Definitions of consciousness

I try to be consistent in expressing my ideas about mental activity, but sometimes the wrong word comes through because I do not notice it. I avoid the phrase ‘conscious mind’ because it carries baggage of two distinct minds in one brain, a hangover from the popularity of Freud’s theories. I use the word ‘consciousness’ instead, in the hope that it does not imply two minds. Just to ensure that I am on firm ground, I took the trouble to look up how others use the word. And here is what I found:

Dictionary definition of ‘consciousness’: 1. the state of being conscious (lost consciousness during the fight); 2a. awareness, perception (had no consciousness of being ridiculed); 2b. in combination – awareness of (class consciousness); 3. the totality of a person’s thoughts and feelings, or a class of these (moral consciousness).

Everyday definition of ‘consciousness’: aware of yourself and surroundings; alert cognitive state; awake, responsive, not asleep or comatose.

Everyday definition of ‘being conscious of’: awareness of intent or effort; knowing and perceiving; being aware of.

Political definition of ‘x-consciousness’: a sense of identity with a group based on attitudes, beliefs, sensitivities, and self interest. (examples: class consciousness, Black consciousness).

Religious definitions of ‘consciousness’: used as a word to translate from eastern religions their beliefs and ideas associated with mind, life force, stages along a path of self-development or enlightenment.

Definition of ‘stream of consciousness’: a literary device to illustrate a character’s mental life using an internal narrative; the continuous flow of ideas and feelings that constitute an individual’s experience.

Definition of ‘self-consciousness’: awareness of awareness; embarrassment from being aware of self and other’s awareness of you; introspection.

Scientific definition of ‘consciousness’: a process arising out of one or more types of mind activities that are associated with the brain and that involve awareness; the subjective aspect of neurological activity.

And my definition: A brain function that produces a shared awareness, across various parts of the brain, of some aspects of a model of the self-in-the-world.

This does not seem inconsistent with the scientific use and the everyday use, but is much more restrictive than many of the other definitions.

3 thoughts on “Definitions of consciousness

  1. Interesting collection of information about it, I alo liked your definition, It feels like a function that creates the ilusion of coherence among things by coordinating different brain areas, and serve also as a translator among those areas.

    I alo wrote something about consciousness, I do not know if you have seen it, although I know is not along your lines of thoughts, you might find some of it interesting
    http://singyourownlullaby.blogspot.com/2010/01/world-as-idea.html
    Take care

    JK- thanks for the comment. I did read your post on consciousness, but late, after everyone had commented and so I didn’t add anything.

  2. Thank you for this. I use the term differently depending on where I am and which sense of the word I need for the conversation. I use it one way when talking about Jungian concepts, and an entirely different way when in the company of my Buddhist meditation group. It gets confusing at times. Other words that shape shift are “ego,” “mind” and “self.”

    JanetK: How true! Maybe I should do the same type of post on ‘mind’ and ‘self’.

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