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Invisibleridebaja
Rewild Yourself

Registered: 05/02/08
Posts: 184
Loc: The Other Side
What makes us conscious?
    #8791434 - 08/18/08 04:58 PM (10 years, 2 months ago)

Last year I took a class at college that was basically the history of the world from the Big Bang to now. It was my most beneficial class ever.

During the semester we touched on the subject of apes evolving into humans, and thought about what makes a human have consciousness.

In the end it came down to two things: collective learning and abstract thought.

Collective learning: the ability to use symbolic language to discuss facts of life. Symbolic language means talking using words that represent symbols, like money. Since we can learn collectively by discussing topics with words, our children will be able to grasp concepts taught by their elders.

Abstract thought: the ability to grasp concepts that have a lot of symbolism. For example, humans are unique where we can discuss concepts like the future and the past, time, and emotions. Try explaining the concept of time to an animal.

Does anyone have any other concepts that give humans consciousness?


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OfflineDiaboleros
Devil's spawn

Registered: 07/20/08
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Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: ridebaja]
    #8791924 - 08/18/08 07:02 PM (10 years, 2 months ago)

Imagination? The power to imagine yourself as an individual? This is a good question, never thought about it =O Do animals have imagination?


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Invisibleredgreenvines
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Registered: 04/08/04
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Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: ridebaja]
    #8791943 - 08/18/08 07:06 PM (10 years, 2 months ago)

consciousness starts much earlier than with the emergence of primates on the world stage.

some storytellers or professors make a huge deal about primate intelligence and equate some aspects of abstract thought and language with consciousness.
as if animals that do not use language (or hand tools) have no consciousness.
this is really very misleading and anthropomorphic.

in the case that a person is having an epiphanic vision, if they begin trying to articulate it using language, the effort will usually force the vision to dissapate.

some aspects of brain activity will actually counter the most lovely experiences. this actually should raise the question
do animals without language possibly spend more time in intense visionary consciousness.

for the meantime, we have no good clinical way to measure this, but I think one day we will and the results of such clinical tests may actually force thremendous rethinking about consciousness and evolution.


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InvisibledeCypher
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Registered: 02/10/08
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Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: redgreenvines]
    #8791969 - 08/18/08 07:11 PM (10 years, 2 months ago)

Has anyone read the book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes?  He raises an interesting theory that in ancient times, the human mind operated fundamentally differently: rather than a unified human mind that makes a conscious, self-aware decision about things, Jaynes proposes that the right hemisphere gave orders to the left hemisphere via auditory hallucinations similar to those experienced by schizophrenics.  Thus the gods and muses that were written about by the poets of yore were simply expressions of the right hemisphere and the subconscious.  According to Jaynes, it was only until about the time of the Iliad that modern human 'consciousness' arose due to the bicameral mindset being unable to cope with complex societal pressures. 

Not sure if I fully believe it, but it's definitely a unique proposal.


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We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.


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Invisibleredgreenvines
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Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: deCypher]
    #8792116 - 08/18/08 07:53 PM (10 years, 2 months ago)

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes is reaally a stretch
but it's also a good example of using language to hide what is really going on.


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OfflineLion
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Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: redgreenvines]
    #8792243 - 08/18/08 08:34 PM (10 years, 2 months ago)

Quote:

some aspects of brain activity will actually counter the most lovely experiences. this actually should raise the question
do animals without language possibly spend more time in intense visionary consciousness.


I wonder about this a lot.  I'd love to see as a shark sees, or a wolf, or hawk, or deer.


--------------------
“Strengthened by contemplation and study,
I will not fear my passions like a coward.
My body I will give to pleasures,
to diversions that I’ve dreamed of,
to the most daring erotic desires,
to the lustful impulses of my blood, without
any fear at all, for whenever I will—
and I will have the will, strengthened
as I’ll be with contemplation and study—
at the crucial moments I’ll recover
my spirit as was before: ascetic.”


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Invisibleridebaja
Rewild Yourself

Registered: 05/02/08
Posts: 184
Loc: The Other Side
Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: redgreenvines]
    #8792325 - 08/18/08 08:58 PM (10 years, 2 months ago)

Quote:

redgreenvines said:
in the case that a person is having an epiphanic vision, if they begin trying to articulate it using language, the effort will usually force the vision to dissapate.




This is a very good point. Maybe there is a better word to describe what thought I'm trying to provoke. It seems that humans can think abstractly only because of language and the only reason we have language is because of abstract thought.

Then what separates us from other animals? besides language? If nothing, then language is the reason that homo sapiens exist and thrive.

