In the continuing theme of learning and growing, I had the idea to look up vegetarian dietary tips on the internet. I have yet to look at the actual page that I opened for that reason… only because one of the search results was for a lecture on “the difficult question of consciousness.” (“Why?” because the lecture asked the question what one could eat if you chose not to eat anything with a consciousness while believing that every thing has a consciousness. [< Minor part of the lecture.])
It was given by a philosopher, David Chalmers, and here is where I showcase my bigotry by saying that I didn’t know you could still be a philosopher in this day and age. Well, outside of just a hobby. I guess, in that same insensitive vein, I’m getting ready to become one myself, which is to say “Jobless” and “Questioning/Searching.”
Besides the point, entirely. Ah, anyway, the problem with consciousness is an ancient one. It’s a problem that has any number of questions (any that you can think of) that are pretty much unanswered and the notion of consciousness doesn’t respond to science in any way. Because it can’t be defined (except by every “conscious” individual), there’s a certain willingness to ignore it.
(The side point to the essay – if there’s varying degrees of consciousness in beings, then why not even among the same type of beings? And if a person can have a higher degree of consciousness than others, is there some “tell” about them? Do we see that as “different” and thus try to destroy, avoid, or change it/them?)
The fact that it’s been ignored in science, though not in philosophy (all the time), means that studies done about the brain are flawed. In the same manner that a pencil and paper are necessary for experiments, so is that conscious stream that narrates what you’re seeing and noting. How can it be be neglected when it’s so close?
There’s even the constant rule “Whatever you study, you change,” which has hundreds of variations. To some degree, it’s the first line in the study of consciousness, since “the interpreter” changes with every bit of new information.
But can that also mean that behavioral studies are flawed, and greatly so? I’ve seen a few here and there about stress and frustration and there would seem to be some logical paths to follow there. If one is stress or frustrated or frightened, then the frontal lobe shuts down, decision making is impossible, things happen on instinct.
Is this really true? It may be for some, the lesser conscious individuals, or even those who are just afraid to fight their own feelings. If we see a study that shows that 9/10 people who were frustrated returned to their bad habits (in my case smoking cigarettes or overeating), doesn’t that mean then, that the answer is a little more complicated than we’re given? How’d that one person not give in to temptation?
Worse, if you look at data like this, it becomes a part of you, so psychologically, if you suffer from this (or any relevant type o’ stuff), you may not even try to stop it, since you already believe there’s no other outcome.
Consciousness gives us that “other outcome” potential. By about a million different times, since there’s almost no limit to the things that can be done. By. Anyone!
I didn’t buy a pack of cigarettes at the store yesterday. Why? Because I didn’t go to the store. I didn’t buy any on Sunday when I did go, either. Even though I was stressed, frustrated, exhausted, the feelings that haunt me day-to-day, I still managed to avoid one temptation.
According to data, I shouldn’t have been. I even had the thought, how many times, to get a pack of cigarettes. The weather’s warm, sometimes rainy, perfect for being outside. Plus, the smoke is so noxious, it keeps bugs away, …but not often. I have to go to the store today, but I feel comfortable enough to talk about wanting cigarettes at all, so it’s likely I won’t buy any today, either.
I’m not bragging, it’s just proof that there is something more in the brain that one can use or strengthen. The will or want to fight, even the self. That’s based in consciousness. Granted, having some understanding of the process of addiction, of thinking, of stress, maybe even of consciousness, did help that. Information is just as empowering and I’m willing to admit that without any of that info, I might not have made it.
So, in essence, there’s a wonderful start, that consciousness is strengthened by information. Two non-tangible things with shocking physical and physiological impacts impact each other. I’m not surprised, there’s probably already an astrophysics-based idea/law/rule that has this sort of principle.
The aforementioned Dr. Chalmers stated, as philosophers often do, that he “wants radical ideas” regarding the study of consciousness. I agree that it’s time to bring the question of consciousness back into the fore. If we hadn’t given up on it, who knows where we’d be with it by now?
The greatest problem remains, for science, philosophy, religion, space-time, whatever, is that without a definition, it’s hard to give consciousness a valued constant representation. Or, uh, assigning it a symbol with a set meaning for equatic explanations and usage. Yes, consciousness has a mass, so it’s governed by math, too, though just typing that out makes it seem gross. That part is insignificant and is, really, only an end goal. How can we define something that changes per person?
I’m happy and sad to say that I hit upon the idea of “panpsychism” myself, but it’s an ancient philosophy, so there’s a 1,ooo,ooo% chance that I picked it up somewhere. Probably from so many talks with bugs. Panpsychism, to put it shortly, is the idea that everything (if you can think of it, it’s alive) has some degree of consciousness. It’s a universal principle, like gravity, electricity, or “to feed.” I agree.
It would easily and happily explain why electricity seems to be alive, how music does. How these things know what we’re thinking and how to influence us. Again, some of that stems from wanting to be fooled, or letting ourselves be. Is that a lapse of consciousness? Or is it a greater use of? Do lab rats listen to music? Do they understand a soft sadness that accompanies the song of a lone clarinet? Do insects?
