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 Neri on April 25th, 2017, 9:44 am 

Neuro,

I agree with your assessment that the correspondence between perception (more specifically sight) and external reality “is quite strong in general, but there are departures.”

However, I cannot agree that the “departures” justify the proposition that consciousness is an illusion, for even an experience that does not correspond to reality (e.g. an illusion or delusion) is nonetheless conscious.

Logically, if one says that consciousness is an illusion, he is assuming the very thing he purports to falsify, namely, consciousness, for an illusion can only exist as a conscious experience. See my OP.

Further, I disagree that it is possible “to picture [reality] exactly as it is,” as you put it; for a conscious experience and a concrete reality are entirely different orders of existence. A perception can only be a representation of a concrete reality, in the way that I have previously explained.

Please explain why you think that I am “attacking a strawman” and what BIV has to do with it.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby neuro on April 25th, 2017, 12:34 pm 

vivian maxine » April 25th, 2017, 2:16 pm wrote:Who knows, Rocco? You may be right. No one knows for certain what consciousness is

Wonderful, vivian!!
this tells it all: each of us can propose a definition of what consciousness is (more precisely, which are the necessary and sufficient conditions for consciousness to be there); then one may say what is "conscious"/"consciousness" and what is not.
But - too bad! - the distinction will not hold for anybody else's definition of consciousness...

My definition would be "given that a set of processes of information selection gradually shape the subjective meaning (cognitive value and emotional/vita relevance) to be attributed to any experiential clue, consciousness consists in the final steps of such selective-attention / meaning-attribution process, steps that are characterized by a reasonable degree of lucidity and explicitness; and this equally applies to endogenous activities in addition to external clues".
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Old Rasputin on April 25th, 2017, 8:50 pm 

neuro wrote:My definition would be "given that a set of processes of information selection gradually shape the subjective meaning (cognitive value and emotional/vita relevance) to be attributed to any experiential clue, consciousness consists in the final steps of such selective-attention / meaning-attribution process, steps that are characterized by a reasonable degree of lucidity and explicitness; and this equally applies to endogenous activities in addition to external clues".

My definition is a bit simpler:

Consciousness is a singular/particular type of experience; the experience of recognition, made possible by memory.


...or for an even simpler version:

"Consciousness is Knowing"
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 25th, 2017, 9:18 pm 

OR,

A person suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease who has no long or short-term memories but only sensory memories ceases to recognize anything. He also knows nothing, not even his own identity. Yet he is conscious of his immediate perceptions, even though he may not recognize them and does not know what they represent. His sensory memory allows him to be conscious of his fleeting perceptions. Thus, he is conscious even though he knows nothing and recognizes nothing.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 26th, 2017, 4:34 am 

Neri » April 25th, 2017, 9:10 pm wrote:BJ,

I might observe that I have already answered the questions you propounded in your post of April 23rd. However, I will briefly do so again (taking your questions seriatim).

(1) Involuntary memory preceded voluntary memory and was not conscious because it did not allow volition.

(2) No one knows exactly how voluntary memory evolved from involuntary memory. It is a difficult question that neuroscience is not even close to answering.

(3) Because consciousness is something we all experience directly (without intercession of the senses), the expression “consciousness” has meaning to us all as a reference to something about which we can have no doubt.

(4) The expression “voluntary memory” is more than just a reference to the direct experience of consciousness. It adds the idea that consciousness is a kind of memory and expresses the close relationship between consciousness and the will.

(5) The expression, “intentionality” refers to the fact that one cannot be conscious without being conscious of something. It refers to the content of consciousness rather than to consciousness itself.


I would still really like an answer as to what questions intrigue you and what you find most puzzling. If you think you have answered this I'll just have to give up asking, no big deal really. Was just curious about specific questions you find puzzling and spend the most time over (other than saying you are interested in the nature of consciousness - who isn't?)

Anyway ...

1- A precedes B and is not B. The problem of this difference you mention next in regard to neuroscience so I'll leave it be.

2- I am more curious as to what "involuntary memory" is? Are we talking about subconscious activity or unconscious activity. Here there is at least some delineation between three aspects of "consciousness" (in the more common use of the word). Unconscious processes are still "processes of consciousness" (so to speak) just processes we cannot access. So "involuntary memory" would relate to the unconscious processes of the brain if I understand you correctly?

There are some very tricky terms to navigate here to avoid getting bogged down in misunderstandings and that is why you seem to think I am asking the same questions over and over? Anyway, we have consciousness, the unconscious, and finally, the subconscious which is used as the "buffer"/"communication" between these two processes.

Just as food for thought there are things we claim authorship over that we didn't have authorship over as you are well aware. Is this of any use to you as a way to explicate certain misunderstandings of "illusion"?

3-

(3) Because consciousness is something we all experience directly (without intercession of the senses), the expression “consciousness” has meaning to us all as a reference to something about which we can have no doubt.


You have not, for me, gone in depth enough here. What do you mean by "experience consciousness"? This is why I spend a whole lot of time considering use of language to explain the "obvious". I think I get the gist of what you mean though (promise I am not trying to be pedantic and I think I get the general meaning, but I am not here purely for general ideas), that being that we all possess subjectivity, we all has a "sense" of being conscious (again Heidegger's dasein springs to mind - which I have problems with because I think it is a obtuse term he fails to explicate, but he does at least bring to light some questions in this area relating to the subject). I would perhaps offer the argument (if it is needed) that we probably do require sense of something "other" in order to have consciousness. Meaning that my eyes do not make me conscious in themselves (My eyes do not "see"), but the "machinations" of the brain "see", they map the information in some appropriate manner in confluence with other sensory data in order to present a "map" of spaciotemporal understanding (the most obvious attribute of this to me is the "feeling" of bodily being).

Anyway, I think it would be helpful to attempt to be more precise here (for my sake at least).

