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Recent Consciousness? Options
FounDit
Posted: Friday, June 15, 2012 11:58:14 AM

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Per our discussion on how recent consciousness developed in humans, this news item seems to me to indicate that it was not a recent developement at all, but has been with us for a very long time...about 41,000 years.

Even Neanderthals were known to decorate their tools and bodies....very interesting.

http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/06/14/spanish-cave-paintings-shown-as-oldest-in-world/

I loved the line at the end.

What? Fred and Barney had art!!
Epiphileon
Posted: Friday, June 15, 2012 12:41:35 PM

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There is also this article in the NY Times, "With Science, New Portrait of the Cave Artist"

But how are these drawings indicative of the awareness of awareness, with the existence of an enduring concept of self?

Also it seemed to me that, in both articles they were saying that the age of these paintings opened a possibility that they may have been of neanderthal origin, but that it was, as yet, not conclusive.
FounDit
Posted: Friday, June 15, 2012 2:07:02 PM

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To my mind, the very concept of desiring to paint one's hand on a wall, not to mention the planning and execution, indicates a self-awareness; leaving a mark as if to say "I was here."

Also, to decorate tools and one's body seems to me to indicate abstract thinking -- concepts about concepts which could certainly include a concept of a self in the environment.

Expressing individuality, I would think, would be the goal. As such, awareness of self would have to be present, even if in a very primative form.
uuaschbaer
Posted: Friday, June 15, 2012 9:25:46 PM

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I'm sure there are alien organisms somewhere that do not consider us conscious at all. :)
HWNN1961
Posted: Friday, June 15, 2012 9:40:39 PM
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The topic is provides endless fascination.

In utero, the most complex beings repeat stages of evolution in the womb.

Watch a 2 or a 3 year old child. Are you watching the mental equivalent of a Neanderthal, fascinated by their own form. Making hand prints? Or Homo Sapiens from 40K years ago doing the same?

I believe so.

Watch a small child grow...you'll see elements of self discovery in an individual that may have played out over hundreds of thousands of years in mankind's evolution.

Marissa La Faye Isolde
Posted: Saturday, June 16, 2012 8:09:42 AM
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To Epiphileon:

In response to your statement:
"But how are these drawings indicative of the awareness of awareness, with the existence of an enduring concept of self?"

I think it is the quality of consciousness itself that allows one to be aware that one is conscious.

Epiphileon
Posted: Saturday, June 16, 2012 11:15:40 AM

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HWNN1961 wrote:
The topic is provides endless fascination.
Yes I completely agree, I also think it is the most urgent issue of our time.

In utero, the most complex beings repeat stages of evolution in the womb.
This is known as "Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny", and while there is somewhat of an appearance of such, gill slits, tail nubs, and such, it is not literally correct. See this page.

Watch a 2 or a 3 year old child. Are you watching the mental equivalent of a Neanderthal, fascinated by their own form. Making hand prints? Or Homo Sapiens from 40K years ago doing the same?
I believe so.
Watch a small child grow...you'll see elements of self discovery in an individual that may have played out over hundreds of thousands of years in mankind's evolution.


While a careful observer will see similarities and there are no doubt parallels to the experience, I would think they would be remote. The most fundamental objection is that there is a vast difference between the still rapidly developing neural architecture of of a young child, and the mostly fixed architecture of a mature individual. As well there is a plethora of social interactive variables that contribute to the ontological development of consciousness, e.g. language, and the presence of other mature conscious individuals, that would not be the case in earlier evolutionary stages.

Speaking of evolutionary stages, I believe that this thread is meant to address the following, i.e. within an evolutionary perspective there are two broad views possible concerning consciousness.

One is that consciousness arose as the result of an incremental evolutionary process in the same manner as the rest of the nervous system and there are therefore existent sequences of genes that code for consciousness.
or
Two is that consciousness arose after some critical level of neural architecture had been reached, and that a threshold event was instigated by environmental influences, internal, external, or a combination thereof, we became aware of awareness, and that all that is encoded in genetic sequences is the potential for consciousness.

At least that is the way I understand the issue at this point.
Epiphileon
Posted: Saturday, June 16, 2012 11:17:49 AM

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Marissa La Faye Isolde wrote:
To Epiphileon:
In response to your statement:
"But how are these drawings indicative of the awareness of awareness, with the existence of an enduring concept of self?"
I think it is the quality of consciousness itself that allows one to be aware that one is conscious.


I'm sorry but I don't understand, that seems entirely circular to me.
leonAzul
Posted: Saturday, June 16, 2012 12:09:29 PM

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Epiphileon wrote:


Speaking of evolutionary stages, I believe that this thread is meant to address the following, i.e. within an evolutionary perspective there are two broad views possible concerning consciousness.

