KARL JASPERS FORUM
TA 102-104 (Vimal)
[Note: This is a draft that is not yet peer reviewed. Please do not quote unless you have permission from the author. Thanks.]
DEFINITION OF CONSCIOUSNESS
RAM LAKHAN PANDEY VIMAL
Vision Research Institute, 428 Great Road, Suite 11, Acton, MA 01720 USA;
Dristi Anusandhana Sansthana, A-60 Umed Park, Sola Road, Ahmedabad-61, Gujrat, India;
Dristi Anusandhana Sansthana, c/o NiceTech Computer Education Institute, Pendra, Bilaspur, C.G. 495119, India; and
Dristi Anusandhana Sansthana, Sai Niwas, East of Hanuman Mandir, Betiahata, Gorakhpur, U.P. 273001, India
In materialism, consciousness is (a) a multidimensional process that “emerges from interactions of the brain, the body, and the environment”, and (b) “the result of dynamic interactions among widely distributed groups of neurons” (Edelman, 2003). In general, the term ‘consciousness’ has been used to address one or more of its following components: (1) Self (subjective or first person experience of subject) denoted by ‘I’, (2) subjective experience (SEs) of objects or qualia, (3) proto-experiences (PEs), (4) SEs related to sensations, perceptions, moods, emotions, dreams, and so on, (5) access and phenomenal awareness, (6) thought, (7) free will, (8) attention, (9) phenomenal time and phenomenal space, (10) processing of SE, (11) thought processing, (12) cognition including memory, inner speech, imagination, behavior (including adaptive activity), and language, (13) initiation of activities, and/or other cognitive processing, (14) thrownness in the world, (15) interpreter of sensory signals, (16) act of processing and conceptualization of information, (17) self-organization, (18) neural-nets using ineffable phenomenal properties to represent information, (19) responsive to the environment, and (20) the interaction between dynamic physical entities for information processing in self-organizing manner and panexperientialism. In non-materialistic non-reductive views (such as dualism, panpsychism, proto-panpsychism, experientialism, and dual-aspect views), consciousness is an irreducible fundamental non-material mental entity, even if it is closely associated with material processes. In dual-aspect PE-SE framework (Vimal, 2008a), the SE-related components of consciousness are irreducible fundamental mental aspect of entities and the material-related components of consciousness are material-aspect of entities (and hence they are processes). We suggest that it would be more precise if we specify which specific component(s) of consciousness we are addressing, rather than using the term consciousness without defining it.
Keywords: Self; subjective experience; thought processing; cognition; access and phenomenal awareness; free will; initiation of activities; thrownness in the world; proto-experiences; fundamental and derived subjective experiences; re-entry; memory; wakefulness; threshold; co-evolution and co-development of mind and brain; chaos theory; self; self-organization.
The term ‘consciousness’ has been used with different meaning by different researchers. Here, we present the various definition, critique and discussions, and then integrate the various components of consciousness. Our conclusion is that the term ‘consciousness’ when used should be defined first and should be qualified by the component(s) the author is addressing. For example, in the PE-SE framework (Bruzzo & Vimal, 2007; MacGregor & Vimal, 2008; Vimal, 200x; Vimal, 2008a, 2008b; Vimal & Davia, 2008), subjective experience (SE) and proto-experience (PE) components of consciousness were clearly used for preciseness.
2. Discussion on the definitions of consciousness
2.1. Materialistic definitions by James, Edelman, Baars, Block, and Searle: According to (Edelman, 2003), “Consciousness is not a thing but rather, as William James pointed out (James, 1977), a process that emerges from interactions of the brain, the body, and the environment. […] it is a multidimensional process with a rich variety of properties. […] consciousness is not a property of a single brain location or neuronal type, but rather is the result of dynamic interactions among widely distributed groups of neurons. […] Features of conscious states [:] General [:] 1. Conscious states are unitary, integrated, and constructed by the brain. 2. They can be enormously diverse and differentiated. 3. They are temporally ordered, serial, and changeable. 4. They reflect binding of diverse modalities. 5. They have constructive properties including gestalt, closure, and phenomena of filling in. Informational [:] 1. They show intentionality with wide-ranging contents. 2. They have widespread access and associativity. 3. They have center periphery, surround, and fringe aspects. 4. They are subject to attentional modulation, from focal to diffuse. Subjective [:] 1. They reflect subjective feelings, qualia, phenomenality, mood, pleasure, and unpleasure. 2. They are concerned with situatedness and placement in the world. 3. They give rise to feelings of familiarity or its lack.”