4-

(4) The expression “voluntary memory” is more than just a reference to the direct experience of consciousness. It adds the idea that consciousness is a kind of memory and expresses the close relationship between consciousness and the will.


If so then what question/s does this unearth for you/us to look at? If you have a clear idea in your head I am interested in the fringes of what you think. What about the bits that make less sense to you? If we are "doing philosophy" we are burdened with presenting and searching for questions that are of use. What is the use of this view and what further questions can be posed? Have you hit a dead-end?

5-

(5) The expression, “intentionality” refers to the fact that one cannot be conscious without being conscious of something. It refers to the content of consciousness rather than to consciousness itself.
[/quote]

Not wanting to get sidelined here I will simply make sure I understand your use of this term (I do not think it is as black and white as Biv has made out. Different themes of philosophy have different perspectives on this term).

You mean (a) that the something is a "something out there", or (b) you mean that the something is to be viewed in a different way. I am assuming you mean (a) ?

This is a very tricky area too. All too often we may be holding different views about this term without realizing it.

The issue being the mass confusion by some into failing to grasp the admixture of what is meant. The admixture being strong in one category or another depending on the area of philosophy. The admixture includes positions on realism, objectivism, scientific application, general existential properties, and of course a multitude of differing metaphysical position in general.

The major issue I wish you to address is in regard to sensory datum. I have tried to point in this direction above by saying that the "eye" doesn't see anything, only the brain "sees". Meaning the eye alone can merely present a singular static and dimensionless finite frame, an "instant" meaningless unless held up to the fuller light of a spaciotemporal map of "reality"/"the world".

In this respect I would personally say that memory, in general, must have a "location"/"position" to be held in consciousness (meaning to be aware of anything we must be able to place it upon a "map"). I view consciousness in this way as a map building process. How this comes to be I have absolutely no idea! This would relate to what you said above in regard to the question you see neuroscience not getting close to yet.

It is hard to step back a little and try and present questions that neuroscience (or our fields of investigation) can get closer to presenting data for, or at least offer some further areas to help it along.

This is a big aside that grew by accident - It is related to the topic in my view, but may be regarded otherwise by others so ignore if you wish and if you don't please keep on track with thread and PM if you must if you have something to say that stems away from the topic of the OP.

As an add on I just want to exhibit the general problems we face with language. If we can say we experience consciousness, experience sounds, experience smells, or sights, what meaning does this have. To put in another way by saying I listen to myself listening, hear myself hearing, see myself seeing, conscious of myself being conscious, or experience myself experiencing. What is interesting is we can look in a mirror and say "I see myself seeing myself" and this makes enough sense to us to say this even if it sounds a little silly. We cannot do this for "touch" too, I can touch myself (not like that ! :P) when I am touching. I can also hear myself when I make a sound, but I cannot hear myself hearing. Then we have smell myself smelling.

This plays toward our inclination of "picturing" things visually (something Heidegger did "point out"). Within our language we use numerous visual terms to represent mental contemplations (eg. point, see, present, show, outline, make clear, illuminate, etc.,. Interesting we also use motion in this way, eg. move toward, direct, guide, bring to, come around. And of course we can use other senses like "I feel you" or "I hear you", but the visual cues are used much, much more).

This may seem like a pointless ramble, but it is not. I am just trying to present the delicate situation of subjectivity when expressing ideas of "self". They is no "smell" of smelling, "sight" of seeing, "feel" of feeling, of "thought" of thinking. In colloquial use we can present these phrases to people and in some cases they will fit into common parlance, because we are always trying to fit them into meanings because words are "tokens" toward meaning.

Also, I do half expect someone to take the bait of the bold above :) I am being naughty.

Neri -

Also noticed this :

As you know, I do not accept the Kantian view that there is no correspondence between sensory experience and the outside world.


I was completely unaware that this was Kant's view?
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 26th, 2017, 5:30 am 

Consciousness and the internet:

http://www.science20.com/rationally_speaking/consciousness_and_internet-96226

Maybe worth thinking about this in relation to both "illusion" and "memory" when thinking about consciousness.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby RoccoR on April 26th, 2017, 7:26 am 

Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?
Badger Jelly, et al,


I agree with our friend Badger. And I agree with Badger that anyone of them is well worth the few minutes time to read.

BadgerJelly » April 26th, 2017, 5:30 am wrote:Consciousness and the internet:

http://www.science20.com/rationally_speaking/consciousness_and_internet-96226

Maybe worth thinking about this in relation to both "illusion" and "memory" when thinking about consciousness.

(COMMENT)

I saw this in the Deep Web (Index of Science Library). Oddly, it is not in the Internet Digital Library.

    Consciousness And The Internet | Science 2.0
    Koch thinks that the awakening of the Internet is a serious possibility, basing his judgment on the degree of complexity of the computer network (hence the ...
    [Search domain http://www.science20.com] science20.com/rationally_speaking/consciousness_and_int...

In fact both the Science 2.0 and the Rational Speaking are posted. But the article is not unique.
    Consciousness and the Internet (Berlin) | Meetup
    In this group we come together to explore the mystical and energetic principles of internet technology. We see digital media as the most important technolo
    [Search domain http://www.meetup.com] https://meetup.com/de-DE/Consciousness-and-the-Interne

    The Internet of Consciousness
    The Internet of Consciousness explores the changing the landscape around altered consciousness and imagines a suite of products catered towards a user's journey ...
    [Search domain internetofconsciousness.com] internetofconsciousness.com

    Is the internet displaying a form of consciousness? - Quora
    Virtual Collective Consciousness is a process which works between individuals within a social network when their social group takes a life of its own, thinki...
    [Search domain http://www.quora.com] https://quora.com/Is-the-internet-displ ... form-of-co
Most Respectfully,
R
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 26th, 2017, 10:40 am 

BJ,

Regarding your latest comments, it seems to me that I have covered this ground. I will give it one more try.