One is that consciousness arose as the result of an incremental evolutionary process in the same manner as the rest of the nervous system and there are therefore existent sequences of genes that code for consciousness.
or
Two is that consciousness arose after some critical level of neural architecture had been reached, and that a threshold event was instigated by environmental influences, internal, external, or a combination thereof, we became aware of awareness, and that all that is encoded in genetic sequences is the potential for consciousness.

At least that is the way I understand the issue at this point.


I see these more as broad lines of inquiry rather than competing theories. The evidence can easily be interpreted to support either point of view, and sometimes both simultaneously.

I definitely agree that it is a fallacy to conclude that developmental process provides an accurate model of evolutionary process. At best, a developmental process might include vestiges or atavisms that are evidence of evolution.

Yet precisely because the developmental process has been selected for and optimized towards a particular result according to a given genome and environment it is even more likely that it does not model the sequence of events that occurred during the evolutionary process which can be described as teleological in only a very limited context.
FounDit
Posted: Saturday, June 16, 2012 3:56:21 PM

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Epiphileon,

You wrote in answer to HWNN1961: Yes I completely agree, I also think it is the most urgent issue of our time.

I seem to recall you saying this before, and I questioned you on it. As I recall, you said something to the effect that knowing when this occurred may help us in changing our behavior.

I’m attempting to understand why you think the time frame for the appearance of consciousness is so important to altering our behavior.

(Edit: Not just when, but how consciousness came about. We have it. Now we have to use it properly.)

If consciousness was in evidence 41,000 years ago or just in the last 6,000 years, how does knowing that help us?

It seems to me that knowing why we behave as we do would be of greater assistance to moderating behavior than the time frame (Edit: or manner in which) awareness arrived.

It is a fact that we humans possess consciousness; that we know for certain. We do not, however, possess a ubiquitous knowledge and awareness of the root cause of our behavior which gives us so much trouble.


DavidScott
Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2012 7:39:43 AM
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I don't quite understand why consciousness might be even as recent as some of these arguments suggest. I would believe that consciousness occurred simultaneously with the use of language, if not before, and I'm not sure that even that is the measure or demarkation of consciousness...and by consciousness, do we mean "self-consciousness?"
I think consciousness is incremental...a minnow, I believe, has "consciousness," yet it may not have any concept of "existence," or mortality and such. Maybe we should, for the sake of argument, demark the sense of our own mortality, and of what may or may not lie beyond physical death, as the instant of consciensiousness, but even that is an arbitrary
line to draw. Even elephants mourn their dead: are we the only conscious beings on the earth?
Epiphileon
Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2012 7:45:43 AM

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FounDit wrote:
Epiphileon,

You wrote in answer to HWNN1961: Yes I completely agree, I also think it is the most urgent issue of our time.
I see how this response was ambiguous, in this case I was actually referring to the issue of consciousness in general, being the most urgent issue of our time. Within the issue of consciousness the answer to the question of "when did it appear" could be critical to understanding the phenomenon accurately, which in turn is critical to applying it efficiently and exploiting its potential.
I seem to recall you saying this before, and I questioned you on it. As I recall, you said something to the effect that knowing when this occurred may help us in changing our behavior
I’m attempting to understand why you think the time frame for the appearance of consciousness is so important to altering our behavior.
(Edit: Not just when, but how consciousness came about. We have it. Now we have to use it properly.)
As I said above it is all about a better understanding leading to better application and yes, it is not just the time that it happened as much as how it happened. Let me annotate what I said earlier...

Quote:
One is that consciousness arose as the result of an incremental evolutionary process in the same manner as the rest of the nervous system and there are therefore existent sequences of genes that code for consciousness.
If this is the case then there are specific genetically encoded structures that produce consciousness, and this would have serious implications on its limitations. It has to do with whether consciousness is more of a specific structural dependent phenomenon, or a process dependent.(more on this in 2) That is a really tricky distinction since obviously it is dependent on structure to exist at all. Let me know if that makes sense to anyone besides me, I know it is not said all that well.
or
Two is that consciousness arose after some critical level of neural architecture had been reached, and that a threshold event was instigated by environmental influences, internal, external, or a combination thereof, we became aware of awareness, and that all that is encoded in genetic sequences is the potential for consciousness.
If this is the case then consciousness is largely an "extension by process," of the incremental evolutionarily developed facility of the sensoriums, the integrated virtual reality that is the sum of all of our sensory experience. If that is the case, then significant developments of consciousness' abilities are not reliant on genetic changes in neural architecture.


It is possible that what I said of two, could be true even if one, was the case, and remember these are conjectural, there are as yet, no formal theories covering this.

