Consciousness

Consciousness is the state or quality of awareness or of being aware of an external object or something within oneself.[1][2] It has been defined variously in terms of sentience, awareness, qualia, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood or soul, the fact that there is something "that it is like" to "have" or "be" it, and the executive control system of the mind.[3] Despite the difficulty in definition, many philosophers believe that there is a broadly shared underlying intuition about what consciousness is.[4] As Max Velmans and Susan Schneider wrote in The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness: "Anything that we are aware of at a given moment forms part of our consciousness, making conscious experience at once the most familiar and most mysterious aspect of our lives."[5]

Western philosophers, since the time of Descartes and Locke, have struggled to comprehend the nature of consciousness and identify its essential properties. Issues of concern in the philosophy of consciousness include whether the concept is fundamentally coherent; whether consciousness can ever be explained mechanistically; whether non-human consciousness exists and if so how it can be recognized; how consciousness relates to language; whether consciousness can be understood in a way that does not require a dualistic distinction between mental and physical states or properties; and whether it may ever be possible for computing machines like computers or robots to be conscious, a topic studied in the field of artificial intelligence.

Thanks to developments in technology over the past few decades, consciousness has become a significant topic of interdisciplinary research in cognitive science, with significant contributions from fields such as psychology, anthropology,[6][7] neuropsychology and neuroscience. The primary focus is on understanding what it means biologically and psychologically for information to be present in consciousness—that is, on determining the neural and psychological correlates of consciousness. The majority of experimental studies assess consciousness in humans by asking subjects for a verbal report of their experiences (e.g., "tell me if you notice anything when I do this"). Issues of interest include phenomena such as subliminal perception, blindsight, denial of impairment, and altered states of consciousness produced by alcohol and other drugs, or spiritual or meditative techniques.

In medicine, consciousness is assessed by observing a patient's arousal and responsiveness, and can be seen as a continuum of states ranging from full alertness and comprehension, through disorientation, delirium, loss of meaningful communication, and finally loss of movement in response to painful stimuli.[8] Issues of practical concern include how the presence of consciousness can be assessed in severely ill, comatose, or anesthetized people, and how to treat conditions in which consciousness is impaired or disrupted.[9] The degree of consciousness is measured by standardized behavior observation scales such as the Glasgow Coma Scale.

RobertFuddBewusstsein17Jh
Representation of consciousness from the seventeenth century by Robert Fludd, an English Paracelsian physician

Etymology

JohnLocke
John Locke, British philosopher active in the 17th century

The origin of the modern concept of consciousness is often attributed to John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding, published in 1690.[10] Locke defined consciousness as "the perception of what passes in a man's own mind".[11] His essay influenced the 18th-century view of consciousness, and his definition appeared in Samuel Johnson's celebrated Dictionary (1755).[12] "Consciousness" (French: conscience) is also defined in the 1753 volume of Diderot and d'Alembert's Encyclopédie, as "the opinion or internal feeling that we ourselves have from what we do".[13]

The earliest English language uses of "conscious" and "consciousness" date back, however, to the 1500s. The English word "conscious" originally derived from the Latin conscius (con- "together" and scio "to know"), but the Latin word did not have the same meaning as our word—it meant "knowing with", in other words "having joint or common knowledge with another".[14] There were, however, many occurrences in Latin writings of the phrase conscius sibi, which translates literally as "knowing with oneself", or in other words "sharing knowledge with oneself about something". This phrase had the figurative meaning of "knowing that one knows", as the modern English word "conscious" does. In its earliest uses in the 1500s, the English word "conscious" retained the meaning of the Latin conscius. For example, Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan wrote: "Where two, or more men, know of one and the same fact, they are said to be Conscious of it one to another."[15] The Latin phrase conscius sibi, whose meaning was more closely related to the current concept of consciousness, was rendered in English as "conscious to oneself" or "conscious unto oneself". For example, Archbishop Ussher wrote in 1613 of "being so conscious unto myself of my great weakness".[16] Locke's definition from 1690 illustrates that a gradual shift in meaning had taken place.

A related word was conscientia, which primarily means moral conscience. In the literal sense, "conscientia" means knowledge-with, that is, shared knowledge. The word first appears in Latin juridical texts by writers such as Cicero.[17] Here, conscientia is the knowledge that a witness has of the deed of someone else.[18] René Descartes (1596–1650) is generally taken to be the first philosopher to use conscientia in a way that does not fit this traditional meaning.[19] Descartes used conscientia the way modern speakers would use "conscience". In Search after Truth (Regulæ ad directionem ingenii ut et inquisitio veritatis per lumen naturale, Amsterdam 1701) he says "conscience or internal testimony" (conscientiâ, vel interno testimonio).[20][21]

Dictionary definitions

The dictionary meanings of the word consciousness extend through several centuries and several associated related meanings. These have ranged from formal definitions to definitions attempting to capture the less easily captured and more debated meanings and usage of the word.

One formal definition indicating the range of these related meanings is given in Webster's Third New International Dictionary stating that consciousness is:

    • awareness or perception of an inward psychological or spiritual fact: intuitively perceived knowledge of something in one's inner self
    • inward awareness of an external object, state, or fact
    • concerned awareness: INTEREST, CONCERN—often used with an attributive noun.
  1. the state or activity that is characterized by sensation, emotion, volition, or thought: mind in the broadest possible sense: something in nature that is distinguished from the physical.
  2. the totality in psychology of sensations, perceptions, ideas, attitudes and feelings of which an individual or a group is aware at any given time or within a particular time span—compare STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS."

The Cambridge Dictionary defines consciousness as "the state of understanding and realizing something."[22] The Oxford Living Dictionary defines consciousness as "The state of being aware of and responsive to one's surroundings.", "A person's awareness or perception of something." and "The fact of awareness by the mind of itself and the world."[23]

Most definitions include awareness, but some include a more general state of being.

Philosophy of mind

The philosophy of mind has given rise to many stances regarding consciousness. The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy in 1998 defines consciousness as follows:

Consciousness—Philosophers have used the term 'consciousness' for four main topics: knowledge in general, intentionality, introspection (and the knowledge it specifically generates) and phenomenal experience... Something within one's mind is 'introspectively conscious' just in case one introspects it (or is poised to do so). Introspection is often thought to deliver one's primary knowledge of one's mental life. An experience or other mental entity is 'phenomenally conscious' just in case there is 'something it is like' for one to have it. The clearest examples are: perceptual experience, such as tastings and seeings; bodily-sensational experiences, such as those of pains, tickles and itches; imaginative experiences, such as those of one's own actions or perceptions; and streams of thought, as in the experience of thinking 'in words' or 'in images'. Introspection and phenomenality seem independent, or dissociable, although this is controversial.[24]

In a more skeptical definition of consciousness, Stuart Sutherland has exemplified some of the difficulties in fully ascertaining all of its cognate meanings in his entry for the 1989 version of the Macmillan Dictionary of Psychology:

Consciousness—The having of perceptions, thoughts, and feelings; awareness. The term is impossible to define except in terms that are unintelligible without a grasp of what consciousness means. Many fall into the trap of equating consciousness with self-consciousness—to be conscious it is only necessary to be aware of the external world. Consciousness is a fascinating but elusive phenomenon: it is impossible to specify what it is, what it does, or why it has evolved. Nothing worth reading has been written on it.[25]

Most writers on the philosophy of consciousness have been concerned with defending a particular point of view, and have organized their material accordingly. For surveys, the most common approach is to follow a historical path by associating stances with the philosophers who are most strongly associated with them, for example Descartes, Locke, Kant, etc. An alternative is to organize philosophical stances according to basic issues.

The coherence of the concept

Philosophers and non-philosophers differ in their intuitions about what consciousness is.[26] While most people have a strong intuition for the existence of what they refer to as consciousness,[27] skeptics argue that this intuition is false, either because the concept of consciousness is intrinsically incoherent, or because our intuitions about it are based in illusions. Gilbert Ryle, for example, argued that traditional understanding of consciousness depends on a Cartesian dualist outlook that improperly distinguishes between mind and body, or between mind and world. He proposed that we speak not of minds, bodies, and the world, but of individuals, or persons, acting in the world. Thus, by speaking of "consciousness" we end up misleading ourselves by thinking that there is any sort of thing as consciousness separated from behavioral and linguistic understandings.[28] More generally, many philosophers and scientists have been unhappy about the difficulty of producing a definition that does not involve circularity or fuzziness.[25]

Types of consciousness

Many philosophers have argued that consciousness is a unitary concept that is understood intuitively by the majority of people in spite of the difficulty in defining it.[27] Others, though, have argued that the level of disagreement about the meaning of the word indicates that it either means different things to different people (for instance, the objective versus subjective aspects of consciousness), or else is an umbrella term encompassing a variety of distinct meanings with no simple element in common.[29]

Ned Block proposed a distinction between two types of consciousness that he called phenomenal (P-consciousness) and access (A-consciousness).[30] P-consciousness, according to Block, is simply raw experience: it is moving, colored forms, sounds, sensations, emotions and feelings with our bodies' and responses at the center. These experiences, considered independently of any impact on behavior, are called qualia. A-consciousness, on the other hand, is the phenomenon whereby information in our minds is accessible for verbal report, reasoning, and the control of behavior. So, when we perceive, information about what we perceive is access conscious; when we introspect, information about our thoughts is access conscious; when we remember, information about the past is access conscious, and so on. Although some philosophers, such as Daniel Dennett, have disputed the validity of this distinction,[31] others have broadly accepted it. David Chalmers has argued that A-consciousness can in principle be understood in mechanistic terms, but that understanding P-consciousness is much more challenging: he calls this the hard problem of consciousness.[32]

Some philosophers believe that Block's two types of consciousness are not the end of the story. William Lycan, for example, argued in his book Consciousness and Experience that at least eight clearly distinct types of consciousness can be identified (organism consciousness; control consciousness; consciousness of; state/event consciousness; reportability; introspective consciousness; subjective consciousness; self-consciousness)—and that even this list omits several more obscure forms.[33]

There is also debate over whether or not A-consciousness and P-consciousness always coexist or if they can exist separately. Although P-consciousness without A-consciousness is more widely accepted, there have been some hypothetical examples of A without P. Block for instance suggests the case of a “zombie” that is computationally identical to a person but without any subjectivity. However, he remains somewhat skeptical concluding "I don’t know whether there are any actual cases of A-consciousness without P-consciousness, but I hope I have illustrated their conceptual possibility." [34]

Mind–body problem

Descartes mind and body
Illustration of dualism by René Descartes. Inputs are passed by the sensory organs to the pineal gland and from there to the immaterial spirit.

