taste nor touch; one cannot dream or imagine and cannot experience pain—nor can one make presumptions or entertain illusions of any kind.[/quote[

So. dreaming is a conscious (or, maybe semi-conscious) stage of sleep? That does seem to make sense since we can sometimes remember what we dreamed. Am I seeing it right?
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 11th, 2017, 6:23 pm 

Vivian,

Yes, sleep is a conscious state. If one is asleep and hears a loud sound or is slapped in the head, she will wake up, and of course she can dream while asleep. If one is under deep general anesthesia or receives a severe blunt impact to the head, these things would not be possible.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Braininvat on April 11th, 2017, 6:49 pm 

BIV,

As I pointed out earlier, one should not equate the truth or falsity of the content of consciousness with consciousness itself, as Dennett does. While it is true that one cannot be consciousness of nothing, one must be conscious of an illusion. In fact a person who is unconscious cannot experience an illusion—or anything else for that matter.

So that the proposition, “Consciousness is an illusion” is manifest question begging. For, although, I happily admit that some experiences may be illusory, all experiences are conscious.


Not sure why this is directed to me. My brief posting was not in disagreement with the phenomenal authenticity of consciousness. Qualia, the "felt" or "experienced" content of consciousness, seem to be irreducible. Dennett's handwaving has never swayed me, but I like the way he sharpens everyone's game.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby vivian maxine on April 11th, 2017, 7:45 pm 

Suits me, Neri. Thanks.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 12th, 2017, 2:32 am 

Rasp -

I was saying a long time ago that I call it "stuff". You choose to call it "experience of experiences", which doesn't seem like the best way to put it in my mind, but I get the gist.

Pretty sure someone has pointed out above that dreams are actually states of consciousness. So when Dennett is talking about consciousness he is including dreams OR he is going against how the term "consciousness" is used in neuroscience ... which I find hard to believe unless he has made this clear somewhere?

Others choose to call it "consciousness". Consciousness is the term used to describe what we are talking about.

Am I insisting consciousness is real? I don't bother with "real". Is a rainbow real? Are you now dumbing down language so "illusion" and "not real" mean the very same thing? Should we instead stick to one word and just simply say "wibble, wibble, wibble"? I am more than willing to discuss the general use of the term "consciousness" in our investigations. I am especially curious about how we may, or may not, be able to reform and reduce this concept in different ways. Why we can and why we cannot? Much like "consciousness" (or as you wish to say "experiencing") "language" is not something we can simply put to one side during our discussions. Both language and consciousness (or X) are integral to our communications. I believe that it is "language" that is the major hurdle we need to cross to better frame our "experience" of "experiencing".

I have already said that "consciousness" is a concept and exists as a concept. What consciousness is is what we determine it to be. We all have what you bizarrely call "experience of experiences" and it is this people generally term as "consciousness". Reality is another problem and don't forget that the term "reality" is just that, another term much like "consciousness". So I can ask does "reality" exist or is it an illusion to show the issue with asking Is consciousness an illusion?

Dennett tends to flit from linguistic arguments to scientific evidence and back again as it suits his personal position or the point he wishes to drive home. I do agree that "consciousness" as a term is not specific enough and the problem seems to me to be in empiricism trying to lay claim to something, as Biv says, of deep qualitative value that cannot be quantified in the usual physical manner.


Neri -

One very simply question for you to think about in light of what you've said above. Is language an illusion?

What we are understanding from each other here is bound within a construct. The construct can be bent and altered to fit our means and to explicate to each other, and ourselves, a different (not necessarily right/wrong) perspective.

The strange nature of language in thought confines thought to certain established and agreed upon rules of communication. My singular experience of some item is my item not someone else's item. Yet we come to an established "understanding" of said item as being X. To me there is no innate item, the item is meaningful for communication, communal understanding.

What you appear to do above is take a very prominent aspect of this "understanding" and work from there without being able to "see" beyond, or have any logical reason to "look" beyond, the item we've come to call the "sensory experience". We are bound by our appreciation of the world through language, yet thought does not require "language", in our more common sense of the word (by this I am not being tempted to distraction right now by the broader terms of "language" employed to refer to animal communications).