There is however another non-conjectural, important reason for knowing the age of consciousness, and that is in determining just how much of behavior was developed without it. The assumption that much of our behavior has risen due to conscious deliberation, rather than strictly by selection, allows us to assume we have far more control over ourselves than we actually do, It also leaves us ignorant of just what kind of methods we need to effect real, rather than illusory, changes to evolutionarily developed strategies of behavior.




Epiphileon
Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2012 8:01:53 AM

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DavidScott wrote:
I don't quite understand why consciousness might be even as recent as some of these arguments suggest. I would believe that consciousness occurred simultaneously with the use of language, if not before, and I'm not sure that even that is the measure or demarkation of consciousness...and by consciousness, do we mean "self-consciousness?"
Hi David, welcome to the discussion, there are a number of threads on this forum relating to this issue, and I hope to start more in the future. In any of the threads that I start concerning this issue I am using the term consciousness to refer specifically to the ability to introspect, to the phenomenon of having a persistent sense of self, a sense of self identity that pervades all of an organisms experiential history, the experience of being, an experiencing being. As FounDit and I have been involved in a number of these conversations, I believe he is using in in the same manner.
I think consciousness is incremental...a minnow, I believe, has "consciousness," yet it may not have any concept of "existence," or mortality and such. Maybe we should, for the sake of argument, demark the sense of our own mortality, and of what may or may not lie beyond physical death, as the instant of consciousness, but even that is an arbitrary line to draw.
Certainly the sensing of the world and the internal representation of that world as a perceptual phenomenon is an incremental process that stretches back through nearly all of evolutionary history; however, the ability described above certainly does not, and therefore has some beginning point.

Even elephants mourn their dead: are we the only conscious beings on the earth?
Personally I doubt it, my bet for other prospects lay mostly with whales and dolphins, but that is a topic for another thread.
Marissa La Faye Isolde
Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2012 8:56:42 AM
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Yes, life does seem circular. I think that it is our consciousness that gives us our ability to be conscious of ourselves--of our consciousness of our consciousness.
DavidScott
Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2012 9:02:12 AM
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I know a large part of the conversation deals with "The Origin of Consciensousness," but I didn't get involved in that topic because it has been too many years since I read it. No problem, though, I can follow some of these other threads and probably get the general sense of the discussions. I do think, though, tht at the very least, cave art would indicate consciousness...an awareness beyond mere survival skills, and perhaps, as i think was suggested, a suggestion that the artist cared to "leave his mark" or even envision a reality apart from mere instinct and survival...perhaps an afterlife?
FounDit
Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2012 1:02:35 PM

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Epiphileon wrote:

There is however another non-conjectural, important reason for knowing the age of consciousness, and that is in determining just how much of behavior was developed without it. The assumption that much of our behavior has risen due to conscious deliberation, rather than strictly by selection, allows us to assume we have far more control over ourselves than we actually do, It also leaves us ignorant of just what kind of methods we need to effect real, rather than illusory, changes to evolutionarily developed strategies of behavior.


I’m following you up to this last paragraph. A few questions present themselves, however.

Concerning how much behavior was developed without it (consciousness): I’m curious as to what type of behavior we are talking about.

I have difficulty believing that anything beyond simple instinctive reactions could have developed without conscious awareness of a self in an environment. All the Earth’s creatures would have appeared to be identical in that respect, it would seem.

The only behaviors I can see as being selected in the evolutionary sense would be those that result from such things as weather, animal migrations, fire, etc., things over which humans had no control, and without awareness could chose only instinctive strategies by which to adapt.

Once established, however, I wonder what type of behaviors you have in mind. Furthermore, why would behaviors chosen by a self-aware individual, or group, be thought of as arising by evolutionary selection rather than by conscious choice?

I would hypothesize that once awareness came into existence, and humans then began to be aware of how they were perceived by others of their group, that it is this that would begin to have the greatest effect on behavior.

I cannot see an evolutionary pressure that would have resulted in consciousness. This seems to me to be simply a fortunate result or benefit (for us, or perhaps not) of a process that was occurring quite naturally in several creatures, but succeeded only in us (so far).

In re-reading this, it occurs to me that I may be guilty of being short-sighted in this regard. Perhaps consciousness is a step on the evolutionary pathway, and we are simply the first to arrive with it. If this what you mean by evolutionary pressure then I would not disagree.
Epiphileon
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 9:28:59 AM

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FounDit wrote:
Epiphileon wrote:

There is however another non-conjectural, important reason for knowing the age of consciousness, and that is in determining just how much of behavior was developed without it. The assumption that much of our behavior has risen due to conscious deliberation, rather than strictly by selection, allows us to assume we have far more control over ourselves than we actually do, It also leaves us ignorant of just what kind of methods we need to effect real, rather than illusory, changes to evolutionarily developed strategies of behavior.


