How do we know what consciousness is?

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We think we are superior to other lifeforms, animals, insects etc because we have self-awareness, free-will etc, but maybe those other lifeforms also have self-awareness, live in their own world and maybe think that they have consciousness
They are not aware of us, so maybe we are not aware of lifeforms that are aware of us.
To look at an ant colony, from our point of view, we would say that they do not have self-awareness or free-will, but on their level they could.
If a higher intelligence looked at the human species we could be acting, to them, just as an ant colony would act: a civilisation just going about life.
Sokrates, because fido or an ant doesn’t look into a mirror doesn’t mean they are not self aware – they are just in their own world of self-awareness.
A higher being could say that humans are not doing such-and-such but it doesn’t mean that humans (us) are not self-aware.

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Honestly humanity is not that much better than the colony of ants you mentioned. History ios replete with examples where we have been told what to believe and free. This has happened so often that when it is pointed out to us we call the person doing so a lunatic, a heretic or that person is laughed at.


Just the fact that you asked this question, tells me that you have
answered your own question.


you are correct, we are to aminals,, but of course that we have educate our selves ,,,,, and yes I do wonder if they to have feelings ,,,,because even a dog will protect her pupppies,,,,


A keen observer of life would soon realise that this is a world full of all possibilities. There is an unknown expanse of existence all around and we are like an an island – an island of knowledge and awareness. Human intelligence illuminates what it can and the rest is in the mist and then in the dark unknown. In the middle of all this like a halo round a candle we live as a sphere of consciousness. in this light first we see ourselves and then our surroundings. We gain knowledge with our sensory means and also with our intuitive attention and interest. This is a presence of a living thing in existence.
The answer to your question is that we are not sure, and perhaps we can never be. There may be being at a higher conscious level than that of ours. They are not able to communicate because we are so very much into our own level. There is no known human knowledge that can circumscribe into this and make a conscious level higher than ours recognisable to us without us being participants of that. The solution is that we think with objective human mind. What we can experience as beauty is Beauty for us, and Justice for, and also Truth. Evil exits in the universe. It is universally valid entity. But it is not a valid thing in our lives. God has created all Good and Evil. We choose whatever is right for us from our own objective point of view.
ADDITIONAL NOTES: Consciousness surrounds all living things. Animals have their consciousness too. They are always very well aware of their surroundings. Most predatory animals are very territorial in nature. Their awareness of danger is even sharper than us humans. The consciousness in animals however is mainly composed of their instinctual needs and responses useful towards fulfilling these needs.
The consciousness in human is very different. We are not only conscious of our environment including ourselves, but we are also conscious of our own consciousness. We are self-conscious, or aware or ourselves. Our thoughts have the ability to generate reflections. And we are capable of generating many reflective thoughts at once. With an ability of self-examination, human thoughts run repetitively or cyclically — therefore the realisation of pain, pleasure and happiness. We think about our feelings, and our feelings in response generate further thoughts. This is the most important faculty that distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom.
The most important ability that human consciousness bestows upon us is the realisation of time passing — the time present, the future and the time past. We anticipate our future, and remember our past with a very good degree of accuracy. We do this simply by reflecting upon or own existence constantly. We can also induce a state of hyper-consciousness through contemplation and meditation. This mental state of hyper-awareness enables us to conceive symbols, concepts and ideas of metaphysical nature.
We can also become mindful of our present moment of existence. This state of mind that is beyond normal temporal existence, and can only be achieved when we are in good control of our instinctual or animalistic self — our physical needs and urges. This is common practice in mystical disciplines where it serves the purpose of reaching heightened states of self-awareness. At this level we can understand better and deeper meanings of our life, and our entire existence. This is where the definition of consciousness at the beginning of my answer applies to its best.


Yes you are very correct from your perception…
And the approach too is very logical, and on right track !
And, now, please see that any logical , practical approach has to reach just a similar dead end !
By observation of other life forms, is it not a fair conclusion logically, that there is something in us apart from logic ?
May be it is intuition, or the intuitional aspect.. traditionally people attribute it to heart (just for reference sake).. some call it conscience, some call it intuition, .. that which defies logic, especially when we are emotional… Other life forms too ‘seem’ to rejoice like a peacock dances when it rains ! But really not deep enough. We can imagine, visualise and bring out emotions !
And as the perception deepens, we are aware of things that hitherto seemed beyond our reach (look at cases of ESP etc…), those innumerable miracle instances (not all of them could be false) ! It is just that they have demonstrated that our perception levels are capable of going deeper and beyond sense organs !
Once this happens, we can experience not just our consciousness, but what is happening to other life forms (within their consciousness) too ! Many realised persons have shared their experience just to make that possibility available to other too.
We need not at all completely trust them blindly. Just keep the possibility open, and work at it.


We do not exhaustively know what consciousness is. but we have some idea of what it is. One approach to ascertaining the nature of consciousness is by taking the phenomenolgoical path. How does consciousness present itself to rational datives of manifestation? Things tend to show themselves from themselves. For instance, how do we know what a cup is or what intelligence is? These phenomena show themselves from themselves.
Moreover, science has taught us that consciousness must be awareness. Of course, there are different levels or kinds of awareness. But “awareness” seems to be good starting point for what we mean by consciousness. Human consciousness certainly is different from animal consciousness. We can think about thought or generate complex speech patterns in ways that supersede any other form of terrestrial life.
Your suggestion that other earthly life forms have self-awareness or the faculty of choice (as humans evidently do) is completely untenable. Scientific studies have already shown that animals usually do not possess self-awareness. When was the last time that Fido or an ant recognized themselves in the family mirror? It just does not happen.


