The arrival of individual self consciousness.

Either the gentle arousal of sleeping beauty or disturbing a sleeping dragon, which is it?

The part:
An individual human could not become a self-reflective, thinking adult without the necessary bodily systems, processes and organs which comprise the whole organism.

The whole:
Earthly life could not reach a stage in which individual organisms become self-reflective, rational thinking beings without the forms of life which develop in a way that comprises the vast supporting structure that allow these few seeds of nascent self-aware consciousness to spring from the living earth. Life on earth is one self-regulating body while humanity provides the mind within that body.

The majority of earthly life forms only developed so far along the path, some along ever narrowing, one-sided branches, while the balance of the whole is ever maintained. The  one-sided nature of some creatures is obvious. Giant pandas being a classic example. The hoof of a horse, the wing of an albatross, the middle finger of an aye-aye, are all much more specialised than the human hand. Ideally suited to their specific tasks. But this speciality becomes a hindrance to further novelty.

 

Like pacemakers in a race, various creatures forego their own advancement to give an outcome which was destined in the long run. And to achieve this outcome whereby nature can look upon herself with a spark of understanding, self-conscious individuals are a necessity. The sleeping beauty that is nature begins to wake up. Or has the dragon been poked with a stick?

 

The ubiquitous instinctive wisdom of nature which has been in control since physical life began is handing over its power to the still ripening human wisdom. And of course there is no guarantee that the newly sapient creatures that we are will be up to the task of handling this new found power responsibly. Adolescents can be unpredictable when they encounter novel freedom before they have gained the experience to deal with it.

 

Our minds are our exception within nature. And human exceptionalism rightly regarded is a privilege granted us by nature. It is not something for us to boast about; we did not get here by means of our own efforts. We did not wake of our own accord. This is a responsibility which was thrust upon us and we are now left in a position where we have a great deal of control over the destiny of earthly life. Will we gain sufficient maturity to enhance life or are we the seeds of earthly destruction?

 

The future will determine if our efforts turn out to be praiseworthy. We can claim no credit for getting to this point. Will we be considered worthy of credit for what follows? We haven’t made the best of starts but who would have expected otherwise.

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367 thoughts on “The arrival of individual self consciousness.

  1. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: So students that attend lectures but don’t ask questions get nothing out of them?

    Alan Fox: My experience may be different from others. If the resources on-line (indeed, if there had been an on-line) were available when I was an undergraduate, I think I would have learned much more than I did in crowded lecture theatres and chasing books and papers that someone had already taken out from the library

    I’m sure you would have.

    i was simply pointing out the parallel between online videos and live lectures in response to your comment that in your opinion videos are a poor method of disseminating information. I find them a very useful addition to an authors written works.

    We both have different views on it. It’s not a big issue.

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  2. CharlieM: That what is true?

    That “Human consciousness is not just different in scale from animal consciousness, it transcends animal consciousness, it is different in kind.”

    CharlieM: And what is the “I” that is not convinced?

    That would be lil’ ol’ me. Am i missing something?

    CharlieM: Here are a few thoughts on intentionality.[…] We see the world by means of the combination of sense impressions and the intentionality of our active minds.

    Yes, thank you. I get that intentionality is the “aboutism” of mental states, but that is not exclusive to humans. Animals also display directedness in that they are fearful of things or show affection towards others. Hence this cannot be a diagnostic feature of human mental states, right?

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  3. DNA_Jock:
    CharlieM: We can discuss the concepts of consciousness, beauty and intelligence with each other. There is no evidence whatsoever that animals can do this.

    DNA_Jock: There is no evidence that Charlie can discuss these concepts, since he keeps changing the subject — in this case to communication abilities.

    Consciousness is a very broad subject.

    CharlieM: Do you think that a colony of gannets sitting on a rocky island somewhere will be enthusing over a beautiful sunset with each other?

    DNA_Jock: And what makes you think that they aren’t?

    Because experts studying the behaviour of these birds would no doubt have noticed the signs.

