This is a blog to discuss philosophy, chess, politics,
C. S. Lewis, or whatever it is that I'm in the mood to discuss.
The problem of consciousness is in my opinion one of the most fascinating in all of science and philosophy both. As a person who has lived in close quarters with 8 different cats and dogs over the years, I've often pondered "just what is going on behind those eyes?" Were my pets conscious? Are birds, deer, squirrels? How about trees? What about inanimate matter? Subatomic particles? For most of my life I've been open to the idea that consciousness is far more widespread than we imagine.But I am equally open to an opposite view - that consciousness is restricted to human beings alone. I've pondered the argument that consciousness is part and parcel of free will (i.e., not a byproduct of, but rather intrinsic to), and that no free will equals no consciousness.I believe that is the route that C.S. Lewis took. (This is a blog about C.S. Lewis, right?) He illustrates this in his novel That Hideous Strength when he attempts to write a longish passage from the point of view of a non-conscious bear. Not sure whether (from a literary standpoint) he succeeded, but he did manage to illustrate one solution to the question. Without the ability to freely choose between differing options, there can be nothing we would recognize as self awareness. Even with human beings, we have the idea of "sleep walking", where a person can do something with no awareness of his having done so. He did not will the action, and was therefore not conscious of his doing it.
Hmm...It just occurred to me while thinking about my above comment. Could one use the existence of self awareness (consciousness) as a proof of the objective existence of Free Will, i.e., that determinism is false?(Of course, there have been contributors to this website who have denied the existence of even their own consciousness, as well as Free Will.)
Do you think that human babies are conscious? People with severe mental illnesses or intellectual disabilities?
Dustin,Having raised 2 children of my own and now watching my granddaughter grow older, I would imagine that the consciousness of a newborn is rather like ours when we first wake up from sleep, and you can't quite get up all at once. I've read that babies make no distinction between themselves and their mothers for several weeks, and don't recognize themselves as separate beings for the same period of time. (How they know such things is beyond me.)As for people with severe mental illness, I can watch my father who is suffering from end-of-life dementia. He's aware of what's going on at this current instant, but quite literally has no memory of things that occurred even 1 or (at the most) 2 minutes ago. He truly lives in "the now". (I've tested this. I'd walk out of the room, count to 50, come back in, and he has absolutely no memory of me having been there before.) But I think he's still self-aware - it's just that his time horizon is very short.
Presumably you don't think babies have free will?
"Presumably you don't think babies have free will?"I don't think it's a meaningful question. What does an infant have to choose?I can't speak for Protestants, but the Catholic Church recognizes that young children are "innocent" of what is termed "actual sin", i.e., "any willful thought, desire, word, action, or omission forbidden by the law of God" (as per The Baltimore Catechism). This is, of course, distinguished from "original sin", which is inherited by all people at birth.Interestingly, a common misconception about the term "original" is that it has something to do with its being the first sin. This is not, however, not the case. "Original" actually refers to the origin of the sin through inheritance (again, from The Baltimore Catechism).
So you think free will is necessary for consciousness, and you think babies are conscious, but you don't think babies have free will?...
I don't "think" anything at this point. It's all speculation to me. I'm just engaging in blue sky thinking here. Like I said up above, I'm open to being convinced that only [grown up] human beings have consciousness, or that electrons and protons do as well (or even something in the middle). Right now I could be talked into either position.I do, however, strongly suspect that free will and consciousness go hand in hand.
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