I’m following you up to this last paragraph. A few questions present themselves, however.

Concerning how much behavior was developed without it (consciousness): I’m curious as to what type of behavior we are talking about.
Mate selection strategies, sexual behavior, loyalty, discrimination, aggression, selfishness, patriotism(same root as discrimination, or very close). These are largely "strategies of behavior" that specific behaviors are built upon so it might be arguable as to what the primary unit of selection is; however, behavior is a selection pressure, and many of these behavioral strategies were being evolutionarily shaped long before the arrival of H.S. Sapient.

I have difficulty believing that anything beyond simple instinctive reactions could have developed without conscious awareness of a self in an environment. All the Earth’s creatures would have appeared to be identical in that respect, it would seem.

Besides the above listed behaviors, many of which have little to do with intelligence, I would like to use intelligent behavior to address this issue, and I do not believe you give intelligence enough credit, and/or think that intelligence is largely reliant on consciousness for direction. I spent some time looking for a good, readable book on comparative animal behavior, but have not yet found one. However, I did recall an example from when I took classes in that subject, and found this reference to the archer fish, that clearly demonstrates accomplished cognitive abilities, and I hope we agree, in a non-conscious entity.

Animal Cognition: How Archer Fish Learn to Down Rapidly Moving Targets wrote:
In extremely rapid maneuvers, animals including man can launch ballistic motor patterns that cannot immediately be corrected [1], [2] and [3]. Such patterns are difficult to direct at targets that move in three-dimensional space [2], [3] and [4], and it is presently unknown how animals learn to acquire the precision required. Archer fish live in groups and are renowned for their ballistic hunting technique in which they knock down stationary aerial insect prey with a precisely aimed shot of water [5], [6] and [7]. Here we report that these fish can learn to release their shots so as to hit prey that moves rapidly at great height, a remarkable accomplishment in which the shooter must take both the target's three-dimensional motion as well as that of its rising shot into account. To successfully perform in the three-dimensional task, training with horizontal motion suffices. Moreover, all archer fish of a group were able to learn the complex sensomotor skill from watching a performing group member, without having to practice. This instance of social learning in a fish is most remarkable as it could imply that observers can “change their viewpoint,” mapping the perceived shooting characteristics of a distant team member into angles and target distances that they later must use to hit.


This definitely qualifies as intelligent behavior; however, certainly not brilliant as they have been known to extinguish the cigarette of a smoker standing on the river bank.Then there is the intelligence of octopi
Octopus Intelligence
So intelligence has been evolving for an extremely long time and you can find remarkable demonstrations of it across many levels of evolution, across the entire animal kingdom. I purposely drew on these two examples as I do not believe anyone would care to argue for the consciousness of these animals from a natural science perspective, that is to say, consciousness as a result of brain function. These behaviors are examples of organisms modifying their behavior on the basis of experience and are not instinctual, even though the motivations are.

FounDit
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 11:00:17 AM

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Epiphileon wrote:
There is however another non-conjectural, important reason for knowing the age of consciousness, and that is in determining just how much of behavior was developed without it.

Ok. Accepting that many behaviors are learned thru mimicry or intelligence as opposed to conscious direction, then --

The assumption that much of our behavior has risen due to conscious deliberation, rather than strictly by selection, allows us to assume we have far more control over ourselves than we actually do,

So would I be correct in thinking therefore, that you believe that selection controls mating, loyalty, discrimination, aggression, patriotism, and selfishness more than conscious decisions?

[And that] It [this assumption] also leaves us ignorant of just what kind of methods we need to effect real, rather than illusory, changes to evolutionarily developed strategies of behavior.
Ms. B. Have
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 11:45:45 AM
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Quote:

Consciousness: The having of perceptions, thoughts, and feelings; awareness. The term is impossible to define except in terms that are unintelligible without a grasp of what consciousness means. Many fall into the trap of equating consciousness with self-consciousness— to be conscious it is only necessary to be aware of the external world. Consciousness is a fascinating but elusive phenomenon: it is impossible to specify what it is, what it does, or why it has evolved. Nothing worth reading has been written on it.

Stuart Sutherland "Consciousness". Macmillan Dictionary of Psychology.


The definition you (Epiphileon) use for “Consciousness” is such a nonsensical and disputable definition, that the answer on the question how recent consciousness is will never be more sensical or less disputable as the used definition of consciousness. It is just like saying that “intelligence” is the ability to design and built skyscrapers and than ask yourself how long mankind is an intelligent species.

Epiphileon
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 11:47:41 AM

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FounDit wrote:
Epiphileon wrote:
There is however another non-conjectural, important reason for knowing the age of consciousness, and that is in determining just how much of behavior was developed without it.