This is contradicting because it seems that using psychedelics makes me think that language is not all that important, at least while I'm tripping.


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Invisibleredgreenvines
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Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: ridebaja]
    #8792586 - 08/18/08 10:18 PM (10 years, 2 months ago)

birds fly and thrive using faculties we dont have including visual cortex that is 10 times as dense as ours in some species.
fish swim using organs we do not have
horses run
we have speech, music and hands.
I am not sure that abstract thought hangs on words only
and I think animals can have mental designs theories etc. without using words.

many animals play, squirrels and birds certainly do.
i am certain they ae conscious.


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OfflineLion
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Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: redgreenvines]
    #8792674 - 08/18/08 10:41 PM (10 years, 2 months ago)

Walking in my neighborhood tonight I saw a bunch of bats flying around in a circle...All in the same direction, at roughly the same speed.  I guessed they were herding insects.  I wondered what kind of consciousness that represented...Something to do with their sonar maybe....


--------------------
“Strengthened by contemplation and study,
I will not fear my passions like a coward.
My body I will give to pleasures,
to diversions that I’ve dreamed of,
to the most daring erotic desires,
to the lustful impulses of my blood, without
any fear at all, for whenever I will—
and I will have the will, strengthened
as I’ll be with contemplation and study—
at the crucial moments I’ll recover
my spirit as was before: ascetic.”


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Invisibleelbisivni
Registered: 10/01/06
Posts: 2,839
Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: redgreenvines]
    #8792787 - 08/18/08 11:03 PM (10 years, 2 months ago)

Quote:

redgreenvines said:
in the case that a person is having an epiphanic vision, if they begin trying to articulate it using language, the effort will usually force the vision to dissapate.

some aspects of brain activity will actually counter the most lovely experiences. this actually should raise the question
do animals without language possibly spend more time in intense visionary consciousness.

for the meantime, we have no good clinical way to measure this, but I think one day we will and the results of such clinical tests may actually force thremendous rethinking about consciousness and evolution.



That's a very interesting thought..  Double-edged sword kind of a deal.


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From dust you are made and to dust you shall return.


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OfflineAlbino_Jesus
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Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: elbisivni]
    #8793177 - 08/19/08 12:14 AM (10 years, 2 months ago)

In the book "The Dragons of Eden" by Carl Sagan, there is an excerpt that talks about some language experiments that were done with chimpanzees.

I will type out the excerpt as it is very interesting and on some level enlightening.

"Until a few years ago, the most extensive attempt to communicate with chimpanzees when something like this : A newborn baby chimp was taken into a household with a newborn baby and both would be raised together - twin cribs, twin bassinets, twin high chairs, twin potties, twin diaper pails, twin babypoweder cans.At the end of three years, the young chimp had far outstripped the young human in manual dexterity, running, leaping, climbing, and other motor skills. But while the child was happily babbling away, the chimp could say only, and with enormous difficulty, "mama," "papa," and "cup." From this it was widely concluded that in language, reasoning and other higher mental functions, chimpanzees were only minimally competent: "Beasts abstract not."

But in thinking over these experiments, two psychologists, Beatrice and Robert Gardner, at the University of Nevada realized that the pharynx and larynx of the chimp are not suited for human speech. Human beings exhibit a curious multiple use of the mouth for eating, breathing, and communicating.  In insects such as crickets, which call to one another by rubbing their legs, these three functions are performed by completely separate organ systems.  Human spoken language seems to be adventitious. The exploitation of organ systems with other functions for communication in humans is also indicative of the comparatively recent evolution of our linguistic abilities. It might be, the Gardners reasoned, that chimpanzees have substantial language abilities which could not be expressed because of the limitations of their anatomy. Was there any symbolic language, they asked, that could employ the strengths, rather than the weaknesses of chimpanzee anatomy?

The Gardners hit upon a brilliant idea: teach a chimpanzee American Sign Language. It is ideally suited to the immense manual dexterity of the chimpanzee. It also may have all the crucial design features of verbal languages.

There is by now a vast library of described and filmed conversations, employing ASL and other gestural languages with Washoe, Lucy, Lana and other chimpanzees studied by the Gardners and others. Not only are there chimpanzees with working vocabularies of 100 to 200 words, they are also able to distinguish among nontrivially different grammatical patterns and syntaxes.l What is more, they have been remarkably inventive in the construction of new words and phrases.

