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atuttle's picture

Over the past few weeks I

Over the past few weeks I have found myself responding directly to Emily's comments because she does a wonderful job rephrasing some of the themes that other people have brought up over the course of the discussion, so thank you Emily! To address the first point about being conscious towards "X," I am wondering if this is just another way of describing attention. For example, when driving a car for long periods of time you are not actively paying attention to the task for the entire time, but allow yourself to focus on other, more interesting components. Yet the majority of us seem to think that we are driving unconsciously. This example highlights the multiple definitions of consciousness, and the necessary substrates that apply to each version. With this definition, it appears that attention is necessary for a conscious state, yet other definitions of the disorder merely state that a person be "awake." In that case, a daydreamer would still be described as conscious.

I think Stephanie makes a good point by reiterating that science takes a complex and ambiguous phenomenon and breaks it down to several different operational levels. As a result, multiple definitions for concepts like consciousness or love may exist. Furthermore, I agree with Emily that significant thoughts or ideas may come from different mental states, including peri-consciousness or even sleep. While we are alive our brains never stop working. Even in the deepest sleep different areas of our brain continue to function, and may lead to more creative or nonlinear thinking. Sleep studies have found that sleep can lead to disinhibition--thoughts that would otherwise be strained out of our conscious experience may break through in a sleep-like state.

Finally, I am skeptical of post-death consciousness. I believe that experiences that people recount come from the moments before brain-death, when neurons may become activated haphazardly due to a breakdown in brain homeostasis (i.e., lack of oxygen, energy, etc.) If an individual regains consciousness, it is possible that the experiences they describe may come form those seconds of neural disorder. The experience may seem like it lasted a longer period of time, but then again some dreams feel like they are played out over several hours (whereas brain imaging studies indicate that dreams only last several seconds in the real world). Then again, science may not be able to explain everything in life, and there is definitely wiggle room for alternative beliefs/ explanations :-)


~Alex Tuttle

Haverford '08


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