Ok. Accepting that many behaviors are learned thru mimicry or intelligence as opposed to conscious direction, then --

The assumption that much of our behavior has risen due to conscious deliberation, rather than strictly by selection, allows us to assume we have far more control over ourselves than we actually do,

So would I be correct in thinking therefore, that you believe that selection controls mating, loyalty, discrimination, aggression, patriotism, and selfishness more than conscious decisions?
The phrasing must be very careful in this regard, and care must also be taken not to branch away from the original proposition being discussed which is always difficult with this subject matter, so, I would say, selection results in the strategies that largely determine these behaviors.

[And that] It [this assumption] also leaves us ignorant of just what kind of methods we need to effect real, rather than illusory, changes to evolutionarily developed strategies of behavior.
Yes, I view the assumption of behavior arising independently, as a result of conscious deliberation, as a great hindrance to overcoming, when necessary, what were once, but no longer are, evolutionary stable strategies of behavior.
Epiphileon
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 12:19:20 PM

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Ms. B. Have wrote:
Quote:

Consciousness: The having of perceptions, thoughts, and feelings; awareness. The term is impossible to define except in terms that are unintelligible without a grasp of what consciousness means. Many fall into the trap of equating consciousness with self-consciousness— to be conscious it is only necessary to be aware of the external world. Consciousness is a fascinating but elusive phenomenon: it is impossible to specify what it is, what it does, or why it has evolved. Nothing worth reading has been written on it.

Stuart Sutherland "Consciousness". Macmillan Dictionary of Psychology.


The definition you (Epiphileon) use for “Consciousness” is such a nonsensical and disputable definition, that the answer on the question how recent consciousness is will never be more sensical or less disputable as the used definition of consciousness. It is just like saying that “intelligence” is the ability to design and built skyscrapers and than ask yourself how long mankind is an intelligent species.


Well Ms. that is certainly one possible definition of consciousness; however, a number of discussions of the type of consciousness I am talking about have been going on on this forum for quite some time. We have also spent a great deal of time discussing the various possible definitions of consciousness. The definition of consciousness that we are using is also an accepted definition within the field of inquiry being discussed.
Also you might want to be more careful with who you quote as an authority on this issue, Sutherland did do a lot of good and reputable work, but he died nearly 14 years ago, his last major works seems to have been 22 years ago, and there has a lot of work done in this field since then by just as reputable investigators. So his dismissal of the subject is hardly authoritative.
RubyMoon
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 1:47:49 PM
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But didn't Jaynes write his book in 1976... so, 36 years ago ? What am I missing here in terms of a "time-line" on referencing various author's views on consciousness ?

To focus on the most current issues surrounding consciousness it would seem that The Francis Crick Conference is the way to go, IMO.
Ms. B. Have
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 2:21:12 PM
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Epiphileon wrote:
Well Ms. that is certainly one possible definition of consciousness; however, a number of discussions of the type of consciousness I am talking about have been going on on this forum for quite some time. We have also spent a great deal of time discussing the various possible definitions of consciousness. The definition of consciousness that we are using is also an accepted definition within the field of inquiry being discussed.
Also you might want to be more careful with who you quote as an authority on this issue, Sutherland did do a lot of good and reputable work, but he died nearly 14 years ago, his last major works seems to have been 22 years ago, and there has a lot of work done in this field since then by just as reputable investigators. So his dismissal of the subject is hardly authoritative.



Our knowledge of neurobiology and how our brain functions has increased a lot recent decades , but this knowledge till up now did not answer the fundamental philosophical and psychological questions about how the phenomenon “Consciousness” should be defined. This discussion is still going on, and there are many different theories. The fact that up to date sources of information as “Wikipedia” and the “Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy” are still referring to Stuart Sutherland and Thomas Nagel show us that modern science did not jet outdated their works.

That you spent a great deal of time discussing the various possible definitions of consciousness, does not at all guarantee that the definition you choose to use here is correct and not anymore disputable.

Quote:

Explaining the nature of consciousness is one of the most important and perplexing areas of philosophy, but the concept is notoriously ambiguous. The abstract noun “consciousness” is not frequently used by itself in the contemporary literature, but is originally derived from the Latin con (with) and scire (to know). Perhaps the most commonly used contemporary notion of a conscious mental state is captured by Thomas Nagel’s famous “what it is like” sense (Nagel 1974). When I am in a conscious mental state, there is something it is like for me to be in that state from the subjective or first-person point of view. But how are we to understand this? For instance, how is the conscious mental state related to the body? Can consciousness be explained in terms of brain activity? What makes a mental state be a conscious mental state? The problem of consciousness is arguably the most central issue in current philosophy of mind and is also importantly related to major traditional topics in metaphysics, such as the possibility of immortality and the belief in free will. This article focuses on Western theories and conceptions of consciousness, especially as found in contemporary analytic philosophy of mind.


