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August 22, 2009


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"What's beautiful about this thesis, which makes a lot of both experiential and intellectual sense to me, is how it points toward a non-metaphysical oneness."

See this is where i think you are grasping.

Apologies if this aspersion is incorrect, and perhaps you do appreciate it on a rational intellectual level, but i think if someone really understands an idea they can often convey that idea very clearly without abstruse wording. To be frank i do not believe either you or Forman have succeeded in this regard. In fact, you admit the language he uses is abstruse and it is.

Forman is not saying anything of substance, just inventing semantic categories that are not clear or meaningful. It needs to be put accross more clearly.

Is Korman suggesting our consciousness is comprised of a learned (or experential) part as distinct from a more primal simple awareness part?

If so, is awareness not merely the senses of a particular animate organism that combine to give a model of the external world? This model allows the organism to interact with the world via their specific senses that have evolved, regardless of thinking or learning or experience-based knowledge.

However, this type of primal awareness will differ depending on the organism. For example, a human being's basic awareness will be different from a dog's basic awareness since the dog has slightly sharpend senses to the human or for example different senses a bat with a sonar sense or a shark with an electromagnetic sense. Each having a different primal awareness.

Indeed, perhaps this basic awareness might dictate how the reliance or ability for the learned part of consciosness develop. For example, if humans have less developed senses or a less accurate basic awareness or perception of reality, perhaps they have developed their intellectual or learned part to compete with other organisms in nature's evolutionary arms race for survival.

i've purposefully given a coarse specific example, since if there is another type of deeper awareness that is sensory-independent, it needs to be better explained.

George, your reaction is reasonable. Forman notes that many people (including consciousness researchers, I presume) consider that consciousness is always consciousness of something.

Meaning, pretty much as you said, that sensory, cognitive, and other systems of the body/brain convey information about something out there (physical world) or in here (internal mental state) and then it becomes an object of consciousness.

WIthout some object to be conscious of, there would be no consciousness -- under this hypothesis (don't physicists say much the same thing with regard to space? if there is no object in empty space, does it exist? don't we need a something to make a nothing?)

I'm sympathetic to this argument. It could well be true. But when I came across Forman's reference to awareness as being a human universal, as contrasted with the particular contents of each person's consciousness, I was intrigued by this notion.

To shift gears a bit... as a long-time vegetarian, I've frequently pondered the morality of killing animals for food. Or killing animals for any reason. What is it like for an animal to feel pain, imminent death, other discomfort?

I can't know. Like you said, animals have very different sensory and cognitive systems than humans do. One of the classic articles in consciousness research was called "What is it like to be a bat?" if I recall correctly.

However, it seems to me that I do know what it is like to be aware. To be conscious of some event, some thing, whether internal (pain) or external (danger!). Whenever I try to get a bug out of a sink, I see this. It is aware of the piece of paper I'm trying to get it to climb on, and moves away from it.

I know even less of what it is to be a bug, than to be a dog. There's just something wonderfully mysterious about consciousness -- which all sentient beings have. To be aware, what is this like? Is this sense of awareness unique to different species, and to different humans, or is it something we share, a commonality of consciousness?

I don't know the answers. I just found the questions intriguing.


Yes thanks, that is more clear than Forman's wording, and i agree the questions surrounding consciousness are extremely intriguing and unanswered.

"Without some object to be conscious of, there would be no consciousness"

I'd agree, but suggest it might go even further that consciousness needs to have the means to be conscious of an object.

The philosophical riddle goes "if a tree falls in a forest and there is no-one to hear it did it make a sound", which i probably would answer scientifically in that the object needs to exist (i.e. tree crashes to ground emitting vibrating air waves), but also to be consious of the sound we require an ear sensitive enough to pick up the air vibration. If the observer is too far away or deaf, the tree falls and the air vibrations occur but the observer is not conscious thereof.

The relationship between subject and object is intriguing as is your reference to 'space'. Space was initially thought an infinite nothingness vacuum and yet einsteinian relativity thinks of it as a sort of expanding space-time fabric which can be distorted and shaped by mass and gravity. Planets influence one another accross the expanse of space by gravity, so what is in the space-time fabric allows for the remote transmission of such a force?

On animal awareness, i think most believe that those lifeforms with more developed nervous systems experience a greater range of feelings such as pain and perhaps a host other others. I suppose no-one really knows if a tree feels the same pain in losing a branch or leaf as a human losing a limb. In any event, i respect the vegetarian outlook and morally it makes little sense to kill other living things for no reason. Nevertheless all animate matter has its own nervous system.

If Forman is right that there is a common underlying primitive human awareness, i would argue the only thing that could be similar is the human nervous system and its five known senses. However, such a consciousness would never be exactly the same since each person will differ (just as different fingerprints) so even humans will have a differnce in primitive awareness. This difference becomes exarcerbated with other species and lifeforms having evolved different different nervous systems to interact with their environment (human, bat, plant).

It might stop there, but some speculate over a sort of immanent cosmic consciousness, especially since science has not answered how life first began?

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