Gary R. Smith M. - 'You say you don't care whether consciousness existed before consciousness emerged - whether it preceded the big bang, for example. If that were true, then why prefer it to be so?' --
G. - What difference does it make in anyone's daily life if consciousness preceded the big bang or not, Michael?
M. - 'I believe that before the creation of consciousness, the world was purely mechanical.'
G. - Why prefer to believe the world was purely mechanical before consciousness became? It is interesting you chose the word 'creation' of consciousness rather than 'emergence'. With creation is there not always a creator? Can mechanical action create? Then do we not have to define creation?
M. - The idea that a rock is conscious flies in the face of the meaning of the word. To say that a rock has consciousness is to say that consciousness is the property of being like a rock.
G. - I do not 'say that consciousness is the property of being like a rock.' But if I have pre-determined that a rock cannot have consciousness, I would never even attempt to talk with a rock, a flower, a tree. Other non-new agers and I have talked with rocks, flowers and trees. I do not say with certainty that my conversations with 'unconscious' objects were anything but in my head. I enjoyed them and do not delude myself because it is not a held belief. I just allow the possibility and am therefore not bound to the concept of a mechanical world only.
One of my conversations with an inanimate object was with a motor-home, which, when I asked if it could make it up a steep and winding jeep trail, said, 'Gary, don't be so mechanical. It's all atoms.' It made it to the top of the mountain, something not done by a motor-home before.
Michael F 'Not in the normal meaning of consciousness anyway - which would be that which differentiates our conscious state from our unconscious state.'
'On the face of it, everything up until the creation of consciousness was a fairly mechanical unfolding.'
Carl Johan Calleman 'Frankly I am confused about the meaning of consciousness even if the word is in the title of one of my books. I saw someone identifying 63 different meanings of consciousness and with such a variation it is hard to know what someone means. For this reason I am mostly looking at the evolution of the mind which is much easier to deal with as it is more tangible. A question I am asking however is why the word consciousness has become such a buzz word that generally speaking holds a very positive meaning for those that use it. Completely apart from philosophical discourse and scientific analysis I may wonder what is the attraction.'
Gary R Smith Michael and Carl, my interest is no longer in philosophical discourse and never was in scientific analysis as both are so partial, so incomplete. Neither will ever comprehend much less experience the Whole, which is one of my definitions of consciousness.
Whether consciousness, however one defines it, existed before or not until after 'everything unfolded' — what does that have to do with the way I live my life? I can easily let go of any former preferences regarding the nature of existence and do, since they no longer serve. It just is unimportant, and thank you for helping me see that.
Carl, what is your attraction to your favorite foods? It comes from the physical senses, yes? And is based on an individualized appetite? Did you choose to have that particular appetite, or is it just a part of who you are? I am attracted to communion with the Whole, to living from the Whole, because it is who I am. I will never satisfy that appetite over philosophical discourse or scientific analysis.
Beyond satisfying an inner urge which needs no explanation, I am attracted to the Whole because I have caught a glimpse of another way of living which is flowing, effortless and efficient. Humankind to this time has not grown beyond the consciousness of fear and survival. I am attracted to live from the consciousness of unconditional love. I am interested in mastering 'alignment with wholeness' by my definition of it, while individuated. I need no more evidence that this is real than to observe the quality of my life, measured by the quality of my attention, actions and responses. If I experience emotions of irritation, agitation or frustration, or feel contraction, resistance, or reactivity, I am missing something and more inner work is required until I feel authentic equanimity and boundless love. It is highly subjective and all that matters.
Michael F (From the book description he referred to:) Can thought arise out of matter? Can self, soul, consciousness, “I” arise out of mere matter? If it cannot, then how can you or I be here?
I Am a Strange Loop argues that the key to understanding selves and consciousness is the “strange loop”—a special kind of abstract feedback loop inhabiting our brains. The most central and complex symbol in your brain is the one called “I.” The “I” is the nexus in our brain, one of many symbols seeming to have free will and to have gained the paradoxical ability to push particles around, rather than the reverse.
How can a mysterious abstraction be real—or is our “I” merely a convenient fiction? Does an “I” exert genuine power over the particles in our brain, or is it helplessly pushed around by the laws of physics?
These are the mysteries tackled in I Am a Strange Loop, Douglas Hofstadter's first book-length journey into philosophy since Gödel, Escher, Bach. Compulsively readable and endlessly thought-provoking, this is a moving and profound inquiry into the nature of mind.
Carl Johan Calleman Interesting thoughts. If the I is convenient fiction, who is the reader of the fiction?
Michael F Everything can be explained by multiple universes and the anthropic principle. The sentient observer does not CREATE the universe, but becomes aware of the only universes in which the sentient observer exists.
Ultimately, I need a universe where I don't have to take anything on faith or wishful thinking.
I have found a way to give the universe meaning without faith or wishful thinking. A way that allows for things many people refer to as "magic", but which are commonsense extrapolations of scientific thought. A way that avoids talking about intelligent, self-aware fields of energy, or an intelligent being creating chimpanzees and giraffes in a laboratory, ...
