Hello, and without thinking, how are you?
I'm jumping straight in to talk about consciousness, it being something that science aspires to understand, yet has not made much headway, and I think that, being someone who possesses consciousness, I think that I can talk about it.
I spend a great deal of time thinking about consciousness, and my favourite times are those when I am on the cusp of dropping off to sleep, when the physical world as we naively know it begins to subside into dissipation, and we enter a world of pure internalisation.
It seems we desire a theory of consciousness. I think that, in order to attain such a theory, we need to assess just what attributes the phenomenon possesses that we can all agree upon, largely in the same fashion as science has in terms of the physical world. Newton, for example, was able to conceive of laws, such as the laws of motion, to which all macroscopic objects adhere. I am sometimes astounded that we have not as yet found any laws outside of pure metaphysics that come close to describing consciousness. However, I think that this is because many of us have not tried.
Hegel has come close to ascertaining some degree of consistency in his discussion of the internal workings of the mind (I have yet to complete a reading of his "Philosophy of Mind"). He talks about the apparent structures of the entity, and I must admit, he does a wonderful job in his introductory explanations. For example, he claims the properties of mind contain, for one thing, that of being "in" something, and in that sense, it is a private entity; that is, nobody else has access to its contents. Hegel talks about thinking in terms of an entity that is experienced as a type of string of points separated by time, and I admit, although a naively realistic assessment, it is not far from the mark.
As an introduction to consciousness I feel it would be wise to avoid the esoteric curtailments of its description, however, I feel the following attempt in part avoids a complete reduction to such a restriction. One of consciousness's properties is that it is one. As I mention, not so esoteric, I believe, when one considers the glaring fact of its empirical evidence; that is, and from a personal perspective, consciousness can only be one in the sense in which only one person experiences it at any one time. In that sense it is true, but also on a more esoteric note, it must follow that consciousness is one in the universal sense; that is, there is nothing that I am given to experience that is solely within the confines of my own experience; that is, to reiterate, there is nothing it is like to be me that cannot be known by anyone else. It is a hard concept to grasp, but it is perfectly natural. Nagel asks: Is there anything it is like to be a bat? And I believe that, if we can mine our cognitive talents enough, we can understand that what it is like to be a bat is the same in many respects as what it is like to be ourselves, given the similarities in evolutionary survival struggles, and other such respects. Perhaps I am not being entirely clear, however, this point is a fleeting nod to the impressions left by the physical presence and worldly effects that others (in the naively traditional sense) have on us. (Am I justified in talking about an 'us'?)
But Hegel's appropriation to the aspects of mind may give us a fruitful leg up in the approach to a definition of consciousness, that is, in the sense in which we must find common properties to it. I think that "consciousness is one" is a good approximation to such an introduction, in the flavour of what I intend to purport.
But without messing around too much with particularities, I wish to define a second approach to something akin to an appraisal of a property of consciousness, and this relies on a cursory understanding of quantum mechanics and thermodynamics. In short, it is a physical theory, and perhaps relies, to its detriment, on an understanding of mind as a structural composition of thought. That is, thought itself is not consciousness (yet it does have connections), rather, thought is a structural component, the likes of which may or may not be similar in form to those which are common to each and every one of us. That is, it is consciousness which separates us (again, justified use of the word 'us'?), although having said that, how could I know? I am not telepathic. Yet these structures of thought, which are underpinned by consciousness, can be ascertained by experience and with skill, and skill that is a common undertaking to those with the disposition. So, momentarily, a discussion of thought. First however, I wish to illustrate a conceptual and intuitive definition of consciousness. That is - consciousness is a self-luminant observable entity.
Consciousness is a self-luminant observable entity. Such a concept is self evident, and also it is self evident that such a self-luminant entity is an innate, that is, inner conceptual entity. To deepen the discussion, it may be necessary to state some obvious observations about this concept.
Again, a self-luminant observable entity is innate. However, questions arise about the nature of 'inside' and 'outside', and it can be proven that a distinction can be blurred, and even switched upon its head, and also that, in light of relativistic concerns. Perhaps 'inside' and 'outside' are emergent properties? And perhaps consciousness itself is the mooting example of such a relativistic consideration. This is akin to considerations of relative size, mass, position, possession, quality, quantity, relation, place, activity, passivity and time and substance.
