Consciousness: awareness and metacognition (General)

by dhw, Sunday, September 24, 2017, 13:19 (213 days ago) @ David Turell

dhw:[…] By consciousness I mean an organism’s awareness of things inside and outside itself. The degree of consciousness will correspond to the quantity and nature of things the organism is aware of. I would assume – perhaps wrongly – that the simplest organisms are only aware of things in their immediate environment. Humans are aware not only of things that exist outside their immediate environment, but also of things that may not exist at all and even of their own awareness of being aware. However, awareness on its own would be pretty useless unless the organism used it to some purpose. That is where intelligence comes in. If consciousness is awareness, intelligence is the ability to use awareness. I can only define intelligence by its attributes, the most basic of which I would suggest are sentience (awareness of the environment), the ability to process information, to communicate, to take decisions. Every organism we know of possesses these basic attributes, but not to anything like the same degree as humans.
I regard it as feasible that the basic attributes listed above appeared when life began, i.e. that the first living cells possessed them. The only way we can gauge whether this is true is by studying the behaviour of single cells, and there seems little doubt that they conform to my definition. If, however, you have a different definition of consciousness and of intelligence, then perhaps you would share it with us.

DAVID: I'm sorry but I disagree. To be conscious is not consciousness. Organisms are conscious by recognizing stimuli and reacting to them both inside and out. Consciousness involves being aware of that state and philosophizing about it. I make a much sharper distinction than you do. As for intelligence and use of stimuli, simple organisms respond using intelligent information they are given.

You seem to think the noun has a different meaning from the adjective! You agree that an organism is conscious if it recognizes stimuli and reacts to them both inside and out. I’ll settle for that, thank you. Bacteria are therefore conscious. But I do not for one second believe that their degree of being conscious extends to their being self-conscious and philosophizing about being conscious.


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