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What will be harder to model scientifically: primary consciousness or higher-order consciousness?

 
Giulio
 
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17 March 2017 22:12
 
NL. - 17 March 2017 08:55 PM
Giulio - 17 March 2017 11:47 AM

In order to answer your question, I think you need to answer if there is anything it’s like to be a society (and if there is really anything it’s like to be an individual).

From this perspective, I’d say it is unlikely there is analogue to primary consciousness at the social level, but maybe some of the aspects of secondary consciousness exist at the social level (albeit without a single unifying primary conscious experience of identity or self-awareness associated with it).


This does feel intuitively correct, although I have to say, I am hard pressed to come up with an answer to the argument that if societies did have a single unified consciousness, we would have no more capacity to apprehend it than one of our individual liver cells can apprehend our consciousness. For now I’ll stick with “it just sounds too weird and unlikely to be true”, ha ha!

 

It’s true that societies seem to have agency, and I was considering posting something about it. First note that, though a society comprises a group of individuals (plus a range of other man-made artefacts), an individual may simultaneously participate in multiple societies. I am using the word society I suppose more broadly than it can sometimes be used (eg religions, professional groups with a code, a school with a strong cultural identity, political groups, extended but closely bound families with a sense of themselves etc are examples of societies in this context). The way I understand the relationship bewteen the individuals and the society is in terms of an analogy with a computer virus that acts as a distributed program (I am using the word virus in a non-pejorative way). To expand on the analogy (which is all this is), when John starts to read about society X, in his brain a little program (with its own internal state distinct from, but possibly related to, the many many other programs running in his brain) may start up, and as he comes to read more about it, comes in touch with other members of the society, participates in rituals etc, that little program becomes more like, and more able to coordinate with, the little programs of type X running in the other society members’ brains. The program in John’s brain also develops more of its own internal state, strengthening itself - so in the environment of John’s brain, this program is developing greater agency (purpose and freeness relative to the environment of John’s brain). Obviously there is a self-reinforcing effect among the society members, and these little programs if coordinated enough can in total, via the hosts, develop their own collective agency (as a distributed program).

If you accept that this analogy, though overly simplistic, has some bearing to what actually happens, a question then is how much of the agency of an individual is due to these adopted shared programs or ‘viruses’? The more dependent we have become on societies (vs our own individual ability to survive in the natural environment), the more we are comprised of shared adopted programs, I assume. And if this is the case, should the nature of the discourse on agency be more couched in terms of societies than individuals? (In other words, do we have an illusion about how much agency as individuals we have, most of it really being an aggregatiin of agencies of social forces working through us as hosts.)


I think an interesting (if disturbing) thought experiment in order to clarify intuitions here is to wonder what a human raised in isolation in the wild would look like. No language, no societal or cultural paradigms, no education to teach abstractions about places far away in time and space, no organizing life around societally generated goals regarding ‘a good life’. What would ‘a good life’ foraging alone in the woods mean anyhow?


Rather than fill in the blanks or bias with my own intuitions I’ll leave it at that for right now and see what your thoughts are.

You can find a fair bit written about feral children (fact and fiction), but in most cases the children had a few early (even if abusive) years with humans.

The question I assume you are asking is what’s it like to be a person entirely raised by let’s say caring wolves. It wouldn’t be like being a human (as we know it), and it wouldn’t be like being a wolf.  Would such a person suffer more, or experience less joy, than say someone brought up by a human family but in conditions with equivalent physical hardship? I’d assume so - being a fish out of water so to speak.

If the child was raised by non social creatures (robots that did the minimal amount to keep it alive), well ... I have no idea. Even children locked away (eg Kaspar Hauser) would have received some human contact. What comes to mind is a canvas with a few blobs of paint, as opposed to a moving picture.

 

 
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18 March 2017 06:38
 
Giulio - 17 March 2017 10:12 PM

You can find a fair bit written about feral children (fact and fiction), but in most cases the children had a few early (even if abusive) years with humans.

The question I assume you are asking is what’s it like to be a person entirely raised by let’s say caring wolves. It wouldn’t be like being a human (as we know it), and it wouldn’t be like being a wolf.  Would such a person suffer more, or experience less joy, than say someone brought up by a human family but in conditions with equivalent physical hardship? I’d assume so - being a fish out of water so to speak.