Mental processes (such as consciousness) and physical processes (such as brain events) seem to be correlated, however the specific nature of the connection is unknown.

The first influential philosopher to discuss this question specifically was Descartes, and the answer he gave is known as Cartesian dualism. Descartes proposed that consciousness resides within an immaterial domain he called res cogitans (the realm of thought), in contrast to the domain of material things, which he called res extensa (the realm of extension).[35] He suggested that the interaction between these two domains occurs inside the brain, perhaps in a small midline structure called the pineal gland.[36]

Although it is widely accepted that Descartes explained the problem cogently, few later philosophers have been happy with his solution, and his ideas about the pineal gland have especially been ridiculed.[37] However, no alternative solution has gained general acceptance. Proposed solutions can be divided broadly into two categories: dualist solutions that maintain Descartes' rigid distinction between the realm of consciousness and the realm of matter but give different answers for how the two realms relate to each other; and monist solutions that maintain that there is really only one realm of being, of which consciousness and matter are both aspects. Each of these categories itself contains numerous variants. The two main types of dualism are substance dualism (which holds that the mind is formed of a distinct type of substance not governed by the laws of physics) and property dualism (which holds that the laws of physics are universally valid but cannot be used to explain the mind). The three main types of monism are physicalism (which holds that the mind consists of matter organized in a particular way), idealism (which holds that only thought or experience truly exists, and matter is merely an illusion), and neutral monism (which holds that both mind and matter are aspects of a distinct essence that is itself identical to neither of them). There are also, however, a large number of idiosyncratic theories that cannot cleanly be assigned to any of these schools of thought.[38]

Since the dawn of Newtonian science with its vision of simple mechanical principles governing the entire universe, some philosophers have been tempted by the idea that consciousness could be explained in purely physical terms. The first influential writer to propose such an idea explicitly was Julien Offray de La Mettrie, in his book Man a Machine (L'homme machine). His arguments, however, were very abstract.[39] The most influential modern physical theories of consciousness are based on psychology and neuroscience. Theories proposed by neuroscientists such as Gerald Edelman[40] and Antonio Damasio,[41] and by philosophers such as Daniel Dennett,[42] seek to explain consciousness in terms of neural events occurring within the brain. Many other neuroscientists, such as Christof Koch,[43] have explored the neural basis of consciousness without attempting to frame all-encompassing global theories. At the same time, computer scientists working in the field of artificial intelligence have pursued the goal of creating digital computer programs that can simulate or embody consciousness.[44]

A few theoretical physicists have argued that classical physics is intrinsically incapable of explaining the holistic aspects of consciousness, but that quantum theory may provide the missing ingredients. Several theorists have therefore proposed quantum mind (QM) theories of consciousness.[45] Notable theories falling into this category include the holonomic brain theory of Karl Pribram and David Bohm, and the Orch-OR theory formulated by Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose. Some of these QM theories offer descriptions of phenomenal consciousness, as well as QM interpretations of access consciousness. None of the quantum mechanical theories have been confirmed by experiment. Recent publications by G. Guerreshi, J. Cia, S. Popescu, and H. Briegel[46] could falsify proposals such as those of Hameroff, which rely on quantum entanglement in protein. At the present time many scientists and philosophers consider the arguments for an important role of quantum phenomena to be unconvincing.[47]

Apart from the general question of the "hard problem" of consciousness, roughly speaking, the question of how mental experience arises from a physical basis,[48] a more specialized question is how to square the subjective notion that we are in control of our decisions (at least in some small measure) with the customary view of causality that subsequent events are caused by prior events. The topic of free will is the philosophical and scientific examination of this conundrum.

Problem of other minds

Many philosophers consider experience to be the essence of consciousness, and believe that experience can only fully be known from the inside, subjectively. But if consciousness is subjective and not visible from the outside, why do the vast majority of people believe that other people are conscious, but rocks and trees are not?[49] This is called the problem of other minds.[50] It is particularly acute for people who believe in the possibility of philosophical zombies, that is, people who think it is possible in principle to have an entity that is physically indistinguishable from a human being and behaves like a human being in every way but nevertheless lacks consciousness.[51] Related issues have also been studied extensively by Greg Littmann of the University of Illinois,[52] and Colin Allen a professor at Indiana University regarding the literature and research studying artificial intelligence in androids.[53]

The most commonly given answer is that we attribute consciousness to other people because we see that they resemble us in appearance and behavior; we reason that if they look like us and act like us, they must be like us in other ways, including having experiences of the sort that we do.[54] There are, however, a variety of problems with that explanation. For one thing, it seems to violate the principle of parsimony, by postulating an invisible entity that is not necessary to explain what we observe.[54] Some philosophers, such as Daniel Dennett in an essay titled The Unimagined Preposterousness of Zombies, argue that people who give this explanation do not really understand what they are saying.[55] More broadly, philosophers who do not accept the possibility of zombies generally believe that consciousness is reflected in behavior (including verbal behavior), and that we attribute consciousness on the basis of behavior. A more straightforward way of saying this is that we attribute experiences to people because of what they can do, including the fact that they can tell us about their experiences.[56]

Animal consciousness

The topic of animal consciousness is beset by a number of difficulties. It poses the problem of other minds in an especially severe form, because non-human animals, lacking the ability to express human language, cannot tell us about their experiences.[57] Also, it is difficult to reason objectively about the question, because a denial that an animal is conscious is often taken to imply that it does not feel, its life has no value, and that harming it is not morally wrong. Descartes, for example, has sometimes been blamed for mistreatment of animals due to the fact that he believed only humans have a non-physical mind.[58] Most people have a strong intuition that some animals, such as cats and dogs, are conscious, while others, such as insects, are not; but the sources of this intuition are not obvious, and are often based on personal interactions with pets and other animals they have observed.[57]

Philosophers who consider subjective experience the essence of consciousness also generally believe, as a correlate, that the existence and nature of animal consciousness can never rigorously be known. Thomas Nagel spelled out this point of view in an influential essay titled What Is it Like to Be a Bat?. He said that an organism is conscious "if and only if there is something that it is like to be that organism—something it is like for the organism"; and he argued that no matter how much we know about an animal's brain and behavior, we can never really put ourselves into the mind of the animal and experience its world in the way it does itself.[59] Other thinkers, such as Douglas Hofstadter, dismiss this argument as incoherent.[60] Several psychologists and ethologists have argued for the existence of animal consciousness by describing a range of behaviors that appear to show animals holding beliefs about things they cannot directly perceive—Donald Griffin's 2001 book Animal Minds reviews a substantial portion of the evidence.[61]

On July 7, 2012, eminent scientists from different branches of neuroscience gathered at the University of Cambridge to celebrate the Francis Crick Memorial Conference, which deals with consciousness in humans and pre-linguistic consciousness in nonhuman animals. After the conference, they signed in the presence of Stephen Hawking, the 'Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness', which summarizes the most important findings of the survey:

"We decided to reach a consensus and make a statement directed to the public that is not scientific. It's obvious to everyone in this room that animals have consciousness, but it is not obvious to the rest of the world. It is not obvious to the rest of the Western world or the Far East. It is not obvious to the society."[62]

"Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals [...], including all mammals and birds, and other creatures, [...] have the necessary neural substrates of consciousness and the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors."[63]

Artifact consciousness

The idea of an artifact made conscious is an ancient theme of mythology, appearing for example in the Greek myth of Pygmalion, who carved a statue that was magically brought to life, and in medieval Jewish stories of the Golem, a magically animated homunculus built of clay.[64] However, the possibility of actually constructing a conscious machine was probably first discussed by Ada Lovelace, in a set of notes written in 1842 about the Analytical Engine invented by Charles Babbage, a precursor (never built) to modern electronic computers. Lovelace was essentially dismissive of the idea that a machine such as the Analytical Engine could think in a humanlike way. She wrote:

It is desirable to guard against the possibility of exaggerated ideas that might arise as to the powers of the Analytical Engine. ... The Analytical Engine has no pretensions whatever to originate anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform. It can follow analysis; but it has no power of anticipating any analytical relations or truths. Its province is to assist us in making available what we are already acquainted with.[65]

One of the most influential contributions to this question was an essay written in 1950 by pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing, titled Computing Machinery and Intelligence. Turing disavowed any interest in terminology, saying that even "Can machines think?" is too loaded with spurious connotations to be meaningful; but he proposed to replace all such questions with a specific operational test, which has become known as the Turing test.[66] To pass the test, a computer must be able to imitate a human well enough to fool interrogators. In his essay Turing discussed a variety of possible objections, and presented a counterargument to each of them. The Turing test is commonly cited in discussions of artificial intelligence as a proposed criterion for machine consciousness; it has provoked a great deal of philosophical debate. For example, Daniel Dennett and Douglas Hofstadter argue that anything capable of passing the Turing test is necessarily conscious,[67] while David Chalmers argues that a philosophical zombie could pass the test, yet fail to be conscious.[68] A third group of scholars have argued that with technological growth once machines begin to display any substantial signs of human-like behavior then the dichotomy (of human consciousness compared to human-like consciousness) becomes passé and issues of machine autonomy begin to prevail even as observed in its nascent form within contemporary industry and technology.[52][53] Jürgen Schmidhuber argues that consciousness is simply the result of compression.[69] As an agent sees representation of itself recurring in the environment, the compression of this representation can be called consciousness.

