Unity of Consciousness?

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

Re: Unity of Consciousness?

Postby Serpent on March 20th, 2021, 12:14 pm 

T. Burbank » March 20th, 2021, 8:23 am wrote:1. A conscious experience is one that is known of by the person who has it, i.e. known of by that person’s “I”. This rules out subliminal experiences, which the “I” doesn't know of (although the person him/herself is subconsciously aware of them).

Then everything I've said is inapplicable.

8. That is my argument in the OP. And if it’s wrong, if it can be shown that my “I” is somehow the experiencer of all my conscious sensory perceptions also… well, I think it is still important to note the big difference in nature between one’s cognitive and one’s sensory conscious experiences. It’s something that I don’t think gets talked about a lot.

On the contrary, I seem to see it talked about a great deal. Mostly in circles, which is appropriate.

[The "I" depends on sensory experience - not just to know, but to exist.]
I wonder.

You'll know for sure when your body dies. My brother had a theory that the final experience, whatever you feel and think in the last conscious second, is your personal eternity.

Maybe my “I” was originally generated in response to sensory experience; I don’t remember.

You don't remember, because it happened about a billion years ago generally, and about three months into gestation for you personally.
Close your eyes, and no more visual experience. Plug your ears, and no more auditory either. Climb into a good sensory deprivation tank and I bet you eliminate most sensory experience, especially if the tank is an upper-end, anti-grav one.

But in contrast it is really hard to shut your “I” up. One thought will just keep dissolving into another on and on and on for what seems like hours there in your tank, even giving rise to hallucinations of sensory experience after a while I have heard… until you finally do fall asleep.

So -- if sensory input is cut off, you sustain your verbal self with the memory of previous input, much as we've been entertained over the last months with reruns of old television programs. Now, shut off memory and tell me what stories you can tell your conscious "I". (I'll even take a marathon of Mayday episodes or Country singers in concert, over absolute deprivation. )

Well if the original, direct experience has indeed, as you say, “taken place” before my “I” comes to know of it, then these are in at least some sense two distinct things.

If you want to segment it that way.
[they're part of the same process.]
So if I asked whether your writing and submitting your last post were something distinct from my reading it and coming to know what you wrote… I guess you would also say “No, they’re part of the same process.”

You're right, of course. They would be part of the process of the interweb, which is part of the process of communications, which is part of the process of human history, which is part of the process of life on Earth, which is part of the process of the universe.... And I chose to cut out a single individual's one distinctly labelled experience as beginning at the sensory input occasioned by an external event and ending with the individual's archiving that experience in verbal memory. In that sense, everything that happens is part of the Big Bang-Crunch Cycle and each microsecond is a distinct 'thing'. You can draw your borders wherever you choose to.
Of course, if you want communication, then words need meanings, which are determined by a convention of separating on which two or more individuals can agree. I defend my criteria; you defend yours - but we're both using the words defined by many, many third parties as if we agreed on their meaning.

Haven’t had chemo

My point was a jocular one: it plays hell with the kidneys. All kinds of physical events affect the body in ways completely beyond the control or understanding of the verbal ego; then you experience things in a different way, but you have no choice about experiencing whatever the body makes available, on its terms.

Towards the very end… well in the case I’m remembering it seemed that his “I” was mostly not even with us anymore by then, sad to say.

But "we" have no way of telling what they experience, or whether they're aware. A mercy, really - would you really want to know?

Did you ever encounter a patient claiming the opposite – that it wasn’t their pain but their “I” up there in the corner of the room?

Not personally, but from reports, I suppose it to be the same phenomenon - a distancing of the thinking self from the [so often unsatisfactory!] body. The old lady didn't want to be shed of her whole physical person, just the pain, while the fatally injured man wanted out of the whole damaged machine. That's what my reference to the Jack London book was about. I sometimes wonder whether the near-dead people who look at their bodies from outside see themselves reversed as in a mirror, or objectively as another person would.

To sum up: my contention is that the strange loop wastes an awful lot of its intellectual energy on the futile task of trying to eat its own tail.
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Re: Unity of Consciousness?