If the child was raised by non social creatures (robots that did the minimal amount to keep it alive), well ... I have no idea. Even children locked away (eg Kaspar Hauser) would have received some human contact. What comes to mind is a canvas with a few blobs of paint, as opposed to a moving picture.

I remember seeing film clips many years ago of cruel psychology experiments (publicized by animal rights activists) conducted on baby monkeys.  When given the choice, these poor little monkeys preferred to cuddle with a soft inanimate dummy covered with fur that provided no milk, rather than with a hard metal one that supplied milk.  The suffering of these poor little animals was obvious and horrible.

We don’t need inhumane experiments or terrible stories of child abuse to know that we primates need the care of our own kind to develop mentally and emotionally, without which there would be suffering and permanent damage would likely be done.

 

 
 
NL.
 
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18 March 2017 07:07
 
Giulio - 17 March 2017 10:12 PM

You can find a fair bit written about feral children (fact and fiction), but in most cases the children had a few early (even if abusive) years with humans.

The question I assume you are asking is what’s it like to be a person entirely raised by let’s say caring wolves. It wouldn’t be like being a human (as we know it), and it wouldn’t be like being a wolf.  Would such a person suffer more, or experience less joy, than say someone brought up by a human family but in conditions with equivalent physical hardship? I’d assume so - being a fish out of water so to speak.

If the child was raised by non social creatures (robots that did the minimal amount to keep it alive), well ... I have no idea. Even children locked away (eg Kaspar Hauser) would have received some human contact. What comes to mind is a canvas with a few blobs of paint, as opposed to a moving picture.


While in reality there could be no 100% feral child - clearly someone has to feed them in their pre-walking years - I’m saying just roll with it as a thought experiment, if you want to think about the role of social modules in creating human minds as we know them today. If all of that is absent, how does it impact the resulting mind? I think this speaks to the question you were asking regarding social environment and agency.

 
 
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18 March 2017 12:33
 
NL. - 18 March 2017 07:07 AM
Giulio - 17 March 2017 10:12 PM

You can find a fair bit written about feral children (fact and fiction), but in most cases the children had a few early (even if abusive) years with humans.

The question I assume you are asking is what’s it like to be a person entirely raised by let’s say caring wolves. It wouldn’t be like being a human (as we know it), and it wouldn’t be like being a wolf.  Would such a person suffer more, or experience less joy, than say someone brought up by a human family but in conditions with equivalent physical hardship? I’d assume so - being a fish out of water so to speak.

If the child was raised by non social creatures (robots that did the minimal amount to keep it alive), well ... I have no idea. Even children locked away (eg Kaspar Hauser) would have received some human contact. What comes to mind is a canvas with a few blobs of paint, as opposed to a moving picture.


While in reality there could be no 100% feral child - clearly someone has to feed them in their pre-walking years - I’m saying just roll with it as a thought experiment, if you want to think about the role of social modules in creating human minds as we know them today. If all of that is absent, how does it impact the resulting mind? I think this speaks to the question you were asking regarding social environment and agency.

It isn’t clear to me a mind would develop if someone grew up with no social environment at all (living or artificial). No agency or even sense of self. My first image was of a very stunted and deformed individual (‘a canvas with a few blobs of paint, as opposed to a moving picture’), but on further reflection chaos (chaotic primary consciousness) may be a better image to describe such a ‘mind’  - the early brain’s neural connections get pruned to create meaning, and presumably social interactions are a critical part of that.

So pls share your thoughts, as I am guessing you have some insight to share.

[ Edited: 18 March 2017 12:52 by Giulio]
 
Jb8989
 
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19 March 2017 07:48
 

We used to play this hypothetical out a lot in school. The “child in a vacuum” hypothetical and what she would look like. The key thing to keep in mind is that there’s sort of an instinct to educate the self on the self, regardless of social circumstances. One argument can be that limiting those would be the best way to achieve that. Assuming sustenance, it’s a useless hypothetical to highlight how attached we are to the idea of inevitable ongoing social interaction.