I do not require a language in order to feel pain or anger, love or hate. What language does to our experience is allow us to inhabit a state of understanding. The understanding beyond language is something that the "reasonable human" calls "religious", "nonsense" or some other such thing and remains bound within their thinking language unable to explore their primal machinations and they will also find it difficult to adjust their lexicon to another's and see beyond their own items of correspondence.

What I am saying is we're all close-minded. The "closedness" I would call an inhibition of language upon, ironically, "sense". And of course I believe I am some what less inhibited than others, more open than others, whilst fully aware of how delusional and arrogant such a thought is (being a thought established and confined by appropriation of word concepts and meanings).

Some would even regard this all as a travesty against clarity. I do myself. Yet, I defend this as being an expression of what language is to me and how in discussing it, with IT, I am hopefully opening up people to some slightly different questions than they are used to.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 12th, 2017, 10:12 am 

BJ,

For purposes of the present inquiry, it is important to use language carefully. For example, the expression, “the experience of experiences” is pointless repetition and meaningless. The same may be said of “being conscious of being conscious,” and the like.

However the expression, “Consciousness is voluntary memory” is not repetitious, because it adds two new ideas: (1) that consciousness is a kind of memory and (2) that it is the kind of memory that makes volition possible.

Language is not an illusion if it is used clearly and to the point. It only becomes illusory when employed with deliberate obscurity, as is presently the vogue in continental philosophy.

With regard to dreams, they are clearly conscious, whatever Dennett or anybody else may say.

All experience is real to us but does not necessarily correspond to external reality, by which I mean things outside of us. An illusion is conscious but does not correspond to external reality.

Consciousness is real to those who are conscious. Nothing can be clearer.

Language is not necessary for consciousness, but consciousness is necessary for language. That distinction is also clear.

Language is a subject all its own and a complex one to be sure, but it is a subject that we need not go into in any great detail for purposes of the questions raised herein.

Certainly, we should make every effort to use language correctly, even though it is not always easy to do.

While we are on the subject of language, I have noticed a typo in the first paragraph of my last post directed to BIV. The post should read:

“As I pointed out earlier, one should not equate the truth or falsity of the content of consciousness with consciousness itself, as Dennett does. While it is true that one cannot be conscious of nothing, one must be conscious of an illusion. In fact a person who is unconscious cannot experience an illusion—or anything else for that matter.”
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 12th, 2017, 12:56 pm 

Neri -
However the expression, “Consciousness is voluntary memory” is not repetitious, because it adds two new ideas: (1) that consciousness is a kind of memory and (2) that it is the kind of memory that makes volition possible.


Okay. Now you have to explicate what this means. What other "kinds of" memory are there, and questions like this present themselves. I am not asking this directly only trying to shed light on questions that should and should not be asked in the context of what interests you.

In a vague defense of Rasp, I can get on board if the question is about our "consciousness" of concepts, and the distinction of an experienced concept (like hunger) having two different threads. One thread being wholly subjective and the other being the word concept that enables us to talk about said "hunger" by communicating with each other.

It is here where I think Rasp may be taking on a different view and I am not sure what that view is. In this way I am guessing at "hunger" as two different pieces. In the sense of "real" my felt "hunger" is more real than the communication of my hunger through the use of the term "hunger".

It has seemed to me for some time that the field of science dealing with questions surrounding consciousness is ill-equipped to deal with them because we lack the concepts to express them to each other.

To sum up. I am conscious. Unknown to me maybe everything I sense right now is part of some elaborate illusion (maybe some alien experiment, dream state or some psychotic episode - which you may wish to call delusion). Whatever, I am conscious.

I am fascinated to hear how you can word "memory" into the view you've stated above.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Old Rasputin on April 12th, 2017, 3:48 pm 

Neri wrote:To have any experience one must be conscious. Those who are unconscious experience nothing. To be conscious one must experience something. If one experiences nothing, one is unconscious.

Our disagreement on this point stems from our different definitions/understandings of these two words (“consciousness” and “experience”).

I view these two words as two distinct things. I view experiences as “bodily reactions”, and consciousness as “knowing” (or recognizing). This means that we can have body reactions (experiences), but yet not “know” it, or we can have body reactions that we know/recognize/feel (conscious experiences).

Whereas you see no differentiation between “experience” and “conscious experience”, …true?