According to (Baars, 1988), consciousness is accomplished by a “distributed society of specialists that is equipped with a working memory, called a global workspace, whose contents can be broadcast to the system as a whole.” According to (Baars & Laureys, 2005), “Block [(Block, 2005)] has long argued that there are two kinds of consciousness: ‘phenomenological consciousness’ (what we experience) and ‘access consciousness’ (roughly, the information we can access via conscious experiences). […] There is no need for ‘access consciousness’. All we need is consciously-mediated access to brain capacities, most of which are simply not conscious.”
According to (Searle, 2000), “Consciousness is entirely caused by neurobiological processes and is realized in brain structures. The essential trait of consciousness that we need to
explain is unified qualitative subjectivity. Consciousness thus differs from other biological phenomena in that it has a subjective or first-person ontology, but this subjective ontology does not prevent us from having an epistemically objective science of consciousness. We need to overcome the philosophical tradition that treats the mental and the physical as two distinct metaphysical realms. Two common approaches to consciousness are those that adopt the building block model, according to which any conscious field is made of its various parts, and the unified field model, according to which we should try to explain the unified character of subjective states of consciousness.”
From above, consciousness is (a) a multidimensional process that “emerges from interactions of the brain, the body, and the environment”, and (b) “the result of dynamic interactions among widely distributed groups of neurons” (Edelman, 2003); this is a materialistic definition. Furthermore, phenomenal consciousness is non-reportable SE and access consciousness is reportable SE for which attention is needed.
2.2 Chalmers: According to (Chalmers, 2003), “On my view, the most important views on the metaphysics of consciousness can be divided almost exhaustively into six classes, which I will label "type A" through "type F." Three of these (A through C) involve broadly reductive views, seeing consciousness as a physical process that involves no expansion of a physical ontology. The other three (D through F) involve broadly nonreductive views, on which consciousness involves something irreducible in nature, and requires expansion or reconception of a physical ontology. […]The word 'consciousness' is used in many different ways. It is sometimes used for the ability to discriminate stimuli, or to report information, or to monitor internal states, or to control behavior. We can think of these phenomena as posing the "easy problems" of consciousness [discrimination, integration, access, report, control]. […] The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. Humans beings have subjective experience: there is something it is like to be them. We can say that a being is conscious in this sense — or is phenomenally conscious, as it is sometimes put — when there is something it is like to be that being. A mental state is conscious when there is something it is like to be in that state. Conscious states include states of perceptual experience, bodily sensation, mental imagery, emotional experience, occurrent thought, and more. […] A materialist (or physicalist) solution will be a solution on which consciousness is itself seen as a physical process. A nonmaterialist (or nonphysicalist) solution will be a solution on which consciousness is seen as nonphysical (even if closely associated with physical processes). […] Type-A materialism [(Dennett, 1991; Dretske, 1995; Harman, 1990))] sometimes takes the form of eliminativism, holding that consciousness does not exist, and that there are no phenomenal truths. It sometimes takes the form of analytic functionalism or logical behaviorism, holding that consciousness exists, where the concept of "consciousness" is defined in wholly functional or behavioral terms (e.g., where to be conscious might be to have certain sorts of access to information, and/or certain sorts of dispositions to make verbal reports). For our purposes, the difference between these two views can be seen as terminological. Both agree that we are conscious in the sense of having the functional capacities of access, report, control, and the like; and they agree that we are not conscious in any further (nonfunctionally defined) sense. The analytic functionalist thinks that ordinary terms such as 'conscious' should be used in the first sort of sense (expressing a functional concept), while the eliminativist thinks that it should be used in the second. Beyond this terminological disagreement about the use of existing terms and concepts, the substance of the views is the same. […] the concept of consciousness [in Type-B materialism (Block & Stalnaker, 1999; Hill, 1997; Levine, 1983; Loar, 1997; Perry, 2001; Tye, 1995)] is distinct from any physical or functional concepts, but we may discover empirically that these refer to the same thing in nature. […] According to type-C materialism [(Churchland, 2003; Crick & Koch, 2003; Edelman, 1993, 2003; Hamker, 2004; Koch, 2004; Nagel, 1974; Tononi, 2004; Van Gulick, 2001)], there is a deep epistemic gap between the physical and phenomenal domains, but it is closable in principle. … (Churchland, 1997) suggests that even if we cannot now imagine how consciousness could be a physical process, that is simply a psychological limitation on our part that further progress in science will overcome. […] [In addition,] we can postulate identities between physical states and conscious states in virtue of the strong isomorphic connections between them in nature […] [According to type-Q materialism (Quine, 1951),] explaining the functions explain everything (Dennett may be an example) […] [If materialism is false,] it could be that consciousness is itself a fundamental feature of the world, like spacetime and mass. […] [In] Type-D dualism [(Beck & Eccles, 1992; Foster, 1991; Hodgson, 2005; Popper & Eccles, 1977)], […] usually known as interactionism, physical states will cause phenomenal states, and phenomenal states cause physical states [and consciousness is irreducible] […] [In] Type-E dualism [or epiphenomenalism] […] physical states cause phenomenal states, but not vice versa [and consciousness is irreducible] […] Type-F monism [or panprotopsychism (Chalmers, 1996; Griffin, 1998; Lockwood, 1989; Russell, 1927; Stoljar, 2001; Strawson, 2000; Whitehead, 1978)] is the view that consciousness is constituted by the intrinsic properties of fundamental physical entities […] On this view, phenomenal or protophenomenal properties are located at the fundamental level of physical reality, and in a certain sense, underlie physical reality itself.” (bold mine).
