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Emily Alspector's picture

Defining Issues

As I think most people also realized, defining consciousness proved to be the most difficult part of conversation last week, and defining terms has been an impediment on most or many of our conversations. Maybe it is because it seems abstract and even undefinable because it's all we know; when we are not conscious we aren't aware and so it is out of our element to try and verbalize. Regardless, it is an incredibly interesting topic, and I'm glad we made it part of our seminar.

I really think sleep, and dreams in particular, is really interesting. Thinking of ways the unconscious can effect our behaviors is almost scary but yet undeniable. I don't know much about the topic, but I know that having a nightmare or intense dream can mess with my awake-state, so why wouldn't unrealized memories have a similar effect? What's also interesting is that phase when you're waking up and still uncertain if reality is reality or if your dream is reality, a fuzzy consciousness almost..if there is a mechanism of consciousness, I wonder if it takes time to "warm up", so to speak, which is why we are groggy in the morning (and with lack of sleep). With that, maybe the mechanism needs to recharge, and that is why we so often daydream, doze off, become "unconscious" for a few minutes at a time.

I also think discussing evidence for consciousness is an interesting one, one that overlaps with the question of consciousness in animals. I partly hate questions like this because they have no answer, but they are interesting nonetheless. We like to break things down according to what we know we are capable of and equate those things with consciousness (social abilities, morality, etc). It's interesting, too, to assume that these are all things that we have with absolute certainty; if we've learned anything from this seminar it's that we know even less about our brains than we care to admit (in fact, I might say we "know" next to nothing..). Clearly, consciousness cannot be accounted for by other uncertain qualities. I think it could be interesting to equate consciousness with learning, be it a life lesson or a math formula. Learning indicates a memory has been formed, and in class we made a pretty good argument that without memories there is no evidence for consciousness.


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