In a lively exchange over what has come to be referred to as "the Chinese room argument", John Searle sought to refute the claim of proponents of what he calls "strong artificial intelligence (AI)" that a computer program can be conscious, though he does agree with advocates of "weak AI" that computer programs can be formatted to "simulate" conscious states. His own view is that consciousness has subjective, first-person causal powers by being essentially intentional due simply to the way human brains function biologically; conscious persons can perform computations, but consciousness is not inherently computational the way computer programs are. To make a Turing machine that speaks Chinese, Searle imagines a room with one monolingual English speaker (Searle himself, in fact), a book that designates a combination of Chinese symbols to be output paired with Chinese symbol input, and boxes filled with Chinese symbols. In this case, the English speaker is acting as a computer and the rulebook as a program. Searle argues that with such a machine, he would be able to process the inputs to outputs perfectly without having any understanding of Chinese, nor having any idea what the questions and answers could possibly mean. If the experiment were done in English, since Searle knows English, he would be able to take questions and give answers without any algorithms for English questions, and he would be effectively aware of what was being said and the purposes it might serve. Searle would pass the Turing test of answering the questions in both languages, but he is only conscious of what he is doing when he speaks English. Another way of putting the argument is to say that computer programs can pass the Turing test for processing the syntax of a language, but that the syntax cannot lead to semantic meaning in the way strong AI advocates hoped.[70][71]

In the literature concerning artificial intelligence, Searle's essay has been second only to Turing's in the volume of debate it has generated.[72] Searle himself was vague about what extra ingredients it would take to make a machine conscious: all he proposed was that what was needed was "causal powers" of the sort that the brain has and that computers lack. But other thinkers sympathetic to his basic argument have suggested that the necessary (though perhaps still not sufficient) extra conditions may include the ability to pass not just the verbal version of the Turing test, but the robotic version,[73] which requires grounding the robot's words in the robot's sensorimotor capacity to categorize and interact with the things in the world that its words are about, Turing-indistinguishably from a real person. Turing-scale robotics is an empirical branch of research on embodied cognition and situated cognition.[74]

In 2014, Victor Argonov has suggested a non-Turing test for machine consciousness based on machine's ability to produce philosophical judgments.[75] He argues that a deterministic machine must be regarded as conscious if it is able to produce judgments on all problematic properties of consciousness (such as qualia or binding) having no innate (preloaded) philosophical knowledge on these issues, no philosophical discussions while learning, and no informational models of other creatures in its memory (such models may implicitly or explicitly contain knowledge about these creatures’ consciousness). However, this test can be used only to detect, but not refute the existence of consciousness. A positive result proves that machine is conscious but a negative result proves nothing. For example, absence of philosophical judgments may be caused by lack of the machine’s intellect, not by absence of consciousness.

Scientific study

For many decades, consciousness as a research topic was avoided by the majority of mainstream scientists, because of a general feeling that a phenomenon defined in subjective terms could not properly be studied using objective experimental methods.[76] In 1975 George Mandler published an influential psychological study which distinguished between slow, serial, and limited conscious processes and fast, parallel and extensive unconscious ones.[77] Starting in the 1980s, an expanding community of neuroscientists and psychologists have associated themselves with a field called Consciousness Studies, giving rise to a stream of experimental work published in books,[78] journals such as Consciousness and Cognition, Frontiers in Consciousness Research, Psyche, and the Journal of Consciousness Studies, along with regular conferences organized by groups such as the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness[79] and the Society for Consciousness Studies.

Modern medical and psychological investigations into consciousness are based on psychological experiments (including, for example, the investigation of priming effects using subliminal stimuli), and on case studies of alterations in consciousness produced by trauma, illness, or drugs. Broadly viewed, scientific approaches are based on two core concepts. The first identifies the content of consciousness with the experiences that are reported by human subjects; the second makes use of the concept of consciousness that has been developed by neurologists and other medical professionals who deal with patients whose behavior is impaired. In either case, the ultimate goals are to develop techniques for assessing consciousness objectively in humans as well as other animals, and to understand the neural and psychological mechanisms that underlie it.[43]

Measurement

Necker cube
The Necker cube, an ambiguous image

Experimental research on consciousness presents special difficulties, due to the lack of a universally accepted operational definition. In the majority of experiments that are specifically about consciousness, the subjects are human, and the criterion used is verbal report: in other words, subjects are asked to describe their experiences, and their descriptions are treated as observations of the contents of consciousness.[80] For example, subjects who stare continuously at a Necker cube usually report that they experience it "flipping" between two 3D configurations, even though the stimulus itself remains the same.[81] The objective is to understand the relationship between the conscious awareness of stimuli (as indicated by verbal report) and the effects the stimuli have on brain activity and behavior. In several paradigms, such as the technique of response priming, the behavior of subjects is clearly influenced by stimuli for which they report no awareness, and suitable experimental manipulations can lead to increasing priming effects despite decreasing prime identification (double dissociation).[82]

Verbal report is widely considered to be the most reliable indicator of consciousness, but it raises a number of issues.[83] For one thing, if verbal reports are treated as observations, akin to observations in other branches of science, then the possibility arises that they may contain errors—but it is difficult to make sense of the idea that subjects could be wrong about their own experiences, and even more difficult to see how such an error could be detected.[84] Daniel Dennett has argued for an approach he calls heterophenomenology, which means treating verbal reports as stories that may or may not be true, but his ideas about how to do this have not been widely adopted.[85] Another issue with verbal report as a criterion is that it restricts the field of study to humans who have language: this approach cannot be used to study consciousness in other species, pre-linguistic children, or people with types of brain damage that impair language. As a third issue, philosophers who dispute the validity of the Turing test may feel that it is possible, at least in principle, for verbal report to be dissociated from consciousness entirely: a philosophical zombie may give detailed verbal reports of awareness in the absence of any genuine awareness.[86]

Although verbal report is in practice the "gold standard" for ascribing consciousness, it is not the only possible criterion.[83] In medicine, consciousness is assessed as a combination of verbal behavior, arousal, brain activity and purposeful movement. The last three of these can be used as indicators of consciousness when verbal behavior is absent.[87] The scientific literature regarding the neural bases of arousal and purposeful movement is very extensive. Their reliability as indicators of consciousness is disputed, however, due to numerous studies showing that alert human subjects can be induced to behave purposefully in a variety of ways in spite of reporting a complete lack of awareness.[82] Studies of the neuroscience of free will have also shown that the experiences that people report when they behave purposefully sometimes do not correspond to their actual behaviors or to the patterns of electrical activity recorded from their brains.[88]

Another approach applies specifically to the study of self-awareness, that is, the ability to distinguish oneself from others. In the 1970s Gordon Gallup developed an operational test for self-awareness, known as the mirror test. The test examines whether animals are able to differentiate between seeing themselves in a mirror versus seeing other animals. The classic example involves placing a spot of coloring on the skin or fur near the individual's forehead and seeing if they attempt to remove it or at least touch the spot, thus indicating that they recognize that the individual they are seeing in the mirror is themselves.[89] Humans (older than 18 months) and other great apes, bottlenose dolphins, killer whales, pigeons, European magpies and elephants have all been observed to pass this test.[90]

Neural correlates

Neural Correlates Of Consciousness
Schema of the neural processes underlying consciousness, from Christof Koch

A major part of the scientific literature on consciousness consists of studies that examine the relationship between the experiences reported by subjects and the activity that simultaneously takes place in their brains—that is, studies of the neural correlates of consciousness. The hope is to find that activity in a particular part of the brain, or a particular pattern of global brain activity, which will be strongly predictive of conscious awareness. Several brain imaging techniques, such as EEG and fMRI, have been used for physical measures of brain activity in these studies.[91]

Another idea that has drawn attention for several decades is that consciousness is associated with high-frequency (gamma band) oscillations in brain activity. This idea arose from proposals in the 1980s, by Christof von der Malsburg and Wolf Singer, that gamma oscillations could solve the so-called binding problem, by linking information represented in different parts of the brain into a unified experience.[92] Rodolfo Llinás, for example, proposed that consciousness results from recurrent thalamo-cortical resonance where the specific thalamocortical systems (content) and the non-specific (centromedial thalamus) thalamocortical systems (context) interact in the gamma band frequency via synchronous oscillations.[93]

A number of studies have shown that activity in primary sensory areas of the brain is not sufficient to produce consciousness: it is possible for subjects to report a lack of awareness even when areas such as the primary visual cortex show clear electrical responses to a stimulus.[94] Higher brain areas are seen as more promising, especially the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in a range of higher cognitive functions collectively known as executive functions. There is substantial evidence that a "top-down" flow of neural activity (i.e., activity propagating from the frontal cortex to sensory areas) is more predictive of conscious awareness than a "bottom-up" flow of activity.[95] The prefrontal cortex is not the only candidate area, however: studies by Nikos Logothetis and his colleagues have shown, for example, that visually responsive neurons in parts of the temporal lobe reflect the visual perception in the situation when conflicting visual images are presented to different eyes (i.e., bistable percepts during binocular rivalry).[96]

Modulation of neural responses may correlate with phenomenal experiences. In contrast to the raw electrical responses that do not correlate with consciousness, the modulation of these responses by other stimuli correlates surprisingly well with an important aspect of consciousness: namely with the phenomenal experience of stimulus intensity (brightness, contrast). In the research group of Danko Nikolić it has been shown that some of the changes in the subjectively perceived brightness correlated with the modulation of firing rates while others correlated with the modulation of neural synchrony.[97] An fMRI investigation suggested that these findings were strictly limited to the primary visual areas.[98] This indicates that, in the primary visual areas, changes in firing rates and synchrony can be considered as neural correlates of qualia—at least for some type of qualia.