    I have been walking down the street and noticed that all the people seemed to be looking skyward, pointing and discussing something. I looked up and saw for myself the focus of their attention. Some joker of a pilot had rendered a recognisable image of an ejaculating penis in sky-writing. My attention was drawn by the behaviour of the crowd.

    If groups of gannets were in the habit of collectively enthusing over some feature in the sky I’m sure researchers would have picked up on it.

    CharlieM: So students that attend lectures but don’t ask questions get nothing out of them?

    DNA_Jock: One of the more impressive examples of the “so what you’re saying…” trope. Quick question, Charlie: did you honestly think that Alan was claiming that students who do not ask questions get nothing out of lectures? Based on what?

    Based on his criticism of online videos. But as I said it’s hardly worth spending time arguing about further.

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  4. DNA_Jock: To revert to Alan’s point: if you are trying to sell an idea, product or service, do not expect your audience to sit through more than four minutes of video; ideally restrict your pitch to two minutes or less.
    If you really want me to sit through a 45 minute presentation (let alone 82 minutes!) then provide me with a transcript. Add key graphics if necessary. Then I can decide whether to invest time in watching the video.

    I am not selling anything and I don’t want you to do anything. If you are interested the video is available to watch, if you aren’t interested then don’t bother to watch it. The choice is yours and it should be an easy decision for you to make without feeling coerced.

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  5. Neil Rickert:
    CharlieM: Here is my very rough summary of his arguments in the video

    Neil Rickert: Thank you for that useful summary.

    My conclusion: it is nonsense, so I need not waste my time watching it.

    That’s how it’s done. You don’t even think it warrants criticism so you’ve decided not to watch it, and thus there is nothing for me to argue or discuss about it with you..

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  6. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: He has been following his interest in human nature for 30 years and concludes that consciousness cannot solely be attributed to neural activity (neuromania)

    Alan Fox: That unfortunately is a deal breaker. It’s an argument from ignorance that can only be salvaged by proposing what additional elements are needed to create consciousness

    Not really. We only know about neural activity by means of consciousness. In fact we can instigate neural activity by conscious means. And neural connections are formed by learning.

    We don’t determine through ignorance that neural activity is necessary but not sufficient for consciousness to occur. This is a reasonable conclusion from what we do know.

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  7. CharlieM: You don’t even think it warrants criticism so you’ve decided not to watch it, and thus there is nothing for me to argue or discuss about it with you..

    The world is chock full of charlatans pushing bad ideas. And Raymond Tallis is one of them. Conservatives are often pushing ideas from Tallis. And, in the past, I have looked in detail at what he has said. But there’s a limit.

    There isn’t enough time to respond to every charlatan who comes along.

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  8. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: Darwinitus [sic] is a condition that regards human behaviour as having no essential difference from animal behaviour.

    Alan Fox: Well, again, the plain assertion fails without some idea of what differences those would be.

    He provides many examples with explanations of the differences in the video including feeding behaviour and learning behaviour.

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  9. CharlieM: With matters of consciousness I can speak from experience as can you.

    This is equivocating on “experience”. We do experience, yes. But we can’t explain to ourselves how we experience. There’s a fundamental barrier in that we can’t explain ourselves to ourselves. Maybe, collectively, taking others first person experience and sharing but that falls prey to the blind men and the elephant. A sentient entity etc…

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  10. CharlieM: We only know about neural activity by means of consciousness.

    Charlie, you keep using that word, consciousness, as if it means something. I may have missed where you had a go at defining it.

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  11. CharlieM: including feeding behaviour

    Yes, I got the analogy on feeding and dinner parties (they are so eighties now). Not persuaded. Bower birds.

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  12. Examples of how various views around “consciousness” might be expressed:

    1. Consciousness is an emergent property that supervenes on the brain so that we can predict and explain everything about it by knowing the brain, except for its qualitative aspect, i.e. what it is like to be conscious.

    2. Consciousness is an emergent property that supervenes on the brain yet cannot be predicted or explained by knowing the brain (e.g. it is a chaotic emergent property).

