Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Thought 546: Definitions of Consciousness

Contemporary thinker Mark Passio defines consciousness as
"the ability of a being to recognise patterns and meaning with respect to events taking place, both within oneself and in the external realm in which the self exists and operates."
My girlfriend interpreted this definition as being one more of intelligence than consciousness per se.

That being said, Mark Passio's definition of consciousness seems to me to presuppose a more originary and radical phenomenon that underlies conscious awareness: what I, perhaps wrongly, termed conscience in my first blog post and expanded in my Brief Anatomy of Perception: the perception of your perception.

It is the fact that we are able to perceive our immediate perception, i.e. filter and interpret sense-based data, that enables the recognition of patterns and events taking place, both within and without. 

As Kant pointed out in his Critique of Pure Reason, the senses in themselves do not make judgements - that is the preserve of our critical faculty. Put differently, consciousness, as the phenomenon which enables us to perceive our own perception, is behind the faculties of reason, judgement and understanding. 

A higher level of consciousness perceives more of its perception than a lower level of consciousness which is more lost in immediate, i.e. unmediated and uncritical, perception.

Intelligence, which I defined a while ago as an individual's ability to intelligise, i.e. process information so as to understand it, obviously requires consciousness, the perception of perception, to manifest at all. 

I am not saying Mark Passio's definition of consciousness is wrong - it is in fact remarkably eloquent and sophisticated - but perhaps it nonetheless remains a definition more as to how consciousness can manifest since I might be conscious and therefore perceive my own perception but still largely fail to recognise patterns and events within and without me due to an inability to adequately process, understand and interpret perceptual data as received through consciousness. 

It seems apposite to refer to a previous, very short, post of mine which states that data (from the Latin datum itself stemming from the verb dare, to give, i.e. data as what is given) becomes information, i.e. something that forms you from within, when technically interpreted - which is what our senses as linked to our brains do all the time in the sense that we do not perceive reality as it is, i.e. we cannot perceive the world outside the conditions of our perceptual apparatus which biologically (technically) interprets what is given to us - and knowledge, i.e. lifetime learning, once critically evaluated (see also Art Born of Perception). 

Thus without consciousness we would not be able to be in-formed, since data would fail to be interpreted by our mind-body complex if we failed to perceive our own perception, and without intelligence knowledge would also be compromised due to the inability to critically evaluate information since lacking the ability even to understand it. 

Addendum - Regarding the word 'intelligent', Wiktionary offers the following etymology: 
"From Middle French intelligent, from Latin (intelligent), present active participle of intellego (understand, comprehend), itself from inter (between) + lego (choose, pick out, read)."
We could therefore say that, etymologically at least, intelligence denotes an individual's (biological) capacity to understand and (practiced) ability to discern so as to be able to 'read between the lines', i.e. spot patterns in information.