Re: The Game of Life

From: <>
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 09:37:47 -0800

George Levy writes:
> I think that consciousness requires:
> 1) A model of the self (This condition opens the pandora's box of
> recursion and self-referentiality)
> 2) A Turing Machine or the equivalent, which would attempt to simulate
> the self using the available model.
> These two conditions lead to an explanation of free will and the feeling of
> the "I", "Le Moi" in French. (The English expression "to be reflexive", to
> think, is a clue that we are looking at the mental model of our selves in
> certain thinking situations.)

I think this is too strong a definition for consciousness, in that
it focuses on just one form of consciousness but does not get at the
essential mystery of the phenomenon.

It describes what George calls "reflexive consciousness", or awareness of
the self as an actor. It is intimately tied in with the concept of free
will, which again is fundamentally based on actions taken.

But consciousness need not be active. It can be passive, and it can be
composed of awareness of the outside world, not necessarily awareness
of the self.

People sometimes experience such conscious states. While meditating,
or sometimes while viewing something of great beauty, or maybe simply
watching a movie, television, or reading a book, we are drawn into a
passive and observing state. We do not make decisions, we do not think
about ourselves. We simply and calmly observe what is before us.

Imagine sitting and watching a beautiful sunset. There is no particular
awareness of the self, no free will in this state. One is entranced by
the sight, the slow changes in the magnificent colors. This takes up all
of the conscious awareness.

Surely we will agree that this is a fully conscious state. But there
is no need for a self model or an internal TM to run that model.

Of course, with people such states are only temporary, and it could
perhaps be argued that consciousness *inherently* requires the ability to
move beyond this state and be in our normal, busy, self-thinking, planning
state. While this may be biologically true for us (at least for most
people), it does not seem inherently true to me, not true enough to let
us begin a philosophical exporation of consciousness with the assumption
that it requires this "busy" self-reflexive state that George describes.

Received on Tue Dec 21 1999 - 09:50:50 PST

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