 
 
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19 March 2017 14:53
 
Giulio - 18 March 2017 12:33 PM

It isn’t clear to me a mind would develop if someone grew up with no social environment at all (living or artificial). No agency or even sense of self. My first image was of a very stunted and deformed individual (‘a canvas with a few blobs of paint, as opposed to a moving picture’), but on further reflection chaos (chaotic primary consciousness) may be a better image to describe such a ‘mind’  - the early brain’s neural connections get pruned to create meaning, and presumably social interactions are a critical part of that.

So pls share your thoughts, as I am guessing you have some insight to share.


I wasn’t headed in any particular direction with this, I just thought it might be helpful regarding your question on society and individuals in agency:

 

And if this is the case, should the nature of the discourse on agency be more couched in terms of societies than individuals? (In other words, do we have an illusion about how much agency as individuals we have, most of it really being an aggregatiin of agencies of social forces working through us as hosts.)

 


My personal intuition is that there a few types of upbringings that might be described as ‘wild’, and we can infer a few (although not many, due to lack of material, thank goodness - not an area where you want a lot of case studies) things about them. Children brought up in extremely untraditional (raised as part of a pack of dogs, alone in a room with their mother who was a kidnapping victim, etc.) circumstances seem to develop paradigms that fit pretty well with those circumstances. Alternately, children brought up in a paradigm that is ‘wild’ via that fact that it is incredibly inconsistent and incoherent due to mental illness, alcoholism, and possibly circumstances like war seem to demonstrate the predictable traits of ‘adult children of alcoholics’ - some of them may copy the behavior, but many developed as a counterbalance to that environment and so develop a paradigm that is in direct opposition to the original - something like rigid perfectionism.


In cases that may represent something closest to an ‘external vacuum’ - some cases of children with autism (possibly - I realize autism is a diverse spectrum, so to hopefully avoid offending neurodiversity oriented types I’ll say ‘possibly’, and certainly ‘in some not all cases’); or children who grow up severely neglected (to the point of being locked in a closet or basement); or in extreme sensory deprivation in orphanages, there tends to be a failure to thrive as far as the brain is concerned (in autism actual brain size may not be affected, but that is a bit of a ‘trick question’ scenario as it seems likely unregulated brain growth is what causes the information muddling in the first place - to get a clearer look you’d have to see how other portions of the brain are affected, and there, there does seem to be under connectivity - in other cases brain growth seems to be stunted overall.) Interestingly, however, I would not say any of those situations seem to be correlated with lack of agency. Complex goal oriented behavior, yes, but agency, no - there is not a ‘catatonic’ component there as there might be on the schizophrenia spectrum. If anything, there is a higher likelihood of behavior problems, which are often a problem of very extreme, stubborn, nothing-will-get-in-my-way agency, ha ha! It seems to me that if something is impacted there, it is the experience side of the equation - the internal web of possibilities, memories, discerned states, and so on, that one is pulling from in forming agentic movement.


So in answer to your question, that may align somewhat, although I tend to avoid words like ‘free’ because I think they mean so many different things to people. I would speak of it in terms of ‘options’. In regard to our mind, it seems to me that our external environment, while it will always impose restraints, can either enhance or decrease our options for creation of subjective states via complex goals. If you are raised by dogs and tend to act like a dog, your options for pain and pleasure will necessarily be somewhat limited. If you are raised with all the finer points that the humanities has to offer (kind of an interesting unintended pun there, ‘humanities’,) then yes, eating food from a bowl on the floor is off the table in polite company, so there are some new restrictions, but the palette of possible subjective experiences would seem to be much, much broader there, to my mind.

 
 
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20 March 2017 02:18
 
NL. - 19 March 2017 02:53 PM

So in answer to your question, that may align somewhat, although I tend to avoid words like ‘free’ because I think they mean so many different things to people. I would speak of it in terms of ‘options’. In regard to our mind, it seems to me that our external environment, while it will always impose restraints, can either enhance or decrease our options for creation of subjective states via complex goals. If you are raised by dogs and tend to act like a dog, your options for pain and pleasure will necessarily be somewhat limited. If you are raised with all the finer points that the humanities has to offer (kind of an interesting unintended pun there, ‘humanities’,) then yes, eating food from a bowl on the floor is off the table in polite company, so there are some new restrictions, but the palette of possible subjective experiences would seem to be much, much broader there, to my mind.