It seems clear that consciousness is caused by physical interactions in the brain. What intrigues me is how the brain is able to do such a thing, in light of the fact that it is a concrete object whereas consciousness is not.

I have already explained involuntary memory in some detain. I invite you to read my previous posts. I do not use the Freudian expression, “subconscious,” because it is based almost entirely on opinion—a fault shared by most of psychiatry.

It makes no sense to say, “unconscious processes are still processes of consciousness.” Involuntary memory consists of stored information that is not accessible to the conscious faculty of the brain. It causes bodily actions that are not subject to the will. That is, they are autonomic and are not caused by a conscious decision. In my previous posts, I give examples of involuntary memory that may help you better understand the concept. I invite you to read them.

The important thing to remember about an illusion is that it is itself a conscious experience. An experience is not rendered unconscious merely because it does not correspond to something outside the body. Indeed, the expression, “illusion,” presumes consciousness. That is, an illusion can exist only as the content of a conscious mind. This should be abundantly clear. In invite you to read my OP and a few of my posts thereafter.

The purpose of my analysis is to give a better empirical understanding of consciousness. I should think that this would be a matter of some philosophical interest.

If you are conscious, you know what consciousness feels like. The existence of consciousness may properly be considered an indisputable fact. Subjectivity, on the other hand, refers to the privacy of conscious thought—the fact that no one has direct access to the thoughts of another.

The eyes are sensitive to things outside of us and provide raw information to the brain that creates representations of those things. These representations are, of course, objects of consciousness [things we are consciousness of].

The latter is what is called intentionality. When I said we are always conscious of “something,” I meant that consciousness must have content of some sort, whether it be a perception, a raw feeling, a dream, an illusion or anything else.

Clearly, the body is part of the sense of the self, as I have previously explained.

I recommend that you read Kant’s “Transcendental Aesthetic” found in his "Critique of Pure Reason."
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 26th, 2017, 11:41 am 

I made a mistake. I meant that unconscious processes are still considered as neurological processes. I was not talking about psychoanalytic "unconscious". By this I meant that there are things going on in the brain that while conscious have an impact upon our states of consciousness.

I did actually say :

Unconscious processes are still "processes of consciousness" (so to speak) just processes we cannot access. So "involuntary memory" would relate to the unconscious processes of the brain if I understand you correctly?


When I walk I am conscious of deciding to walk yet I do so on autopilot. Yet I decided to walk. So I am saying we can bring "unconscious" processes to the fore. If you look at words on a page you look at them as you've learned to look at them. Even a bunch of squiggles that mimic writing will be looked at as writing. You will not be able to disregard your view of these squiggles as writing, you'll look at them "as if" they are writing and you have no control over this. It is an unconscious process that you cannot undo (except via brain surgery I imagine).

Anyway, I will approach you in the other thread on this matter maybe. It looks like I did get the gist of what you mean. I admit to poor use of "unconsciousness" as being a process.

Of course an illusion is a conscious process. I am very much inclined toward Husserl in this regard. The "object" of consciousness need not be "anywhere". Much like the concept of the number one. What I would say is that all consciousness seems to have to exist in relation to physical properties, meaning that the concept of "one" only makes sense in a "world of multiplicity", of otherness.

The purpose of my analysis is to give a better empirical understanding of consciousness. I should think that this would be a matter of some philosophical interest.


Thank you :) Now I have a much better understanding of what you are doing. For me it seems an obvious approach would be to distinguish between different "types" of consciousness and to assess what is happening in the brain whilst conscious (this is what I was clumsily referring to in regard to "unconscious processes". When we are unconscious a lot less seems to be going on in our heads. Yet when we are consciously active (be it in whatever state it may be) there is a lot more going on than can be called consciousness alone. I guess I could clumsily question if this "consciousness" comes from these "unconscious" processes, that "unconscious" processes come from "consciousness", or that both of these views are perhaps misleading? (idk?) I think they all have certain merits, but maybe are not of much use in drawing empirical delineations between this or that process?

Glad we are on pretty much the same page in regard to "intentionality" :) I will let that one lie for now.

Just to be clear (again), I was talking about "body" as known through spaciotemporal being. Even "emotion" or other concepts such as "one" make sense only in reference to spaciotemporal position. Anything in and of itself is quite meaningless - hence why I tried to bring Wittgenstein into this in regard to a singular word in complete isolation having no meaning.

To attempt to expand on this again I was trying to point toward looking are consciousness like this. For example, a singular memory of a man in a room that bears no relation to anything else you come to experience in life, no relation to any other memory, will not be remembered, because it cannot get a hold onto your general conceptualization of "the world". If it does not fit into your manner of processing - via relation of X to Y, then it will be extremely hard (if not impossible, to trace). Much like a congenially blind person will not be able to form a concept of "red" other than by way of some emotional cues by which people relate "red" to "heat", "passion" and "danger". And some have argued, cannot remember who, that colour is an "illusion".

Kant? You have a page reference? I have read it and just took a brief glance at that chapter and its conclusion. I don't see what you see though. I think I remember we failed to find a common ground on this point in regard to what he meant about "phenomenon" and "noumenon". Maybe is was someone else I had a hard time trying to express his use of "noumenon" (positive and negative) too? Could be the crux of our different understandings?
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Old Rasputin on April 26th, 2017, 4:28 pm 

Old Rasputin wrote:Consciousness is a singular/particular type of experience; the experience of recognition, made possible by memory.

...or simply -- Consciousness is Knowing

Neri wrote:A person suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease who has no long or short-term memories but only sensory memories ceases to recognize anything.

If he cannot "recognize anything", then he is not conscious of anything (according to my definition).

