What is consciousness?

The first lecture, introducing us to the relationship between art and consciousness was thoroughly fascinating. I feel really stretched and challenged by the complex theories surrounding this topic. I am particularly excited to be exploring areas that reach outside of the ‘art world’ and into an extended range of subject areas – such as physics, biology and psychology.

The notion of consciousness can be opened up to a number of different approaches as it is a question that science, at present, is unable to answer. There are many theories as to what the conscious mind is for РPanpsychism, where all things are seen as conscious. Eliminativism that suggests consciousness does not exist Рbut can be considered illusionary, for example just as a television gives the illusion of movement, so consciousness seems to us to be a reality, it is just another process. Mysterianism explores the possibility of consciousness as an unexplainable state, something that can not be grasped from our position as human. Dualism follows that there are two realms of existence, one exists on a material level and another on a spiritual. Finally, materialism, which asserts that reality is material and exists in only one realm Рit would follow that consciousness be considered as a mechanism, just like any other part of the body. This is a really interesting and challenging argument, it would suggest that consciousness is quantifiable and therefore programmable. Meaning that if we understood the science behind consciousness it would be possible to replicate it in a machine. Although it is a plausible argument that consciousness is a discover-able mental mechanism, this does pose real questions as to where we find distinctions in our position as human.

For me, mysterianism is quite an interesting theory – It may well be that our limited perception from this vantage point may render it impossible to locate the exact source of consciousness. However, I think it is important to recognise that as our understanding and technologies advance, the understanding that we have of the brain may develop and reveal consciousness as an identifiable function.

In our lecture it was engaging to consider questions as to what it is to distinctly be conscious. Consciousness is something that we can recognise, it is part of what it is to be human – however questioning it, grasping what it feels like to ‘be’ and what it feels like to even ‘feel’, enables us to recognise that the consciousness we are familiar with is a lot more complex than we might first consider.

 

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