Defining Consciousness

A commenter asked me, quite rightly, to define consciousness. Oooh, boy. What a task. And at one of my busiest times of year! grumble grumble

No, it’s right to ask me to define my terms, so I’m going to try. Please forgive the fact that this is dashed off pretty quick in my limited (and, frankly, stolen) spare time.

1. Our consciousness is not our senses; lacking a sense, we remain conscious. Lacking all senses, it’s not incoherent to imagine remaining conscious.
2. Consciousness is not our sense of continuity. Someone suffering amnesia is still conscious.
3. I do not use “consciousness” in the same sense as “being awake,” although that’s a valid definition of the word. I want to use in a narrower sense; I am still conscious even if I faint.
4. If consciousness is none of these things, it must be a quality independent of these things.
——
5. Consciousness, therefore, is the faculty of processing information.

6. Information is not material. We do not experience objects in our environment and create information about them; in fact, we do not experience objects at all. We experience ideas about those objects that arise in our consciousness as a result of sensory interaction with reality. Information is the relationship of those ideas to each other.
7. Matter itself processes information, whether endowed with a nervous system or not. A rock constantly calculates a wide range of values (gravitational constants, the interaction of strong and weak nuclear forces, and so on). A rock is essentially an analogue computer calculating itself. In that regard, a rock is conscious.
8. In fact, as physical reality reacts according to fundamental principles or symbolic laws, it *is* those laws, and is therefore consciousness. (I know, I know, there are leaps there — I don’t have time for them now, but will in the future I hope: they are reasoned out, though)
9. My brain is not the source of my consciousness; my consciousness is the source of my brain.
10. The consciousness underlying all reality is itself a Mind, call it Nous.
11. The reality we experience, whether physical or nonphysical, is a complex of Ideas in the Nous. Our own minds are reflections of that Nous (or, maybe more accurately, holographic parts of it).
12. Changing my mind changes itself relationship to the Nous. Since reality is itself the relationship between Ideas in the Nous, changing the relationship changes reality.
13. Material information (such as the patterns of 0s and 1s that make this post) is one way that the Ideas in the Nous are reflected in matter, but the Ideas of the Nous are metaphysical, not physical.

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3 Responses to “Defining Consciousness”

  1. I commend you for posting your definition of consciousness.

    My question is: How would you define what your awareness of your consciousness is? Can you access all parts of your consciousness all the time or are there constraints?

  2. beautiful.

  3. inominandum Says:

    I actually agree with your definition here completely.

    My argument is whether any of that invalidates working on things in terms of energy any more than it invalidated it in terms of matter.

    Going back to the car and driver: The presence of a driver does not negate the presence of the car. If want to say that consciousness creates the car – I am right there with you – but that doesnt mean that I dont get in my car and drive every day.

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