In 2011, Graziano and Kastner[99] proposed the "attention schema" theory of awareness. In that theory, specific cortical areas, notably in the superior temporal sulcus and the temporo-parietal junction, are used to build the construct of awareness and attribute it to other people. The same cortical machinery is also used to attribute awareness to oneself. Damage to these cortical regions can lead to deficits in consciousness such as hemispatial neglect. In the attention schema theory, the value of explaining the feature of awareness and attributing it to a person is to gain a useful predictive model of that person's attentional processing. Attention is a style of information processing in which a brain focuses its resources on a limited set of interrelated signals. Awareness, in this theory, is a useful, simplified schema that represents attentional states. To be aware of X is explained by constructing a model of one's attentional focus on X.

In 2013, the perturbational complexity index (PCI) was proposed, a measure of the algorithmic complexity of the electrophysiological response of the cortex to transcranial magnetic stimulation. This measure was shown to be higher in individuals that are awake, in REM sleep or in a locked-in state than in those who are in deep sleep or in a vegetative state,[100] making it potentially useful as a quantitative assessment of consciousness states.

Assuming that not only humans but even some non-mammalian species are conscious, a number of evolutionary approaches to the problem of neural correlates of consciousness open up. For example, assuming that birds are conscious—a common assumption among neuroscientists and ethologists due to the extensive cognitive repertoire of birds—there are comparative neuroanatomical ways to validate some of the principal, currently competing, mammalian consciousness–brain theories. The rationale for such a comparative study is that the avian brain deviates structurally from the mammalian brain. So how similar are they? What homologues can be identified? The general conclusion from the study by Butler, et al.,[101] is that some of the major theories for the mammalian brain [102][103][104] also appear to be valid for the avian brain. The structures assumed to be critical for consciousness in mammalian brains have homologous counterparts in avian brains. Thus the main portions of the theories of Crick and Koch,[102] Edelman and Tononi,[103] and Cotterill [104] seem to be compatible with the assumption that birds are conscious. Edelman also differentiates between what he calls primary consciousness (which is a trait shared by humans and non-human animals) and higher-order consciousness as it appears in humans alone along with human language capacity.[103] Certain aspects of the three theories, however, seem less easy to apply to the hypothesis of avian consciousness. For instance, the suggestion by Crick and Koch that layer 5 neurons of the mammalian brain have a special role, seems difficult to apply to the avian brain, since the avian homologues have a different morphology. Likewise, the theory of Eccles[105][106] seems incompatible, since a structural homologue/analogue to the dendron has not been found in avian brains. The assumption of an avian consciousness also brings the reptilian brain into focus. The reason is the structural continuity between avian and reptilian brains, meaning that the phylogenetic origin of consciousness may be earlier than suggested by many leading neuroscientists.

Joaquin Fuster of UCLA has advocated the position of the importance of the prefrontal cortex in humans, along with the areas of Wernicke and Broca, as being of particular importance to the development of human language capacities neuro-anatomically necessary for the emergence of higher-order consciousness in humans.[107]

Biological function and evolution

Opinions are divided as to where in biological evolution consciousness emerged and about whether or not consciousness has any survival value. Some argue that consciousness is a byproduct of evolution. It has been argued that consciousness emerged (i) exclusively with the first humans, (ii) exclusively with the first mammals, (iii) independently in mammals and birds, or (iv) with the first reptiles.[108] Other authors date the origins of consciousness to the first animals with nervous systems or early vertebrates in the Cambrian over 500 million years ago.[109] Donald Griffin suggests in his book Animal Minds a gradual evolution of consciousness.[61] Each of these scenarios raises the question of the possible survival value of consciousness.

Thomas Henry Huxley defends in an essay titled On the Hypothesis that Animals are Automata, and its History an epiphenomenalist theory of consciousness according to which consciousness is a causally inert effect of neural activity—“as the steam-whistle which accompanies the work of a locomotive engine is without influence upon its machinery”.[110] To this William James objects in his essay Are We Automata? by stating an evolutionary argument for mind-brain interaction implying that if the preservation and development of consciousness in the biological evolution is a result of natural selection, it is plausible that consciousness has not only been influenced by neural processes, but has had a survival value itself; and it could only have had this if it had been efficacious.[111][112] Karl Popper develops in the book The Self and Its Brain a similar evolutionary argument.[113]

Regarding the primary function of conscious processing, a recurring idea in recent theories is that phenomenal states somehow integrate neural activities and information-processing that would otherwise be independent.[114] This has been called the integration consensus. Another example has been proposed by Gerald Edelman called dynamic core hypothesis which puts emphasis on reentrant connections that reciprocally link areas of the brain in a massively parallel manner.[115] Edelman also stresses the importance of the evolutionary emergence of higher-order consciousness in humans from the historically older trait of primary consciousness which humans share with non-human animals (see Neural correlates section above). These theories of integrative function present solutions to two classic problems associated with consciousness: differentiation and unity. They show how our conscious experience can discriminate between a virtually unlimited number of different possible scenes and details (differentiation) because it integrates those details from our sensory systems, while the integrative nature of consciousness in this view easily explains how our experience can seem unified as one whole despite all of these individual parts. However, it remains unspecified which kinds of information are integrated in a conscious manner and which kinds can be integrated without consciousness. Nor is it explained what specific causal role conscious integration plays, nor why the same functionality cannot be achieved without consciousness. Obviously not all kinds of information are capable of being disseminated consciously (e.g., neural activity related to vegetative functions, reflexes, unconscious motor programs, low-level perceptual analyses, etc.) and many kinds of information can be disseminated and combined with other kinds without consciousness, as in intersensory interactions such as the ventriloquism effect.[116] Hence it remains unclear why any of it is conscious. For a review of the differences between conscious and unconscious integrations, see the article of E. Morsella.[116]

As noted earlier, even among writers who consider consciousness to be a well-defined thing, there is widespread dispute about which animals other than humans can be said to possess it.[117] Edelman has described this distinction as that of humans possessing higher-order consciousness while sharing the trait of primary consciousness with non-human animals (see previous paragraph). Thus, any examination of the evolution of consciousness is faced with great difficulties. Nevertheless, some writers have argued that consciousness can be viewed from the standpoint of evolutionary biology as an adaptation in the sense of a trait that increases fitness.[118] In his article "Evolution of consciousness", John Eccles argued that special anatomical and physical properties of the mammalian cerebral cortex gave rise to consciousness ("[a] psychon ... linked to [a] dendron through quantum physics").[119] Bernard Baars proposed that once in place, this "recursive" circuitry may have provided a basis for the subsequent development of many of the functions that consciousness facilitates in higher organisms.[120] Peter Carruthers has put forth one such potential adaptive advantage gained by conscious creatures by suggesting that consciousness allows an individual to make distinctions between appearance and reality.[121] This ability would enable a creature to recognize the likelihood that their perceptions are deceiving them (e.g. that water in the distance may be a mirage) and behave accordingly, and it could also facilitate the manipulation of others by recognizing how things appear to them for both cooperative and devious ends.

Other philosophers, however, have suggested that consciousness would not be necessary for any functional advantage in evolutionary processes.[122][123] No one has given a causal explanation, they argue, of why it would not be possible for a functionally equivalent non-conscious organism (i.e., a philosophical zombie) to achieve the very same survival advantages as a conscious organism. If evolutionary processes are blind to the difference between function F being performed by conscious organism O and non-conscious organism O*, it is unclear what adaptive advantage consciousness could provide.[124] As a result, an exaptive explanation of consciousness has gained favor with some theorists that posit consciousness did not evolve as an adaptation but was an exaptation arising as a consequence of other developments such as increases in brain size or cortical rearrangement.[109] Consciousness in this sense has been compared to the blind spot in the retina where it is not an adaption of the retina, but instead just a by-product of the way the retinal axons were wired.[125] Several scholars including Pinker, Chomsky, Edelman, and Luria have indicated the importance of the emergence of human language as an important regulative mechanism of learning and memory in the context of the development of higher-order consciousness (see Neural correlates section above).

States of consciousness

Abbot of Watkungtaphao in Phu Soidao Waterfall
A Buddhist monk meditating

There are some brain states in which consciousness seems to be absent, including dreamless sleep, coma, and death. There are also a variety of circumstances that can change the relationship between the mind and the world in less drastic ways, producing what are known as altered states of consciousness. Some altered states occur naturally; others can be produced by drugs or brain damage.[126] Altered states can be accompanied by changes in thinking, disturbances in the sense of time, feelings of loss of control, changes in emotional expression, alternations in body image and changes in meaning or significance.[127]

The two most widely accepted altered states are sleep and dreaming. Although dream sleep and non-dream sleep appear very similar to an outside observer, each is associated with a distinct pattern of brain activity, metabolic activity, and eye movement; each is also associated with a distinct pattern of experience and cognition. During ordinary non-dream sleep, people who are awakened report only vague and sketchy thoughts, and their experiences do not cohere into a continuous narrative. During dream sleep, in contrast, people who are awakened report rich and detailed experiences in which events form a continuous progression, which may however be interrupted by bizarre or fantastic intrusions.[128] Thought processes during the dream state frequently show a high level of irrationality. Both dream and non-dream states are associated with severe disruption of memory: it usually disappears in seconds during the non-dream state, and in minutes after awakening from a dream unless actively refreshed.[129]

Research conducted on the effects of partial epileptic seizures on consciousness found that patients who suffer from partial epileptic seizures experience altered states of consciousness.[130][131] In partial epileptic seizures, consciousness is impaired or lost while some aspects of consciousness, often automated behaviors, remain intact. Studies found that when measuring the qualitative features during partial epileptic seizures, patients exhibited an increase in arousal and became absorbed in the experience of the seizure, followed by difficulty in focusing and shifting attention.