A self-luminant observable entity is only attainable by the one. That is, it may only be accessed by he whom observes it, namely, it is private. In esoteric terms (forgive me!), it may be that the self-luminant observable entity (SLOE) is produced according to differences in the 'micro-evolution' of the human states of being. (Micro-evolution is merely changes to the constitution of being, which has numerable connotations, one of which I heretofore point out to be an effect of continual rejuvenation, brought about by the continuum of transference, in terms of the perceived coming to being, and dying away of external entities. A SLOE is self-luminant; it illuminates itself, and the structure of thought is the mechanism by which this occurs.
That is why we must continue the discussion in the frame of 'thought', which appears to me to be a mechanistic structure, and can easily be defined. We may naively consider that, which we take to be thought, to be that which is an emergent property of the mind, brought about by the brain and its connections. I admit, I do not know enough about neuroscience to be sure of these following claims, but I have for many years sought to investigate the workings of thought, by introspection, and am most enamoured by science. That is, in short, the structure of thought is as geometric and logical as we can take it. One may imagine a fractal, or a network, indeed, a neural network, that is engineered to be experienced as a micro-evolution, and takes on different levels at different times of life.
These innate neural networks can be seen to be structural by inspection. One is reminded of the physical mechanics of semiconductors, which employ the use of doping mechanisms by which lattices of configured atoms are electrically enhanced by the addition of 'holes' (doping), and these promote the flow of electrons from one part of the material to another. That is the long and short of it. Yet in terms of the structure of thinking, that is, the structure of thought, we can find a counterpart similarity. Yet here we have a subject that has not been much considered, at least in my line.
Take a thought, and take it to be in the form of such a SLOE as we have been discussing, and call it a positive entity. This puts it in the same line as like a positive particle. In fact, electrons are the negative particles, and protons the positive, so hence we should put thought (SLOE) in the same species as a proton - yet, to be true to the physics, it is the electron which carries the charge, hence we should say that a SLOE is a negative entity. Nevertheless we experience it as a positive entity, in its self-luminant capacity. But such a SLOE is in pursuit of something which is definitely a 'missing' attribute. That is, the electron is fluid in the presence of a hole (a hole being a positive entity). Such a hole, in the manner of doping, can take the place of something akin to that which we seek to know, that is, the promise of knowledge; the gap in our knowledge; the unknowledge, or the innocence or ignorance. Yet we could not call it ignorance, nevertheless these things we seek to know are things of which we are ignorant. These entities, akin to doping holes, are really yet to be discovered. However, they act in the capacity of driving the negative entities to become a SLOE, and thus complete the mechanism.
Hence we have innate neural networks. The properties of such a network are glaring and glaringly vast, yet as with anything, I believe they can be brought into crystallisation, and, furthermore, are common to all species of being, male or female, and so on.
I will come to an end shortly, on this discussion of consciousness, but I leave you with the thoughts that follow.
Consciousness, if introspection and investigation through self-examination have anything to do with it, is finely grained. That is what is so fascinating about it. That is what is so mysterious about it. The experience of the physical world, in waking life, for me personally, is a matter of light and touch, and the other senses. Yet it seems the human brain (for those who are aware of their own possession of such) is capable of storing light to be saved for such experiences as dreams, and lucid dreams, and imagination. The innate light that we possess can illuminate our unconscious experiences and, as I say, it is finely grained. That is, our dreams seem to possess such fine graining in the quality of our innate experiences, that it becomes harder and harder to appreciate that the physical world (which may be extended to synaptic and neural experiences) is quantum at all, or in other words, particulate. There remain to be had discussions of time, and space, and light, and all manner of other entities of which we may attribute the tag a limit.
For what is not a limit?
I wish to say one last thing in this blog post. I believe that, whether or not you take into account the admittedly abstruse or inscrutable things I have said here, the goal of a true understanding of consciousness is to attain a state of universal access to a common innate entity. Perhaps our common origin (in that of the big bang) may go some way to afford this task, and perhaps the real wonder is why we have not already reached this achievement. But I would encourage people to make it a common endeavour to think deeply about the ways in which we can finally, through all our failed attempts, make a good go at finding a physics of consciousness.
Thanks very much,
Daniel Frederick Best, Cert He (Open).