This paper reflects the research and thoughts of a student at the time the paper was written for a course at Bryn Mawr College. Like other materials on Serendip, it is not intended to be "authoritative" but rather to help others further develop their own explorations. Web links were active as of the time the paper was posted but are not updated.
2006 Third Web Paper
Nowadays, we think we know what decisions or behaviors we do consciously and we know the habits that we do unconsciously but how do we know the difference? When people are in a public setting and a person yawns, why do others yawn right after? Is this action unconsciously letting the person know that they are tired? Humans are conscious subjects of experience, we like our perceptions and sensations and for the most part, we understand why we have them. We understand why we feel pain and pleasure and why we do certain things and not others. However, what is the difference between a sleepwalker slapping someone unconsciously versus the person doing it consciously? What in consciousness makes the two situations different?
A sleepwalker, from what we have discussed in class is not really responsible for his actions because in a sense he did not do anything. The sleepwalker's brain is what is in control at that point. So the conscious is not just the brain because nothing in the brain produces the I in what I did or when one says I did not know that I did that. When a person refers to themselves as I, they are referring to a state of being. Being can only occur if the person is aware and from this is where, you get consciousness. Consciousness is where we are, we are consciousness. The consciousness comes in different forms like tasting, seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling. These are sensory forms of consciousness or awareness. Seeing is our visual awareness while hearing is our auditory awareness. At the same time, if you hear, see, or smell something you are conscious of it. Though they seem to be quite similar, are consciousness and awareness the same idea? If I hear a sound of an instrument then I am aware that there is a sound being played from somewhere and therefore I am conscious of it but if I can not identify the instrument that is producing the sound then I am not aware of the instrument. This is actually all a play on words, I believe strongly that consciousness and awareness are the same thing. Awareness is just knowing that something exists and that is what consciousness is, it is the know. So now that we have established that they are the same thing lets get deeper.
You can be aware of a sound but not be aware of what is producing the sound. In other words you can be aware of something but not know what that something is. What is that I hear...is an example of this idea. A person can therefore be aware of something but not be aware that they are aware of that something. Another example is that a child can be aware that they hear barking but they are not aware that it is from a dog but they do recognize it as a distinct sound. The idea of awareness and consciousness is one that is very complicated because it has been manipulated in a way that makes consciousness an aspect of awareness and awareness being on a higher level.
Earlier, it was established that consciousness did not include much of the brain, it does not mean the brain is still not a powerful entity of its own. Consciousness can take off in one direction, while behavior can go in another direction. The brain therefore can carry on at least part of its job without consciousness being present. For example, people can be daydreaming while driving and though their body is doing the driving by means of the brain, they are not quite there. The driver is in another world but somehow, the body is still able to maneuver through the roads and not harm anyone. As we said in class, some people are able to carry out full conversations and give out directions, while they are sleeping. Sleep talkers are not conscious when they are doing this yet they are able to still do perform the same skills as if they were conscious. This says a lot about the brain, more that it is one of the strongest forces in our bodies that could, and I said could, probably due without consciousness. This is not at all saying that we do not need our conscious, we do because with it we are who we are and we are aware of everything around us.
Furthermore, consciousness, unconsciousness, and awareness, are all quite complex ideas but they are all necessary aspects of the human. Awareness as I believe, is the same as consciousness because both ideas have to do with what we know, what we see, hear, taste, etc. Our consciousness helps us to understand the world around us, and I guess our unconsciousness allows us to understand that our bodies can work without us being aware of it. Another interesting idea about unconsciousness is that, sometimes in sleep the unconsciousness can discover some important events that will happen in the future and try to give the conscious warnings, eventually the unconsciousness creates different ominous dreams. Overall, people are just so complex in that what makes them a being is not only the brain but themselves being their conscious as well.
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