From above, consciousness is (a) a physical process for materialists (reductive or emergence views: Types A-C) or (b) irreducible fundamental mental (non-material) entity (non-reductive views such as Types D-F views in dualism, panpsychism, proto-panpsychism, experientialism, and dual-aspect views). In PE-SE framework (Vimal, 2008a), the subjective experience (SE) component of consciousness is irreducible fundamental mental entity.
2.3. Globus: According to (Globus, 1998), “the vague term ‘consciousness’ is partially unpacked into ‘self’, ‘cognition’, ‘qualia’ and ‘thrownness-in-the-world’ […] problem. I shall partially do so here, confining my investigation to (1) the self or subject, denoted by ‘I’, (2) cognition, (3) thrownness in the world, and (4) ‘qualia’.” One could argue to include ‘subjective experience’ (SE) or ‘first person experience’ in the list because ‘qualia’ may have different meaning to different people.
2.4. Edwards and McCard: According to Edwards, “A definition of consciousness within natural science :
1. The awareness of a dynamic physical entity is its being informed by influences from other dynamic entities, including, perhaps, indirect influences from its own prior state. Phenomenal experience is what it is like to be thus informed.
2. Consciousness is a form of awareness in which the informing of a dynamic entity by influences from other entities is interpreted (at least in the usual mature human case) in a context of a ‘world’ viewed from a time ‘now’ and a place ‘here’, implying the concepts of other times and places associated with a capacity both for assigning experiences to memory, and for imagination. Influences may also be interpreted as informing the entity of its own state, but since these will be indirect the validity of such interpretation is in doubt.
The other point that I am uncertain about is whether we interpret sensed qualitative contrasts (qualia) or whether qualia are themselves interpretations. My reading of the neuropsychological literature is that since interpretation is often at many levels they may be both. Sometimes we go on seeing the same colour but interpret it as some other object. Sometimes we go on seeing the same object but interpret it as some other colour - one of the skills a painter has to learn when creating a sense of reality by making use of colour hints from reflections that our brains usually suppress. My feeling is that it may be dangerous to try to separate 'sensing' from 'interpreting'. We are very often aware of the interpretation before are aware of any detailed sensing. Thus there may be no 'process' of interpreting. There is a preconscious process of collating and extracting patterns of similarity and difference in input signals but interpretation and experiential sensing may be the same thing.
3. Panexperientialism holds that it is most parsimonious to propose that the informing of all dynamic entities by influences from other entities is awareness, although awareness, or consciousness, in other entities can only ever be inferred. The presence of consciousness is usually inferred when a physical structure (body) behaves in a way suggesting the presence of one or more dynamic entities within that are informed in a way that collates information about the current environment of the structure with information relating to other times and places and generalities without spatiotemporal reference.
4. Consciousness is not reducible to a series of dynamic steps because it is actual and immediate, in the sense of having no pathway of mediation or mechanism. Thus, A cannot be informed by B via C, since that would be being informed by C.
5. Immediate influences must be the direct conversion of energy or momentum associated with one dynamic entity to energy or momentum associated with another dynamic entity. The description of this conversion need not be at a quantum level but, like all physics, should have a notional quantum theoretical grounding.
6. Whatever is conscious in a human must at times be co-informed by something in the order of 1,000 – 100,000 independent influences.” (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/message/6221 and /6236).
