Who and What is Conscious? (was Thank You)

Gummuluru Murthy gmurthy at MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA
Wed Jul 28 12:18:47 CDT 1999

On Tue, 27 Jul 1999, Parisi & Watson wrote:

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM>
> Date: Tuesday, July 27, 1999 1:03 AM
> Subject: Re: Thank You
> >Even if it is true that consciousness is something that just pops up when
> >there is a critical mass of neurons or it is a lucky mutation, it would
> >not make a difference I think.  The fact is that we've got it. Other
> >things don't.  Perhaps we should proceed down this avenue for further
> >discussion?
> My cat is definitely conscious. I suppose the question is whether she has
> introspective self awareness, and probably she doesn't. The awkward fact is
> that I can never directly verify the introspective capabilities of anyone
> other than myself, human or not. It sounds like a silly statement, but it
> becomes very serious in the field of artificial intelligence. Where, if
> anywhere, could we ever cross the line from a convincing simulation of
> consciousness (in the sense of self awareness) to actual consciousness? And
> how could we ever go about determining the answer to this question? It's
> difficulties like this one that led science to behaviorism, and to something
> between saying that consciousness doesn't matter and denying it altogether.
> But denying it is futile, since I am unquestionably aware of my own
> subjective states. So science is in the embarrassing position of neglecting
> or denying the thing that we know best and most closely - the thing that we
> _are_ - in favor empirical observations, especially of qualities that can be
> quantified, which consciousness cannot. It may seem that I'm arguing both
> sides of the issue now, but these problems are painfully apparent from the
> scientific point of view, and it doesn't help anything to try to paper over
> them.
> And thank you, Sir, for steering the discussion back into a more
> constructive vein.
> Robert.

namaste. The following is my understanding on consciousness.

There is the cognitive consciousness (the lower case c consciousness)
which allows us to recognize the jagat around. There is the Consciousness
(the upper case C), the Atman/Brahman which pervades all. It is this
Consciousness which gives the consciousness to each jeeva, each
species, whether we call them inert (jaDa) or with full of caitanya.
This lower case c consciousness is in the realm of lower knowledge and
would not help in understanding ourselves, because we are simply analyzing
the lower knowledge only. This lower knowledge is avidyA, ignorance and
it is this avidyA which makes us see some objects as inert (jaDA) and
some objects as with full of consciousness (caitanyA). But ALL in this
jagat, pervaded by the Consciousness (upper case C) have the same
caitanya; it is only our inability to recognize this caitanya on our
time scale. Thus, the rock, plant, animal and human kingdoms, all
pervaded by the same Consciousness, have, in my view, the same caitanya.
Obviously, the time scales of these caitanya are different; hence, for
example, humans, on their time scale, cannot recognize the caitanya of
rock kingdom.

Once we accept the above, explanation of the consciousness of the human
in terms of brain functions becomes a subject of lower knowledge and is
of no particular interest in advaita.

Gummuluru Murthy

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