Tuesday, August 08, 2017


The term "consciousness" is a crown jewel in many a diadem.  We should begin our investigation by acknowledging the widely diverging rule sets that apply.  In some language games, an awake, tracking human being is by definition "conscious", as opposed to asleep or maybe dead.  In other language games, the awake human is certainly "dreaming" (as in daydreaming) but the words "conscious" and "aware" are reserved for only some dream states.  People spend a lifetime hoping to attain "wakefulness" or "enlightenment" or one of those.

For example, the Russian mystics take the more reserved tack, with their default being what we might label "robotic consciousness", an oxymoron from many points of view.  The discourse comes across as a challenge, more as religions aim to encode.  However lets remember philosophy since Plato at least has posited "self awareness" in contrast to a life unexamined.  "Consciousness" is very commonly presented as a ladder, with "higher" and "lower" states.

When physicists wade in to this morass, minus a lot of anthropological training (in some cases), their tendency is to conflate all meanings of "consciousness" on the assumption that words mean by pointing (not the later Wittgenstein view), with "consciousness" an objective state we know from private individual experience, not from getting programmed in English or any robotic language in particular.  We know "consciousness" as "the world" in the Tractatus sense (that's a philosophical work, Vienna Circle).  We begin with Descartes, with his cogito (it thought, therefore it was).

My recommendation is we not attempt to converge to any singular meaning.  "Consciousness" has a different role in different games.  I'm partial to the Russian mystic usage because I enjoy the gradient religions set for us.  Mere daydreaming is not enough.  Night dreaming also contributes to a consciousness. I get that from reading other Vienna Circle writers, as well as from the dreams themselves.