Consciousness ~=~ self-referentiality' (was Re: Consciousness, New Thinking About

Matt Jones jonesmat at physiology.wisc.edu
Sun Jun 2 19:00:45 EST 2002


"PF" <fell_spamtrap_in at ozemail.com.au> wrote in message news:<hUfK8.3668$3t6.159759 at ozemail.com.au>...
> "mat" <mats_trash at hotmail.com> wrote in message
> news:43525ce3.0205251658.4279be21 at posting.google.com...
> 
> Might there be some virtue thinking in terms of "degrees of consciousness" ~
> 'degrees of selfreferentiality' (or self-referential discriminatory
> responses)?
> 
> %-|
> 
> P


Seems to me that "degrees" is the -only- sensible way to think about
it. Another way to put it might be "a continuum of consciousness".  If
one believes in evolution, then at one level, there really is no
difference between a person and a rock. We're all made essentially of
the same stuff anyway, and at one time there were no people, only
rocks.

As the story of evolution goes, life evolved from the stuff that came
out of the rocks (i.e., carbon, nitrogen, phopshporus, sulfur, oxygen
etc were largely released into the atmposphere by the process of
"outgassing" - from the original rocks), combined with water that may
have come from comets and stuff that crashed into the earth.

To make a long story short, after a few billion years, some of the
descendants of those original lifeforms are now able to engage in
debate over what separates them from the original rocks from which
they came. In these debates, this word "consciousness" keeps coming up
over and over again.

Whatever it is that separates them, it's not mere chemistry or
physics, because those are the processes responsible for turning the
original rocks into people. That is,  the current "conscious"
organisms result from the same rules governing matter, energy and
information that produced the original rocks, and arose in fact by a
sort of repeated iteration of those rules over a long period of time.

To me, it seems reasonable that "consciousness" therefore also arose
from those original rocks by iteration of these same rules.

So what's consciousness?   I don't know exactly, but whatever it is,
it's made of the same stuff that rocks are made of, and it follows the
same rules that rocks follow.

Lying along the same -physical- continuum as people and rocks are lots
of other animals, plants, bacteria, etc. I suggest that all of these
things ought to also be considered to lie along the same -behavioral-
continuum as well (and for that matter, along the same -cognitive-
continuum). I don't see the value of trying to draw sharp boundaries
between people and apes, apes and dogs, dogs and rats, rats and
snails, snails and bacteria, bacteria and viruses, or viruses and
rocks.


Cheers,

Matt




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