A variety of psychoactive drugs, including alcohol, have notable effects on consciousness.[132] These range from a simple dulling of awareness produced by sedatives, to increases in the intensity of sensory qualities produced by stimulants, cannabis, empathogens–entactogens such as MDMA ("Ecstasy"), or most notably by the class of drugs known as psychedelics.[126] LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, Dimethyltryptamine, and others in this group can produce major distortions of perception, including hallucinations; some users even describe their drug-induced experiences as mystical or spiritual in quality. The brain mechanisms underlying these effects are not as well understood as those induced by use of alcohol,[132] but there is substantial evidence that alterations in the brain system that uses the chemical neurotransmitter serotonin play an essential role.[133]

There has been some research into physiological changes in yogis and people who practise various techniques of meditation. Some research with brain waves during meditation has reported differences between those corresponding to ordinary relaxation and those corresponding to meditation. It has been disputed, however, whether there is enough evidence to count these as physiologically distinct states of consciousness.[134]

The most extensive study of the characteristics of altered states of consciousness was made by psychologist Charles Tart in the 1960s and 1970s. Tart analyzed a state of consciousness as made up of a number of component processes, including exteroception (sensing the external world); interoception (sensing the body); input-processing (seeing meaning); emotions; memory; time sense; sense of identity; evaluation and cognitive processing; motor output; and interaction with the environment.[135] Each of these, in his view, could be altered in multiple ways by drugs or other manipulations. The components that Tart identified have not, however, been validated by empirical studies. Research in this area has not yet reached firm conclusions, but a recent questionnaire-based study identified eleven significant factors contributing to drug-induced states of consciousness: experience of unity; spiritual experience; blissful state; insightfulness; disembodiment; impaired control and cognition; anxiety; complex imagery; elementary imagery; audio-visual synesthesia; and changed meaning of percepts.[136]

Phenomenology

Phenomenology is a method of inquiry that attempts to examine the structure of consciousness in its own right, putting aside problems regarding the relationship of consciousness to the physical world. This approach was first proposed by the philosopher Edmund Husserl, and later elaborated by other philosophers and scientists.[137] Husserl's original concept gave rise to two distinct lines of inquiry, in philosophy and psychology. In philosophy, phenomenology has largely been devoted to fundamental metaphysical questions, such as the nature of intentionality ("aboutness"). In psychology, phenomenology largely has meant attempting to investigate consciousness using the method of introspection, which means looking into one's own mind and reporting what one observes. This method fell into disrepute in the early twentieth century because of grave doubts about its reliability, but has been rehabilitated to some degree, especially when used in combination with techniques for examining brain activity.[138]

Neon colour spreading illusion no caption
Neon color spreading effect. The apparent bluish tinge of the white areas inside the circle is an illusion.
Square neon spread
Square version of the neon spread illusion

Introspectively, the world of conscious experience seems to have considerable structure. Immanuel Kant asserted that the world as we perceive it is organized according to a set of fundamental "intuitions", which include 'object' (we perceive the world as a set of distinct things); 'shape'; 'quality' (color, warmth, etc.); 'space' (distance, direction, and location); and 'time'.[139] Some of these constructs, such as space and time, correspond to the way the world is structured by the laws of physics; for others the correspondence is not as clear. Understanding the physical basis of qualities, such as redness or pain, has been particularly challenging. David Chalmers has called this the hard problem of consciousness.[32] Some philosophers have argued that it is intrinsically unsolvable, because qualities ("qualia") are ineffable; that is, they are "raw feels", incapable of being analyzed into component processes.[140] Other psychologists and neuroscientists reject these arguments. For example, research on ideasthesia shows that qualia are organised into a semantic-like network. Nevertheless, it is clear that the relationship between a physical entity such as light and a perceptual quality such as color is extraordinarily complex and indirect, as demonstrated by a variety of optical illusions such as neon color spreading.[141]

In neuroscience, a great deal of effort has gone into investigating how the perceived world of conscious awareness is constructed inside the brain. The process is generally thought to involve two primary mechanisms: (1) hierarchical processing of sensory inputs, and (2) memory. Signals arising from sensory organs are transmitted to the brain and then processed in a series of stages, which extract multiple types of information from the raw input. In the visual system, for example, sensory signals from the eyes are transmitted to the thalamus and then to the primary visual cortex; inside the cerebral cortex they are sent to areas that extract features such as three-dimensional structure, shape, color, and motion.[142] Memory comes into play in at least two ways. First, it allows sensory information to be evaluated in the context of previous experience. Second, and even more importantly, working memory allows information to be integrated over time so that it can generate a stable representation of the world—Gerald Edelman expressed this point vividly by titling one of his books about consciousness The Remembered Present.[143] In computational neuroscience, Bayesian approaches to brain function have been used to understand both the evaluation of sensory information in light of previous experience, and the integration of information over time. Bayesian models of the brain are probabilistic inference models, in which the brain takes advantage of prior knowledge to interpret uncertain sensory inputs in order to formulate a conscious percept; Bayesian models have successfully predicted many perceptual phenomena in vision and the nonvisual senses.[144][145][146]

Despite the large amount of information available, many important aspects of perception remain mysterious. A great deal is known about low-level signal processing in sensory systems. However, how sensory systems, action systems, and language systems interact are poorly understood. At a deeper level, there are still basic conceptual issues that remain unresolved.[142] Many scientists have found it difficult to reconcile the fact that information is distributed across multiple brain areas with the apparent unity of consciousness: this is one aspect of the so-called binding problem.[147] There are also some scientists who have expressed grave reservations about the idea that the brain forms representations of the outside world at all: influential members of this group include psychologist J. J. Gibson and roboticist Rodney Brooks, who both argued in favor of "intelligence without representation".[148]

Medical aspects

The medical approach to consciousness is practically oriented. It derives from a need to treat people whose brain function has been impaired as a result of disease, brain damage, toxins, or drugs. In medicine, conceptual distinctions are considered useful to the degree that they can help to guide treatments. Whereas the philosophical approach to consciousness focuses on its fundamental nature and its contents, the medical approach focuses on the amount of consciousness a person has: in medicine, consciousness is assessed as a "level" ranging from coma and brain death at the low end, to full alertness and purposeful responsiveness at the high end.[149]

Consciousness is of concern to patients and physicians, especially neurologists and anesthesiologists. Patients may suffer from disorders of consciousness, or may need to be anesthetized for a surgical procedure. Physicians may perform consciousness-related interventions such as instructing the patient to sleep, administering general anesthesia, or inducing medical coma.[149] Also, bioethicists may be concerned with the ethical implications of consciousness in medical cases of patients such as the Karen Ann Quinlan case,[150] while neuroscientists may study patients with impaired consciousness in hopes of gaining information about how the brain works.[151]

Assessment

In medicine, consciousness is examined using a set of procedures known as neuropsychological assessment.[87] There are two commonly used methods for assessing the level of consciousness of a patient: a simple procedure that requires minimal training, and a more complex procedure that requires substantial expertise. The simple procedure begins by asking whether the patient is able to move and react to physical stimuli. If so, the next question is whether the patient can respond in a meaningful way to questions and commands. If so, the patient is asked for name, current location, and current day and time. A patient who can answer all of these questions is said to be "alert and oriented times four" (sometimes denoted "A&Ox4" on a medical chart), and is usually considered fully conscious.[152]

The more complex procedure is known as a neurological examination, and is usually carried out by a neurologist in a hospital setting. A formal neurological examination runs through a precisely delineated series of tests, beginning with tests for basic sensorimotor reflexes, and culminating with tests for sophisticated use of language. The outcome may be summarized using the Glasgow Coma Scale, which yields a number in the range 3–5, with a score of 3 to 8 indicating coma, and 15 indicating full consciousness. The Glasgow Coma Scale has three subscales, measuring the best motor response (ranging from "no motor response" to "obeys commands"), the best eye response (ranging from "no eye opening" to "eyes opening spontaneously") and the best verbal response (ranging from "no verbal response" to "fully oriented"). There is also a simpler pediatric version of the scale, for children too young to be able to use language.[149]

In 2013, an experimental procedure was developed to measure degrees of consciousness, the procedure involving stimulating the brain with a magnetic pulse, measuring resulting waves of electrical activity, and developing a consciousness score based on the complexity of the brain activity.[153]

Disorders of consciousness

Medical conditions that inhibit consciousness are considered disorders of consciousness.[154] This category generally includes minimally conscious state and persistent vegetative state, but sometimes also includes the less severe locked-in syndrome and more severe chronic coma.[154][155] Differential diagnosis of these disorders is an active area of biomedical research.[156][157][158] Finally, brain death results in an irreversible disruption of consciousness.[154] While other conditions may cause a moderate deterioration (e.g., dementia and delirium) or transient interruption (e.g., grand mal and petit mal seizures) of consciousness, they are not included in this category.

Disorder Description
Locked-in syndrome The patient has awareness, sleep-wake cycles, and meaningful behavior (viz., eye-movement), but is isolated due to quadriplegia and pseudobulbar palsy.
Minimally conscious state The patient has intermittent periods of awareness and wakefulness and displays some meaningful behavior.
Persistent vegetative state The patient has sleep-wake cycles, but lacks awareness and only displays reflexive and non-purposeful behavior.
Chronic coma The patient lacks awareness and sleep-wake cycles and only displays reflexive behavior.
Brain death The patient lacks awareness, sleep-wake cycles, and brain-mediated reflexive behavior.

