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Why are very intelligent people not satisfied with current definitions of consciousness?

I did not say “Why are *only the* very intelligent (…)?”.

8 Comments

  • The main problem is that all of the terms used to define consciousness stand in need of explanation. Take this definition from Wikipedia, for example:

    “Consciousness is a quality of the mind generally regarded to comprise qualities such as subjectivity, self-awareness, sentience, sapience, and the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and one’s environment.”

    This is a reasonably good definition, but right from the start some people might not want to say that consciousness is a “quality”. A quality is a general thing – it can be shared by many particular entities. Redness, for example, is a quality. You can have red cars, red sunsets, red color crayons, and so on. Is consciousness a quality in this sense? Most will find this reasonable, but then there are huge arguments over what a “quality” really is. Plato said that “red” is a form – something like a basis structure of the universe that exists, and would continue to exist even if all particular red objects disappeared. Aristotle disagreed. Would consciousness “exist” in Plato’s heaven even if all conscious creatures disappeared? And if we keep reading the Wikipedia definition, we soon find that consciousness is a “quality of mind.” Ok, now we get into even deeper doodoo. What the heck is “mind”? and is it the sort of thing that can be the bearer of properties? And, well, that’s probably all I really need to say, cuz you probably get the idea. Volumes could be written on terms such as subjectivity, self, sentience, awareness, etc., and once again without a theory of mind, it is hard to envision how all of this fits together in a totally consistent and rational way.

    Notice that although we can define consciousness is various ways that might more or less satisfy various philosophers, we don’t currently have any good theory of consciousness. Without a good theory of mind, it is not clear what we are even trying to define when we define the term ‘consciousness.’

    So now the bottom line: Why might intelligent people not be satisfied with current definitions of consciousness? Answer: because they understand the complexities that I’ve just mentioned, and therefore realize that no one at this point has a clear idea of what it is we are even trying to define – at least from a logical and scientific point of view. If you are willing to accept the testimony of various mystics who claim to have acquired direct knowledge of the true nature of mind and reality, then you could simply take their word for it that the nature of consciousness is indescribable and indefinable – in which case it would make perfect sense that intelligent science-minded intellectuals would have trouble fitting it into a rational theory.

  • This is an amusing question. It makes the following assumptions:
    1. All very intelligent people contemplate the definition of consciousness
    2. If you accept the current definitions, you are not very intelligent
    These assumptions are faulty, making whatever answers you receive also faulty if they accept your assumptions as true.

    Have fun!

  • Because the definition of ‘consciousness’ is limited. People barely scratch the surface anymore. Also, the definition of something can always be changed. And things are forever changing – the meanings of things, the way things are. We can’t rely on definitions.

  • Because a seeker of knowledge can never have enough. Our knowledge of things can always be refined.
    Furthermore, truth is based on perspective… purely relative… thus is always changing. We need to keep level with that.

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