For March our topic is Consciousness.
Everything in the Universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is conscious: i.e., endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception. – H. P. Blavatsky
A human being is a spatially and temporally limited piece of the whole, what we call the “Universe.” He experiences himself and his feelings as separate from the rest, an optical illusion of his consciousness. The quest for liberation from this bondage is the only object of true religion. Not nurturing the illusion but only overcoming it gives us the attainable measure of inner peace. – Albert Einstein
Although you appear in earthly form Your essence is pure Consciousness. You are the fearless guardian of Divine Light. – Rumi
There’s certainly nothing original about the observation that conscious experience poses a hard problem. – David Chalmers
I know I have it and you seem to as well. But what is it, this “hard problem”? Wikipedia says:
Consciousness is the state or quality of awareness or of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. It has been defined variously in terms of sentience, awareness, qualia, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood or soul, the fact that there is something “that it is like” to “have” or “be” it, and the executive control system of the mind.”
Hmmm. Some say consciousness is before anything. Others that it is a byproduct of brain activity and some claim it is an illusion. But doesn’t “illusion” presuppose a consciousness to be illuded? Jan and Mark requested this topic so I asked them for their definitions. Jan replied:
My current favorite is Lisa Feldman Barrett’s model of consciousness (experiencing Reality):
“Your experiences are not a window into reality. Rather, your brain is wired to model your world, driven by what is relevant for your body budget (allostasis), and then you experience that model as Reality…”
Christof Koch’s Four ad hoc definitions of consciousness
1) common sense – our inner mental life while awake.
2) behavioral – a checklist of actions or behaviors we use to certify consciousness, for example, the Glasgow Coma Scale.
3) neuronal – the functioning of the cortico-thalamic complex and the brain stem
4) philosophy – what it is like to feel something. (p.33)
Feinberg & Mallatt (2016) propose a nice simple definition of Phenomenal Consciousness (Sensory):
p. 111: “But to us, real consciousness is indicated by the (optic tectum) making a multi-sensory map of the world and then attending to the most important object in this map and then signaling behaviors”… based on the map.
Hmmmm. Mark said:
Jan has captured my favorites from Koch. Here is a pithy one from Antonio Damarion: the self in the act of knowing.
But what then is “the self” and how can it be separated from knowing?
Let’s get together to settle this damned “hard problem” once and for all! Join us to listen to what others think and to share what you think. The Religious Exploration Salon is a group that meets 3rd Sundays to discuss various topics in the format called Bohm Dialogue which emphasizes respectful listening and balanced, synergistic sharing. For more details about how Dialogue works, please see this intro.
Everyone is welcome. You are welcome to think about the topic beforehand but no preparation is required or expected — come as you are with whatever thoughts/intuitions you have, ready to listen, learn and contribute. We next meet Sunday March 17 at 7pm in the Brackett Room.
Contact Paul Reising, Tom Yelton or Jan Hardenbergh for more information.