Re: "The definition of life and consciousness?"

From: Steve Nichols (
Date: Sat Jan 13 2001 - 16:57:22 MST

Date: Sun, 14 Jan 2001 20:49:02 -0800
From: "J. R. Molloy" <>
Subject: Obsolete Question: "The definition of life and consciousness?"

>Any biological theory of consciousness, which assumes that consciousness
>has evolved, implies that "having consciousness" is not an all-or-none
>property. The biological substrates of consciousness in human adults are
>probably also present, but only in partial form, in other species, in
>young children or brain-lesioned patients. It is therefore a partially
>arbitrary question whether we want to extend the use of the term
>"consciousness" to them. For instance, several mammals, and even very
>young human children, show intentional behavior, partially reportable
>mental states, some working memory ability - but perhaps no theory of
>mind, and more "encapsulated" mental processes that cannot be reported
>verbally or even non-verbally. Do they have consciousness, then? My bet is
>that once a detailed cognitive and neural theory of the various aspects of
>consciousness is available, the vacuity of this question will become

Yes, I tend to agree that verbalisation and philosophical definitions get
in the way. It seems to me valid to say that someone has "consciousness
OF" something .. such as they are concious of a pain in their foot, but
not too useful just to say that they have (non-specified) "consciousness" as
if it is an entity by itself, even devoid of content. I think the word
should not
really mean more than "not unconscious" .... unconsciousness of the type
happens when you are hit over the head!

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