Neri wrote:For a presumption cannot exist outside of a conscious mind to begin with.

Isn’t this statement itself a presumption?


Neri wrote:The will makes an immanent future event certain and is thus the cause of it. For example, if I form an intent to kill you, and, in furtherance of that intent, I point a gun at your head and pull the trigger, I put a series of evens into motion that will certainly result in your death. The hammer of the gun falls, the primer ignites, the main charge explodes, and the bullet is propelled out of the barrel travelling at great speed towards your head resulting in your death.

Now, no rational person would suggest that your death was not caused by my willful act. Only a madman would suggest that the classical causal rules of chemistry and physics, so far as they concern the operation of guns, were the actual causes of your death and that I was just an innocent bystander, simply because there was a time lag between my pulling the trigger and your death. Now that time lag is enormously longer than the time lag between the bullet entering your head and my experience of it. Certainly, both are irrelevant to the question of free will for reasons that should be abundantly clear.

Neri, are you a patent lawyer / claims writer? Your style of writing reminds me of my patent lawyer (…and that would be very strange if you were actually him!). Anyways I like your style of writing, though I disagree with the content.

Okay back to subject. What is at issue here is not the “time lag” between each of the sequential events, but instead the “time lag” between the event and the “consciousness” of the event.

To help make my point clearer. Take out a piece of paper. Draw a time-line from left to right to represent reality. Now draw another time-line under this one to represent our knowing or consciousness of reality. Now take the lower time-line and shift it to the right by at least 150 milliseconds. (may have to cut the paper between the lines to do this). This shifting represents the “time lag” (delay) between the world of consciousness (that we live in), and the ‘real’ world itself.

As you can see, we can never knowingly do anything. Everything we know has already happened!
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 12th, 2017, 4:05 pm 

BJ,

I refer you to my previous comments in this thread on the subject of voluntary memory and to the thread I earlier opened called “Is consciousness memory?” Therein and herein I explained that there are two kinds of memory, voluntary and involuntary memory. Because, in these prior posts, I explained in considerable detail the difference between the two, there is no need to go over it all again.

Both our experiences of hunger itself and the word “hunger” are conscious.

The word “subjective” does not intend a distinction between a raw feeling and an idea. Both are subjective in the sense that they are private. That is, they are inaccessible to others owing to the fact that the content of consciousness is limited to the physical extent of the head. Further, it is impossible to explain what it feels like to be hungry to one who is incapable of the raw feeling.

Even if one has himself experienced hunger, he could never know for sure that another is hungry simply because the other says so; for, as everyone knows, people can be deceptive. In other words, no one can look into another’s head to know what is thinking or feeling but can only make a judgment based upon the attendant circumstances.

Science does not need to tell us what consciousness is. We all feel it directly. Science deals with empirical evidence that is ultimately dependent on the senses. The experience of our own consciousness transcends all that.

Antirealism involves the belief that there is no correspondence between our sensory experience and the real world—or even that there is no real world but only consciousness itself. The problem is, no one acts as though our senses are illusory or nothing lies outside of us. Indeed, it is the universal conviction of mankind (if behavior is any indication) that there is a real world outside of us and that the senses in their own way correctly depict it.

This state of affairs raises, at a minimum, a prima facie case in favor of realism. Therefore, it does not fall upon the realist to justify his view. Rather, the burden of proof falls upon the antirealist to establish his position. It is not enough to say that antirealism is possible, for almost anything is possible.

Because antirealism is incapable of proof, it can properly be discarded as rubbish.

Dreams and delusions are memories because neither can be experienced without an expense of time.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 12th, 2017, 4:09 pm 

OR,

As I previously explained, your conclusions are erroneous. Please read my posts more carefully.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 12th, 2017, 5:26 pm 

Neri » April 13th, 2017, 4:09 am wrote:OR,

As I previously explained, your conclusions are erroneous. Please read my posts more carefully.


What conclusions? (read my posts more carefully perhaps?) I will maybe go back and read that older thread tomorrow. You have not really addressed what I was asking in this thread clearly enough for me (I read it carefully. It is possible I am an idiot though so don't worry about it :)).

The whole "time" business is probably the most slippery thing I've come across. I don't have a particularly firm position about anything. I just have vague outlines and that is why I find it very strange when people refute my so called conclusions.