    3. Consciousness is an emergent property that does not supervene on the brain, such that changes in consciousness do not require changes in the brain, nor vice versa, yet destroying the brain would also annihilate the consciousness.

    4. Consciousness is an emergent property that does not supervene on the brain and it has its own causal efficacy, being able to change the brain: changes in consciousness can change brain states.

    Thoughts, Charlie? Anyone?

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  13. Corneel: Yes, thank you. I get that intentionality is the “aboutism” of mental states, but that is not exclusive to humans. Animals also display directedness in that they are fearful of things or show affection towards others. Hence this cannot be a diagnostic feature of human mental states, right?

    I think so, yes. Though it’s by no means settled, scientifically or philosophically. Everything here depends on whether animal minds are best described as having “content”, in the sense of being able to entertain a variety of inferentially connected thoughts and attitudes about what is regarded as the same object, e.g. “I hope that X happens but I’m afraid that X won’t happen because Y makes X unlikely and here is evidence that Y”

    Some cognitive scientists and philosophers (including myself) think that non-human animals don’t have the kind of thoughts structured by language — we think that having thoughts with a language-like structure is a consequence of having acquired a language, with symbolic conventions and recursive syntax.

    My own view (not that anyone asked) is that it’s necessary to disentangle aboutness from directedness — the former being discursively articulated content with rich semantic and syntactical structure and the latter being purposeful responsiveness to the environment.

    How to characterize the corresponding sub-personal neuronal dynamics is a different though of course closely related question.

    +1
  14. Kantian Naturalist: Some cognitive scientists and philosophers (including myself) think that non-human animals don’t have the kind of thoughts structured by language

    I suggest that this limitation is not restricted to non-human animals.

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  15. Kantian Naturalist,

    This is a topic I haven’t fully been able to wrap my head around, so I was hoping you’d join in.

    Kantian Naturalist: Some cognitive scientists and philosophers (including myself) think that non-human animals don’t have the kind of thoughts structured by language — we think that having thoughts with a language-like structure is a consequence of having acquired a language, with symbolic conventions and recursive syntax.

    Language is simply a verbal way of communication no? Why wouldn’t that be built on pre-established structures that are still present in other non-human animals? For example, large primates must be capable of thoughts along the lines of “(I) Hope Peter will share food, because Peter shared food before”. To express such a sentiment in language requires that mental representations of “Peter” and “sharing food” and their association with a hopeful feeling are already developed.

    Kantian Naturalist: My own view (not that anyone asked) is that it’s necessary to disentangle aboutness from directedness — the former being discursively articulated content with rich semantic and syntactical structure and the latter being purposeful responsiveness to the environment.

    That seems sensible to me, but sounds like a difficult task. Responsiveness to the environment will be conditioned on previous experiences (learning) at least to some extent. If I am not mistaken that will result in a certain “aboutness” of previously encountered situations and/or objects (“red berries are nice”).

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  16. Corneel:
    CharlieM: That what is true?

    Corneel: That “Human consciousness is not just different in scale from animal consciousness, it transcends animal consciousness, it is different in kind.”

    The human self consciousness is a consciousness that places a person as an embodied subject over against a world of objects. It recognises that there are objects outside of itself with a separate history a separate future. It recognizes that everything has a history including itself and it recognizes that everything has its own future which it is able to anticipate in various ways.

    CharlieM: And what is the “I” that is not convinced?

    That would be lil’ ol’ me. Am i missing something?

    To recognize this ‘me’ requires a self-consciousness that animals in general do not have. We get all excited when we see animals such as elephants and higher apes showing signs of basic self-consciousness, but it must be acknowledged how exceptional this is and how limited a form of self-consciousness it is. These animals show signs of self-recognition in the moment. There is no evidence that they have any awareness of their extended history or of having any conscious thoughts of there future and mortality.

    CharlieM: Here are a few thoughts on intentionality.[…] We see the world by means of the combination of sense impressions and the intentionality of our active minds.

    Corneel: Yes, thank you. I get that intentionality is the “aboutism” of mental states, but that is not exclusive to humans. Animals also display directedness in that they are fearful of things or show affection towards others. Hence this cannot be a diagnostic feature of human mental states, right?