Neri wrote:He also knows nothing, not even his own identity. Yet he is conscious of his immediate perceptions, even though he may not recognize them and does not know what they represent. His sensory memory allows him to be conscious of his fleeting perceptions. Thus, he is conscious even though he knows nothing and recognizes nothing.

I think this poor man is like all the other non-conscious creatures in this universe. He experiences, and then auto-reacts accordingly. Since he has lost the ability to recognize, he therefore doesn’t know what he experiences, and therefore is non-conscious of his experiences. He is sadly just another (non-conscious) auto-reactive creature at this point in his life.

Many creatures (including single-cell animals, worms, and plants) can experience (and react accordingly), but not many can “know” they experience. The ones that “know” are the ones that are considered “conscious” subjects.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 26th, 2017, 5:07 pm 

BJ.

You are right. We are not conscious of the neurological processes that make us conscious in the first place. If we were, there would be no hard problem of consciousness. So that, we have the seemingly improbable situation where unconscious processes beget consciousness. This is a different way of expressing what intrigues me about this whole subject.

Of course, those neurological processes are involuntary. We cannot spontaneously decide to become unconscious. They are also memory, because the form and direction of the processes are somehow preserved in the brain. To put it in the computer idiom, the brain must have a program that regulates the neurological processes that yield consciousness. However, the brain does not actually act like a computer.

As I alluded to in another post, it is possible to be aware of bodily action that is involuntary but impossible to be unaware of such action when it is voluntary. I call consciousness “voluntary memory” because it makes consciousness possible. This does not mean that we are only conscious of voluntary acts. We can also be conscious of involuntary actions. Thus, if one inadvertently touches a hot stove, his hand reflexively pulls back. One is conscious of such action even though it is involuntary.

Further, we are capable of a mix of voluntary and involuntary actions. For example, if one is proficient at riding a bicycle, he has acquired a learned involuntary memory that coordinates the muscles of the body in such a way that the actual process of riding happens smoothly and unconsciously. However, he reserves the power to decide when, where and how fast to ride so as to arrive at an intended location.

You are correct that although all the objects of consciousness that arise from perception are set in a spatio-temporal context [are “somewhere” or in motion from place to place], this is not true of all our thinking. However, all our ideas are ultimately traceable to sensory representations.

I think it reasonable to assume that voluntary memory evolved from involuntary memory. There are very simple life forms that act purely on the basis of stimulus and response. Because they are incapable of volition, they are unconscious. As animals become more and more conscious they become more and more “willful.” However, even higher mammals retain a mixture of both voluntary and involuntary memory, much as we do. The difference is that we have a much higher degree of volition and consciousness than other animals.

Kant makes it clear that space and time are ideas that have no counterpart outside of our thinking. He says these ideas are real to us but not real in themselves. As a consequence, he claims that the same is true of change, motion and causation--thereby leaving no room for correspondence with external reality.

All that we experience Kant calls phenomena. All that is real in itself he calls noumena. He says the latter are completely beyond our reach. Because we cannot compare a cognition with an independent reality, he argues, all of our knowledge is derived by comparing one cognition with another. This reduces knowledge to a matter of coherence and not of correspondence. Much of this was discussed in the topic, “Kant’s Copernican Revolution.”
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 26th, 2017, 6:16 pm 

Before getting bogged down in a Kantian quagmire I am happy to see you present the more puzzling questions that appear by way of this investigation.

I don't being told I am correct. I refuse any claim of correctness in what I say. I sit firmly on the fence, and if there is no fence I will bloody well build one! :)

You'll have to forgive me (if you must) because I am going to nitpick and try to find terms that can navigate us clear of confusion (the terms may not be readily available though, but I can at least try to weadlesome out). First off I can be unconscious of a voluntary act. I can choose to go to the door yet not have my conscious attention held by the actual locomotion and be preoccupied with some other thought. You can of course argue that the inner declaration of the act was a conscious declaration not an unconscious one. Yet I put no thought into the "how" I get to the door I just go to it without thought. Either way this does highlight the problem we continually find when tracking our conscious attention to this or that task, we are forever living "into" the future event.

You are correct that although all the objects of consciousness that arise from perception are set in a spatio-temporal context [are “somewhere” or in motion from place to place], this is not true of all our thinking. However, all our ideas are ultimately traceable to sensory representations.


What part of our thinking is not set in a spatio-temporal context?

As for the rest, it does appear that we think we have more volition than other animals. The actuality of this remains hidden from us. To take this as an indisputable truth is to say that positive noumenon can be known to us sensibly (which it cannot - for I cannot be a rabbit anymore than I can be a dolphin, without not being human).


To the Kant mobile!!

Show me where Kant says this or that in his work. I simply didn't read any such thing into his work.

As for noumenon he says we know noumenon only in the "negative" sense and are completely incapable of knowing noumenon in the "positive" sense. Roughly meaning that I cannot be you and you cannot be me.

These are Kant's words :

"The concept of a noumenon is, therefore, only a limiting concept, and intended to keep the claims of sensibility within proper bounds, and is therefore only of negative use. But it is not a mere arbitrary fiction; rather, it is closely connected with the limitation of sensibility, though incapable of positing anything positive outside the sphere of sensibility." - Critic of Pure Reason, B311,312/A256

He does not dismiss physical reality. He merely states what we call reality is reality of such and such that we can never hold as part of us. Our limitation allows us to "know" (apodictically).

Kant makes it clear that space and time are ideas that have no counterpart outside of our thinking. He says these ideas are real to us but not real in themselves. As a consequence, he claims that the same is true of change, motion and causation--thereby leaving no room for correspondence with external reality.


Where does he say this? Please show me.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 26th, 2017, 8:59 pm 

BJ,

If one is so distracted that he is unaware of walking through a door, then his actions are involuntary. [I fear that many of us who are interested in philosophy do a lot of involuntary walking about.]

