Consciousness Goes Deeper Than You Think - Deepstash
Conscious and Unconscious thoughts
  • Consciousness” is often used in the literature as if it implied more than just the qualities of experience.
  • The key distinction between conscious and unconscious thought is that “Conscious thought is thought with attention.”
  • If a thought escapes attention, then it is unconscious.

However,

  • Is the mere lack of attention enough to assert that a mental process lacks the qualities of experience?
  • Couldn’t a process that escapes the focus of attention still feel like something?

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An Example of consciousness

Consider your breathing right now- the air flow and the movement of your breathing organs.

  • Were you not experiencing these sensations a moment ago, before I directed your attention to them?
  • Or were you just unaware that you were experiencing them all along?

By directing your attention to these sensations, did I make them conscious or did I simply cause you to experience the extra quality of knowing that the sensations were conscious?

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Conscious and Meta-conscious
  • Both conscious and meta-conscious entail the qualities of experience, however, meta-conscious processes also entail what is called re-representation.
  • Re-representation of consciousness is in which one interprets, describes or otherwise characterizes the state of one’s mind.
  • Attention plays an important role is in re-representation; that is, the conscious knowledge of an experience which helps in introspection.

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Consciousness and Re-representation
  • Attention plays an important role in re-representation; that is, the conscious knowledge of an experience and introspection.
  • Subjects cannot report—not even to themselves—experiences that aren’t re-represented.
  • However, conscious experience does occur even without re-representation: For example, Dreams lack re-representation, even if they are experienced in consciousness.
  • This gap between reportability and consciousness has led to “no-report paradigms” in neuroscience.

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Confusion in Consciousness
  • We assume that consciousness is limited to re-represented mental contents under the focus of attention.
  • This confuses meta-consciousness with consciousness.
  • Conscious processes that lack re-representation and truly unconscious processes are different. However, both are equally unreportable to self and others.
  • A mental process is not unconscious just because we’re unable to report it.

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Consciousness in babies
  • It’s debated in neuroscience whether babies are born conscious or whether they develop consciousness at some point (generally said to be five months of age)
  • It is hard to think that a newborn feels nothing. Newborns clearly seem to experience their own bodies, their environment, presence of their parents etc.
  • This means they are conscious since birth, but are unable to report it due to lack of a meta-cognition process.
  • What we see as rise of consciousness may merely be the rise of metacognition.

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Summary of consciousness
  • Consciousness may never arise because it may always be there to begin with. For all we know, what arises is merely a metacognitive configuration of preexisting consciousness.
  • Consciousness may be fundamental in nature—an inherent aspect of every mental process, not a property generated by arrangement of structures in the brain (brain physiology).
  • Reducing consciousness to brain physiology may have little to do with consciousness proper, but with mechanisms of metacognition instead.

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