Postby T. Burbank on March 21st, 2021, 9:52 am 

Serpent » March 21st, 2021, 2:14 am wrote:
Maybe my “I” was originally generated in response to sensory experience; I don’t remember.
You don't remember, because it happened... about three months into gestation for you personally.

I know, that was me being drily humorous. Wonder how much we can piece together of what actually did happen in those unremembered times, though. Can try to speculate intelligently, on the basis of how things seem to have turned out as a result. I tend to assume that the "I" must have always been there, in some latent form, waiting for sensory input to latch onto to help it self-realize. Idle speculation though, really, I don't know nearly enough to feel strongly about that.

Of course, if you want communication, then words need meanings, which are determined by a convention of separating on which two or more individuals can agree. I defend my criteria; you defend yours - but we're both using the words defined by many, many third parties as if we agreed on their meaning.

Right. Some arguments seem to be just the two sides insisting on our own preferred uses of vocabulary, and our own preferred systems of categories sometimes. Although we of course think we’re arguing matters of fact. If we do finally come to see which parts of the dispute have been about vocabulary, then we can start on the real argument. If there is one.

To sum up: my contention is that the strange loop wastes an awful lot of its intellectual energy on the futile task of trying to eat its own tail.

Not sure if it has any choice. I don’t think the strange loop typing this sentence can help it, ultimately. It feels an obligation to itself to pursue this, and always believes that it will be able to bite off at least some small morsel to digest.
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Re: Unity of Consciousness?

Postby Serpent on March 21st, 2021, 2:06 pm 

I hope your quest has a satisfactory outcome.
For me, it's not an issue: I don't care when my consciousness declared its own identity out of the web of life, or where one experience ends and another begins or what part(s) of me are subject and which object; aspects are agency, repository, property or quality. My concern is only for how long I get to keep this identity.
But the hardware, software, process, product and all the interfaces are fascinating.
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Re: Unity of Consciousness?

Postby T. Burbank on March 22nd, 2021, 9:36 am 

I agree with you mostly, Serpent, none of this stuff needs obsessing over. Just trying to figure out what I am, and do feel obligated to give that an honest shot – ultimately possible or not. Put it off too long when I was younger, no attention span then. Everything in its time, I guess.

Anyway…. I really appreciate your having shared your time and your thoughts with me. I’ve definitely learned some things, which is what I was hoping to do. Got a couple of more good books that I need to read now, too.

All the best to you.
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Re: Unity of Consciousness?

Postby charon on March 22nd, 2021, 12:48 pm 

Burbank -

With all due respect, if you want to listen - you're trying to understand yourself through knowledge. Science knowledge, book knowledge, and all that, as though you were a laboratory experiment!

I'm afraid it's not like that. If you read enough you'll end up interpreting yourself according to some supposed expert or other... but that's not the understanding of yourself.

Please do take this to heart, it's not said lightly. The interpretation of yourself isn't the understanding of yourself. Self-knowledge isn't knowledge. On the contrary, all knowledge of that kind is a conditioning factor.

Have you heard of Vedanta (I'm not a Vedantist)? It means 'the ending of knowledge'. It doesn't mean ordinary, necessary knowledge that we need to do things like use the computer, do our job, or knowledge of any skill. We'd be lost without that. It means the sort of knowledge we use psychologically to try to make sense of life.

Beliefs, religious and otherwise, are all forms of knowledge and they condition our thinking, which is fairly obvious. So I end up looking at life according to the colour I give it - so I never see it as it is. To see it as it is there has to be a direct communication, a clear and direct seeing without any interpretation or bias at all. This is simple, isn't it?

When I really want to understand something deeply I look at it strongly, with all my attention. We do this naturally when something is significant enough. But the person who thinks he'll find understanding in a book is missing the point altogether. All he'll find is a lot of words and ideas which he thinks will give him the answer. And inevitably he'll begin to see what he wants. Perhaps he will see something but it may be wrong. It'll certainly be very partial, if he really sees anything at all.

So the approach matters more than the approached. You're living every day in communion, not only with others, but with yourself all the time. Just stay awake, watch, and learn. That's the old slogan, isn't it - watch, listen and learn. That's the way to real understanding because it's all happening in front of our eyes. The knowledge of the specialists, right or wrong, is quite irrelevant and is in fact dangerous because it colours our perception, and usually does.