On the other hand, if one decides to walk into another room when he knows that to do so will involve walking through a door, he has formed an intent to walk through the door to get to the other room. An intent is an act of the will.

Likely, he will not have to voluntarily contract every muscle of his legs that will maintain his balance as he walks nor decide exactly how he will flex his fingers to turn the knob or how voluntarily to contract the muscles of his arm so as to open the door. These things happen autonomically in subservience to his intent. So that his walking through the door was voluntary even though there were involuntary elements that were put to work in furtherance of his will.

We are “living into the future event,” as you put it, in the sense that an intent always involves a decision to act in futuro.

Ideas such as good, evil, justice, philosophy, value, truth, beauty, kindness, cruelty and the like are not in themselves spatio-temporal, even though they may sometimes be expressed in actions that are so.

The freedom of the will, far from being hidden to us, is something we experience directly as much as consciousness itself.

Obviously, Kant would have to speak of noumena “in a negative sense” for the reason that nothing positive can be said of that about which he claims we know nothing.

Kant’s words, as you quote them, only confirm what I have said. According to his reasoning, the concept of the noumena is a “limiting concept,” because human understanding is limited to “sensibility” by which he means cognitions that make sense to us but are not real in their own right.

My comments in the topic, “Kant’s Copernican Revolution” (q.v.) is replete with my quotations from Kant (with citations). I do not intend to rehash all of this material when you can read it for yourself. This is a topic on consciousness, not on the limits of human understanding according to Kant.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 27th, 2017, 4:30 am 

Neri -

I have read the other thread. Honestly what you present there is a misinterpretation of Kant's ideas. Owleye also seemed to try and point out your misinterpretations too. You certainly fail to have grasped the idea of "noumenon", but many do and it took me a while to understand it given that Kant is precise to the point of confusion. Scholars of philosophy have most conflicts about "Transcendental Dialectic, Book II, Chapter I". It is very common for people to misunderstand his use of noumenon.

Anyway, I would for the first time in this thread openly argue a case. The case being that ideas such as "evil" or "philosophy" only have meaning in a spaciotemporal sense. This is precisely what I was trying to express in the analogy of Wittgenstein's look at language and word concepts. If a singular concept (be it a worded one or simply a pure cognitive one) is singular, it has no meaning because it has no relation. It is this very point that Kant was pointing out and calling "positive" noumenon. The ideal notion is merely a notion. To further progress this Husserl talked about some of these terms as "universal", in the sense that the number "one" is universally always the same concept no matter the context or language we use it in. We do not use a different kind of "one" it remains unaffected by our sense of space and time, yet it only possesses meaning relative to space and time (as must everything). The "one" in and of itself is a "no-thing", its noumenal only in the negative sense, as anything sensible always is. To refute this is to say that terms like "evil" and "philosophy" are physically tangible. I am sure you can see the problem here and hope this helps you understand what Kant meant in the "positive" sense of noumenon.

My quote doesn't confirm what you say. You interpret it to fit your own position without regard for the context of Kant's work and the question he was addressing. You cannot point at something that is not there (is not sensible to you or anyone in any manner) are say it is "real". Such a statement is nonsensical. What you assume by saying this or that thing is "real" in a positive noumenal way is to say that what is beyond by limited sensibility (a whole other purely believed religious kind of transcendence of being) is more real than the appearance, this appearance being the actual limit of sensibility. "Beyond" sensibility is unfathomable, and I am only able to outline the concept negatively (note that "negative" does not mean "bad"). Even more simply, I cannot know what I cannot know, much like I cannot be conscious of unconscious processes. The bounds of our reach define us. Boundless reach doesn't make anything tangible (that is more of an abstract concept to grasp though and moves more into Husserlian territory).

Kant's question was simply to ask what, if anything, we can know before we have had any experience. This does fit into your investigation too because we both skirt around the issue of this "unvoluntary memory" giving rise to "voluntary memory". Kant was essentially asking the very same question from a different position.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 27th, 2017, 8:54 pm 

BJ,

You can say that I misinterpret Kant and I can say the same of you. However, both statements prove nothing. If you disagree with my interpretation of Kant as it appears in an earlier topic, by all means enter a post in that topic that will point out where you disagree and why. I do not wish to burden the current discussion with interpretations of Kant.

However, I will make a few salient points before I move on to matters germane to the current inquiry.

You say: “You cannot point at something that is not there (is not sensible to you or anyone in any manner) [and] say it is 'real.'"

Yet, this is exactly what Kant says, for it is his single claim to being an empirical realist. He says he in not an idealist in the stamp of Berkeley, because that philosopher claimed that nothing real existed independent of conscious subjects (souls).

Kant, on the other hand, maintained that there are things that exist in their own right and are not dependent on being experienced. However, he claimed we cannot understand these things-in-themselves (noumena) because we do not possess the kind of intuition that is able to make them sensible.

The phenomenologists completely set aside this question of whether or not there exists a so-called external reality and concentrate instead on our human sensibilities.

Kant does make a distinction between noumena in the negative and the positive sense. However, that distinction seems to me of very little import. In the negative sense a noumenon may be understood as that which is not an object of our sensible intuition. In the positive sense, it may be understood as apprehensible by a special kind of intuition that we do not possess. I guess he means God possesses it—I really don’t know.