Anosognosia

One of the most striking disorders of consciousness goes by the name anosognosia, a Greek-derived term meaning 'unawareness of disease'. This is a condition in which patients are disabled in some way, most commonly as a result of a stroke, but either misunderstand the nature of the problem or deny that there is anything wrong with them.[159] The most frequently occurring form is seen in people who have experienced a stroke damaging the parietal lobe in the right hemisphere of the brain, giving rise to a syndrome known as hemispatial neglect, characterized by an inability to direct action or attention toward objects located to the left with respect to their bodies. Patients with hemispatial neglect are often paralyzed on the right side of the body, but sometimes deny being unable to move. When questioned about the obvious problem, the patient may avoid giving a direct answer, or may give an explanation that doesn't make sense. Patients with hemispatial neglect may also fail to recognize paralyzed parts of their bodies: one frequently mentioned case is of a man who repeatedly tried to throw his own paralyzed right leg out of the bed he was lying in, and when asked what he was doing, complained that somebody had put a dead leg into the bed with him. An even more striking type of anosognosia is Anton–Babinski syndrome, a rarely occurring condition in which patients become blind but claim to be able to see normally, and persist in this claim in spite of all evidence to the contrary.[160]

Stream of consciousness

William James is usually credited with popularizing the idea that human consciousness flows like a stream, in his Principles of Psychology of 1890. According to James, the "stream of thought" is governed by five characteristics: "(1) Every thought tends to be part of a personal consciousness. (2) Within each personal consciousness thought is always changing. (3) Within each personal consciousness thought is sensibly continuous. (4) It always appears to deal with objects independent of itself. (5) It is interested in some parts of these objects to the exclusion of others".[161] A similar concept appears in Buddhist philosophy, expressed by the Sanskrit term Citta-saṃtāna, which is usually translated as mindstream or "mental continuum". Buddhist teachings describe that consciousness manifests moment to moment as sense impressions and mental phenomena that are continuously changing.[162] The teachings list six triggers that can result in the generation of different mental events.[162] These triggers are input from the five senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or touch sensations), or a thought (relating to the past, present or the future) that happen to arise in the mind. The mental events generated as a result of these triggers are: feelings, perceptions and intentions/behaviour. The moment-by-moment manifestation of the mind-stream is said to happen in every person all the time. It even happens in a scientist who analyses various phenomena in the world, or analyses the material body including the organ brain.[162] The manifestation of the mindstream is also described as being influenced by physical laws, biological laws, psychological laws, volitional laws, and universal laws.[162] The purpose of the Buddhist practice of mindfulness is to understand the inherent nature of the consciousness and its characteristics.[163]

Narrative form

In the west, the primary impact of the idea has been on literature rather than science: stream of consciousness as a narrative mode means writing in a way that attempts to portray the moment-to-moment thoughts and experiences of a character. This technique perhaps had its beginnings in the monologues of Shakespeare's plays, and reached its fullest development in the novels of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, although it has also been used by many other noted writers.[164]

Here for example is a passage from Joyce's Ulysses about the thoughts of Molly Bloom:

Yes because he never did a thing like that before as ask to get his breakfast in bed with a couple of eggs since the City Arms hotel when he used to be pretending to be laid up with a sick voice doing his highness to make himself interesting for that old faggot Mrs Riordan that he thought he had a great leg of and she never left us a farthing all for masses for herself and her soul greatest miser ever was actually afraid to lay out 4d for her methylated spirit telling me all her ailments she had too much old chat in her about politics and earthquakes and the end of the world let us have a bit of fun first God help the world if all the women were her sort down on bathingsuits and lownecks of course nobody wanted her to wear them I suppose she was pious because no man would look at her twice I hope Ill never be like her a wonder she didnt want us to cover our faces but she was a welleducated woman certainly and her gabby talk about Mr Riordan here and Mr Riordan there I suppose he was glad to get shut of her.[165]

Spiritual approaches

To most philosophers, the word "consciousness" connotes the relationship between the mind and the world. To writers on spiritual or religious topics, it frequently connotes the relationship between the mind and God, or the relationship between the mind and deeper truths that are thought to be more fundamental than the physical world. The mystical psychiatrist Richard Maurice Bucke distinguished between three types of consciousness: 'Simple Consciousness', awareness of the body, possessed by many animals; 'Self Consciousness', awareness of being aware, possessed only by humans; and 'Cosmic Consciousness', awareness of the life and order of the universe, possessed only by humans who are enlightened.[166] Many more examples could be given, such as the various levels of spiritual consciousness presented by Prem Saran Satsangi and Stuart Hameroff.[167] The most thorough account of the spiritual approach may be Ken Wilber's book The Spectrum of Consciousness, a comparison of western and eastern ways of thinking about the mind. Wilber described consciousness as a spectrum with ordinary awareness at one end, and more profound types of awareness at higher levels.[168]

See also

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Further reading

External links

Altered level of consciousness

An altered level of consciousness is any measure of arousal other than normal. Level of consciousness (LOC) is a measurement of a person's arousability and responsiveness to stimuli from the environment. A mildly depressed level of consciousness or alertness may be classed as lethargy; someone in this state can be aroused with little difficulty. People who are obtunded have a more depressed level of consciousness and cannot be fully aroused. Those who are not able to be aroused from a sleep-like state are said to be stuporous. Coma is the inability to make any purposeful response. Scales such as the Glasgow coma scale have been designed to measure the level of consciousness.

An altered level of consciousness can result from a variety of factors, including alterations in the chemical environment of the brain (e.g. exposure to poisons or intoxicants), insufficient oxygen or blood flow in the brain, and excessive pressure within the skull. Prolonged unconsciousness is understood to be a sign of a medical emergency. A deficit in the level of consciousness suggests that both of the cerebral hemispheres or the reticular activating system have been injured. A decreased level of consciousness correlates to increased morbidity (sickness) and mortality (death). Thus it is a valuable measure of a patient's medical and neurological status. In fact, some sources consider level of consciousness to be one of the vital signs.

Altered state of consciousness

An altered state of consciousness (ASC), also called altered state of mind or mind alteration, is any condition which is significantly different from a normal waking state. By 1892, the expression was in use in relation to hypnosis although an ongoing debate about hypnosis as an ASC based on modern definition exists. The next retrievable instance, by Dr Max Mailhouse from his 1904 presentation to conference, however, is unequivocally identified as such, as it was in relation to epilepsy, and is still used today. In academia, the expression was used as early as 1966 by Arnold M. Ludwig and brought into common usage from 1969 by Charles Tart. It describes induced changes in one's mental state, almost always temporary. A synonymous phrase is "altered state of awareness".

Animal consciousness

Animal consciousness, or animal awareness, is the quality or state of self-awareness within an animal, or of being aware of an external object or something within itself. In humans, consciousness has been defined as: sentience, awareness, subjectivity, qualia, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of self, and the executive control system of the mind. Despite the difficulty in definition, many philosophers believe there is a broadly shared underlying intuition about what consciousness is.The topic of animal consciousness is beset with a number of difficulties. It poses the problem of other minds in an especially severe form because animals, lacking the ability to use human language, cannot tell us about their experiences. Also, it is difficult to reason objectively about the question, because a denial that an animal is conscious is often taken to imply that it does not feel, its life has no value, and that harming it is not morally wrong. The 17th-century French philosopher René Descartes, for example, has sometimes been blamed for mistreatment of animals because he argued that only humans are conscious.Philosophers who consider subjective experience the essence of consciousness also generally believe, as a correlate, that the existence and nature of animal consciousness can never rigorously be known. The American philosopher Thomas Nagel spelled out this point of view in an influential essay titled What Is it Like to Be a Bat?. He said that an organism is conscious "if and only if there is something that it is like to be that organism—something it is like for the organism"; and he argued that no matter how much we know about an animal's brain and behavior, we can never really put ourselves into the mind of the animal and experience its world in the way it does itself. Other thinkers, such as the cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter, dismiss this argument as incoherent. Several psychologists and ethologists have argued for the existence of animal consciousness by describing a range of behaviors that appear to show animals holding beliefs about things they cannot directly perceive—Donald Griffin's 2001 book Animal Minds reviews a substantial portion of the evidence.Animal consciousness has been actively researched for over one hundred years. In 1927 the American functional psychologist Harvey Carr argued that any valid measure or understanding of awareness in animals depends on "an accurate and complete knowledge of its essential conditions in man". A more recent review concluded in 1985 that "the best approach is to use experiment (especially psychophysics) and observation to trace the dawning and ontogeny of self-consciousness, perception, communication, intention, beliefs, and reflection in normal human fetuses, infants, and children". In 2012, a group of neuroscientists signed the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, which "unequivocally" asserted that "humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neural substrates."

Black Consciousness Movement

The Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) was a grassroots anti-Apartheid activist movement that emerged in South Africa in the mid-1960s out of the political vacuum created by the jailing and banning of the African National Congress and Pan Africanist Congress leadership after the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960. The BCM represented a social movement for political consciousness.

[Black Consciousness'] origins were deeply rooted in Christianity. In 1966, the Anglican Church under the incumbent, Archbishop Robert Selby Taylor, convened a meeting which later on led to the foundation of the University Christian Movement (UCM). This was to become the vehicle for Black Consciousness.

The BCM attacked what they saw as traditional white values, especially the "condescending" values of white people of liberal opinion. They refused to engage white liberal opinion on the pros and cons of black consciousness, and emphasised the rejection of white monopoly on truth as a central tenet of their movement. While this philosophy at first generated disagreement amongst black anti-Apartheid activists within South Africa, it was soon adopted by most as a positive development. As a result, there emerged a greater cohesiveness and solidarity amongst black groups in general, which in turn brought black consciousness to the forefront of the anti-Apartheid struggle within South Africa.

The BCM's policy of perpetually challenging the dialectic of Apartheid South Africa as a means of transforming Black thought into rejecting prevailing opinion or mythology to attain a larger comprehension brought it into direct conflict with the full force of the security apparatus of the Apartheid regime. "Black man, you are on your own" became the rallying cry as mushrooming activity committees implemented what was to become a relentless campaign of challenge to what was then referred to by the BCM as "the System". It eventually sparked a confrontation on 16 June 1976 in the Soweto uprising, when 176 people were killed mainly by the South African Security Forces, as students marched to protest the use of the Afrikaans language in African schools. Unrest spread like wildfire throughout the country.

Although it successfully implemented a system of comprehensive local committees to facilitate organised resistance, the BCM itself was decimated by security action taken against its leaders and social programs. By 19 June 1976, 123 key members had been banned and confined to remote rural districts. In 1977 all BCM related organisations were banned, many of its leaders arrested, and their social programs dismantled under provisions of the newly Implemented Internal Security Amendment Act. In September 1977, its banned National Leader, Steve Biko, died from injuries that resulted from interrogation while in the custody of the South African Security Police.