    There are levels of intentionality.

    You have focused on animal emotions and feelings. Imagine a woman cycling along a path with her lap dog in the basket of her bike. A large dog spots them and runs towards them. They are both feel threatened and are fearful of its intentions. The lap dog’s consciousness is taken up with the immediate fear and perhaps thoughts of escape On top of her fear the woman has memories of stories about small dogs being savaged by large dogs, thoughts about the best course of action to take. “Should I cycle faster and try to outpace it? No, that wouldn’t work. The best thing to do would be to stop and get off my bike and pick up my dog. Where is that dog’s owner? It should be on a lead.” She hears someone calling the dog, “Rover, come here!”, “Ah, its name is Rover. Hello Rover, nice dog!” The dog turns and returns to its owner. The woman gives the owner a good tongue lashing and then tries to calm her dog down as she feels its heart pounding against her. She is soon once again cycling down the path. “Wait ’till I tell my husband about this. He’ll probably say I should have taken the man’s name and reported him.” Meanwhile her dog has calmed down and forgotten all about it, back to watching the world go by from the comfort of its little basket.

    The incident had invoked a much more complex and nuanced set of conscious reactions in the woman than in her dog. The dog felt fear. The woman felt fear, knew that she was feeling fear and could rationalize it.

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  17. Neil Rickert:
    CharlieM: You don’t even think it warrants criticism so you’ve decided not to watch it, and thus there is nothing for me to argue or discuss about it with you..

    Neil Rickert: The world is chock full of charlatans pushing bad ideas. And Raymond Tallis is one of them. Conservatives are often pushing ideas from Tallis. And, in the past, I have looked in detail at what he has said. But there’s a limit.

    There isn’t enough time to respond to every charlatan who comes along

    I’m wondering how you determine who the charlatans are. Does it have anything to do with those whose world views are different from your own?

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  18. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: With matters of consciousness I can speak from experience as can you.

    Alan Fox: This is equivocating on “experience”. We do experience, yes. But we can’t explain to ourselves how we experience. There’s a fundamental barrier in that we can’t explain ourselves to ourselves. Maybe, collectively, taking others first person experience and sharing but that falls prey to the blind men and the elephant. A sentient entity etc…

    We can begin by thinking about thinking. I am directly conscious of my own thinking. Thinking about any other entity may be full of pitfalls, but thinking about thinking is a self confirming activity when we are thinking about thinking itself and not the product of thinking. You are trying to grasp this experience in terms of cause and effect but in the case of thinking about thinking this causal relationship is meaningless.

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  19. CharlieM: To recognize this ‘me’ requires a self-consciousness that animals in general do not have. We get all excited when we see animals such as elephants and higher apes showing signs of basic self-consciousness, but it must be acknowledged how exceptional this is and how limited a form of self-consciousness it is.

    Still, you are basically conceding here that there exist animals with at least some level of self awareness. This, in combination with your other concession:

    CharlieM: There are levels of intentionality.

    invalidates your claim that, based on these criteria, human consciousness differs in kind, rather in than in scale. One does not get “levels” between qualitative differences.

    Will you please correct your claim? After all, it is pointless to keep backpedaling once you have fallen off the edge.

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  20. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: We only know about neural activity by means of consciousness.

    Alan Fox: Charlie, you keep using that word, consciousness, as if it means something. I may have missed where you had a go at defining it.

    Physical objects are fairly amenable to being defined, but most of the important entities are beyond definition. I could begin to describe the multiple aspects of consciousness to get an increasingly more complete understanding of it, but I don’t believe it will allow itself to be restricted to a straightforward definition.

    Normal human consciousness includes feelings, both mental and physical, rational thinking, memory and recollection, recognition of self and other entities, recognition of symbolic meanings, recognition of the intent of others, willing and anticipation, awareness (which need not be accurate) of the wider universe and our place in it. And of course I include mis-recognition when I say recognition.

