The significance of self-consciousness

Without self-consciousness, the price of our life would not be much different from that of plants and animals. With self-consciousness, we merely cognize the existence of our inner being through the representation of our unchangeable characters and empirical grounds. One could obtain the learning experience empirically. But that could only broaden the empirical grounds on which our characters reacts so as to reflect into one’s willing. To me, the significance of self-consciousness therefore becomes a specious and ambiguous proposition that does not make any sense empirically. However, simply realizing this does not deter me from baffling into this trap all the time.

Empirically, everything makes perfect sense in the short run. I want to do A because I would like to achieve B. The reason I need to get B is because I like C … But people eventually follow the same path, and no one could avoid that, no matter if you are a 50 IQ Bushman in Kalahari desert or a super genius Ashkenazi Jew with an IQ of 190. The Bushman won’t think much metaphysically and the Ashkenazi Jew is not free of the manipulation of lust, hate, jealousy and compassion. The major difference being the variance in terms of the development of their civilization. If our mission is to expand and thrive our civilization, sustain it through generations, contribute greatly to the world so as to benefit others and make your name known for generations, I would rest my case here. This is usually the ultimate hypnosis for smart people in an advanced civilization. Complicated traditions, religions step in to reinforce this vision and prevent us from wandering off all the time. But the chaos of the post-rational stage convinces me that that ancient tradition of ours, is merely some good old indoctrination which no longer works nowadays. Then, what is the meaning of my self-consciousness? How could there be any missions of mine if it was set by some grounds? Schopenhauer might be right after all. We come to suffer, for we would always build our objectives based on some grounds. Once the significance of one’s being depends on the necessary grounds, you would always suffer when you haven’t achieved it. When you achieve it you must respond to other grounds, otherwise you would get trapped in boredom. This cycle continues until your self-consciousness diminishes according to the biological determinants…

Sometimes I think mankind should never develop metaphysics at all. Perhaps to live in a set-up realm without knowing its setup would satiate humans better. But unfortunately we are given the privilege to realize what it is.

Some random dabbling thoughts, in memory of my beloved grandmother and uncle.

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14 comments

  1. I am not convinced that consciousness is mere spume on the waves, nor am I convinced that free will is an absurdity. The mind is not the brain/unconsciousness. Raymond Tallis discusses these issues at length (especially mind equals brain) in “Aping Mankind” (Acumen, 2011). Without abandoning a materialist position, he rejects the simple mechanical model of the brain/mind problem.

    I should note that Dennett (“Consciousness Explained”) does little more than assert repeatedly that the consciousness does not exist. A really, really bad book from an eminent philosopher.

  2. The whole point of being here is that some awesome god created us to look like him, which make us awesome too. I don’t understand people negating God, consciousness, or anything that makes us special.
    How do people live while denying the meaning of their own existence? Its one thing to avoid magical thinking, another to use magical thinking to deny yourself.

  3. I rest the case here with the discussion of self-consciousnesses or free will. I wouldn’t discuss with such issues again unless practical reasons emerge to bring them back. I need to cheer myself up a little bit by not being too pessimistic at the moment at least.

  4. Sulla,

    Today I have exactly the same discussion with a friend of mine. He reacted exactly the same way you did. The notion that “there is only physics” is only an abstract contention that you build your logic on. You could not answer my question of how exactly everything works in the physical principles. You have a conventional empirical sense of thinking.
    Schopenhauer had a very vivid description of the way of thinking (free-will assumption based on your environmental determinism assumption) you have:

    in a choice between two objects of possession that
    mutually exclude one another can you prefer the one just as well as the
    other?’ Here he will say: ‘Perhaps I can find the choice hard: nevertheless
    it will still depend quite solely on me whether I will to choose the one
    or the other, and on no other power:b I have total freedom over which
    I will to select, and in this I shall always carry out solely my will.’ –
    If we now say: ‘But your willing itself, what does that depend on?’
    then the person will answer out of self-consciousness: ‘On nothing at all
    but me! I can will what I will: what I will, that I will.’ – And he says this last
    thing without intending the tautology, or relying even in the innermost
    of his consciousness on the principle of identity, through which alone it
    is true. Rather, pressed to the extreme here, he speaks of a willing of his
    willing, which is as if he spoke of an I of his I

    I hope you get the allusion. Otherwise, forget what I said, think whatever you think is right, as long as it serves you fine. The whole idea of self-consciousness is not something you could explain in physics. Otherwise, please enlighten me.

    1. The first single cell organism that reacted to light, or a chemical in the environment, or whatever, showed a degree of “consciousness.” As to more sophisticated organisms such as ourselves self consciousness is merely a matter of degree.

      As to whether “free will” exists, I seriously doubt it. Any illusion that it does is probably due to some degree of quantum randomness at the sub atomic level in the universe either in the external environment or our nervous system. Whatever the case may be it is hardly worth spending much time on studying it as any logical system can not be used to prove its own consistency. (See Godel.)

      1. “The first single cell organism that reacted to light, or a chemical in the environment, or whatever, showed a degree of “consciousness.” ”

        Your use of “whatever” expressed the fact that you don’t even know what you are talking about.

        “As to more sophisticated organisms such as ourselves self consciousness is merely a matter of degree.”

