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What would it be like to be unaware of form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness?

Like the experience of a tree?


  1. Do you really think such an experience could be accurately described using the linguism of a species whose languages originated in the communication of sensory ideas?

  2. Actually, the language presented by the question is the opposite of sensory ideals. Physical perception (objective reasoning) is available to all animals, not just humans. It is the argument of the existence of a language of thought that brings us to the question of the human experience and the division between human and nonhuman cognitive ability. Without the language of thought, if our language was indeed the pure language of senses, we would be unable to articulate intangible forces mentioned in the question. It can’t be valid to argue humans are unable to be unaware of intangible forces because we have no language for it, because we very obviously do, and when we acquired it we became human, set apart from other higher-order mammals.
    That said, being unaware of form, feeling, perception and so forth (basically the idea of consciousness), would make you more of a rock than a tree. Trees have perception, if limited. Science is only now discovering how plant growth can be affected by music, lighting colors, fear (flames), beyond the original concept of plants being completely autonomous beings whose purpose is to suck up water and release oxygen. It is interesting that these experiments are slowly converting humans to the idea that even plants have limited ‘consciousness’, but the inability to articulate these by physical (vocal, biological) features meant we have thus far ignored and even denied the ability of other organisms to ‘feel’.
    Humans have long held the belief that we’re special due to our ability to think and articulate our reasoning. Beyond that, we call the ability to make comment and draw conclusions based on intangible (subjective) concepts higher-order cognition. Animals are able to make judgments based on information chunking and perceived information, and it is still undecided whether they can take it one step further and make conclusions based on thought, that is, understand the concept of thought and intention from another.
    If we lose this ability, we’re effectively comatose (even then there is argument on what coma patients can and can’t perceive), or brain dead. These days, medical science takes brain death more seriously as a proof of death rather than heart death, since the latter can be completely temporary. Indeed, we can even heal certain heart diseases and perform transplant.
    Without the ability to feel, mentally conceive or even be aware of our surroundings we are reduced to the state of a rock. That is, others are able to make decisions legally on our behalf (guardians of people who are conclusively unable to form sane opinions are legally allowed to make decisions for the person). We no longer interact with the world, and so cannot be swayed by its opinions and reasoning or even take interest. We are effectively dead regardless of whether we are still breathing or even if our heart continues beating. Being fully paralyzed and brain dead is death in every sense except the physical.
    So you’d be a rock with a heart beat. The center of an ethical debate by other people on whether to turn off life support certainly, but that won’t matter to you unless there’s a chance you will recover and stop being a rock.

  3. All life “perceives”. A flower and grass follow the sun across the sky. This is called sentience. For a man to lose sentience makes him like a Helen Keller who has lost all 5 senses, not just two. To lose consciousness means he is aware of nothing at all, and is either in a coma, or worse he has become a vegetable.
    Can you describe what it would be “like” to be either comatose or a vegetable? No. No one who comes out of a coma even remembers the feeding tubes, the sponge baths, the bed sores, and the people in his room talking about him.
    Those who do remember such things were never in a coma, but were existing on the subconscious level yet unable to react to their surroundings, and unable to reach the higher state of full consciousness.

  4. I believe that thinking or consciousness is living, so it’s basically being dead otherwise. But the only reason I believe that is because I am human, and that is what I have done my entire life. If I was born an animal or a tree, I wouldn’t “know” anything other than what I was. I would not have anything to compare it to – just like there is no way for me to compare consciousness and other forms of feelings to being unconscious and having no forms of feelings because in order for me to “realize” that I was unconscious, I would have to be thinking about it, since that is what humans do.


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