For some reason, Bunuel’s Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie comes to mind. I must rewatch it (along with Herzog’s The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser).

A different sort of question is one around an individual’s sense of their own agency (regardless of the extent to which they have any). Presumably this varies not only by individual but also on aggregate with culture. A British or Australian soldier’s qualitative sense of their own agency in the meat grinder of WWI would I assume be different to that of a German soldier’s (of similar rank and situation) or a Russian’s in that war. And possibly different from a Roman soldier’s in the Battle of Cannae. Or would it?

 

 
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20 March 2017 07:48
 
Giulio - 20 March 2017 02:18 AM

For some reason, Bunuel’s Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie comes to mind. I must rewatch it (along with Herzog’s The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser).


Not sure what connection you’re making there - Googled the movie and it sounds like it’s about the trivialities of socialites, so not following your train of thought. In rereading my last post, btw, I want to clarify that I was talking about people who were literally raised by dogs, as it could read as snobbish “Oh! Frat boys behaving like animals! The horror!” type thinking. So, just to be clear - I meant kids raised by actual dogs in the wild.

 

A different sort of question is one around an individual’s sense of their own agency (regardless of the extent to which they have any). Presumably this varies not only by individual but also on aggregate with culture. A British or Australian soldier’s qualitative sense of their own agency in the meat grinder of WWI would I assume be different to that of a German soldier’s (of similar rank and situation) or a Russian’s in that war. And possibly different from a Roman soldier’s in the Battle of Cannae. Or would it?


I can only speak to my own intuitions here, but I would say that while the perceived morality would likely be different there (assuming Germans were remorseful after the war, although perhaps not all of them were,) I don’t think the baseline sense of agency would be any different. I think of agency as “the sense of oneself acting” - I think that actually stays pretty consistent across contexts, whether you’re acting in a way that you think is noble or terrible. Likely in armies you’d see a more collective style of agency, but again, I think that would be across the board for all armies involved. (In a different way, I feel that I can now mindfully ‘see’ this shift in myself when I go home for large family gatherings… in some ways it’s a break from my own ego and sense of “I” in a different way than a silent retreat. In a silent retreat you have to sit staring at your ego until it quiets down; when very busy with other people it fades into the background out of necessity. There are always dishes to do or aunts who want to chat or a child who is fussing about something - while I was always looking for ‘space’ as an introverted kid, now it’s nice to just get lost in the flow of temporary communal living. So I do think there are different ‘modes’ of agency, but I actually don’t know if that relates greatly to morality, any more than, say, physical sensations relate to morality. To my mind it’s similar to asking if soldiers on one side felt differently when injured than soldiers on the other… but again, nothing to go on but my personal intuitions here.)

 
 
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21 March 2017 22:25
 

This is a good thread. I may have to pay more attention than I have been for the past few months, if threads like this are becoming more common.

With respect to primary and secondary consciousness, I think it is premature to decide on spectrum boundaries. There may actually be several such spectra, distinguished by the information processing modules that mediate different kinds of subjective experience.

With respect to experience, I think a necessary distinction is between that which may be irreducibly subjective and that which can be correlated to objective phenomena, i.e., phenomena that are evident to individuals other than the subject. The distinction for scientific purposes is between that part of experience that does not consist of information with objective correlates and that which does. This is a theoretical limit, and will likely remain so forever, because we can never verify without any degree of uncertainty that objective phenomena correspond to every subjective experience. That caveat accepted, we are free to accept objective phenomena as correlates or correspondences to subjective experience to the extent that our measurement abilities enable and scientific integrity allows. Formerly, our measurement abilities were not very good at all. Recently, in the past several decades, they have become much better and appear to be continuing to do so.

 
 
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22 March 2017 12:48
 
Poldano - 21 March 2017 10:25 PM

This is a good thread. I may have to pay more attention than I have been for the past few months, if threads like this are becoming more common.

With respect to primary and secondary consciousness, I think it is premature to decide on spectrum boundaries. There may actually be several such spectra, distinguished by the information processing modules that mediate different kinds of subjective experience.