        What degree, degree of what? Just read what you have written here. It is absolutely non-sense. You are denying something you can’t explain. Let me tell you, it’s your emotion. Stop reasoning with it.

        “As to whether “free will” exists, I seriously doubt it. Any illusion that it does is probably due to some degree of quantum randomness at the sub atomic level in the universe either in the external environment or our nervous system”

        Quantum physics huh… Let me ask you something. Since you think everything in this world could be explained by quantum physics, what the hell classic physics still apply in normal scale? The fact is we know little about quantum physics. There’s more mystical hypotheses and theories than proven facts according to your belief. Ever heard of the term probability in quantum physics? It means we are merely guessing what happened there. Stop that delusion of yours that everything could be explained by (quantum) physics. You can not say everything could be explained by (quantum) physics with your ambiguous “randomness and probability theory”. Remind you you are still applying classic physics to check your weight and the speed of your car.

        “Whatever the case may be it is hardly worth spending much time on studying it as any logical system can not be used to prove its own consistency.”

        What case? any logical system to be used to prove its own consistency? Who said metaphysics is to prove the consistency of one’s logical system? First I don’t think you have any clue about physics or quantum physics and second I don’t think you have any clue about metaphysics at all.

        “(See Godel.)”
        You mean Kurt Godel? I think what you are trying to refer to is “The consistency of the axioms cannot be proven within the system”. Noted that it is the consistency of the axioms (in philosophy of mathematics), but the axioms or the nature of the axioms or any others in his assertion. Please stop ranting some nonsensical comments which you have no idea how to back up for but blurry reasoning and strong proposition.

      2. Well at least you were able to understand what my reference to Godel meant. And stop putiing words in my mouth. I never stated that quantum mechanics explained everything. I merely pointed out that there are stochastic observations.

        If the universe is entirely deterministic then it there is no free will only probabilities (although any notion of “free will” can not be understood by the logic that defines it.) If the universe is non-deterministic, and there is no reason to believe that it is not, then any discussion of free will doesn’t really matter.

        You really ought to stop reading all that nonsensical continental philosophy about “will” and get a grip. I suggest starting with David Hume. And I repeat: there is no metaphysics, only physics. You are unlearned and irrational.

  5. ” I merely pointed out that there are stochastic observations.”

    The precondition that those observation stands is that you recognize the empirical world as subjective and irrelevant to your own self-consciousness. You are a fan of empiricism Other people may beg to differ. Just for the sake of arguing, you can’t prove the other side is wrong since no one knows what would be like after one’s physical termination. Rest the case here. You are just circulating your vague contention to refute my statement. It is useless going further for me.

    “If the universe is entirely deterministic then it there is no free will only probabilities (although any notion of “free will” can not be understood by the logic that defines it.) If the universe is non-deterministic, and there is no reason to believe that it is not, then any discussion of free will doesn’t really matter.”

    probabilities exist as an artificial concept because we do not grasp the deterministic nature of the universe, provided it is entirely deterministic. If the universe is non-deterministic, in what way does it refer to the notion that the discussion of free will doesn’t matter? In my view it’d be the opposite. Read my original post again. I am dubious in “free will” as well, but it doesn’t mean it’s pointless to dig further other related questions.

    “You really ought to stop reading all that nonsensical continental philosophy about “will” and get a grip. I suggest starting with David Hume. And I repeat: there is no metaphysics, only physics. You are unlearned and irrational.”

    The reason why I read those “nonsensical continental philosophy” is because I was driven by the intellectual curiosity of self-being. Haven’t you ever mused where you are from and why you are made who you are and why everything is perceived through your eyes, ears, noses, and skin? It is human nature to exploit the nature of nature itself, however deep it might be. If I were being irrational I wouldn’t reason so much to you. Before calling others unlearned, why don’t you start to try to chew some other views as well? I am a science background guy from the start, but I stick to my affection for metaphysics, however obsolete it is perceived by your “rational” mindset.

    There is physics, and metaphysics, I’d be more patient to listen to your debunking theories next time when you have any idea on what you are saying.

    P.S. David Hume’s theory works well to progress things in the society. So does science in the sense of empiricism. But it can’t fulfill the desire of humans to find out why what and how of the world.

    I don’t understand why you are so sentimental against Metaphysics. Have you ever tried to read them? Or you got frustrated trying to understand? You know, you have to understand a thing before you could claim it as a fallacy , provided that thing is really nothing but false.

    1. We as humans are able to glean some of the what of the universe and a little bit of the how. As to the why we are in total and complete ignorance.

      Metaphysics is by definition non-existent since there is *no* empirical evidence for it. Your experience of “consciousness” can be explained as electro-chemical processes in the brain. There are no other testable hypotheses of the matter. Any progress we have made at all in understanding what it is has been wholly through scientific investigation of nervous system operation rather than pie in the sky philosophical ruminations.

      1. “Metaphysics is by definition non-existent since there is *no* empirical evidence for it. Your experience of “consciousness” can be explained as electro-chemical processes in the brain. There are no other testable hypotheses of the matter. Any progress we have made at all in understanding what it is has been wholly through scientific investigation of nervous system operation rather than pie in the sky philosophical ruminations.”

        Man you are repeating yourself over and over again. Just forget it. You don’t get it and are not willing to try to understand it. I rest my case here.

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