You may find the following quotes from Kant helpful in understanding his view of time and space:

“I understand by the transcendental idealism of all appearances the doctrine that they are all together to be regarded as mere representations and not as things in themselves and accordingly that space and time are only sensible forms of our intuition, but not determinations given for themselves or conditions of objects as things in themselves.” (A369; the Critique is quoted from the Guyer & Wood translation (1998))


“We have sufficiently proved in the Transcendental Aesthetic that everything intuited in space or in time, hence all objects of an experience possible for us, are nothing but appearances, i.e., mere representations, which, as they are represented, as extended beings or series of alterations, have outside our thoughts no existence grounded in itself. This doctrine I call transcendental idealism. The realist, in the transcendental signification, makes these modifications of our sensibility into things subsisting in themselves, and hence makes mere representations into things in themselves.” (A491/B519)
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 28th, 2017, 2:34 am 

Okay, what about this:

Ideas such as good, evil, justice, philosophy, value, truth, beauty, kindness, cruelty and the like are not in themselves spatio-temporal, even though they may sometimes be expressed in actions that are so.


I would say they are ALWAYS expressed in such actions. The "in themselves" meaning what? I am assuming you mean in the sense of being "universal" as I stated with other terms.

It may be worth expressing what memory is to space and time (not purely in the physical sense), the subjective feel of space and time. To us as individuals the "feel" of time is quite plastic. We can of course train ourselves to measure the passage of time quite accurately. Different events in life though make time "feel" like it is slowing down or speeding up.

From this in regard to "involuntary memory" the passage of time would be non-existent because there is no subject. Let us say the body of something you would call a a different kind of being (one without voluntary memory) goes through acts. In would produce these actions without any extension "into" the world. For it there is no "it", no "for it". It does not knowingly extend toward this or that, although to us, as beings capable of feeling the procedure of time, see it "as if" extending itself toward this or that.

Whatever you wish to make from this I think it points us toward defining this "voluntary or involuntary 'memory'" by a limit of some kind. Where a robot can be programmed to act given certain prompts it does not "know" because it has not extension. Its actions to the by-stander merely possess the appearance of intellect and interaction (although it is "interacting", but only in the sense that a book interacts with a table).

A book has no "voluntary memory" and neither does a thermometer. Do viruses, bacteria or worms have voluntary memory? If their involuintary memory differs from the books involuntary memory how so? Or does a book not have any memory? If so then how can we then say that a virus has involuntary memory when a book doesn't? Are we really talking about a hierarchy of complexity here?
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 28th, 2017, 10:26 am 

BJ,

All perceptions are by their nature spatio-temporal, and all that we know is ultimately derived from perceptions. However, certain ideas are not perceptions in themselves even though they may be instantiated in perceived events. [By “in themselves” I mean immanently.]

The feel of time is based on the fact that what we experience as a particular thought precedes or follows other such thoughts. Kant claims this is an “inner sense” that has no counterpart in things-in-themselves. He says this is how we appear to ourselves but not as we really are.

I say that what we experience is the stream of happening, which is real in itself (to use the Kantian idiom) and not a mere appearance.

Those animals that have only involuntary memory are not conscious. Their memory consists of only preserved unconscious rules that dictate deterministically how they will respond to a given stimulus. Because they are not conscious, they have no will. The same is true of robots.

A book renders language, which is temporal (like our thoughts), in purely spatial terms. That is, the location of syllables and words in a book represents the temporal order found in speech. A book is not alive and cannot move of its own accord. Hence, it cannot react to stimuli, as does a simple animal with only involuntary memory. Accordingly, the information preserved in a book is not involuntary memory as I define it.

I will be out of town and not available for comments for the next ten days.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby neuro on April 28th, 2017, 12:01 pm 

Old Rasputin » April 26th, 2017, 9:28 pm wrote:
Old Rasputin wrote:Consciousness is a singular/particular type of experience; the experience of recognition, made possible by memory.

...or simply -- Consciousness is Knowing

Neri wrote:A person suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease who has no long or short-term memories but only sensory memories ceases to recognize anything.

If he cannot "recognize anything", then he is not conscious of anything (according to my definition).

Neri wrote:He also knows nothing, not even his own identity. Yet he is conscious of his immediate perceptions, even though he may not recognize them and does not know what they represent. His sensory memory allows him to be conscious of his fleeting perceptions. Thus, he is conscious even though he knows nothing and recognizes nothing.

I think this poor man is like all the other non-conscious creatures in this universe. He experiences, and then auto-reacts accordingly. Since he has lost the ability to recognize, he therefore doesn’t know what he experiences, and therefore is non-conscious of his experiences. He is sadly just another (non-conscious) auto-reactive creature at this point in his life.

Many creatures (including single-cell animals, worms, and plants) can experience (and react accordingly), but not many can “know” they experience. The ones that “know” are the ones that are considered “conscious” subjects.


O.R., do you realize that this way your definition becomes tautological (circular) and useless?
If the capability of reacting to a clue is just "autoreactivity", then how can you OBJECTIVELY recognize if there is any consciousness there?

How can you consider an Alzheimer's patient a non-conscious subject? Their capability of fixing and retrieving memories is compromised in a quite variable way, possibly to a different extent in distinct knowledge domains and at distinct times. How and where would you put the threshold for consciousness? are those patients conscious at some times and unconscious at other times?

You practically reduce your definition to "consciousness is knowing", but then you remain exactly at the starting line: does a machine know? does a plant know? does a worm know? do a frog, a mouse, a cat, an Alzheimer's patient, a person with a frontal lobe infarction KNOW?
You may say, it depends on whether they are conscious or not, because knowing is being conscious.
Perfect circularity.

This is the reason why I introduced in my definition the idea that we call consciousness the final steps in the selective attention processes that lead to a lucid internal interpretation and image of reality; these mechanisms are not neurologically different from deeper mechanisms of recognition and selection that help sketching most of such internal image, although we are not aware of them.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby vivian maxine on April 28th, 2017, 12:23 pm 

Does a person have to recognize factually (correctly) to be called conscious? If that is true, what happens to illusions, to say nothing of delusions? The alzheimers patient who mistakes you for your brother is recognizing you as your brother. Isn't he "recognizing"? And wouldn't that make him conscious?