According to Joseph McCard, “ Yes, each portion of physically oriented consciousness sees the universe and experience from its own privileged viewpoint. To another conscious entity, I am a portion of its environment. It is a portion of mine. However, awareness of the range of activity of my environment requires boundaries to frame my picture of reality. I need to have and hold identity. I need to disentangle myself from vaster fields of activity to allow for specific behavior and personal identity. I suggest the difficulty of separating the boundary of the rest of the world from the observer that lacks identity. When identity is established, then the relative positions and situations of all other particles can be known. No dynamic physical entity awareness without dynamic physical entity identity. Dynamic physical entity identity may be termed action which is conscious of itself. The dynamic energy of action, the workings of action within and upon itself, forms dynamic physical entity identity. This identity is action's effect upon itself. (A.N. Whitehead's actual occasions are relevant.) Consciousness is the result of an imbalance created. Action, having of itself, formed the dynamic entity's identity, now, because of its nature, would seem to destroy its identity, since action must involve change. It is this dilemma, between identity's constant attempts to maintain stability and action's inherent attempts to change, that results in an imbalance, the creative by-product that is consciousness of self. If one becomes attentive to their own consciousness one can feel the intentionality of this imbalance […] At each moment, moment to moment, one feels the possible loss of identity, the final inch, only to recapture it at the next step. One can feel, can feel this cautious stepping, and the adjustments of ones actions. One can feel the imbalance that is the intentionality of consciousness. […]
 The only way to learn what consciousness is, is by studying and exploring our own awareness, by changing the focus of our attention and using our consciousness in as many ways as possible. When you look into yourself, the very effort involves extending the limitations of consciousness beyond what the above definition ignores. With respect to Colin Hale's concerns about scientific descriptions: 'Actual entities- also termed Actual Occasions- are the final real things of which the world is made up. There is no going behind actual entities to find anything more real. The final real things in the universe are 'experiential' in nature rather than strictly material. Some Whitehead scholars hold that trillions of actual occasions make up everything, even empty space.' (wiktionary) Conscious Actual entities, arising from the working of action within and upon itself are what we call qualia, qualE, […] It is not difficult to imagine that matter is simply the agglutination and concentration of, in the range of 10^^39 actual entities. What appears to be matter is simply a form of concentrated energy. This gives Ockham's razor its sharpest blade, one thing, energy. Energy acts and 'all things change' (Heraclitus). Energy only has itself to act upon. What we perceive as matter is the awareness of concentrations of energy. In a sense, energy, and consequently consciousness, creates matter. Ontology is the study of being or existence. There are different kinds of ontological knowledge because there are different categories of being, different ways of being. If one was to define consciousness, it would be well to start with def(C)- consciousness is a way of being.” (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/messages/6228).
Edwards replied to McCard, “[1: No dynamic physical entity awareness without dynamic physical entity identity.] I guess that is the obvious cue for the next requirement for the definition: what can have identity, intrinsically defined rather than arbitrarily imposed by a human onlooker. And I agree that a dynamic physical entity probably has to be a packet of energy (possibly momentum) since space and time cannot themselves be 'influenced' . (Action can mean something else, so I prefer to avoid it.) Intrinsically defined energy packets in current natural science are modes of harmonic oscillation. They have a single indivisible relationship to all influences from other elements. Everything else is an aggregate composed of elements each of which has a separate relationship to other elements. In order to have enough energy to be
biologically relevant and in order to have a clearly bounded domain in a brain I have come to the conclusion that our own awareness must be associated with packets of energy in acoustic modes, but I am interested in other suggestions. Perhaps I could add:
7. The dynamic entities associated with human consciousness should be energy-bearing dynamic modes with biologically relevant spatial boundaries and time spans.
As indicated in my prior post, I am worried by the idea that anything can be conscious of itself. I am not aware of any physical context in which something is informed by influences from itself, except indirectly. I am entirely in agreement with the view that actualities are
primary. See them as the sum over all influences on one packet of energy by other packets of energy - the autobiography of the packet. Unfortunately, Whitehead did not seem to explain how his occasions fitted in with physics and I worry that his nomenclature may confuse the issue. If we try to go behind, or outside, actualities we find instances of dynamic laws which predict actualities, but if these instances of laws are nothing more than the actualities considered from a different standpoint then I agree that there is nothing at all 'behind' actualities.” (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/messages/6230).
