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Explaining Consciousness

23 November, 2015 - 09:30
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Materialism suggests that consciousness is the result of material interactions - which is obviously true, however there is a quality of consciousness that is surreal and could be described as being above the material.

I mean, people know what it is like to experience events. Certain things might be done to make the emotions involved more or less salient however, and that could be complex to achieve.

There is a difference between the real world and how ones mind represents the world to itself. This concept is called intentionality (not to be confused with the word 'intention') which is like the word intention, only so far as it implies that a mind has an intent to capture the essence of something in the world. It is defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as "the power of minds to be about, to represent, or to stand for, things, properties and states of affairs" 1 .

The question that then follows after hearing the definition of intentionality is - what if someone misrepresents the world? That doesn't really make much sense; however. The way your mind 'biases' or 'represents' the world is by definition how you are perceiving it. Over time you can perceive the world differently, and then it could cause different emotions in you. Because the color red doesn't necessarily have a strict bio-neurological reaction, it is dependent on your emotional and intellectual perception of the world.

What are the factors of perception, then, of perception and representation in conscious experience - and can someone 'misrepresent' the world? Here is Robert Brandom:

  • For what an organism is doing to be intelligible is representing, there must be room also for misrepresenting, for representation that is incorrect. One of the hallmarks of the normativity of intentionality is that what one commits oneself to in applying a concept outruns in principle what one takes oneself to be committed to. The norm of correctness one thereby binds oneself by goes beyond both the dispositions of those understaking those commitments and what they consciously envisage themselves as committing themselves to thereby. Because it does, a question arises about how to understand the features of the intentional state or meaningful utterance that settle which determinate conceptual norm one is bound by - exactly which standards for the assessment of correctness or success one has implicitly put in play - by being in that state or producing that utterance. If what one is committed to is not settled by what one consciously envisages (because one never so envisages enough), nor by what one is disposed to accept as such (because one can be wrong), how is it settled?

He brings up a couple of points in this passage. If someone is misrepresenting the world, how would that change what the feelings are vs if they represented it accurately? What does that mean anyway - to misrepresent the world? It isn't like people can expect how exactly something is going to or supposed to feel, or understand completely how something feels. It seems there is a conscious filter of sorts that is conscious in the sense that it is unique to humans because humans have such a developed sense of emotion and breadth of feeling, but is unconscious in the sense that it is how their mind naturally functions (how it interprets and feels emotions, thoughts, experiences etc).