I think I first directed that question to the wrong person. Following those copied conversations can get confusing - even if I am conscious. Nevertheless, the question stands. If the patient recognizes - rightly or wrongly - and reacts, he is conscious, is he not?
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 28th, 2017, 1:59 pm 

Neri -

Really we are left asking what is so "special" about "voluntary memory"? I was trying to help by comparing what is not considered such.

My point was to try and show that we seem to need to distinguish the "involuntary memory" from "voluntary memory". If we do not then we are left saying that rocks and pools of chemicals interacting possess "involuntary memory". OF course I am NOT saying you are saying this I am just trying to see what we may gain from creating a heirarchy so we don't go equating "involuntary memory" with physical "laws".

Anyway, its been interesting for the most part.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 28th, 2017, 6:44 pm 

BJ,

The difference is a simple one: Involuntary memory is causally closed but voluntary memory is not.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby RoccoR on April 28th, 2017, 7:23 pm 

Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?
Neuro, Old Rasputin, Neri, et al,

FOR Neuro: I cannot possibly see how anyone can challenge the definition and characteristics put forth by Old Rasputin and Neri, given there is no accepted standard model for comparison. We (collectively) may not know the true explanation of "consciousness;" but given that everyone agrees "consciousness" exists, their must be an explanation for it. (Principle of Sufficient Reasoning)

neuro » April 28th, 2017, 12:01 pm wrote:
Old Rasputin » April 26th, 2017, 9:28 pm wrote:
Old Rasputin wrote:Consciousness is a singular/particular type of experience; the experience of recognition, made possible by memory.

...or simply -- Consciousness is Knowing


Neri wrote:A person suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease who has no long or short-term memories but only sensory memories ceases to recognize anything.

If he cannot "recognize anything", then he is not conscious of anything (according to my definition). ...


O.R., do you realize that this way your definition becomes tautological (circular) and useless?
If the capability of reacting to a clue is just "autoreactivity", then how can you OBJECTIVELY recognize if there is any consciousness there? ...

(COMMENT)

Let's start with this reminder:

David J. Chalmers Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness: "There is not just one problem of consciousness. “Consciousness” is an ambiguous term, referring to many different phenomena. Each of these phenomena needs to be explained, but some are easier to explain than others."


It may be the case that there is no right answer because what we call "consciousness" may be "acedemic dogma;" it may not even exist. It could be the case that it is just a manifestation of something we have yet to uncover; or imaginary → like Luminous Ether → the ghost that Michelson and Morley chasing a Case-Western in the late 19th Century.

We don't know what we don't know about the nature of existence.

Most Respectfully,
R
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 29th, 2017, 3:15 am 

Neri » April 29th, 2017, 6:44 am wrote:BJ,

The difference is a simple one: Involuntary memory is causally closed but voluntary memory is not.


If the difference is so simple then why can we not explain how one becomes the other? You are beginning to sound like you possess all the answers and don't see the need for greater clarity or further investigation.

I don't think it is sufficient to say consciousness is a kind of memory, and sit on it like some amazing truth.

I am saying this because you don't seem to me to want to expand your idea of consciousness only defend it. I have not attacked it. I am not here to argue.

note: It is hard to understand the tone of what people are saying online sometimes so please forgive me if I am wrong. I am just voicing my thoughts about this discussion because I feel like I am having to push very hard to find the area you are working on. I am assuming you have not reached a conclusion regarding the "nature" of consciousness.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 30th, 2017, 6:54 am 

I like to start of with the idea of a baby. Pretend you are a new born baby.

What is happening?

We are already set up with sensible perception of our world. We have a feeling of bodily extension and perhaps even think we can make objects beyond our immediate sense move by our will alone or believe that we can inhabit objects into our sense of being.

When as a baby I drink do I feel I know the feelings of the water I drink as it rushes down my throat (I can feel it after all). Do I feel like I assimilate the water? Meaning would it be ridiculous to say I become the water in my mouth and believe I extend myself bodily into the substance of water?

What lines a blurred between my actions and the actions "outside" of me? How do I come to distinguish such a difference?

What we can say of babies is that attention is directed toward the world. Our memories are just of the womb.

None of us appear to remember being a baby. All of us have been shaped in some manner by our exposure as a baby. At what point does conscious memory kick-in?

Do you believe that a baby is conscious? Whatever your answer how can this help us understand the progression from involuntary memory to voluntary memory?

I would say as babies we connect to the world. We have senses that feed us prior to birth that help our innate facullities (cognition) to develop. In the womb I think it is fair to say we have a sense of bodily being and we feel and hear heart beats and muffled voices from afar (our mother). Olifactory function will no doubt be working to some extent too. Basically we will have a sense of feeling UPON US, not directed by us. Once we develop motor-function, be it willfully or not, we feel and know we can move. NO wit is here that we can ask our question of reflective movement or wilfull movement? When disturbed in the womb by movement or noise, do we willfully become "startled"? No, we do not. Would our first purposeful movement be a startling experience?

This is a very dangerous way to look at things I know. I have tried to apply this thinking before. Obviously we cannot make assumptions about what I knew as a baby! To say I remember being a baby would be a lie because I do not possess the phenomenon of being a baby, although I once did (taking certain liberties with the term "I")
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby vivian maxine on April 30th, 2017, 8:37 am 

OldRasputin wrote:So then, does this “complexity” (of experiencing) create an illusion of “consciousness”? …or a realness of consciousness?