That there still is no consensus about the definition of “Consciousness” makes the definition you are using here unabated very “disputable” and therefore every answer on the question “how recent is consciousness” as disputable and nonsensical as the arbitrary definition of “consciousness”.

FounDit
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 3:03:54 PM

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Epiphileon wrote:
FounDit wrote:

So would I be correct in thinking therefore, that you believe that selection controls mating, loyalty, discrimination, aggression, patriotism, and selfishness more than conscious decisions?

The phrasing must be very careful in this regard, and care must also be taken not to branch away from the original proposition being discussed which is always difficult with this subject matter, so, I would say, selection results in the strategies that largely determine these behaviors.

I think I hear a "yes" in answer to my question; that selection largely determines these behaviors.

[And that] It [this assumption] also leaves us ignorant of just what kind of methods we need to effect real, rather than illusory, changes to evolutionarily developed strategies of behavior.

Yes, I view the assumption of behavior arising independently, as a result of conscious deliberation, as a great hindrance to overcoming, when necessary, what were once, but no longer are, evolutionary stable strategies of behavior.


I would agree with you concerning selection in areas such as mating, loyalty, aggression, etc., but would posit that the behaviors already established and practiced by non-self-aware beings would be further enhanced and modified by the addition of self-awareness.

I'm not saying that particular behaviors arise independently because of consciousness, but rather that new (enhanced, modified) choices can be made because of the new influence of what other humans may think of our choices of behaviors. Conformity takes on a new meaning when we begin to fear not just what our fellow humans may do to us, but what they may think of us.

Also, viewing humans as [once] having "evolutionary stable strategies of behavior." sounds as if you view pre-conscious humanity as as idyllic state which we lost with consciousness; that we are somehow – unstable – because of consciousness; our actions divorced from, and inappropriate in comparison to, what we once would have done. I seem to be reading a great deal into that statement. Am I misreading it?

Ms. B. Have
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 3:13:31 PM
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RubyMoon wrote:
But didn't Jaynes write his book in 1976... so, 36 years ago ? What am I missing here in terms of a "time-line" on referencing various author's views on consciousness ?

To focus on the most current issues surrounding consciousness it would seem that The Francis Crick Conference is the way to go, IMO.


Makes it worthwhile to quote from the “The First Annual Francis Crick Memorial Conference” announcement:

"Until animals have their own storytellers, humans will always have the most glorious part of the story, and with this proverbial concept in mind, the symposium will address the notion that humans do not alone possess the neurological faculties that constitute consciousness as it is presently understood."(June 2012)

Epiphileon
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 4:27:45 PM

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FounDit wrote:
Epiphileon wrote:
FounDit wrote:

So would I be correct in thinking therefore, that you believe that selection controls mating, loyalty, discrimination, aggression, patriotism, and selfishness more than conscious decisions?

The phrasing must be very careful in this regard, and care must also be taken not to branch away from the original proposition being discussed which is always difficult with this subject matter, so, I would say, selection results in the strategies that largely determine these behaviors.


I think I hear a "yes" in answer to my question; that selection largely determines these behaviors.
Well yes, but only with that specific phraseology, which may yet be a bit sloppy, but it will do for now.

[And that] It [this assumption] also leaves us ignorant of just what kind of methods we need to effect real, rather than illusory, changes to evolutionarily developed strategies of behavior.

Yes, I view the assumption of behavior arising independently, as a result of conscious deliberation, as a great hindrance to overcoming, when necessary, what were once, but no longer are, evolutionary stable strategies of behavior.


I would agree with you concerning selection in areas such as mating, loyalty, aggression, etc., but would posit that the behaviors already established and practiced by non-self-aware beings would be further enhanced and modified by the addition of self-awareness.
Absolutely they would, this by the way is another possible argument for the recent view, consider the amount of time between hand held tools and the notion of using some fo that groovy hemp stuff to attach a handle, then consider the time between bows and arrows, and thermonuclear weapons. Consciousness is an extremely powerful addition to mind.

I'm not saying that particular behaviors arise independently because of consciousness, but rather that new (enhanced, modified) choices can be made because of...of the new ability of introspection, the capability to focus on a specific task and avoid distractions.

the new influence of what other humans may think of our choices of behaviors. Conformity takes on a new meaning when we begin to fear not just what our fellow humans may do to us, but what they may think of us.
Yes it most certainly does, and this goes on to become a very powerful selection force on behaviors, but I would not give it the prominence you do by concluding the above sentence I usurped to convey my view.