Class consciousness

In political theory and particularly Marxism, class consciousness is the set of beliefs that a person holds regarding their social class or economic rank in society, the structure of their class, and their class interests. According to Karl Marx, it is an awareness that is key to sparking a revolution that would "create a dictatorship of the proletariat, transforming it from a wage-earning, property-less mass into the ruling class".

Eight Consciousnesses

The Eight Consciousnesses (Skt. aṣṭa vijñānakāyāḥ) is a classification developed in the tradition of the Yogācāra school of Mahayana Buddhism. They enumerate the five sense consciousnesses, supplemented by the mental consciousness (manovijñāna), the defiled mental consciousness (kliṣṭamanovijñāna), and finally the fundamental store-house consciousness (ālāyavijñāna), which is the basis of the other seven. This eighth consciousness is said to store the impressions (vāsanāḥ) of previous experiences, which form the seeds (bīja) of future karma in this life and in the next after rebirth.

Hard problem of consciousness

The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining how and why sentient organisms have qualia or phenomenal experiences—how and why it is that some internal states are felt states, such as heat or pain, rather than unfelt states, as in a thermostat or a toaster. The philosopher David Chalmers, who introduced the term "hard problem" of consciousness, contrasts this with the "easy problems" of explaining the ability to discriminate, integrate information, report mental states, focus attention, etc. Easy problems are easy because all that is required for their solution is to specify a mechanism that can perform the function. That is, their proposed solutions, regardless of how complex or poorly understood they may be, can be entirely consistent with the modern materialistic conception of natural phenomena. Chalmers claims that the problem of experience is distinct from this set and that the problem of experience will "persist even when the performance of all the relevant functions is explained".The existence of a "hard problem" is controversial and has been disputed by philosophers such as Daniel Dennett and cognitive neuroscientists such as Stanislas Dehaene and Antonio Damasio.

Higher consciousness

Higher consciousness is the consciousness of a higher Self, transcendental reality, or God. It is "the part of the human being that is capable of transcending animal instincts". The concept was significantly developed in German Idealism, and is a central notion in contemporary popular spirituality. However, it has ancient roots, dating back to the Bhagavad Gita and Indian Vedas.

Idealism

In philosophy, Idealism is the group of metaphysical philosophies that assert that reality, or reality as humans can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, Idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In contrast to Materialism, Idealism asserts the primacy of consciousness as the origin and prerequisite of material phenomena. According to this view, consciousness exists before and is the pre-condition of material existence. Consciousness creates and determines the material and not vice versa. Idealism believes consciousness and mind to be the origin of the material world and aims to explain the existing world according to these principles.

Idealism theories are mainly divided into two groups. Subjective idealism takes as its starting point the given fact of human consciousness seeing the existing world as a combination of sensation. Objective idealism posits the existence of an objective consciousness which exists before and, in some sense, independently of human ones. In a sociological sense, idealism emphasizes how human ideas—especially beliefs and values—shape society. As an ontological doctrine, idealism goes further, asserting that all entities are composed of mind or spirit. Idealism thus rejects those physicalist and dualist theories that fail to ascribe priority to the mind.

The earliest extant arguments that the world of experience is grounded in the mental derive from India and Greece. The Hindu idealists in India and the Greek Neoplatonists gave panentheistic arguments for an all-pervading consciousness as the ground or true nature of reality. In contrast, the Yogācāra school, which arose within Mahayana Buddhism in India in the 4th century CE, based its "mind-only" idealism to a greater extent on phenomenological analyses of personal experience. This turn toward the subjective anticipated empiricists such as George Berkeley, who revived idealism in 18th-century Europe by employing skeptical arguments against materialism. Beginning with Immanuel Kant, German idealists such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, and Arthur Schopenhauer dominated 19th-century philosophy. This tradition, which emphasized the mental or "ideal" character of all phenomena, gave birth to idealistic and subjectivist schools ranging from British idealism to phenomenalism to existentialism.

Idealism as a philosophy came under heavy attack in the West at the turn of the 20th century. The most influential critics of both epistemological and ontological idealism were G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell, but its critics also included the New Realists. According to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the attacks by Moore and Russell were so influential that even more than 100 years later "any acknowledgment of idealistic tendencies is viewed in the English-speaking world with reservation". However, many aspects and paradigms of idealism did still have a large influence on subsequent philosophy.

International Society for Krishna Consciousness

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), known colloquially as the Hare Krishna movement or Hare Krishnas, is a Gaudiya Vaishnava Hindu religious organisation. ISKCON was founded in 1966 in New York City by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada the Guru and spiritual master of the organization. Its core beliefs are based on the Hindu scriptures, particularly the Bhagavad Gita and the Srimad Bhagavatam, and the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, which has had adherents in India since the late 15th century and American and European devotees since the early 1900s in North America. In West Virginia, the Prabhupada's Palace of Gold is now a shrine for the founder, who died in 1977.The movement has been the subject of controversies. It is labelled a sect by many anti-cult organizations, and some adepts have been accused and condemned of sexual abuse, including towards minors. The New York Times reported similar stories in 1990. ISKCON also faced multiple accusations of child abuse, that its leaders acknowledged. In 1977, the New York State Supreme Court ruled that it is a "bonafide religion".The organization was formed to spread the practice of Bhakti yoga, in which those involved (bhaktas) dedicate their thoughts and actions towards pleasing Krishna, their Supreme Lord. Its most rapid expansions in membership as of 2007 have been within India and especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in Russia, Ukraine, and the rest of the ex-Soviet aligned states of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Mind

The mind (not to be confused with the brain) is a set of cognitive faculties including consciousness, imagination, perception, thinking, judgement, language and memory. It is usually defined as the faculty of an entity's thoughts and consciousness. It holds the power of imagination, recognition, and appreciation, and is responsible for processing feelings and emotions, resulting in attitudes and actions.There is a lengthy tradition in philosophy, religion, psychology, and cognitive science about what constitutes a mind and what are its distinguishing properties.

One open question regarding the nature of the mind is the mind–body problem, which investigates the relation of the mind to the physical brain and nervous system. Older viewpoints included dualism and idealism, which considered the mind somehow non-physical. Modern views often center around physicalism and functionalism, which hold that the mind is roughly identical with the brain or reducible to physical phenomena such as neuronal activity, though dualism and idealism continue to have many supporters. Another question concerns which types of beings are capable of having minds (New Scientist 8 September 2018 p10). For example, whether mind is exclusive to humans, possessed also by some or all animals, by all living things, whether it is a strictly definable characteristic at all, or whether mind can also be a property of some types of human-made machines.Whatever its nature, it is generally agreed that mind is that which enables a being to have subjective awareness and intentionality towards their environment, to perceive and respond to stimuli with some kind of agency, and to have consciousness, including thinking and feeling.The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different cultural and religious traditions. Some see mind as a property exclusive to humans whereas others ascribe properties of mind to non-living entities (e.g. panpsychism and animism), to animals and to deities. Some of the earliest recorded speculations linked mind (sometimes described as identical with soul or spirit) to theories concerning both life after death, and cosmological and natural order, for example in the doctrines of Zoroaster, the Buddha, Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient Greek, Indian and, later, Islamic and medieval European philosophers.

Important philosophers of mind include Plato, Patanjali, Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Searle, Dennett, Fodor, Nagel, and Chalmers. Psychologists such as Freud and James, and computer scientists such as Turing and Putnam developed influential theories about the nature of the mind. The possibility of nonbiological minds is explored in the field of artificial intelligence, which works closely in relation with cybernetics and information theory to understand the ways in which information processing by nonbiological machines is comparable or different to mental phenomena in the human mind.The mind is also portrayed as the stream of consciousness where sense impressions and mental phenomena are constantly changing.

Phenomenology (philosophy)

Phenomenology (from Greek phainómenon "that which appears" and lógos "study") is the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness. As a philosophical movement it was founded in the early years of the 20th century by Edmund Husserl and was later expanded upon by a circle of his followers at the universities of Göttingen and Munich in Germany. It then spread to France, the United States, and elsewhere, often in contexts far removed from Husserl's early work.

Phenomenology is not a unitary movement; rather, different authors share a common family resemblance but also with many significant differences. Gabriella Farina states:A unique and final definition of phenomenology is dangerous and perhaps even paradoxical as it lacks a thematic focus. In fact, it is not a doctrine, nor a philosophical school, but rather a style of thought, a method, an open and ever-renewed experience having different results, and this may disorient anyone wishing to define the meaning of phenomenology.Phenomenology, in Husserl's conception, is primarily concerned with the systematic reflection on and study of the structures of consciousness and the phenomena that appear in acts of consciousness. Phenomenology can be clearly differentiated from the Cartesian method of analysis which sees the world as objects, sets of objects, and objects acting and reacting upon one another.

Husserl's conception of phenomenology has been criticized and developed not only by himself but also by students such as Edith Stein and Roman Ingarden, by hermeneutic philosophers such as Martin Heidegger, by existentialists such as Nicolai Hartmann, Gabriel Marcel, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, and by other philosophers such as Max Scheler, Paul Ricoeur, Jean-Luc Marion, Michel Henry, Emmanuel Levinas, Jacques Derrida, and sociologists Alfred Schütz and Eric Voegelin.

Psychoactive drug

A psychoactive drug, psychopharmaceutical, or psychotropic drug is a chemical substance that changes brain function and results in alterations in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior. These substances may be used medically; recreationally; to purposefully improve performance or alter one's consciousness; as entheogens; for ritual, spiritual, or shamanic purposes; or for research. Some categories of psychoactive drugs, which have therapeutic value, are prescribed by physicians and other healthcare practitioners. Examples include anesthetics, analgesics, anticonvulsant and antiparkinsonian drugs as well as medications used to treat neuropsychiatric disorders, such as antidepressants, anxiolytics, antipsychotics, and stimulant medications. Some psychoactive substances may be used in the detoxification and rehabilitation programs for persons dependent on or addicted to other psychoactive drugs.

