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October 17, 2006

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bertrand

What is a computer for you?

And how do you explain that the transition between non-awareness (inanimate objects, plants, bacteria, viuses etc.) and awareness (animals) did take place and yet is not repeatable? If Awareness is of itself, independently of the body and brain, how is it that we only observe it in beings that have a brain?

Descartes believed that he "pituitary gland" (not sure it's how you call it in English) was the junction between body and soul...

As a materialist at heart with a deep attraction to spirituality, the question you address is as close as it gets to the core of the paradox which has been bugging me for years... What happens to a Buddah when he he catches Alzheimer's disease?

(Tell me if I was not clear enough, i'll try to clarify mmy points)

dan

I am not confident that I fully understand what you mean by "awareness" in this entry. I have always thought of it in a different way. To me, awareness IS an information system, I have no "specisl recognition" of other's awareness (I assume it only as a matter of pragmatism), and I have at times been aware that I was not aware that I was aware.
Clearly, we are not thinking about the same thing. I suspect also that the AI people are thinking of this in a different way also.

Nova

In this article, Awareness and consciousness are used synonymously, however I sometimes make a subtle distinction between them in other writings. The distinction is that consciousness is a dualistic interpretation of awareness into a subject and an object, whereas awareness itself is non-dualistic and contains no actual subject-object distinctions. Consciousness is a conceptual construct -- a frame of mind that is learned and perpetuated by habit, but is actually a mistaken interpretation of what is actually taking place. The nature of consciousness is "knowing" or "being" -- this is what distinguishes something that is consciousness from something that is not -- and this nature is actually undivided and selfless -- it has no subject or object distinctions within it. The confused conceptual mind projects a subject-object framework onto awareness, because it seems to make sense, yet no such framework actually exists in fact.

Nova

Yes I can clarify that. My definitions of the difference between these terms comes largely from Tibetan Buddhist phenomenology. From that perspective, "consciousness" is a dualistic, conceptual frame of mind in which there is a division of experience into experience that is designated as "self" and experience that is desiganted as "other." Awareness on the other hand is the non-conceptual, non-dualistic presence of phenomena when not imputed as self or other. Another way to think of this is that awareness is the raw capacity for an phenomenal appearance of any kind (visual, mental, auditory, etc.) to take place. The appearance of that phenomena and the knowing of it are not two distinct things in awareness, but rather an inseperable state. For example, in a dream the appearance of a dream-rabbit is not separate from that which knows the dream-rabbit, it is rather a projection of that underlying awareness, inseperably "made of" or "dependent upon" it. Consciousness on the other hand is a dualistic frame of mind in which this inherently undifferentiated space of phenomena is conceived of in various ways, creating the illusion that knowing has a particular location, identity and entity within the space, rather than it being the space itself. Hopefully that clarifies it. Basically "consciousness" is a non-fundamental conceptual overlay on awareness, whereas awareness like space is fundamental and undivided.

Another interesting side-effect of my above article on why machines cannot be aware is the fact that by the same reasoning a person cannot really be aware either. What I mean by this is that awareness does not "come from" or "reside within" the body or the brain, but rather it could be said that the body and brain come from and reside in awareness. In other words, although people appear to be aware and/or the agents of awareness, this is really an illusion. We are nothing more than dream-characters in a dream-reality -- the analogy to a dream holds quite well. The source of awareness is not within the dream, nor within anything that appears in the dream -- rather it comes from beyond it. What that is ... who can say? That is the domain of religion and spirituality. The logical and phenomenological necessity for an Unknown that is forever beyond whatever is known and is not a mere nothingness is revealed by looking at awareness, or by looking at space or time. For example, given the entire universe of all space and time, what is THAT in? Where does that come from? Again, whatever scope we want to posit, there must be something beyond it. The same is true for what we think of as the mind -- ordinary conceptual consciousness. It is also true for anything we might conceive of as "pure awareness" as well. If we can conceive of it, it is not the final truth.

Here we bridge the gap from physics to metaphysics -- where by metaphysics I mean the meta-level beyond physics (I do NOT mean metaphysics in the new-age sense of the word). Metaphysics is the study of what physics is "in." It's not the study of physics.


JSP

Could you clarify your understanding of the difference between awareness and consciousness?

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