    In the real world not everything can be defined. There are no straight lines or perfect spheres, everything has fuzzy edges.

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  21. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: including feeding behaviour

    Alan Fox: Yes, I got the analogy on feeding and dinner parties (they are so eighties now). Not persuaded. Bower birds.

    Are ‘bower birds’ supposed to mean something here?

    Imagine you are preparing a dinner party. You go out and buy a tin of whatever, say squirty cream. Now think of all the associated conscious forward thinking activity and planning from all quarters that had to happen for you to be able to do this. And that is just one aspect of your preparation to eat.

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  22. Now, think about thinking about all the associated conscious forward thinking activity and planning from all quarters that had to happen for this bowerbird to be able to place THIS flower in THIS spot in its bower…
    I thought that your choice of gannets as being the birds that, were they to enthuse about some feature of the sky, then experts would surely have noticed this (and reported it to Charlie) was inspired.

    +1
  23. CharlieM: To recognize this ‘me’ requires a self-consciousness that animals in general do not have.

    Bold assertion. Are you familiar with Frans de Waal and the spot and mirror test? It’s alleged to indicate the extent of self-awareness. You can do it with babies and toddlers. Discretely put something like a charcoal mark or sticker on a child’s face and encourage them to look in a mirror. There’s an age where most will begin to try to touch the mark or sticker on their own face. De Waal was able to demonstrate elephants pass this test. you just need robust mirrors. Dolphins also pass appaently, as well as chimps. You need to be a bit more imaginative with corvids but self-awareness seems to be indicated among crows.

    We get all excited when we see animals such as elephants and higher apes showing signs of basic self-consciousness, but it must be acknowledged how exceptional this is and how limited a form of self-consciousness it is. These animals show signs of self-recognition in the moment. There is no evidence that they have any awareness of their extended history or of having any conscious thoughts of there future and mortality.

    I see you know what I’m referring to. Why do you feel the need to downplay it?

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  24. Alan Fox:
    Examples of how various views around “consciousness” might be expressed:

    1. Consciousness is an emergent property that supervenes on the brain so that we can predict and explain everything about it by knowing the brain, except for its qualitative aspect, i.e. what it is like to be conscious.


    2. Consciousness is an emergent property that supervenes on the brain yet cannot be predicted or explained by knowing the brain (e.g. it is a chaotic emergent property).

    3. Consciousness is an emergent property that does not supervene on the brain, such that changes in consciousness do not require changes in the brain, nor vice versa, yet destroying the brain would also annihilate the consciousness.

    4. Consciousness is an emergent property that does not supervene on the brain and it has its own causal efficacy, being able to change the brain: changes in consciousness can change brain states.

    Thoughts, Charlie? Anyone?

    My first thought is that according to your link, “there is no single and clear definition of emergence”. Are we justified in discussing emergence without first defining it? 🙂

    Moving on to the four possible scenarios, I think all four statements lead to an erroneous way of viewing the problem. The brain is not the seat of consciousness, the individual person is. Consciousness is an emergent property of individuals, not of brains.

    And the conscious state of any one individual is not only variable over time but is multiple at any one time. At regular intervals roughly corresponding to twenty four hours each of us alternates between unconsciousness, dream consciousness, and a level of self-consciousness. My brain doesn’t emerge from sleep, I emerge from sleep. But even in the waking state we are “asleep” to many things in our local environment.

    What physical differences are there between the brain of a sleeping person and their brain whilst awake?

    This site tells us that:

    “During most stages of sleep, the thalamus becomes quiet, letting you tune out the external world. But during REM sleep, the thalamus is active, sending the cortex images, sounds, and other sensations that fill our dreams”

    Does the thalamus really send sounds and images? And even if it did how does it coordinate the separate signals into a meaningful narrative?

    And what about the emergence of consciousness in the life of an individual?

    Self consciousness emerged in me as I developed after birth. Did this self-conscious being that I consider myself to be emerge purely from the arrangement of physical matter? No. My parents made a conscious decision to enlarge their family and my mother fell pregnant which eventually resulted in my birth. My birth was the consequence of a conscious decision.