We don’t, because we are not perfect. If we were perfect we wouldn’t have all the problems we have today in society, and we would. As long as we have the menatality to act rationable we should just be just fine.


Mammals are keenly aware of one another. Failure to do so usually ends in death. What is not clear is, if they have consciousness. Apes appear to have it. A simple, primitive test is a mirror. A conscious creature will identify the reflection as themselves. Most apes, including man, can be taught this and some cetaceans. But few, if any, of the other creatures can, especially, if they see only in black and white. While they may come to ignore it, it is only because it poses no dange to them.
Another test of the mirror is, two creatures one behind the other. Man is the only one who will turn and look.
Yet another test: the hidden object. A child must learn this and some adult apes do. I’m not aware of any cetaceans that do. All adult, unimpaired people kow to look for the hidden object.


we are intelligent enough to consider life, that is all.
we are no more aware of ourselves than anything else.


What makes you think that the general belief is that animals aren’t self-aware? People have widely varyng opinions on the subject, but it doesn’t matter when one is hungry or in danger.
The leopard is keenly aware of the deer, or the tourist, as his next meal.


For your question, you should first divide between “instinct” and “conciseness”. Those ants (and animals) appear to be moving around instinctively. Whether they have a conscious understanding of what they are doing is the question. Since they are all doing the same thing (and this can be said about us by an alien observer) it would appear that it is ingrained in their animal instinct.
“One day I was sitting at my desk and was thinking to myself – my god! My brain is the most amazing organ in the human body! Then I stopped and said – Wait a minute! Look who’s telling me that!” You cannot clearly define consciousness, or classify a conscious being from an intangible perspective. You are basically trying to look outside of the box from inside the box – impossible.
The only thing you can do is observe. That’s basically what we are. Observers. Not conscious beings. Are other animals observers as well, you ask? Since they have not documented it there is no proof that monkeys observe their surroundings. The proof that the cave man was an observer was the fact that they painted on cave walls what they saw. Proof of a conscious being…


awareness. o.k.

rosemary d

I do not think we are superior to other lifeforms, all living entities have a soul.


We think we know what consciousness is, but none of us has the sheer dignity of an ant or an iguana!


the difference is we can plan ahead and other life form can’t


I’m trying really hard to understand why you have posted a question to which you seem to have a complete answer.
Is it perhaps your loneliness as a human being, that kind of loneliness that made people welcome UFO’s (which, as the name points out, we don’t really know what are) as our brothers from outer space? I’m sorry if this sounds too personal. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that even the ants are little self-aware minds, and that at a higher level there are even higher self-aware minds?
If you ask science (it’s funny how people personify science, as in “science has taught us…” but I’ll go the same way), science will tell you ants are not aware of anything: their mind, to call it this way, is just a bundle of instincts reacting to the environment, that works very much like a complex computer programme. About higher beings, science will claim they do not exist at all, since she, the queen of knowledge, hasn’t found them yet.
And yet…
And yet, if you disown science as the queen of knowledge and keep her just as a hard-working maid (by which I mean science is a really useful thing to us, that should not be dismissed completely), you will notice that alternative forms of knowledge always refer to various kinds of higher beings! (Higher than humans, that is.) But, unlike in your discourse, they seem highly aware of the fact that us, humans, are self-aware! (I have left science-fiction literature and film aside, as this is not a form of knowledge, but it springs from people’s imagination.)
That would be my comment to your question/discourse, which by the way is beautifully written and well-rounded, in spite of the fact that I don’t agree with it.


We don’t know what consciousness is.
Self-consciousness is consciousness of being conscious.
It is not consciousness of consciousness — hence we cannot know what it is, we can only know what it is like to be it.


Your questions seems to depend on the assumption that WE and Consciousness are two separate things.
If you think you have consciousness would you really have it.
Its not to be found in thinking but could thinking take place without being conscious first of it?
We know only what is in the content of our minds or in the reservoir of human experience. The so called rational mind asks this question and wants to turn whatever consciousness is into knowledge that the rational mind can comprehend. It cannot. No more than a flee could carry an elephant in its belly.
A good question to ask and then leave alone.

Amanda K

I think therefore I am?
Man is superior to animals in that he can bend them to his will. Even the most independent of creatures can be controlled to some extent, if the bars to their cages are thick enough.

Tricky Dicky

Many basic animal instincts are still present in humans, example fear, anger, copulation, feeding ……..
Different primitive instincts are used by ants etcetera to build a nest without consciously knowing how to do it by learning
Man cannot build a home by instinct, he has to learn and because he can learn on a much more advanced scale than ants he would be limited in his creativity if he could only build a home by instinct
This greater capacity through learning and reasoning the best solution, not just by trial and error, is part of consciousnes
I agree it is partly a matter of degree, animals may possess some form of awareness by learning, as seen in pets like dogs who can readily learn to obey commands
However since they cannot go beyond a certyain level of independent reasoning we say that mankind are superior
Judging by some of the mistakes made by man in his past there are some who would dispute the ‘superiority’ label


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