McCard replied to Edwards, “ I would suggest dynamic cellular identity does not have boundaries in the geometric sense of space and time, although cellular personality does. What constitutes cellular identity, what composes cellular identity, is a set dynamic entities (see 'actual occasions' below) that allow for all possible cellular actions. What meaning does time and space have in that context? That which has spatial boundaries and time spans is the material cell which only gives the appearance or relative permanence to the senses that perceive it. What we do not perceive is the continuous creation of energy into a physical pattern that appears to hold a more or less rigid appearance. What appears to be a materialization, objective and concrete, is a materialization of energy. The system of probable cells is quite as real as the physical cell. I would contrast cellular identity with cellular personality where cellular personality represents those aspects of identity that are actualized within 3-d existence. Personality is molded by circumstances, identity uses the experiences. Cells are aware of their identity within all action, including their own (see below). Indeed, as you say in your jcs article, "Are Our Spaces Made of Words", 'space, time and probability are linked...' […]
Right, not in any physical context. Consciousness of self involves a consciousness of self within-and as a part of-action. Ego consciousness, on the other hand, involves a state in which consciousness of self attempts to divorce self from action-an attempt on the part of consciousness to perceive action as an object...and to perceive action as initiated by the ego as a result, rather than as a cause, of ego's own existence. Consciousness of self is not the identity judgment that is the foundation of self-consciousness. Through the processes of action that I have outlined previously, the self becomes aware ot [to] its own productions and is able to distinguish itself from other selves. Attribution of an action to its proper agent, an identity judgment, represents the ultimate aspect of self-consciousness of action. Misattribution can produce schizophrenia. […]
One can fit actual occasions in with physics by granting them a dual aspect, like photons, and by granting them awareness. Actual occasions can operate as 'particles' or 'waves'. Each 'particleized' unit rides the continual thrust set up by fields of consciousness, in which wave and particle belong. They are the building blocks of matter, where atoms, patterns of probabilities, are processes rather than things. Each actual occasion is identified within itself as itself, units of awareized energy. Consciousness comes first and then evolves form, sub-atomic particles, atoms and molecules, and then cells.” (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/messages/6243).
From above, the following components in the definition of consciousness are discussed:  self (subjective or first person experience of subject) and subjective experience (SE) of object;  (a) phenomenal time and phenomenal space, (b) cognition such as memory and imagination, (c) self related interpretation, and (d) qualia;  interaction between dynamic physical entities for information processing in self-organizing manner and panexperientialism;  irreducible SEs;  direct conversion of energy and momentum in immediate interaction;  micro- and macro-awareness;  physical (energy-bearing) and neural correlates of consciousness. However, items - are more related to prerequisites of consciousness rather than definition.
2.5. Deiss, Edwards, and Patlavskiy: According to Steve Deiss, “Consciousness is a process of interpreting sensed qualitative contrasts for their meaning as expectations we derive from them and storing those expectations in memory for future use.”(http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/messages/6231).
According to Edwards, “in my previous post the invocation of other times and other places implies memory, but it does seem appropriate to give memory a more explicit place in an account of consciousness as a specialised form of awareness. Nevertheless, my brain tells me that it would not include 'storing those expectations in memory for future use' in its definition of consciousness. […] I am uncertain about is whether we interpret sensed qualitative contrasts (qualia) or whether qualia are themselves interpretations. My reading of the neuropsychological literature is that since interpretation is often at many levels they may be both. Sometimes we go on seeing the same colour but interpret it as some other object. Sometimes we go on seeing the same object but interpret it as some other colour - one of the skills a painter has to learn when creating a sense of reality by making use of colour hints from reflections that our brains usually suppress. My feeling is that it may be dangerous to try to separate 'sensing' from 'interpreting'. We are very often aware of the interpretation before we are aware of any detailed sensing. Thus there may be no 'process' of interpreting. There is a preconscious process of collating and extracting patterns of similarity and difference in input signals but interpretation and experiential sensing may be the same thing.” (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/message/6236).
According to Steve Deiss “1. I think there is a lot of evidence that things that do not make it into memory are things we do unconsciously, speaking of human consciousness only now for the sake of discussion. Things we do on autopilot like driving, walking, riding a bike through force of habit may escape our awareness while we focus on the goal at hand and the milestones or sights along the way more than the steps taken and moves made. Very different when learning to drive or ride. While few things may get to long term memory for the elderly, short of serious memory impairment they still remember the jist of what is going on from moment to moment using short term working memory. It is the breadth and depth of our memories that gives us the full character of human experience, and they form the stuff of our expectations for interpreting the here and now leading to new memories however fleeting they may be. Associative memories give rise to their own sensations that fill in the "driven" sensations.
2. It is very true that our interpretations set up expectations (in memory) that guide how we interpret future sensations. The blind spot and filling in are good examples. The inferences can be so quick that we skip over the detailed qualities of the stimulus configuration and jump to conclusions that disagree with what we are actually sensing, that is until the error is noted and a closer look is taken. This usually results from over weighting one stimulus dimension and ignoring others. We quickly store the interpretation. That is what we remember seeing or hearing in the moments that follow even if it disagrees with public consensus about what reality is, and what we would agree too after a closer look.” (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/messages/6247 ).