    A brain alone would not have resulted in me becoming conscious. I had to be a complete organism with nerves and senses and to have other humans interacting with me.

    If I were to stand on a tack I would immediately become conscious of a pain in my foot. My brain feels no pain, I feel the pain. There will be accompanying nerve activity within my nervous system, including within but not exclusively within the brain. My brain will not look for the source of the pain. Indeed it cannot look for the source of the pain. I will look for the source of the pain by combining a variety of my bodily attributes. I will instigate nerve activity, muscle activity, visual system activity.

    The brain does not produce thoughts, but its presence and conformation allows us to have thoughts. And indeed the experiences of the developing child has a large influence in shaping the finer details of its brain.

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  25. Kantian Naturalist:
    Corneel: Yes, thank you. I get that intentionality is the “aboutism” of mental states, but that is not exclusive to humans. Animals also display directedness in that they are fearful of things or show affection towards others. Hence this cannot be a diagnostic feature of human mental states, right?

    Kantian Naturalist: I think so, yes. Though it’s by no means settled, scientifically or philosophically. Everything here depends on whether animal minds are best described as having “content”, in the sense of being able to entertain a variety of inferentially connected thoughts and attitudes about what is regarded as the same object, e.g. “I hope that X happens but I’m afraid that X won’t happen because Y makes X unlikely and here is evidence that Y”

    Some cognitive scientists and philosophers (including myself) think that non-human animals don’t have the kind of thoughts structured by language — we think that having thoughts with a language-like structure is a consequence of having acquired a language, with symbolic conventions and recursive syntax.

    My own view (not that anyone asked) is that it’s necessary to disentangle aboutness from directedness — the former being discursively articulated content with rich semantic and syntactical structure and the latter being purposeful responsiveness to the environment.

    How to characterize the corresponding sub-personal neuronal dynamics is a different though of course closely related question.

    Yes I agree that animals do have a level of intentionality. But the level of intentionality and directedness humans are capable of far transcends that of animals. A dog might pay attention to the moon and be aware of its presence, even bark at it. But a human can look at the moon and picture it in relation to its journey in time and space, its relationship with the sun and the earth, understand how it reflects the sunlight, and continue to acquire knowledge about it. This is intentionality of a different kind to that shown by animals. Their consciousness is focused on the sense experience of the moment. We add a mode of thinking which transcends time and adds spatial aspects not immediately apparent to the sense experience.

    No animal would be paying any attention to the sub-personal neuronal dynamics.

    By the way, this is not a criticism of what you have said. I am purely looking at your views to see where they lead my thinking.

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  26. Corneel:
    CharlieM: To recognize this ‘me’ requires a self-consciousness that animals in general do not have. We get all excited when we see animals such as elephants and higher apes showing signs of basic self-consciousness, but it must be acknowledged how exceptional this is and how limited a form of self-consciousness it is.

    Corneel: Still, you are basically conceding here that there exist animals with at least some level of self awareness. This, in combination with your other concession:

    Distinguishing an image as somehow belonging to one’s self while looking in a mirror is not the same as recognising that one has a biography, a history. Having the experience of feeling the continuity of one’s self from a very early age. The recognition that I was that child, that teenager and that adult.

    CharlieM: There are levels of intentionality.

    Corneel: invalidates your claim that, based on these criteria, human consciousness differs in kind, rather in than in scale. One does not get “levels” between qualitative differences.

    Will you please correct your claim? After all, it is pointless to keep backpedaling once you have fallen off the edge.

    I recognise that there are people that are transgender but this does not prevent me from recognising the difference in kind between men and women. We make distinctions between plants and animals although some organisms don’t show much of a distinction.

    You are trying to make a point by choosing extreme cases and ignoring the general case.

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  27. DNA_Jock: Now, think about thinking about all the associated conscious forward thinking activity and planning from all quarters that had to happen for this bowerbird to be able to place THIS flower in THIS spot in its bower…
    I thought that your choice of gannets as being the birds that, were they to enthuse about some feature of the sky, then experts would surely have noticed this (and reported it to Charlie) was inspired.

