I watched a TED.com talk recently. It was about Consciousness, partially defining it as that state of being which we experience once awakening from a dreamless sleep and throughout our awake hours. The state of the brain during this time is consciousness. I enjoyed Philosopher John Searle’s quirky speech very much. I think I agree with most of what he said, and definitely would not put myself up as a dissenter. He has spent a much longer time on the journey than I have, and also, in a much more conscious fashion.
This brings me to my confusion. Is what we experience which Professor Searle seems to have defined as the “state of not being unconscious” really all that consciousness is? I have no doubt at all that the scientific experiments and knowledge Professor Searle refers to in his lecture are all valid, correct, and reliable.
Yet, to me, it seems that consciousness is perhaps, a little more than that. How often do we tell our children to be conscious of the environment as they walk home from school or the playground? How often do we refer to someone’s mannerism as an “unconscious” gesture? Rather than these being incorrect use of the term, I feel that these are an extension of the meaning.
On the yoga mat we take conscious breaths, which as all practitioners of yoga know and experience, is very different in its results from just “unconsciously” breathing. Yet, according to Professor Searle’s definition, everyday standard breathing is also conscious. We know that if we play the piano, a conscious practise of a shorter time can yield far stronger results than a longer time just playing with the mind in a different realm. We certainly have, most of us, experienced sitting “like a zombie” in front of the TV and not taking in the programme at all. Is that conscious behaviour?
It is possible that defining consciousness in the wider sense that is described in the video can detract from the true meaning of consciousness. Perhaps it is important to remember that it is possible to live at least bits and pieces of one’s life in a robotic fashion, and the journey to making it all completely conscious is one of the things that makes life fascinatingly meaningful.
What do you think?
Do you think that it is important to draw a distinction between mere “awakeness” and full consciousness?
Do you think that there is a difference?