According to Serge Patlavskiy, “by consciousness I mean the acts of processing [P] and conceptualization [C] of information, and the construction of the intellectual products in a form of inner speech and imagination, behaviour, language, etc. At that, the acts of processing and conceptualization are succeeding (the succession of these acts reduces the entropy of the complex system in the most efficient way, and keeps that system self-organizing). […] [In Deiss’ definition, the sequence is] "C-P-C-P-C-P", which is the same as to define water as a substance that is a liquid which evaporates, then crystallizes and drops onto the Earth, then transforms into a liquid which is stored in lakes, rivers and oceans, and then evaporates, and crystallizes, and drops, and so on. In contrast, in my definition I refer to the acts of processing and conceptualization only one time. I don't want to say that Steve's definition is bad, but a definition must be succinct and full at the same time.” (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/message/6258).
According to Steve Deiss, “In your [Serge Patlavskiy] definition, you have not specified what is being processed, nor what a concept is. If it is classical information being processed, then I would point out that information is the direct result of sensory contrasts, differences that make a difference. If by processing you are inferring what other sensations might follow and conclusions to be drawn about what there is (concepts), then you would be interpreting the sensations. (My definition again) My definition is neutral about what there is other than this process of interpreting sensations leading to interpretations that involve selves, objects, others, and the world we infer. Information processing jargon has its place, but I think its domain is overextended when dealing with consciousness. My view is a-computational. Third, to step into the prevailing view for a moment, the best interpretation of neuroscience is that the memory is the processor. There is no separation between the processing architecture and the memory. Perceiving, remembering, recognizing and conceptualizing are different ways of looking at the same associative process. But without sensed qualitative contrasts, there is no work to do. That applies whether these contrasts arise from an external physical world we theoretically posit, or from voices we localize in our heads that we hear.” (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/message/6246).
According to Serge Patlavskiy, “I would like to re-formulate the whole task, and to try answering the question what it means to possess consciousness. Now then, to possess
consciousness means to be able: I. to perform the loop-like acts of (1) processing a) of the physical sensory signal(s) (as of outer so of inner origin), and b) of the already available elements of knowledge, [and] (2) conceptualization of the processed physical sensory signal(s) and conversion it into information (by which we mean the difference between the known and the unknown for the given subject of conscious activity) or, the new element of knowledge, [and] II. to construct intellectual products in the form of inner speech, imagination, behaviour (adaptive activity including), language, etc.
I find such a one-sentence definition as the most convenient (most useful) for me by this moment. By the way, I see a difference between the phrases "to possess consciousness" and "to be conscious of smth". The last phrase has the same meaning as a phrase "to be aware of smth", while the phrase "to possess awareness" has no sense within the suggested framework.
Second. The act called conceptualization consists in assigning (using various associations and elaborated tradition) a name to the new element of knowledge (thus we construct a denotatum-notion complex which I call "concept"), and memorization of that element. The act of conceptualization (and, thereby, memorization) is energy consuming, and produces the changes into physical environment (like a brain, or water, or, just, a space; by this I mean that even a space, or a certain place, may serve as a physical substratum for storing the
elements of knowledge).
There is no such thing as memory. It is not some miraculous entity called memory that becomes impaired and has to be cured. So, to help Jonathan's elderly mother who "often forgets completely what she was conscious of a minute before" (see Jo Edwards' post on July 11, 2008), we have not to cure something that doesn't exist as an object of curing, but to change (modify) the way in which the act of conceptualization is being performed. The realization of such a modification is, at least, theoretically possible. […]
I also define consciousness as a means of keeping one's entropy on a sufficiently low level (for the effect of self-organization to take place, and for staying alive) through processing of the physical sensory signals and converting them into information. Therefore, to ignore information during this enterprise is tantamount to throwing the baby out with the bath water. If we talk about the windmill, we can't ignore the wind as such.” (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/message/6267).
From above, the following components in the definition of consciousness are discussed: (i) SEs; (ii) memory; (iii) interpreter of sensory signals, (iv) act of processing and conceptualization of information, (v) inner speech, imagination, behavior (including adaptive activity), and language, and (vi) self-organization.
2.6. Allsop, Deiss, Ricke, and Pereira: According to Brent Allsop, consciousness is the “unified world of knowledge or awareness composed of phenomenal properties maintained by our brains.” (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/messages/6240.
According to Steve Deiss, “The problem I see with this definition is that is assumes brains and things that have properties. I claim that things (including brains) are interpretations of sensory qualities after much learning. What I am getting at is the fundamental conscious process that makes it possible for us to learn to experience conceptual entities like brains in the first place. I agree that consciousness is real, or at least, "as real as it gets." (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/message/6247).
