Thursday, 21 April 2011

My answer to "What is consciousness and why it is important"

I would define what is consciousness, and say that it is self-consciousness.

Self-consciousness is of course the awareness of the difference between myself and other people and other objects.

Self-consciousness is only possible if one were able to suffer pain or enjoy pleasure.

I would then say that I assume that all conscious creatures - if they were wise - would wish would wish to maximise their pleasure and minimise their pain in the long term.

This policy of maximising pleasure and minimising pain requires the use of Reason.

How well one uses Reason to maximise pleasure and minimise pain is a reflection of one's Wisdom, which is where philosophy comes in.

The use of reason requires one to make judgments on whether a course of action is wise or unwise and leads us to consider the nature of Knowledge and Truth (Epistemology) which would assist us in the process of reasoning.

The question is important because it demonstrates how so much time can be spent by so many clever people going down an intellectual blind alley that does not make us any the wiser, which is what philosophy and philosophers worth their salt ought to do for us.

The question "What is consciousness?" demonstrates the truth and wisdom of the saying "Ask a silly question, get a silly answer."

How did that silly question come to be asked? It came to be asked because Descartes tried to prove the existence of God by using his theory of consciousness ("I think therefore I am"), which is linked to his theory of knowledge ("How can we ever know anything for certain?") leading eventually, centuries later, to the Donald Rumseld Theory of Knowledge (Known Knowns, Known Unknowns, Unknown Unknowns).

Tallis is preoccupied with the existence of God because he is an atheist anxious to disprove the existence of God.  However, my theory of Agnostic Indifference to the existence of a Living God would most rationally reconcile the opposing positions of Atheists and Monotheists ie

"Only the altruistic and truly good would behave as if God exists (and do as they think He would wish us to do if He existed) for the Greater Good even as they entertain doubts about His actual existence.

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