Thursday, November 12, 2015

Consciousness and Life in General

This article acknowledges the challenges in our understanding of consciousness but pushes the boundary further in reaching for we do not yet understand.  In so doing, the concepts outline here intend to impart some understanding of the challenges we face as conscious humans while still attempting to inspire further research, study and acceptance of ourselves as human beings that are an integral part of humanity.

Key Words:  Consciousness, Exploration, Frontiers, Humanity, Life

In certain circles we evaluate consciousness and its origins vis a vis the hard and easy problems.  In Susan Blackmore’s book, Consciousness an Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2004.  NY), she outlines the hard problem as:

The hard problem is to explain how physical processes in the brain give rise to the subjective experience.  The term was coined in 1994 by David Chalmers, who distinguished it from the “easy problems” of consciousness.  These include the ability to discriminate, categorize and react to stimuli; the integration of information by cognitive systems; the reportability of mental states; the focus of attention; deliberate control of behavior; and the difference between wakefulness and sleep.  By contrast the hard problem concerns experience itself, that is, subjectivity or “what it is like to be…”(19)

The arguments made by many a learned scholar make sense within their frameworks but I still cannot help but feel this nagging feeling within that we are all overlooking something important; perhaps something simple.  I cannot tell you precisely what that is until I can tease apart this nagging urge a bit more.

What we do know about consciousness is that in some respects, it is a bit of a mystery and potentially relegated at least in part to the land of metaphysics.  We cannot definitively pin point the origins of consciousness with certainty.  Consciousness is not limited to the brain but perhaps extends into the Mind and even beyond which encompasses the brain and yet includes a much broader concept such as the whole of the Universe.  Perhaps like the big bang or little blink, it just began and there it was in existence supported by all the dark matter and light of the universe.  I cannot tell you which.

What I can tell you is that I am conscious within the limited framework of a physical body that is awake and aware and that I am also part of a larger existence of consciousness of which we are all a part.  Maybe consciousness is no problem at all and our digging deeper into a piece of reality just to label it is a mistake.  We take bits and pieces of existence all the time.  We sort of decide to take this chunk of reality as limited as it may be, study it, test it, experiment with it and decide, “This is it, this is X.”  What if we do not have the capacity to take a big enough chunk of our reality to accurately measure it at all?

In terms of life in general, our consciousness is defined very closely to its component psychological parts as Freud (1856-1939) determined, Consciousness, Latent Consciousness and the Sub-conscious.  Everything we do and experience becomes some part of our consciousness in life.  So be it. It is what it is.  This is all well in good if you are content to get up every day and avoid philosophy.  Sadly or fortunately, as a philosopher, I don’t have that blessing.  I’ve an inquiring Mind which seeks to understand consciousness in it’s various states for my own personal reasons having experienced altered states of consciousness that have nothing to do with drugs!

I think the conclusion that I come to is that I can be satisfied with all of the studies and ideas on consciousness but I cannot be satisfied with stopping there.  We have so many great minds reading, researching and who are so very willing to continue the exploration into new frontiers on consciousness so that we might some day come up with something infinitely more useful for humanity concerning something very close to the home of every individual on the planet, our consciousness.  Being part of the much larger Consciousness, of which we are all part, is our right and privilege here in this frame and so we live our lives in various stages of consciousness that shifts, changes and expands much like the universe.  Be that as it may, I love life and I don’t think I could ever stop exploring our conscious existence in a very big way.  In a way, I hope you grasp that same pioneering spirit with whatever it is that calls to you within your own lives and fearless continue your inquiry until you are satisfied with the answers.

(photo:  NASA)

 Rev. J.L. Harter, PhD, Founding Editor of the Journal of Metaphysics and Connected Consciousness. See Bio section for additional information.