Both our experiences of hunger itself and the word “hunger” are conscious.


Yes. Did I say otherwise?
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 13th, 2017, 2:46 am 

Maybe I am reading between the lines here, but it seems a lot like you are saying consciousness is intentionality. How does your "voluntary memory" differ from, and/or relate to, intentionality?

If you've written something more in depth I'd like to read it.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 14th, 2017, 5:34 am 

Neri -

I really am intrigued by what you are saying here.

If I do not know something as an illusion then is it an illusion? Everyone around me may be privy to more information than me, think of a magician performing some trick. If I do not understand the "trick" as a "trick", I do not see the experience as "illusionary", although I may or may not doubt what appears to me as such and such.

I agree that no matter what the term "consciousness" is this investigating process, as are all processes of consciousness, is consciousness.

Certain contradictions are presented in how we talk about this in terms of subjective and objective. I have been over this on numerous occasions.

To get to what you are saying, consciousness is a kind of memory. You even come to say that consciousness is "voluntary memory". Further still you say that consciousness is temporal and has to be temporal, for without temporality consciousness is not. So we are left with an idea of consciousness being purely about "memory".

To look at time and memory. I remember yesterday and I imagine the future. What is more it seems clear enough to me that my actions can influence the outcome of future events and so I partake in actions with the memory of previous actions in place and move toward (experiment) with future presentations.

My presence is neither short lived nor infinitely extended. It is here where I find some strange thoughts occurring in regard to "voluntary". Of course I understand, as much as anyone else, what you mean. What is less than clear, and maybe it requires no clarity whatsoever, is what non-voluntary memory is. To me it looks an awful lot like we're veering into saying consciousness is emergent and using this idea as being in line with such thinking?

I also feel it important to ask the question of "Is consciousness an illusion?" and reframe it to ask "Is the present an illusion?" I think you appear to be saying that the present is an illusion of consciousness (present in the sense of a delineated fragment moveing through time? Sorry, badly worded. You can probably fashion that sentence in a better way. Hope you get the gist though).

What use is there you make of "present" in regard to how you are viewing consciousness?
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 14th, 2017, 12:20 pm 

BJ,

When I spoke of erroneous conclusions, I was referring to OR and not necessarily to you. I will take your concerns seriatim and try to explain.

“Intentionality” refers to the content or character of consciousness—what one is conscious of. Voluntary memory refers to consciousness itself. To put it another way, experience of any kind, because it is always about something, presumes consciousness, even though consciousness cannot manifest itself except in some context or character.

Subjectivity and objectivity refer to the content of consciousness in terms of whether it is private or public. Subjectivity refers to experiences of a particular individual. This is private in the sense that no one else can have direct access to the experiences. Objectivity refers to experiences common to all mankind as derived by so-called empirical evidence.

Without getting into a semantic argument, an illusion, although conscious, is arrived at because of a malfunction of perception owing to a defect in sensory organs or the central nervous system. For example, a person with macular degeneration experiences what everyone else calls “straight lines” as “crooked.” A magician’s trick is a sort of benign deception for purposes of entertainment. Both a perception and a deception can only be experienced by a conscious subject. That is, such things do not exist except as the content of consciousness.

Involuntary memory refers to the preservation of unconscious information in the central nervous system as it concerns autonomic actions of the body that are subject to causal rules (are determined by cause and effect, stimulus and response) and therefore do not involve the exercise of the will.

There are two kinds of involuntary memory, systemic and learned. The former refers to the actions of the internal organs of the body. The latter is consciously learned but thereafter becomes autonomic (not involving the will).

Examples of learned involuntary memory would be the specific acts involved in walking or driving a car. Acts of this sort are consciously learned (each action consciously taken) but once learned are consigned to involuntary memory. Thus, one who has learned to walk does not have to consciously move in every particular way necessary to maintain balance and walk. It happens “automatically” [although the will retains the power to determine where one will walk and how fast].

I have already explained the present time. The important thing to remember is that it is experiential and not real in itself. When we use the expression “present,” we really mean the expanse of time necessary for us to experience an event” that we, for one reason or another, have focused on.” The present cannot be an instant, for nothing can be experienced without an expense of time. Here I refer to time as an idea.