On seeing for the first time a duck land quacking in a pond, Washoe Gestured "water - bird" which is the actual phrase used in english and other languages, which Washoe invented for the occasion. Having never seen a spherical fruit other than an apple, but knowing the signs for the principal colors,  Lana, upon spying a technician eating an orange, signed "orange apple". After tasting a watermelon, Lucy described it as "candy drink" or "drink fruit", which is essentially the same word form as the English "watermelon". But after she had burned her mouth on her first radish, Lucy forever after described them as "cry hurt food". A small doll placed unexpectedly in Washoe's cup elicited the response "baby in my drink". When washoe soiled clothing or furniture, she was taught the sign "dirty", which she then extrapolated as a general term of abuse. A Rhesus monkey that evoked her displeasure was repeatedly signed at, "dirty monkey, dirty monkey". Occasionally Washoe would say things like "Dirty Jack, give me drink". Lana, in a moment of creative annoyance, called her trainer "You green shit". Chimpanzees have invented swear words. Washoe also seems to have a sort of sense of humor. Once when riding on her trainer's shoulders and, perhaps inadvertently wetting him, she signed, "funny, funny"

Lucy was eventually able to distinguish clearly the meanings of the phrases, "roger tickle lucy" and "lucy tickle roger", both of which activities she enjoyed with gusto. Likewise Lana extrapolated from "tim groom lana" to "lana groom tim". Washoe was observed "reading" a magazine, i.e. slowly turning the pages, peering intently at the pictures, and making, to no one in particular, the correct sign such as "cat" when viewing a photograph of a tiger, and "drink" when examining a vermouth advertisement. "




This excerpt goes on for several more pages, but you get the point.


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The only difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is the velocities with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their door.
-Ralph Nader



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InvisibleSleepwalker
Overshoes


Registered: 05/07/08
Posts: 5,503
Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: Albino_Jesus]
    #8793369 - 08/19/08 12:52 AM (10 years, 2 months ago)

Quote:

Albino_Jesus said:
This excerpt goes on for several more pages, but you get the point.




This sort of thing makes me feel like what we refer to as specifically "human rights" should actually apply to all creatures.


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OfflineNiamhNyx
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Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: Albino_Jesus]
    #8793485 - 08/19/08 01:15 AM (10 years, 2 months ago)

One of those sign language chimps was pissed off one day and told her handler that she was a "runny green shit." :lol: Of course she was never taught how to insult anybody yet she managed to equate a person she was mad at with the most disgusting thing she could think of, so if that doesn't demonstrate abstract though processes, I don't know what would. :awesome:

edit: ...and upon actually fully reading your post, I see you already told this anecdote. ah well.


Edited by NiamhNyx (08/19/08 01:17 AM)


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Offlinedirtydirt
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Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: Sleepwalker]
    #8793501 - 08/19/08 01:19 AM (10 years, 2 months ago)

I recognize consciousness and self awareness as two distinct concepts.

I think attributing consciousness to an organism is as simple as determining whether or not it makes an effort to survive. It is a type of self awareness without comprehension. Any living organism with the ability to process any sort of stimuli meets my requirements for being conscious.


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InvisibleSleepwalker
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Registered: 05/07/08
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Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: dirtydirt]
    #8793517 - 08/19/08 01:22 AM (10 years, 2 months ago)

Quote:

dirtydirt said:
I recognize consciousness and self awareness as two distinct concepts.

I think attributing consciousness to an organism is as simple as determining whether or not it makes an effort to survive. It is a type of self awareness without comprehension. Any living organism with the ability to process any sort of stimuli meets my requirements for being conscious.




I agree.  It makes sense to me that even single-celled organisms must have at least a rudimentary awareness of their environment.

Each of us is truly a community of cellular organisms working in tandem.  If the "hive" as a whole has consciousness, why wouldn't the parts? I just have trouble seeing this as an emergent property.


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InvisibleLakefingers

Registered: 08/26/05
Posts: 6,439
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Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: ridebaja]
    #8794137 - 08/19/08 06:28 AM (10 years, 2 months ago)

Quote:

ridebaja said:
Quote:

redgreenvines said:
in the case that a person is having an epiphanic vision, if they begin trying to articulate it using language, the effort will usually force the vision to dissapate.





This is a very good point. Maybe there is a better word to describe what thought I'm trying to provoke. It seems that humans can think abstractly only because of language and the only reason we have language is because of abstract thought.

Then what separates us from other animals? besides language? If nothing, then language is the reason that homo sapiens exist and thrive.