According to Hans Ricke, “This is an unusual approach. I think you are mixing two different concepts here: 1. consciousness as knowledge and 2. consciousness as awareness. To combine these by an 'or' does not make sense to me. If you are trying to clarify what you mean by awareness, which many regard as a synonym for consciousness, I do not think you are doing well. I cannot conceive that awareness could be 'composed' of properties. It has properties, yes. Phenomenality is mostly [attributed] to experience and rightfully so. One meaningful conceptual distinction Alfredo Pereira and I have worked out is the one between 'consciousness of' and 'the entity that is conscious' - e.g. the brain or the human individual.” (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/message/6244). Ricke further said, “In a definition of a higher order type of consciousness memory needs to be included, because without it, it would not work. In a higher order type abstraction and other kinds of knowledge might be needed to be included as well. To aim for a succinct definition is a good idea, but I doubt that it will be achieved by everyone throwing his one liner into the discussion.” (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/message/6249). Ricke further said, “Interpretation is a function that belongs to the mind not to consciousness in my opinion.” http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/message/6283).
According to Brent Allsop, “It is just my point of view, or what I believe to be the best theory, but I think all this kind of talk is completely missing what consciousness really is. And that is simply our brain using ineffable phenomenal properties to represent information. Most all of this is only talk about behavior. Consciousness is all about simple ineffable phenomenal qualities, not complex behavior. When we are looking at some strawberries in a patch, there is something in our brain that has red phenomenal properties, representing the strawberries, and something in our brain with green phenomenal properties representing the leaves. In addition to this simple phenomenal red and green conscious knowledge, we have some added semantic cognitive ability to retrospectively ponder the phenomenal difference between red and green, to put memories and words like strawberries and leaves with such, but all this kind of easy, though complex, stuff shouldn't distract us from what is truly and simply important. It seems to me that most people are lost up in this cognitive / retrospective complex stuff, and entirely missing what should be the plain and simple nature of conscious awareness. Once we understand what simple red and green are, and figure out what in our brain has these phenomenal properties, (we certainly can't expect it to reflect 650 'red' and 450 nm 'green' light) and can start reliably reproducing or recognizing such phenomenal stuff in other minds, then the rest of the cognitive / retrospective stuff will become easy will it not?” (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/message/6269).
From above, the following components in the definition of consciousness are discussed: (i) phenomenal awareness and SEs; (ii) cognition including memory; and (iii) neural-nets using ineffable phenomenal properties to represent information.
According to Ricke and Pereira, there is a conceptual distinction between ‘consciousness of’ and ‘the entity that is conscious’ - e.g. the brain or the human individual.
2.7. McCard, Patlavskiy, and wikipedia: Joseph McCard (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/message/6244) found following definitions: 1. consciousness is a way of being, not a thing. 2. consciousness is a way of perceiving the various dimensions of reality. 3. consciousness is aware-ized energy. 4. consciousness is spontaneous, is creative, seeks growth through pattern formation, is durable, and thus, obeys the Law of the Conservation of Consciousness, and, consciousness can undergo
energy transformations, such as, the conversion of heat into electricity. 5. consciousness is a tool we use, not who we are.
According to Serge Patlavskiy, “There is a known psychological procedure: a psychologist says a word, and asks a patient to report his\her associations evoked by that word. For example, the said word is "sugar"; the evoked associations could be as follows: "grandma's kitchen", "honey", "candies", "caries", "obesity", etc. Now, we say the word "consciousness"; the evoked associations are as follows: "a way of being", "a way of perceiving the various dimensions of reality", "aware-ized energy", "seeks growth through pattern formation", "can undergo energy transformations", "not who we are", etc. What I think is that there must be a difference between a definition of consciousness, and a report of the associations evoked by the word "consciousness". However, if the listed above five items are not just associations but a sui generis definition, then I would much like to see a theory which, on the one hand, finds such a definition useful, and, on the other hand, comports with the Law of the Conservation of Consciousness.” (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/message/6267).
According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consciousness, “Consciousness defies definition. It may involve thoughts, sensations, perceptions, moods, emotions, dreams, and an awareness of self, although not necessarily any particular one or combination of these. […] Consciousness is a point of view, an I, or what Thomas Nagel called the existence of "something that it is like" to be something. […] Julian Jaynes has emphasized that "Consciousness is not the same as cognition and should be sharply distinguished from it. ... The most common error ... is to confuse consciousness with perception." […] He says, "Mind-space I regard as the primary feature of consciousness. It is the space which you preoptively are 'introspecting on' or 'seeing' at this very moment". […] Ned Block divides consciousness into phenomenal consciousness (similar definition to subjective consciousness), which is subjective experience itself (being something), and access consciousness, which refers to the availability of information to processing systems in the brain (being conscious of something). […] The issue of what consciousness is, and to what extent and in what sense it exists, is the subject of much research in philosophy of mind, psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence. Issues of practical concern include how the presence of consciousness can be assessed in severely ill individuals; […] to what extent non-humans are self conscious; at what point in fetal development consciousness begins; and whether computers can achieve conscious states. […] In common parlance, consciousness denotes being awake and responsive to the environment, in contrast to being asleep or in a coma.”
