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Archive for 11/02/2010

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.

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