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Previous: 27.1 The hard problem Up: 27. Consciousness Next: 27.3 What awareness is not

27.2 Awareness

We adopt Postulate 17, from Section 18.7, as the basis for further discussion within theistic science concerning the existence and content of consciousness. This is the postulate that “Whenever love acts by means of wisdom, that action is a conscious action. There is consciousness of the production of the result and also of the delight that arises from the achievement of that production.” Since love and wisdom are both received from God, as derivative dispositions, this postulate claims that whenever those two received things act again together, the result is a conscious action.

According to this postulate, consciousness accompanies all processes and actions within the mental and spiritual degrees. Of course, not all of these will be our processes and will not be within our consciousness. To understand the limits of our own consciousness, we need to know the limits of whatever love it is that defines our own identity (as discussed in Section 20.4). We must conclude that we are conscious only of those actions that follow (as from derived dispositions) from our own identifying love. We might yet be influenced by many other processes, with other loves of their own, but until they are assimilated within us and act ‘as if’ from our own love, we are not aware of them but only of their effects. Such things just ‘pop into our minds’, we say to ourselves. We may keep some of these new things for ourselves, adopted to be under the care of our own loves, and we become conscious of them. Other things not adopted are ignored in ‘un-awareness’ and fall away.

Sometimes, the love and wisdom within a level27.1 seem to be already united. This happens, for example, after a procedure or habit has already been formed. To start with, all procedures require conscious attention, but, after practice, the constituting ingredients seem to stay united most often. The procedure becomes like a ‘module’ that functions without conscious attention to its internal sequence. We no longer have the distinct awareness of the kind described above. Rather, the module becomes simply part of the action. When consciousness focuses on the result of a conscious action, it sees not just the immediate effect in its own level but also the further effects that result from all the unconscious operations of derivative dispositions in modules that are invoked. This is the perfectly normal pattern when we learn a skill. To start with we have conscious awareness of the initial ingredients and their effects. After the skill is learned, it is like invoking a unitary module in the mind. The result is that the conscious awareness of the action is now very much focused on the final effect. A good workman does not focus on his tools. He is instead aware of the effects of his tools on the target of their operation. The conscious presence has then moved from inside the mind to the final effect, which may be outside the body.27.2

One consequence of the kind of consciousness of Postulate 17 is, that we are not immediately aware of the love that leads to our action, nor are we automatically aware of our understanding which was instrumental in selecting that particular action. We can usually make an effort to be reflectively aware of our relevant ideas, in a kind of ‘higher order’ manner. That effort is needed, however, because we have to deliberately raise our level of awareness to a prior or higher level in order to ‘look down’ on the thought processes that we originally used. Attaining such a reflective awareness is very useful, but obviously it is not automatically a part of normal consciousness at a given level. It is more difficult to become aware of our constituting loves, since, even if our reflective awareness can be based on a higher level, we still only see forms and effects, not causes. We have to infer our loves, even our own loves, by collecting evidence for how we feel and how we behave in a wide variety of circumstances. We are never directly conscious at a given level of the loves operating at that level. Nevertheless, those things are still accessible to our awareness if we can also operate at the next higher level in the generative structure.

Phenomenal consciousness consists of the appearances things have for us in our minds. We certainly have that kind of awareness of things, as well as the action consciousness and the reflective consciousness defined above. There is a current trend, started by Damasio (1999), of reducing phenomenal awareness to reflective awareness and claiming that all awareness of things, even of our own emotions, is to be reflectively aware of ourselves as having these conscious contents. This is one way we can come to know our own loves, but only one way of many. Both reflective and phenomenal consciousnesses are special cases of the action consciousness defined by Postulate 17. The previous paragraph outlined how this reduction is possible for reflective awareness, but this is not immediately so clear for phenomenal consciousness.

To see the nature of phenomenal consciousness, we recall how theistic science conceives perception in general. All kinds of perception must involve a part of the mind generating a wide range of possible or potential sensations. Then the sensory organs (existing as structures in a derivative degree) cause structures to exist which select which sensations are to be actually manifested on that occasion. When we look at perception according to this theory, we see that it is a theory of constraints on action. If those actions are the operation of love by means of wisdom, then they will be conscious actions. The content of that consciousness will be the nature of each action, in this case the production of a sensation. This is what we claim as the nature of phenomenal consciousness. Our visual field seems to be like a sheet of phenomenal consciousness. This is possible if we have an equivalent sheet of potential sensations and the corresponding layout of constraints to select particular sensations everywhere on that sheet.27.3


Previous: 27.1 The hard problem Up: 27. Consciousness Next: 27.3 What awareness is not

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