Drs. Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan published an essay in 1993 entitled “What Thin Partitions…” In short, the essay was about this very thing, the problem of consciousness, except that the question posed was whether or not insects should be counted as conscious at all, or if they were no better than machines.
Y’see, since we don’t know, we can only see that when we swat at a fly, the fly dodges the hand and goes back to its business. It doesn’t have to pay much attention to anything until its senses alert it to what it needs to do. How much of a brain do you need for that? How much, if any, consciousness? If it can’t react except to internal/external stimuli (i.e. – has no initiative?), then its brain is a computer, the fly’s body, a machine.
Or, I guess that was one of the prevailing ideas of the time. Sagan and Druyan argue in an eerily predictive way, that if we are willing to say that insects aren’t “living,” if they’re just well-programmed, organic machines, then neither are we. We may not have the same physical brain as an insect, but we do all the same things, just some in a greater scale. (< Probably due to infinitely longer life-spans.)
I’m afraid that I like that idea. I can even take it to the extreme, either everything is living, or nothing is. It’s very simple, very elegant, which is the trick to physics. Naturally, I’m on the side of Team Living, I take great pride in that.
It ties into more “Hippie BS” and “Science BS” with the easy-lovin’ phrase “We are all connected.” And outside of more than just physically, environmentally, chemically, globally, electronically, genetically, biologically, atomically, on the same damn ground, on the same damn Earth…, now in a conscious way.
Drs. Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla could do complicatedly awesome things in the great belly of their imagination. They could tap into some greater thing that was a part of them, but also not. It existed and they used it to strengthen themselves and snatch at truths, truths maybe beyond our comprehension without that external help. I bet, because they were “crazy” (not to me, obviously), they lacked some part of the ego that would have normally kept out that external consciousness. Or, they were open to idea, so no barrier in their minds ever existed.
And so here’s the trick. We can make every effort to value consciousness, the sum of everything we know, every one of our interpretations, every bit of our waking and subconscious, instinct and imaginings, but that value will never be constant.
There’s individual consciousness, group consciousness, family, nation-wide, continental, governmental, financial, … the list goes on, from the very largest of everything plus its parts, to the smallest of particles, even those yet undiscovered. The information they store and need is the physical measurement of their consciousness, a value that is added to all the other values created by all the other forms of consciousness.
So, it’s a pretty heavy thing, but the right brain knows that. I’ve said before (or maybe I dreamt it) that I believe the right brain acts like the smallest of particles. It reaches out, more than waits for, with the external senses. It perceives all information as energy and it forms connections with that knowledge, since I bet it’s pretty easy to meld similar energies.
Not-so-strangely (“unstrangely, nonstrangely, instrangely, astrangely?”), the left brain seeks connections and patterns, too, so the halves work tandemly. The left brain just gives physical attributes that equal the total of all the processes that happen to make any thing any thing. Because it isn’t. It’s a bunch of jiggling things jiggling together with jiggling energies in a vastly empty space held together with electromagnetism, generating electromagnetism, and somehow… somehow, creating a physical thing.
So, of course, everything is alive! In order for anything to exist, we have to give it a value and definition. A “seat” is a “seat” because that’s what it is. It may go by many different names, but as a symbol of a place to rest one’s laurels, it’s known. It’s that definition that ultimately removes the living aspect of it, it can’t be a “seat” and a bunch of particles in virtual, empty space behaving as they do. It’s one or the other.
Panpsychism suggests that consciousness is universal, but there’s also the theory that consciousness is fundamental, which isn’t the same thing. One ties into the other, I think, fundamentality has to come before complete universality, but just because consciousness is fundamental, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is universal. It would make sense, since that sort of thing would have to grow and change and is already as ancient as the oldest (and the youngest) thing(s).
To me, these aren’t radical ideas. “Unknown, unfamiliar, difficult” might be better words. In 2014, I struggled to see things in a cosmic scale. I just couldn’t fathom things as big as a million suns, or explosions bigger than that; I had an easier time, though not completely, understanding the smaller world, the particle world (only because what is there to understand? =D). I overcame this, more or less, by forgetting that I couldn’t picture the size and scale and focused on that were probably larger-scaled things still to be defined or discovered.
And that’s the radical idea I think that should be first, we should forget or change all our standard definitions of things and add consciousness to it. I can’t even begin to imagine how to start that process for the world. I can change my own definitions. As the aforementioned hippie, it’s pretty easy to do, actually.
Oh, well. I guess today, I realized that philosophy is just as much science as everything else. I wonder if I’ll eventually learn enough that I’ll just see equations everywhere. To me, that would seem boring, but then I have to wonder if I can see them, can I change them?
Oh, well. Another (lengthy) page in the interest of growth and mental science(s), the interest of being more “open.” Well, it’s good, my right-particle-brain has snatched a lot of stuff from some sort of collective consciousness, somehow. It does mean that (any of) my radical ideas probably aren’t that radical, but it is always great to see that I’m not alone in thinking about this sort of thing.
For some weird reason, seeing that “science” is so “easily predictable” makes me feel stupid. While I work to write, maybe I should tack on that extra-hidden agenda of finally churning out that one original thought in the new age.
It could be something golden… or something gold-plated but charcoal underneath…
I’m worried, more, that the world might really be so easy to change and how many excuses will I make so it’s not me?