This is contradicting because it seems that using psychedelics makes me think that language is not all that important, at least while I'm tripping.





what are we saying, essentially, etymologically, when we say conscious?
we are saying knowing with others, in Latin con (with) - scire (to know).

i've mentioned this zoion logon echon bit in many
posts here. aristotle was the first (i know of) to write
that what separates humans from animals is their ability
to speak, to have the word, to use rationale. psychedelics
often allow you to step out in the clearing from what
heidegger called the house of being (language).

in a house you live with others and know things with them,
when you step out you can no longer speak to them, you may
call, they may come, but far enough out in the woods and
there is no communication.

so, hopefully it's not just a play of words when one asks,
can you be conscious without language?

certainly many species of animals know things together

philosophers have proposed that language enables man to
make himself into a set, a concept, more precisely using
the German word a begriff. it is the rationale
which enables man to grasp (griffen) himself. can
washoe and lucy do this? Humans, unlike chimpanzees have
their trajectory determined by the potential that arises
in the discourses of themselves and their world.




The Washoe examples doesn't prove that chimpanzees use language abstractly like men, because
it doesn't prove that men using language is abstract and not instead a sensory stimulus, like a
sense data inspiring a certain charge in the brain and communicating that,
like on a piano with many keys, hitting a chord would be like tasting a radish, the keys pull the
hammers, the hammers hit the strings, a chord resonates and hums from the body of the
piano (really like the black box theories) and the audience receives that, that
resonating chord, which in turn sets off a similar phenomenon in the minds of the
listeners. they have been programmed with moods and images to fit major, minor, sharp, flat,
allegro, lente, different instruments, different piano timbers, different concert environments, but
the audience has overlapping or the same associations and fibers triggering. the overlap is important for
coming together, communication, trajectory. but what's abstract about this? it hardly sounds more abstract than feelings,
which are very concrete.

so, what does it mean to say "Lucy distinguished between
concepts" anymore than to say you and I distinguish?

let's not get caught up on distinguishing being an overly
rational procedure, sooner it's something very
aconceptual. Thought itself is quite aconceptual.

the citation of the chimp-experiments doesn't consider how
many "chords" the chimps pick up from observing their
trainers, listening to their speech (how large is their
passively vocabulary) how much does cohabiting with humans
make chimps human. look at dogs, they're hardly animals
(any more than we are), they're initiated into the human
realm. same thing happens with chimps as well, we can
perhaps prove some  biological/latent capabilities in
other species, but that's not as spectacular as these
other species -or the Other itself- developing some on its
own. washoe and lucy are hardly chimps anymore... it's
just: look, what can teach other stuff things we find
important. in other words there's no true interest in the
other. how about instead taking the chimp, fish, lobster
brains and trying to understand its achievements we could
teach ourselves?

is thought abstract, and if it is then why not just say
thought? people assume emotions are abstract, do we
say abstract emotions? no. and why are they abstract?
they're very concrete! they're very present and real, but
being caught in representational fantasy we loose all touch with what is concrete and consider it unreal.

Oweyervishice they're working on primate rights
right now, but then they're also working on taking away
human rights, such as in instances of catastrophe,
terrorism, war, famine, oil crash, computer
surveillance... maybe the speaking great apes will free us
one day


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InvisibleChronic7
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Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: ridebaja]
    #8794272 - 08/19/08 08:09 AM (10 years, 2 months ago)

The things you talk about gives humans intelligence not consciousness, every living thing from a plant to a human has consciousness.

Our intelligence is just an effect of consciousness not the cause of it

:peace:


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________________________________


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Invisibleridebaja
Rewild Yourself

Registered: 05/02/08
Posts: 184
Loc: The Other Side
Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: Chronic7]
    #8794410 - 08/19/08 09:42 AM (10 years, 2 months ago)

1. intelligence: the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations : reason; also : the skilled use of reason (2): the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria

2. consciousness: the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself,  (2) awareness; especially : concern for some social or political cause

(from m-w.com)

It seems like all beings have some sort of intelligence because they are able to survive in their natural surroundings. But with consciousness, the being must be aware of its place in the environment in relation to the other beings.


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InvisibleChronic7
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Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: ridebaja]
    #8794448 - 08/19/08 10:01 AM (10 years, 2 months ago)

Thank you merriam webster

For me conciousness & awareness can not be defined by a dictionary

:peace:


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Invisibleredgreenvines
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Re: What makes us conscious? [Re: Chronic7]
    #8794452 - 08/19/08 10:02 AM (10 years, 2 months ago)

Quote:

Chronic777 said:
The things you talk about gives humans intelligence not consciousness, every living thing from a plant to a human has consciousness.

Our intelligence is just an effect of consciousness not the cause of it

:peace:




this is really close!

also what takes us a bit further (but not very much farther - since elephants have it and dogs too - several others I am sure as well)
is the ability/practice of observation of mental contents (prefrontal cortex) which adds a layer of oversight to the ocean of consciousness.
some call that the soul.


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