Psychoactive substances often bring about subjective (although these may be objectively observed) changes in consciousness and mood that the user may find rewarding and pleasant (e.g., euphoria or a sense of relaxation) or advantageous (e.g. increased alertness) and are thus reinforcing. Substances which are both rewarding and positively reinforcing have the potential to induce a state of addiction – compulsive drug use despite negative consequences. In addition, sustained use of some substances may produce physical or psychological dependence or both, associated with somatic or psychological-emotional withdrawal states respectively. Drug rehabilitation attempts to reduce addiction, through a combination of psychotherapy, support groups, and other psychoactive substances. Conversely, certain psychoactive drugs may be so unpleasant that the person will never use the substance again. This is especially true of certain deliriants (e.g. Jimson weed), powerful dissociatives (e.g. Salvia divinorum), and classic psychedelics (e.g. LSD, psilocybin), in the form of a "bad trip".

Psychoactive drug misuse, dependence and addiction have resulted in legal measures and moral debate. Governmental controls on manufacture, supply and prescription attempt to reduce problematic medical drug use. Ethical concerns have also been raised about over-use of these drugs clinically, and about their marketing by manufacturers. Popular campaigns to decriminalize or legalize certain recreational drug use (e.g. cannabis) are also ongoing.

Sentience

Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive or experience subjectively. Eighteenth-century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think (reason) from the ability to feel (sentience). In modern Western philosophy, sentience is the ability to experience sensations (known in philosophy of mind as "qualia"). In Eastern philosophy, sentience is a metaphysical quality of all things that require respect and care. The concept is central to the philosophy of animal rights because sentience is necessary for the ability to suffer, and thus is held to confer certain rights.

Steve Biko

Bantu Stephen Biko (18 December 1946 – 12 September 1977) was a South African anti-apartheid activist. Ideologically an African nationalist and African socialist, he was at the forefront of a grassroots anti-apartheid campaign known as the Black Consciousness Movement during the late 1960s and 1970s. His ideas were articulated in a series of articles published under the pseudonym Frank Talk.

Raised in a poor Xhosa family, Biko grew up in Ginsberg township in the Eastern Cape. In 1966, he began studying medicine at the University of Natal, where he joined the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS). Strongly opposed to the apartheid system of racial segregation and white-minority rule in South Africa, Biko was frustrated that NUSAS and other anti-apartheid groups were dominated by white liberals, rather than by the blacks who were most affected by apartheid. He believed that even when well-intentioned, white liberals failed to comprehend the black experience and often acted in a paternalistic manner. He developed the view that to avoid white domination, black people had to organise independently, and to this end he became a leading figure in the creation of the South African Students' Organisation (SASO) in 1968. Membership was open only to "blacks", a term that Biko used in reference not just to Bantu-speaking Africans but also to Coloureds and Indians. He was careful to keep his movement independent of white liberals, but opposed anti-white racism and had various white friends and lovers. The white-minority National Party government were initially supportive, seeing SASO's creation as a victory for apartheid's ethos of racial separatism.

Influenced by the Martinican philosopher Frantz Fanon and the African-American Black Power movement, Biko and his compatriots developed Black Consciousness as SASO's official ideology. The movement campaigned for an end to apartheid and the transition of South Africa toward universal suffrage and a socialist economy. It organised Black Community Programmes (BCPs) and focused on the psychological empowerment of black people. Biko believed that black people needed to rid themselves of any sense of racial inferiority, an idea he expressed by popularizing the slogan "black is beautiful". In 1972, he was involved in founding the Black People's Convention (BPC) to promote Black Consciousness ideas among the wider population. The government came to see Biko as a subversive threat and placed him under a banning order in 1973, severely restricting his activities. He remained politically active, helping organise BCPs such as a healthcare centre and a crèche in the Ginsberg area. During his ban he received repeated anonymous threats, and was detained by state security services on several occasions. Following his arrest in August 1977, Biko was severely beaten by state security officers, resulting in his death. Over 20,000 people attended his funeral.

Biko's fame spread posthumously. He became the subject of numerous songs and works of art, while a 1978 biography by his friend Donald Woods formed the basis for the 1987 film Cry Freedom. During Biko's life, the government alleged that he hated whites, various anti-apartheid activists accused him of sexism, and African racial nationalists criticised his united front with Coloureds and Indians. Nonetheless, Biko became one of the earliest icons of the movement against apartheid, and is regarded as a political martyr and the "Father of Black Consciousness". His political legacy remains a matter of contention.

Stream of consciousness

In literary criticism, stream of consciousness is a narrative mode or method that attempts "to depict the multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind" of a narrator. The term was coined by William James in 1890 in his The Principles of Psychology, and in 1918 the novelist May Sinclair (1863–1946) first applied the term stream of consciousness, in a literary context, when discussing Dorothy Richardson's (1873–1957) novels. Pointed Roofs (1915), the first work in Richardson's series of 13 semi-autobiographical novels titled Pilgrimage, is the first complete stream of consciousness novel published in English. However, in 1934, Richardson comments that "Proust, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf & D.R. ... were all using 'the new method', though very differently, simultaneously". There were, however, many earlier precursors and the technique is still used by contemporary writers.

Syncope (medicine)

Syncope, also known as fainting, is a loss of consciousness and muscle strength characterized by a fast onset, short duration, and spontaneous recovery. It is caused by a decrease in blood flow to the brain, typically from low blood pressure. There are sometimes symptoms before the loss of consciousness such as lightheadedness, sweating, pale skin, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, or feeling warm. Syncope may also be associated with a short episode of muscle twitching. When consciousness and muscle strength are not completely lost, it is called presyncope. It is recommended that presyncope be treated the same as syncope.Causes range from non-serious to potentially fatal. There are three broad categories of causes: heart or blood vessel related, reflex also known as neurally mediated, and orthostatic hypotension. Issues with the heart and blood vessels are the cause in about 10% and typically the most serious while neurally mediated is the most common. Heart related causes may include an abnormal heart rhythm, problems with the heart valves or heart muscle and blockages of blood vessels from a pulmonary embolism or aortic dissection among others. Neurally mediated syncope occurs when blood vessels expand and heart rate decreases inappropriately. This may occur from either a triggering event such as exposure to blood, pain, strong feelings or a specific activity such as urination, vomiting, or coughing. This type of syncope may also occur when an area in the neck known as the carotid sinus is pressed. The third type of syncope is due to a drop in blood pressure from standing up. This is often due to medications that a person is taking but may also be related to dehydration, significant bleeding or infection.A medical history, physical examination, and electrocardiogram (ECG) are the most effective ways to figure out the underlying cause. The ECG is useful to detect an abnormal heart rhythm, poor blood flow to the heart muscle, and other electrical issue such as long QT syndrome and Brugada syndrome. Heart related causes also often have little history of a prodrome. Low blood pressure and a fast heart rate after the event may indicate blood loss or dehydration, while low blood oxygen levels may be seen following the event in those with pulmonary embolism. More specific tests such as implantable loop recorders, tilt table testing or carotid sinus massage may be useful in uncertain cases. Computed tomography (CT) is generally not required unless specific concerns are present. Other causes of similar symptoms that should be considered include seizure, stroke, concussion, low blood oxygen, low blood sugar, drug intoxication and some psychiatric disorders among others. Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Those who are considered at high risk following investigation may be admitted to hospital for further monitoring of the heart.Syncope affects about three to six out of every thousand people each year. It is more common in older people and females. It is the reason for one to three percent of visits to emergency departments and admissions to hospital. Up to half of women over the age of 80 and a third of medical students describe at least one event at some point in their lives. Of those presenting with syncope to an emergency department, about 4% died in the next 30 days. The risk of a poor outcome, however, depends very much on the underlying cause.

Unconsciousness

Unconsciousness is a state which occurs when the ability to maintain an awareness of self and environment is lost. It involves a complete or near-complete lack of responsiveness to people and other environmental stimuli.Loss of consciousness should not be confused with the notion of the psychoanalytic unconscious or cognitive processes (e.g., implicit cognition) that take place outside awareness, and with altered states of consciousness, such as delirium (when the person is confused and only partially responsive to the environment), normal sleep, hypnosis, and other altered states in which the person responds to stimuli.

Unconsciousness may occur as the result of traumatic brain injury, brain hypoxia (e.g., due to a brain infarction or cardiac arrest), severe poisoning with drugs that depress the activity of the central nervous system (e.g., alcohol and other hypnotic or sedative drugs), severe fatigue, anaesthesia, and other causes.

Yogachara

Yogachara (IAST: Yogācāra; literally "yoga practice"; "one whose practice is yoga") is an influential tradition of Buddhist philosophy and psychology emphasizing the study of cognition, perception, and consciousness through the interior lens of meditative and yogic practices. It is also variously termed Vijñānavāda (the doctrine of consciousness), Vijñaptivāda (the doctrine of ideas or percepts) or Vijñaptimātratā-vāda (the doctrine of 'mere vijñapti), which is also the name given to its major epistemic theory. There are several interpretations of this main theory, some scholars see it as a kind of Idealism while others argue that it is closer to a kind of phenomenology or representationalism.

According to Dan Lusthaus, this tradition developed "an elaborate psychological therapeutic system that mapped out the problems in cognition along with the antidotes to correct them, and an earnest epistemological endeavor that led to some of the most sophisticated work on perception and logic ever engaged in by Buddhists or Indians." The 4th century Indian brothers, Asaṅga and Vasubandhu, are considered the classic philosophers and systematizers of this school.It was associated with Indian Mahayana Buddhism in about the fourth century, but also included non-Mahayana practitioners of the Dārṣṭāntika school. Yogācāra continues to be influential in Tibetan Buddhism and East Asian Buddhism. However, the uniformity of a single assumed "Yogācāra school" has been put into question.

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