    Tins of food are designed so as to store food until it is ready to be eaten, money is designed as a token of value to be exchanged for goods, dinner parties are organised in advance. Flowers do not grow in order for bower birds to use them as ornaments.

    As far as I’m aware no bower bird is in the business of gathering trinkets in order to supply other birds with them in exchange for something of value to them so that the birds can use them to make a display without having to bother to forage themselves.

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  28. CharlieM: Distinguishing an image as somehow belonging to one’s self while looking in a mirror is not the same as recognising that one has a biography, a history. Having the experience of feeling the continuity of one’s self from a very early age. The recognition that I was that child, that teenager and that adult.

    Oh I don’t know. Looks to me like humans simply express an extreme form of the mammalian archetype.

    CharlieM: I recognise that there are people that are transgender but this does not prevent me from recognising the difference in kind between men and women.

    That spares you some embarrassing situations, I guess. I don’t believe you were arguing that there are only two types self consciousness though.

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  29. CharlieM: Are we justified in discussing emergence without first defining it?

    Well, it probably makes sense to clarify what one means by emergence if it is a factor in a discussion.

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  30. CharlieM: The brain is not the seat of consciousness, the individual person is.

    There has been some research on this, notably involving one citizen Robespierre. You can lose many and extensive bits of your body and remain able to think. Lose your head and you may as well be dead.

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  31. CharlieM: A brain alone would not have resulted in me becoming conscious. I had to be a complete organism with nerves and senses and to have other humans interacting with me.

    Sure without external sensory input, a mother’s care, social interaction within and beyond the family, development in humans is (at least on the thankfully small available evidence) irrecoverably compromised.

    Sure the nervous system is essential but we don’t think with our sensory and motor system.

    ETA Clarification.

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  32. Neil Rickert:
    CharlieM: I’m wondering how you determine who the charlatans are.

    Neil Rickert: If they are promoted on UD by Denise O’Leary, they are probably charlatans

    So Denise O’Leary is your go to anti-authority? 🙂

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  33. Alan Fox: I see you know what I’m referring to. Why do you feel the need to downplay it?

    I don’t downplay it. I see it as a grey area in the transition between animal ‘here and now’ consciousness and human extended self-consciousness. I could ask you why you downplay the difference between human and animal consciousness.

    The average person could share an account of their biography from being a young child up to the present time. Is there any evidence that animals can do this same thing.

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  34. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: Are ‘bower birds’ supposed to mean something here?

    Alan Fox: See Jock’s comment

    I’ve answered DNA_Jock.

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  35. CharlieM,

    Saw that. We probably just need to agree to disagree. I’m not seeing fundamental differences in awareness and nervous systems but differences in complexity.

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  36. CharlieM,

    The development of cognition, language, social and cultural cohesion, cooperation in humans is fascinating. It has deep roots in our evolutionary history.

    I think discussing consciousness without any common ground on what that might be or whether it is a thing at all is less fascinating

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  37. Corneel:
    CharlieM: Distinguishing an image as somehow belonging to one’s self while looking in a mirror is not the same as recognising that one has a biography, a history. Having the experience of feeling the continuity of one’s self from a very early age. The recognition that I was that child, that teenager and that adult.

    Corneel: Oh I don’t know. Looks to me like humans simply express an extreme form of the mammalian archetype.

    I’d say regarding form humans are the epitome of the mammalian archetype.

    But regarding behaviour we are the prodigal sons and daughters of the living world. For example animals eat what is in their nature to eat and is in keeping with their constitution. They follow their set paths. We do not stick to these rules. On becoming a mother a woman may decide she doesn’t want to breast feed and opts to feed her baby on a preparation developed in some laboratory. We smoke all sorts of substances, eat unhealthy processed foods, drink alcohol and do many things that we know aren’t good for us because they give us pleasure. Human behaviour is vastly more individualised than that of animals even to the point of deliberately ending one’s own life.

    CharlieM: I recognise that there are people that are transgender but this does not prevent me from recognising the difference in kind between men and women.