Also, viewing humans as [once] having "evolutionary stable strategies of behavior." sounds as if you view pre-conscious humanity as as idyllic state which we lost with consciousness; (No I by no means think that) we are somehow – unstable – because of consciousness; our actions divorced from, and inappropriate in comparison to, what we once would have done. I seem to be reading a great deal into that statement. Am I misreading it?
Somewhat.
From a purely objective viewpoint, one that I do not at all share, consciousness was evolutions big mistake, (not intended to assign intentionality to evolution, merely rhetorical). Why? Well because I am pretty much convinced without the arrival of consciousness humankind would never have reached a level where it held the ability to wipe out all life on Earth. My personal opinion is that consciousness is the most wonder-full thing in the known universe. My view is that humankind is currently displaying sufficiently maladaptive strategies of behavior that we may bring about our own extinction or lead us onto a path that brings unconscionable evil within us.



BTW I think we've exhausted the readable font spectrum at this point.
Epiphileon
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 4:33:33 PM

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RubyMoon wrote:
But didn't Jaynes write his book in 1976... so, 36 years ago ? What am I missing here in terms of a "time-line" on referencing various author's views on consciousness ?

To focus on the most current issues surrounding consciousness it would seem that The Francis Crick Conference is the way to go, IMO.


Yes he did Ruby, but since it is conceivable that Sutherland had read it, and made the same mistake that many other people made, of discounting Jaynes since his notions of bicamerality do not hold up to critical review, of discarding everything he said, completely missing that fact that he does an excellent job of beginning to delineate exactly the phenomenon that we are addressing, and for convenience sake are calling consciousness.
Epiphileon
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 4:55:29 PM

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Ms. B. Have wrote:


That there still is no consensus about the definition of “Consciousness” makes the definition you are using here unabated very “disputable” and therefore every answer on the question “how recent is consciousness” as disputable and nonsensical as the arbitrary definition of “consciousness”.


Well despite what you wish to believe, there is a large group of investigators that would disagree with you. I am not going to get into a senseless battle of select quotes with you, nor debate you in any manner on this issue. There are a sufficient number of people who frequent this forum, who are in sufficient agreement on the issue, to hold what we consider constructive dialog on the issue. As you view our position as nonsensical I trust that you are a sufficiently polite person as to not disrupt our dialogs with unwarranted insults, or your opinion that our discussion is invalid. Have a nice day.
Ms. B. Have
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 6:06:47 PM
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Epiphileon wrote:
Well despite what you wish to believe, there is a large group of investigators that would disagree with you. I am not going to get into a senseless battle of select quotes with you, nor debate you in any manner on this issue. There are a sufficient number of people who frequent this forum, who are in sufficient agreement on the issue, to hold what we consider constructive dialog on the issue. As you view our position as nonsensical I trust that you are a sufficiently polite person as to not disrupt our dialogs with unwarranted insults, or your opinion that our discussion is invalid. Have a nice day.


It is just how subjective you want to be. It is legal to have your own interpretation of the concept “Consciousness” and to make references to writers who laid the foundations of your thought-system. But on a puzzling and ambiguous topic as “Consciousness” it is deceiving to present your own personal understanding of this subject as if it is the only commonly accepted definition of it, which it is certainly not. Who are you and what knowledge do you have that modern philosophers and scientist do not have, that allow you to make the statement that Sutherland: “made the same mistake that many other people made”?

What mistake and why was it a mistake? Is it a mistake to have a different opinion? Maybe he was not “completely missing” it, but he had some good arguments to reject it!

Did it ever occur in your mind that on a perplexing theme as this, it also could be Jaynes who is on the wrong track here? Or that Epiphileon misunderstood his theory and took some wrong conclusion about consciousness? At least most experts do not diminish the definition of “consciousness” to “meta-consciousness”.

And if your Jaynes has given the only right definition of conciousness, then why his name is not even mentioned in the "Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy" or "Wikipedia" on the topic "Consciousness" while Stuart Sutherland still is? I guess because his definition of "consciousness" is outdated or useless! But who am I ?

FounDit
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 7:38:41 PM

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Ok...well, I found some good meat on those bones, but will delay a response to give others a chance to contribute, should they so desire, from the other side of the globe. While I compose my answer, perhaps sufficient time will elapse so the font spectrum can reset.
Ms. B. Have
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 9:41:57 PM
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Joined: 4/6/2012
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Neurons: 686
Epiphileon wrote:
As you view our position as nonsensical I trust that you are a sufficiently polite person as to not disrupt our dialogs with unwarranted insults, or your opinion that our discussion is invalid.