I have already explained the difference between sensory voluntary memory on the one hand and short and long-term voluntary memory on the other—the difference being that the former is what we think of as the present time and the latter what we call the past.

Both the voluntary and involuntary forms of memory involve the preservation of information. That is why both are properly called memory.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 14th, 2017, 12:41 pm 

Haha! I thought you meant OR as in "OR" XD

Sorry, guess you can understand my slightly puzzling replies now ... damn acronyms!
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 17th, 2017, 4:17 am 

“Intentionality” refers to the content or character of consciousness—what one is conscious of. Voluntary memory refers to consciousness itself. To put it another way, experience of any kind, because it is always about something, presumes consciousness, even though consciousness cannot manifest itself except in some context or character.


This brings up an issue that there is little agreement about, what "consciousness" and "intentionality" are to each other.

Nothing much you've said bothers me. I want to be bothered though. What do you find about this topic to be interesting? What questions come to your mind?

I have read what you've addressed already regarding "present". I want more though if you have anything to offer?

You've outlined the difference between short-term and long-term voluntary memory. You have not, and maybe you cannot, really offer any explanation as to how voluntary memory forms (simply calling it emergent is probably all I would be inclined to do, so I can see why you'd avoid this). It does seem here you are

The most glaring question is what memory is and why we say consciousness instead of memory. I can assume there is a first conscious experience? I am cautious about relying on 'emergent' as an explanation.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 18th, 2017, 4:27 am 

I would tag on to this the obvious question of what consciousness is if there is nothing for it to direct itself toward? This seems to be the area you've moved into correct?
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby neuro on April 18th, 2017, 7:01 am 

BadgerJelly » April 18th, 2017, 9:27 am wrote:I would tag on to this the obvious question of what consciousness is if there is nothing for it to direct itself toward? This seems to be the area you've moved into correct?

Do you mean we should go back to before Husserl, and return to the idea that consciousness is some kind of entity, rather than an activity, and in particular an intentional (in-tending to), i.e. an activity directed to something?
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 18th, 2017, 10:14 am 

Neuro -

I am not saying anything much. I am just pushing Neri to see what questions he/she has in regards to the idea of consciousness being "voluntary memory" and trying to get a better understanding of what use this is to further investigations.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby henriette on April 20th, 2017, 6:26 am 

“Consciousness is voluntary memory”

Dear Neri,

I am not sure, after reading carefully your edifying posts, that you really need to add the concept of WILL to define what self consciousness is. It does look like adding a hidden unknown variable to ease an ill-defined inverse problem. This is because you can do the job without this concept as a prerequisite by considering self consciousness as a social building. Moreover, it sounds strange that you do not make any use at this step of the history and evolution of consciousness as well as of the link between self consciousness and ethics (though many seem disillusioned with genealogies of ethics). We are both historical self-conscious and ethical mammals, are we not? Moreover, no one seems to define consciousness from its particular taste, a topic that needs poetry, while attempts to define self-consciousness from its properties lead to contradictions and attempts to define it from its consequences always face counter-examples.

A reported point of interest is that humans learnt a lot and developed social memory from a particular kind of suffering that is the perspective of punishment. Justice, hence the concept of bad and evil, is primarily a way to punish within a creditor/debtor economy, it is all about social violence and indeed 'l'oeuvre est au noir". The particular memory that is developed in this field is arguably what you call self-consciousness. Indeed, because punishment is a perspective, the associated re-presentation defines present and thus defines time itself, that may be considered as social construct. While the "mind" of other mammals , including attention and memory, are focused on the "present", justice, because of the perspective it involves, consequently allows human to defocus, this is an isolation process that latter defines the self.

We experience consciousness but we are unable to put words on the taste of being conscious because there are no wording yet for that experience, a sign that the situation of consciousness may evolve from poetry. An intuition : the body associated to the mind does not overlap the biological body ; biology defines a body that is not the good body to tackle the body-mind issue, the intuition is that the entire image is the correct body (This makes echo to OR's using imagination in a way similar to that of Al Rush as well as Rousseau's suggestion that societies may not have been built on ownership and Heidegger's comment that we do not think yet).
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 21st, 2017, 11:40 am 

BJ,

I have already explained the relationship between consciousness and intentionality.

Further, I have said all that need be said on the subject of the “present.”