With respect to experience, I think a necessary distinction is between that which may be irreducibly subjective and that which can be correlated to objective phenomena, i.e., phenomena that are evident to individuals other than the subject. The distinction for scientific purposes is between that part of experience that does not consist of information with objective correlates and that which does. This is a theoretical limit, and will likely remain so forever, because we can never verify without any degree of uncertainty that objective phenomena correspond to every subjective experience. That caveat accepted, we are free to accept objective phenomena as correlates or correspondences to subjective experience to the extent that our measurement abilities enable and scientific integrity allows. Formerly, our measurement abilities were not very good at all. Recently, in the past several decades, they have become much better and appear to be continuing to do so.

Consciousness is a fundamental force of nature that most people assume we understand because we understand things. But only 5% of matter we can perceive abides by the laws of physics as we understand them. You can render moot the idea of bright line sectioning off of degrees of consciousness by defining awareness as the ability to experience subjectivity. Which really isn’t that bad of definition. It makes correlates necessary for social agreement. Othwerwise, we’re stuck with the problem that our biology developed in such a way that the varying levels of cognition rely on one another for a type of integrated formation that creates consciousness. Memory to meta-cognition; Reasoning to situational awareness. Therefore, we can sort of measure extent, and toy around with categories, but not necessarily fundamental inner-specie distinctions. Not until we transform the laws of physics again.

 
 
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23 March 2017 19:55
 
Poldano - 21 March 2017 10:25 PM

This is a good thread. I may have to pay more attention than I have been for the past few months, if threads like this are becoming more common.

With respect to primary and secondary consciousness, I think it is premature to decide on spectrum boundaries. There may actually be several such spectra, distinguished by the information processing modules that mediate different kinds of subjective experience.

With respect to experience, I think a necessary distinction is between that which may be irreducibly subjective and that which can be correlated to objective phenomena, i.e., phenomena that are evident to individuals other than the subject. The distinction for scientific purposes is between that part of experience that does not consist of information with objective correlates and that which does. This is a theoretical limit, and will likely remain so forever, because we can never verify without any degree of uncertainty that objective phenomena correspond to every subjective experience. That caveat accepted, we are free to accept objective phenomena as correlates or correspondences to subjective experience to the extent that our measurement abilities enable and scientific integrity allows. Formerly, our measurement abilities were not very good at all. Recently, in the past several decades, they have become much better and appear to be continuing to do so.

I can imagine it is possible there are subjective experiences that will never be able to be measured objectively by humans (though I don’t have any idea if this is true).

Without recourse to dualism, however, I am trying to get my head around what it means to say a subjective experience could never be identified or measured via any objective method (as it pushes the boundaries of what I understand objective, subjective and measurement/observation to mean).

Can you explain? Or does it just amount to dualism?

 
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23 March 2017 22:20
 

I took a look at the wiki pages.

If these separated perceptions still have to be given baffling properties or an impossible existance as an illusion, then the proposed model under examination has problems. The broad idea of primary perception doesn’t raise too much fuss but perp #2 does. If secondary perception has to be both Meta-cognition and something animals do not possess, then it can’t have much to do with intelligence or learmimg (since animals are intelligent and can learn).

If perp #2 is imagined in such a way that it defies measurement or categorization, or raises puzzles of subjectivity, I would blame the imagination. Too many functions have been bundled together into perp #2. The timing doesn’t work.

Others might be beavering away on the Qualioscope or a new meter scale that can only be read subjectively, but the real frontier is imagining the model. A proper model will need only careful observation and a stop watch to measure or categorize. All the bits of pieces of trioon but one are strewn across those pages.

Can one person be more meta-cognitive than another person with this silly perp #2 model? If so, how?

 
Giulio
 
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23 March 2017 22:54
 
Nhoj Morley - 23 March 2017 10:20 PM

I took a look at the wiki pages.

If these separated perceptions still have to be given baffling properties or an impossible existance as an illusion, then the proposed model under examination has problems. The broad idea of primary perception doesn’t raise too much fuss but perp #2 does. If secondary perception has to be both Meta-cognition and something animals do not possess, then it can’t have much to do with intelligence or learmimg (since animals are intelligent and can learn).