As far as I know an opposing opinion is not the same as an insult, and my critical remarks, including the term "nonsensical", is not unwarranted because there is enough justification or authorization to find for that opinion:

Quote:
In a review of Jaynes's book some years ago, Ned Block (1981) said the whole book made one great crashing mistake, what we sometimes call a "use-mention" error: confusing a phenomenon with either the name of the phenomenon or the concept of the phenomenon. Block claimed that even if everything that Jaynes said about historical events were correct, all he would have shown was not that consciousness arrived in 1400 B.C., but that the concept of consciousness arrived in 1400 B.C. People were conscious long before they had the concept of consciousness, Block declared, in the same way that there was gravity long before Newton ever hit upon the concept of gravity. The whole book in Block's view was simply a great mistake. Concept does not equal phenomenon. You can't ride the concept of the horse!

Daniel C. Dennett "Brainchildren" Essays on Designing Minds


Romany
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 11:27:58 PM
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Ms. B
- As Epi said - this is a subject and a discussion that has a long history on this forum. What this thread is doing is continuing a familiar conversation for many. Of course it's a public discourse and not private but, just as one would do irl if wanting to take part in a conversation and debate which has been in progress for a while, it might be a good idea to be familiar with all the objections, searches for definitions, agreements on terms as used in this particular conversation, and even the personalities and backgrounds of those taking part.

I know you enjoy a good dialogue, so I suggest you go and read all the background and history to this particular one. While of course everyone's opinion is valid, you might realise that the kinds of things you are adding here have already been put forward, disputed, discussed, re-constructed as people tried, collectively, to come to a workable understanding on what the discussion actually encompasses. It's been a group effort that is understood, now, by everyone in the group.

Not all of us contribute here, due to time and other constraints, but many of us have been involving ourselves in this one single conversation since the beginning - it is, as Epi tried to point out reasonably, rather non-productive to come barrelling in at the tail end and re-hashing things that have already been dealt with at length. You may also realise that no-one is using this conversation to score points, battle others, be combatative or be 'right'.

It's a collaborative effort to reach understanding. Interjecting to declare this nonsensical or cast aspersions is not just out of place, but could be seen, by the participants, as being rude and disruptive, which I know is not your aim.
FounDit
Posted: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 11:03:36 AM

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Joined: 9/19/2011
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Epiphileon wrote:

“Consciousness is an extremely powerful addition to mind.”

And,

“Yes it [consciousness] most certainly does [provide new influence], and this [new influence] goes on to become a very powerful selection force on behaviors, but I would not give it the prominence you do…”

You said, rather, [new choices result from] “the new ability of introspection, [that provides us] the capability to focus on a specific task and avoid distractions.”

Do I have that correct? If so, it seems then that, from your perspective, self-awareness (consciousness) primarily serves the purpose of focus and the avoidance of distractions; that the influence I see consciousness providing (the desire for approval and fear of the pain of disapproval) is of little force, i.e. prominence.

You won’t be surprised to read that I find the opposite to be true; that it isn’t consciousness/self-awareness that is so much the problem with Humanity – the problem is the fear engendered by that self-awareness. This fear is responsible for the “loss of face” so many find intolerable; so much so that nearly any behavior is acceptable in their minds to alleviate or moderate it.

Should we unleash a nuclear hell on Earth or an “unconscionable evil”, it won’t be because we are self-aware, but rather because of the stupidity of this fear; of some leader’s “image” if he/she feels sufficiently challenged, humiliated or embarrassed. From the smallest of sleights to the greatest of humiliations, this self-same fear lies at its root. Perhaps I should say “pain” because it is the pain suffered, mentally, that is to be avoided, and because it is painful, we fear it. All this is the result of self-awareness – consciousness.

I say this because from my perspective, it is empirical and omnipresent. At one time, I didn’t see it, like everyone else, but once I became aware of it, I saw it literally everywhere and in everyone, myself included. Suddenly, the emperor truly had no clothes.

This, for me, would be the “maladaptive strategies of behavior” you mentioned. My personal view is that if a sufficient number of people could recognize how our behavior is being influenced, unwittingly, by this need/fear, we could consciously choose to behave differently.

So far, however, all to whom I have pointed this out, are stunned once they clearly see it because the implications are staggering, but then they quickly dismiss it with a wave of the hand, refusing to acknowledge it, so I’m not overly optimistic; yet I continue to try.







FounDit
Posted: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 11:06:32 AM

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BTW, I would enjoy hearing Intelfam's take on all this. Whatever happened to him? Does anyone know? Many times I thought of sending an inquiring PM and didn't. I am disappointed in myself for not doing so.
Romany
Posted: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 12:47:07 PM
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Joined: 6/14/2009
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Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom
Foundit: -

Same. I don't think its breaking any confidences to say he wasn't well; that's made me worried. Perhaps if one of us makes contact with him we can just briefly let each other know?
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