OldRasputin, didn't you answer your own question when you said that experiencing and consciousness are the same thing? Or you asked if they were the same and someone confirmed that they are the same. Whether or not they are complex depends on what the experience is. Seems to me it only describes the experience that you had. Complexity came with the experience/consciousness. How can it be a creator of anything?
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 30th, 2017, 9:06 am 

For those that don't already know (mods do know btw and I didn't tell them)

Old Rasputin is RJG. Just saying in case you were not aware you were trying to engage with someone who you've previously given up on :)

I have not given up on you mate. But if you don't read anything I will not engage with you ever again (pm me if you have read anything because you are foed from the point where you fussed up who you were)

Good luck
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Old Rasputin on April 30th, 2017, 10:25 am 

BadgerJelly wrote:Old Rasputin is RJG

Thanks for outing me Badger. You are a true friend.

BadgerJelly wrote:But if you don't read anything I will not engage with you ever again

Unless these "readings" are logically based, then it is just interesting fantasy. And I'm not interested in fantasy. I prefer to know logical truths.


viviane maxine wrote:
Old Rasputin wrote:So then, does this “complexity” (of experiencing) create an illusion of “consciousness”? …or a realness of consciousness?

OldRasputin, didn't you answer your own question when you said that experiencing and consciousness are the same thing?

No, this comment was in response to Neuro’s “complex” (very detailed) description of consciousness. I just made the observation that Neuro (and others) were using this “complexity” (as opposed to anything specific) to give ‘realness’ to consciousness.

If we wish to believe in the ‘realness’ of consciousness, then consciousness can only be the singular and very specific experience of recognition.


viviane maxine wrote:If the patient recognizes - rightly or wrongly - and reacts, he is conscious, is he not?

Recognition (rightly or wrongly) is still an indicator of memory usage. I equate this experience of recognition with knowing (regardless if flawed or not), and then this knowing with consciousness.

Since all the other ‘tenets’ of consciousness; self-awareness, conscious control (aka “free-will”), and the ability to think, have all been logically debunked, it must therefore be related to the lone surviving tenet; ‘experiencing’. And it is our ability to “recognize” this experiencing that gives us its ‘subjectiveness' (personal-ness), and our ‘knowing' (of the experience) and hence our “consciousness”.

It is only those poor creatures that can’t recognize their experiences, that we consider “non-conscious” creatures.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby vivian maxine on April 30th, 2017, 10:54 am 

All right, OR. Just to say I think consciousness is getting a very bad rap. But i won't compete. I can't prove anything beyond my own experiences. My consciousness is not an illusion.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby neuro on May 1st, 2017, 7:59 am 

vivian maxine » April 30th, 2017, 3:54 pm wrote:All right, OR. Just to say I think consciousness is getting a very bad rap. But i won't compete. I can't prove anything beyond my own experiences. My consciousness is not an illusion.

Crisply correct, vivian!

I believe the flaw in OR argument is in (a) implicitly accepting that consciousness is an entity separated from brain activity, (b) observing that such an entity can only realize what happens in our brain (and in external reality) with a certain delay, (c) concluding that agency (capability of acting) by the consciousness is an illusion.

The problem is you cannot have it both ways:

-- either you take the dualist position - soul/mind/consciousness on one side, brain on the other; but then one must be careful in stating that consciousness is an illusion, because it would mean that the soul itself and the mind as something separated from the brain are illusion, i.e. one would be negating dualism itself.

-- or you take the monist position and consciousness becomes no more a separate entity, but rather the capability of the brain to generate the perception of existing, sensing, feeling and acting (agency): call it an illusion, if you wish, but I truly believe you do exist, sense, feel, act...

OR keeps preaching and teaching us as if we were all dualists, he is telling us "beware, consciousness as something separated from the brain is an illusion!". Then he adds "but I can still enjoy life, notwithstanding that". Good for him.

Many of us have abandoned long ago the view of a separation between consciousness and the brain, and also enjoy life and our consciousness.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Old Rasputin on May 1st, 2017, 1:39 pm 

neuro wrote:I believe the flaw in OR argument is in (a) implicitly accepting that consciousness is an entity separated from brain activity, (b) observing that such an entity can only realize what happens in our brain (and in external reality) with a certain delay, (c) concluding that agency (capability of acting) by the consciousness is an illusion.

The flaw in your details of my supposed flaw are this:

In case (a), consciousness is NOT an “entity”. It is an ‘experience’ (i.e. a 'bodily reaction'). It is the very specific and singular experience of recognition, made possible by memory. The only “entity” involved, is the ‘experiencing body’ itself. Whether this body/entity is a plant leaf, a worm, or a human body, it is the body/entity/substrate upon which reactions (experiences) occur.

In case (b), an experiencing body can only experience. It can’t “realize”, it can only ‘experience’ the realization.

In case (c), you are correct! Agency (or capability of [autonomous] acting) is a big time 'illusion'.


neuro wrote:-- either you take the dualist position - soul/mind/consciousness on one side, brain on the other; but then one must be careful in stating that consciousness is an illusion, because it would mean that the soul itself and the mind as something separated from the brain are illusion, i.e. one would be negating dualism itself.

Not so. Dualism is dead (not logically possible). There is NO 'controlling entity'; there is NO mind/soul/spirit/consciousness entity dictating the activities of the body/brain. There is ONLY an experiencing body that experiences experiences, and auto-reacts accordingly. That’s all there is. Those that wish to believe in magic and fantasy, can add to this story.


neuro wrote:-- or you take the monist position and consciousness becomes no more a separate entity, but rather the capability of the brain to generate the perception of existing, sensing, feeling and acting (agency): call it an illusion, if you wish, but I truly believe you do exist, sense, feel, act...

Close. Monism is correct. But consciousness is NOT the capability of the brain to “generate” anything. Consciousness can ONLY be the capability of the brain/body to recognize (i.e. to experience recognition), which then of course requires the added function (and existence) of memory.


Bottom-line: If we are dead-set in maintaining the existence of "consciousness", then it can only exist as the experience of recognition. As all the other 'tenets' of consciousness are dead (not logically possible).

My preference is to NOT USE THIS WORD AT ALL. That way, we can all just say what we mean!
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