If perp #2 is imagined in such a way that it defies measurement or categorization, or raises puzzles of subjectivity, I would blame the imagination. Too many functions have been bundled together into perp #2. The timing doesn’t work.

Others might be beavering away on the Qualioscope or a new meter scale that can only be read subjectively, but the real frontier is imagining the model. A proper model will need only careful observation and a stop watch to measure or categorize. All the bits of pieces of trioon but one are strewn across those pages.

Can one person be more meta-cognitive than another person with this silly perp #2 model? If so, how?

From the wiki page on secondary consciousness:

secondary consciousness depends on and includes such features as self-reflective awareness, abstract thinking, volition and metacognition.

One of my closest friends died from an inoperable brain tumor. Though I have no scientific evidence to support this, it seemed pretty obvious in his later stages aspects of (what’s included in this bundled term) secondary consciousness progessively deteriorated. I have no idea about his primary consciousness though.

 

[ Edited: 23 March 2017 23:06 by Giulio]
 
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23 March 2017 23:28
 
Giulio - 23 March 2017 07:55 PM

...

I can imagine it is possible there are subjective experiences that will never be able to be measured objectively by humans (though I don’t have any idea if this is true).

Without recourse to dualism, however, I am trying to get my head around what it means to say a subjective experience could never be identified or measured via any objective method (as it pushes the boundaries of what I understand objective, subjective and measurement/observation to mean).

Can you explain? Or does it just amount to dualism?

It amounts to epistemological dualism, based on limitations to human capabilities for observation and measurement. It does not, however, amount to ontological dualism. It is quite possible to be ontologically monistic, while acknowledging that different points of view are unavoidable and may result in different opinions about reality.

My current orientation is epistemological dualism (actually multism) with ontological monism, probably a variety of what is called panpsychism or panexperientialism. Epistemological multism is unavoidable because most (if not all) of our perceptions of objects seem to be highly localized to the confines or near proximities of our bodies. I do not deny objective reality, in fact I see it as fundamental; however it is transcendental in the sense of being inaccessible except for our limited local subjective experiences. The contents of scientific knowledge, indeed any declarative knowledge, is a model of objective reality constructed by minds. In the case of most humans, that model is consubjective, because it is negotiated among humans and for the most part transmitted among them in symbolic form. The whole scheme is understandably both complex and non-intuitive, so I will not further elaborate in this thread. By consubjective I mean that which is experienced subjectively but which multiple subjects agree is an accurate perception of reality, hence suitable for inclusion in a shared model of objective reality.

Correlating subjective experience with so-called objective (actually consubjective) measurements and observations allows humans to build and improve models of objective reality, including objective models of mental phenomena. My intent is to show how objective models of mind can be developed without either transgressing upon the irreducibly subjective (if there is such a thing) or dismissing subjectivity as ontologically epiphenomenal. In a purely materialist objective scientific view, a model of objective reality is considered to be identical to objective reality until new facts arise that make at least one assertion of the model doubtful. The cycle of doubt-investigation-revision/confirmation is the basic process scheme of science.

I digress too much. I hope I have clarified my opinions satisfactorily.

 
 
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23 March 2017 23:37
 
Jb8989 - 22 March 2017 12:48 PM

...

Consciousness is a fundamental force of nature that most people assume we understand because we understand things. But only 5% of matter we can perceive abides by the laws of physics as we understand them. You can render moot the idea of bright line sectioning off of degrees of consciousness by defining awareness as the ability to experience subjectivity. Which really isn’t that bad of definition. It makes correlates necessary for social agreement. Othwerwise, we’re stuck with the problem that our biology developed in such a way that the varying levels of cognition rely on one another for a type of integrated formation that creates consciousness. Memory to meta-cognition; Reasoning to situational awareness. Therefore, we can sort of measure extent, and toy around with categories, but not necessarily fundamental inner-specie distinctions. Not until we transform the laws of physics again.

I think I basically agree with you. I’m not sure if consciousness is a single separate fundamental force of nature or an attribute of already known physical forces that cannot be detected by our current physical methods. A physics that does not recognize consciousness, in the specific sense of subjective experience that is equivalent to tangible existence to a subject, cannot provide a complete model of reality.

 
 
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