The difference between us is not in facts - you agree to most facts - and its not in poetry, because we both agree on the need to look at it as sacred. It is simply this: I have found a way to achieve meaning and sacredness and all the rest of it without relying on imprecision and wishful thinking. I know that its difficult to get one's meaning across fully in discussions such as this, which is why these conversations are long, but every word I use I try to use it in a precise fashion.
Consciousness is a property of thinking beings, and accordingly, according to the known history of the universe, it was not around at the big bang and came into being as the first thinking beings evolved. Likewise, evolution is a process that created the complexity of life on earth - it is not some magickal leprachaun that "guides" reality, no more than combustion decides where the car goes. Evolution is very similar TO combustion, in fact. As combustion turns wood to ash, Evolution turns algae into people. It is a process, and it proceeds without sentience.
So I'm using these words in a hard-headed way.. But just as we can choose to poetically refer to the moon as a goddess (or a god, if you are German), we can refer to combustion as a god (vulcan) or to evolution as a goddess (Eris?).
Anyway, I don't know if I got across half of what I meant to say. And it doesnt matter anyway. I'm halfway between the new age camp and the science camp, and I get frustrated by both sides.
When I watch Dawkins debating Deepak Chopra, Dawkins is right - Chopra is trading on word-salad psychobabble that means nothing - but at the same time, Dawkins fails to see why people want such psychobabble so very desperately - so he doesn't see the need to replace it with something that DOES work.
I do. And I have. Or at least the beginnings of such.
Gary R Smith M. - 'Consciousness is a property of thinking beings, and accordingly, according to the known history of the universe, it was not around at the big bang and came into being as the first thinking beings evolved.'
G. - We do have different definitions of consciousness.
You could look a whale into the eye and say, 'You are not conscious because you don't think.'
I could not.
Michael, you spurred me to look up the term pan animism to see if that is where my orientation aligns. What came up was panpsychism.
'In philosophy, panpsychism is the view that consciousness, mind or soul (psyche) is a universal and primordial feature of all things. Panpsychists see themselves as minds in a world of mind.
'Panpsychism is one of the oldest philosophical theories, and has been ascribed to philosophers like Thales, Parmenides, Plato, Averroes, Spinoza, Leibniz and William James. Panpsychism can also be seen in ancient philosophies such as Stoicism, Taoism, Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism. During the 19th century, panpsychism was the default theory in philosophy of mind, but it saw a decline during the middle years of the 20th century with the rise of logical positivism. The recent interest in the hard problem of consciousness has revived interest in panpsychism.'
G. - I do not see myself as mind in a world of mind, but have the view that consciousness is a universal and primordial feature of all things. Some say mind is a process, so mind in Mind would be process in processes. That is true, too. Primarily, I see humans as units of individuated consciousness within the inherently conscious Whole of tangible and intangible existence.
Now, having this specific viewpoint may seem contradictory to my claim of embracing all views, but I would call it a 'soft view'. It is not concrete, but more like pliable clay. It is my primary way of relating to the world, yet I stay open to all other possibilities and always respect how others perceive and interpret. I am not easily blown about to accept other views as my own, but sometimes adopt aspects of other views and ultimately go with what feels real, right and well inside me in the moment. From Wikipedia:
"The term 'panpsychism' has its origins with the Greek term pan (πᾶν : 'all, everything, whole') and psyche (ψυχή: 'soul, mind') as the unifying center of the mental life of us humans and other living creatures. Psyche comes from the Greek word ψύχω (psukhō, 'I blow') and can mean life, soul, mind, spirit, heart and 'life-breath'. The use of psyche is controversial due to it being synonymous with soul, a term usually taken to have some sort of supernatural quality; more common terms now found in the literature include mind, mental properties, mental aspect, and experience."
This definition limits consciousness to 'humans and other living creatures.' I sense consciousness within all matter and energy.
M. - 'Think of all possible universes like an infinite multiplex movie theater. At any point, we can walk out of one theater and into another. We cannot change any of the movies - they all continue to play even when we are not watching them. But we can watch the movie that interests us the most.'
G. - In your cinema multiplex with an infinite number of theatres playing all possibilities of movies, there surely must be ones which enact the story lines of all possible explanations of the origin of all that is -- such as,
1) Processes precede consciousness. 'All that is' is the outcome of random events and mechanical processes, which created consciousness.
2) Consciousness precedes processes. 'All that is' always was, a being of conscious matter, which in one of its infinite expressions exploded itself into the multiverse we earth humans currently experience.
You've chosen one of your infinite number of movies, which enables you to move from one to the other. I have chosen the multiplex.
Gary R Smith R. - One of the scenarios is that our localized awareness operates similarly to the way a torchlight works in a dark room...as we move it around, we see objects one after the other, though, in reality, they all exist simultaneously... meanwhile... there is an entire building which, due to the limitations of our torchlight, remains entirely unknown to us...except, unlike a building which is an artifact, it is "alive and conscious" in ways we can't even begin to comprehend.... just a thought...
G. - If the torchlight is our localized awareness, operating through the intellect, perhaps we need to look at using another tool... such as intuitive feeling.