As to emergence, I suppose it is true to say that consciousness results from neuronal interactions in the brain even though no neuron taken in isolation is conscious. However, this is no more that a statement of the obvious. The truth is, no one understands exactly how this emergence happens--except to say that consciousness, because it results from a complex process, is itself a process and not a singularity.

When we are conscious, all that we experience are memories. That includes perceptions (sensory memory).

The fact that consciousness is the sort of memory that makes volition possible does not necessarily mean that one who is conscious is always in a position to exercise his will. Consciousness makes the will possible, not the other way round.

Sometimes, we are only helpless observers to events that are beyond our control. A paraplegic may be conscious, yet he is severely limited in the exercise his will. The same is true of one who is bound and blindfolded. In such cases, one may want to act in a certain way but is unable to do so.

In dreams one may or may not be able to exercise his will within the dream itself. In most dreams, one is indeed only a helpless observer. However, in vivid dreams, one is able to freely change events portrayed in the dream.

The critical fact is that a dream is not a perception. Nothing can be changed in the world outside of the brain by any decision made in a dream. Dreams are likely an evolutionary anomaly, for they are not useful in preserving us from injury or death in the real world.

As I pointed out previously, consciousness evolved because it made possible the will; and, more than anything else, the will is responsible for our remarkable success as a species.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 21st, 2017, 11:48 am 

Vivian,

Although suffering indubitably affects the sense of self, the so-called moral sense is a different matter altogether.

The moral sense is native to us as social animals in that it concerns our behavior towards others. That sense may be reduced to the so-called Golden Rule: “Treat others as you wish to be treated yourself.” This is not so much learned as built into us. It is no accident that every culture expresses this rule in one way or another.

For any society to exist, there must be mutual cooperation among its members. This is true of other social animals as much as it is of mankind. Thus, the moral sense may be seen as having value in the struggle to survive.

Yet, it is a fact of the human condition that in every society there are individuals who seek self-aggrandizement and place themselves above the Golden Rule. These are the chieftains, kings, emperors and the like. The masses of any society instinctively accept the strongest as leaders. This too is a matter of evolution, because it aids in the struggle to survive by insuring that those who do not cooperate with one another will be punished. However, most people cooperate more or less automatically.

The law addresses the same problem of enforcing social cooperation. That is, the force of law and not the whim of any particular individual is employed to foster social harmony, however imperfectly it may do so. Sadly, force is a necessary ingredient for social order.

It must be borne in mind, however, that the Golden Rule has only infra-social and not extra-social application. Thus, there is no such rule for the enemy in time of war.


Self-awareness is an object of consciousness, not consciousness itself. It is the feeling that there is a unity in one’s awareness. That is, consciousness is thought of as a discrete existent rather than a process. However this cannot be the case, for the “self,” like all else in the world, is in continuous transition.

For example, a young man who goes to war has a different sense of self when he returns home. [Of course, if he is killed, there is no question of awareness] For those who have not experienced severe psychological trauma, the changing self is so gradual that they take no account of it. However, when an old man such as myself reflects on his youth, he realizes that the remembered young man was not the same person he is today.

The following factors contribute to the sense that there is a recognizable self that persists throughout one’s life:

(1) Every individual has a unique life history that is retained as long-term memory.

(2) Every individual is aware that his body interacts with the outside world. That is, his body can cause things to happen outside of him and conversely that things there can act upon his body. Thus, the body is experienced as the focus of its interactions with the world.

(3) The experience of the self is subjective. That is, his thoughts are his own and not directly accessible by others. This provides a uniquely private perspective.

I may add as a postscript that I do not employ the idioms of continental philosophy, principally because they lack lucidity and even embrace opacity as an end in itself. On the other hand, I do not blindly accept the position that all things are susceptible to a kind of mathematical analysis.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby vivian maxine on April 21st, 2017, 12:26 pm 

Neri, per your latest post: 21 April, 10:48 AM, I am trying hard to trace that back to one of my posts but I cannot. Help? Vivian
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 21st, 2017, 2:26 pm 

Vivian,

I am sorry. My post should have been directed to Henriette.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 21st, 2017, 2:29 pm 

Henriette,

Please see my post this date at 10:48 am.

It should have been directed to you rather than Vivian.
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