From above, the term ‘consciousness’ is associated with ‘a way of being’, ‘a way of perceiving the various dimensions of reality, aware-ized energy’, ‘seeks growth through pattern formation’, ‘can undergo energy transformations’, ‘not who we are’ and the ‘Law of the Conservation of Consciousness.
From above, the following components in the definition of consciousness are discussed: (i) thoughts, sensations, perceptions, moods, emotions, dreams, and an awareness of self, (ii) phenomenal and access consciousnes, and (iii) responsive to the environment.
According to (Edelman, 2003), consciousness is (a) a multidimensional process that “emerges from interactions of the brain, the body, and the environment”, and (b) “the result of dynamic interactions among widely distributed groups of neurons”; this is a notion of materialism. However, in general, it is very hard to define consciousness; as seen in Section 2, any effort to define consciousness leads to confusion and never ending discussion. According to (Crick & Koch, 1998), “Everyone has a rough idea of what is meant by being conscious. For now, it is better to avoid a precise definition of consciousness because of the dangers of premature definition. Until the problem is understood much better, any attempt at a formal definition is likely to be either misleading or overly restrictive, or both.” Therefore, it would be better to investigate its various components and then define each component. The various definitions of consciousness discussed in Section 2 can be considered as its components, which can now be integrated. In general, the term ‘consciousness’ can be used to address one or more of its following components: (1) Self (subjective or first person experience of subject) denoted by ‘I’, (2) subjective experience (SEs) of objects or qualia, (3) proto-experiences (PEs), (4) SEs related to sensations, perceptions, moods, emotions, dreams, and so on, (5) access and phenomenal awareness, (6) thought, (7) free will, (8) attention, (9) phenomenal time and phenomenal space, (10) processing of SE, (11) thought processing, (12) cognition including memory, inner speech, imagination, behavior (including adaptive activity), and language, (13) initiation of activities, and/or other cognitive processing, (14) thrownness in the world, (15) interpreter of sensory signals, (16) act of processing and conceptualization of information, (17) self-organization, (18) neural-nets using ineffable phenomenal properties to represent information, (19) responsive to the environment, and (20) the interaction between dynamic physical entities for information processing in self-organizing manner and panexperientialism. In non-materialistic non-reductive views (such as dualism, panpsychism, proto-panpsychism, experientialism, and dual-aspect views), consciousness is an irreducible fundamental non-material mental entity, even if it is closely associated with material processes. In dual-aspect PE-SE framework (Vimal, 2008a), the SE-related components (perhaps components 1-5, also possibly 7-9) of consciousness are irreducible fundamental mental aspect of entities and the material-related components (perhaps components 10-20) of consciousness are material-aspect of entities (and hence they are processes). This means some components of consciousness are irreducible fundamental mental entities consistent with non-reductive views and some are material processes in brain and matter. For example, if a system is capable of responding in meaningful ways or able to self-organize, even inert matter can be thought of having consciousness, such as in panpsychism. We have not discussed the definitions of consciousness from many other views including idealism (cosmic consciousness is the primary from which matter emerges) (De & Pal, 2005; Hegel, 1971; Pal & De, 2004; Rao, 1998, 2005; Schäfer, 1997, 2006) and modern constructivism (“Matter is a structure that crystallizes within mind” (Müller, 2008). We suggest that it would be more precise if we specify which specific component(s) of consciousness we are addressing, rather than using the term consciousness without defining it.
The work was partly supported by VP-Research Foundation Trust and Vision Research Institute research Fund. Author would like to thank (1) anonymous reviewers, Vivekanand Pandey Vimal, Shalini Pandey Vimal, Love (Shyam) Pandey Vimal, and Manju-Uma C. Pandey-Vimal for their critical comments, suggestions, and grammatical corrections (2) Brent Allsop, Steve Deiss, Jonathan Edwards, Joseph McCard, Serge Patlavskiy, Alfredo Pereira Jr., and Hans Ricke for providing information related to consciousness in http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/jcs-online/messages/.
Competing interests statement
The author declares that he has no competing financial interests.
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