    Corneel: That spares you some embarrassing situations, I guess. I don’t believe you were arguing that there are only two types self consciousness though

    Maybe a better analogy would be pre and post pubescence. A person is in a continual state of development but puberty marks a transition from one state of being to another.

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  38. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: The brain is not the seat of consciousness, the individual person is.

    Alan Fox: There has been some research on this, notably involving one citizen Robespierre. You can lose many and extensive bits of your body and remain able to think. Lose your head and you may as well be dead

    I agree the brain is the organ that allows us to think, but you’ll also be dead if you lose your blood, your heart, your lungs,…

    0
  39. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: A brain alone would not have resulted in me becoming conscious. I had to be a complete organism with nerves and senses and to have other humans interacting with me.

    Alan Fox: Sure without external sensory input, a mother’s care, social interaction within and beyond the family, development in humans is (at least on the thankfully small available evidence) irrecoverably compromised.

    Sure the nervous system is essential but we don’t think with our sensory and motor system.

    ETA Clarification

    We think with our minds, not our nervous system. Say someone has the thought, “I drink too much alcohol, from now on I will abstain completely”. Was this thought instigated by neurons firing? Where did this sudden decision to forego an anticipated pleasure come from?

    0
  40. CharlieM: Human behaviour is vastly more individualised than that of animals even to the point of deliberately ending one’s own life.

    We discussed individuality on previous occasions, so let’s not rehash that here. Let me just point out that the very phrase “more individualised” signifies a difference in scale, not in kind.

    CharlieM: Maybe a better analogy would be pre and post pubescence. A person is in a continual state of development but puberty marks a transition from one state of being to another.

    Even if I would indulge you here, that still marks a gradual transition taking place over several years, not an overnight switch from one state to the other.
    Why is it so hard for you to accept that, by the criteria you mentioned (self awareness and intentionality), human and non-human consciousness are not different in kind?

    0
  41. Neil Rickert:
    CharlieM: So Denise O’Leary is your go to anti-authority?

    Neil Rickert: Not really. I did read some of those Raymond Tallis references she gave, and formed my opinion based on that.

    We all hold biased opinions don’t we? Do you believe that Tallis deliberately tries to deceive people?

    0
  42. Alan Fox: CharlieM,

    Saw that. We probably just need to agree to disagree. I’m not seeing fundamental differences in awareness and nervous systems but differences in complexity.

    Yes differences in complexity when it comes to nervous systems.

    Do you believe that human culture and activities, with all its consciously decided rules, regulations, interactions and planning with the future in mind, is just the same as that which goes on in the rest of nature only in a more complicated way?

    If you imagine humanity as a whole to be a single giant organism then this can be represented as a fire breathing dragon in the process of waking up. Obviously this is not to be taken literally as a physical dragon. But who can deny that humanity is a destructive beast whose intelligence gives it great power.

    0
  43. Alan Fox: CharlieM,

    The development of cognition, language, social and cultural cohesion, cooperation in humans is fascinating. It has deep roots in our evolutionary history.

    I think discussing consciousness without any common ground on what that might be or whether it is a thing at all is less fascinating

    And that is why I find Owen Barfield so interesting. He realized that we can gain an understanding of the development of human culture by studying language in a similar way in which paleontologists use fossils to study life’s past. Ancient texts are the fossils that reveal details about the minds and consciousness of their authors.

    0
  44. CharlieM: Do you believe that Tallis deliberately tries to deceive people?

    I have no idea. I’m not into mind reading.

    Based on experience, I know that it is not useful for me to spend additional time listening to him.

    0
  45. CharlieM: We think with our minds, not our nervous system. Say someone has the thought, “I drink too much alcohol, from now on I will abstain completely”. Was this thought instigated by neurons firing? Where did this sudden decision to forego an anticipated pleasure come from?

    We appear to ourselves as having minds with thoughts, and so of course the relation between thoughts and neuronal patterns seems mysterious to us — just as the relation between the sensations of cold and warmth and mean kinetic energy seems mysterious.

    +1

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