So the danger is this acquisitive desire to accumulate. We think the more we gather the greater will be our understanding. Scientifically, that may be true but with ourselves it only becomes a burden. A mind soaked in knowledge will only end up seeing its own content. If you watch carefully you'll see this is true. Realising that, it loosens its hold on you.

But it's up to you. No one can look for you or force you to learn. Don't constantly analyse and interpret, stay out of it and let it tell you its story. You are the story, every day, then life opens up and becomes a very interesting thing, something that's real, vital, all the time.
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Re: Unity of Consciousness?

Postby TheVat on March 22nd, 2021, 1:10 pm 

Charon, I think your comments represent a rather Zen approach. So when you write,

The knowledge of the specialists, right or wrong, is quite irrelevant and is in fact dangerous because it colours our perception, and usually does.


I take that to mean that it's irrelevant in the context of meditative, holistic paths towards greater awareness.

If your daughter has a brain tumour which is causing her to see tiny people swimming in her oatmeal, then the specialist knowledge (a neurologist, say) might become relevant. And helpful.

These philosophy forums are pretty broad in their definitions, so I wouldn't say some Zen is unwelcome. There is no requirement to stick with western analytic philosophy. Now, if Burbank is breaking consciousness down into more than one sort of operation (the kind of thing guys like Dennett do on a more massive scale), then it's possible you and he will talk past each other.

One thing I always notice in these chats is that people seem to have a basic personality that will lean more towards analysis or more towards holism. My thought is that this is something like shoes. You don't necessarily want to own one pair. You may have several, for different conditions of terrain and weather. Perhaps it's this way also with analysis and contemplation.

When I drink tea, and prepare it, I am contemplative. I get pretty Zen.

When I grow tea, I study different varieties, the climate, weather patterns, timing of planting, soil nutrients, fertilizers, pH, and optimal harvesting times for green or black. I am much more knowledge-based.
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Re: Unity of Consciousness?

Postby charon on March 22nd, 2021, 1:42 pm 

TheVat » March 22nd, 2021, 6:10 pm wrote:Charon, I think your comments represent a rather Zen approach.


It can come over like that. It's one of the problems. If one talks about awareness one becomes a guru! But unfortunately, or fortunately, that's the right answer. When it comes to oneself, judgement, introspection, analysis, and all that, is a very limited pursuit. It doesn't really work at all, is the truth. Quite apart from the time and effort it takes.

So when you write,

The knowledge of the specialists, right or wrong, is quite irrelevant and is in fact dangerous because it colours our perception, and usually does.


I take that to mean that it's irrelevant in the context of meditative, holistic paths towards greater awareness.


Correct. Awareness is just that, being alert, aware. It has nothing at all to do with knowledge. One can know all sorts of things and be dull as mud :-)

If your daughter has a brain tumour which is causing her to see tiny people swimming in her oatmeal, then the specialist knowledge (a neurologist, say) might become relevant. And helpful.


I said that, I made that distinction very clearly and deliberately. At least I hope so.

Now, if Burbank is breaking consciousness down into more than one sort of operation (the kind of thing guys like Dennett do on a more massive scale), then it's possible you and he will talk past each other.


Quite so, but I was going by his own post. He said:

'Just trying to figure out what I am, and do feel obligated to give that an honest shot – ultimately possible or not. Put it off too long when I was younger, no attention span then.'


One thing I always notice in these chats is that people seem to have a basic personality that will lean more towards analysis or more towards holism.


Very true, but that honestly doesn't make the analytical process any more effective when it comes to understanding the self. After all, who is doing the analysing?

When I drink tea, and prepare it, I am contemplative. I get pretty Zen.


Good lord, what a sight :-)

When I grow tea, I study different varieties, the climate, weather patterns, timing of planting, soil nutrients, fertilizers, pH, and optimal harvesting times for green or black. I am much more knowledge-based.


Of course, completely necessary, or any other activity requiring in-depth knowledge. I expect the doctor to know his stuff!
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