Today I add a new guest post from Samara Brown, on a subject I’ve not explored here at LearnThis before, all about thinking about consciousness.  I hope you enjoy the questions, insight and quotes that Samara has written.  You can see a bit more about her at the end of her article.

The most easily accessible quote that I have ever read about consciousness would have to be this one from the German theologian and philosopher Albert Schweitzer:

“True philosophy must start from the most immediate and comprehensive fact of consciousness: ‘I am life that wants to live, in the midst of life that wants to live.’ ”

It is a very beautiful and simple explanation that I think even a child would be able to understand and appreciate. It leads my mind on to thinking about the intrinsic nature of life itself: the instinct of survival; and how all forms of matter have a tendency to integrate and thus develop greater and greater levels of complexity and order. Many theories or elaborations on the subject of consciousness are so ethereal or convoluted that I often find it very difficult to grasp the meaning intended by the writer. But if you are patient and search carefully enough you can find some very interesting insights, such as this one from Daniel C. Dennett:

“Human consciousness is just about the last surviving mystery. A mystery is a phenomenon that people don’t know how to think about – yet….. We do not yet have all the answers to any of the questions of cosmology and particle physics, molecular genetics and evolutionary theory, but we do know how to think about them… With consciousness, however, we are still in a terrible muddle. Consciousness stands alone today as a topic that often leaves even the most sophisticated thinkers tongue-tied and confused. And, as with all of the earlier mysteries, there are many who insist – and hope – that there will never be a demystification of consciousness.”

It is interesting that Dennett points out the fact that often a sophisticated mind will struggle with mysteries such as the meaning of consciousness. History shows us that often with a great insoluble problem the answer is actually quite simple and that it will not necessarily be someone with a high intelligence quotient (I.Q.) that will be able to solve it. There is a new theory emerging recently that goes further by suggesting that what the world requires today are in fact people with a high soundness quotient (S.Q.) Soul soundness, a less corrupt or alienated person. Dennett also suggests in this quote that many people prefer mystery, superstition and dogma over knowledge-based understanding and scientific enquiry. This point is reinforced by this last insight by Terence McKenna:

“You are an explorer, and you represent our species, and the greatest good you can do is to bring back a new idea, because our world is endangered by the absence of good ideas. Our world is in crisis because of the absence of consciousness.”

McKenna stresses the point of the importance that humanity should be placing on science to provide answers to our most pressing and critical issues. We need to quickly become more conscious of ourselves, our place in the world, and to find solutions to the problems which threaten our very existence.

In terms of addressing these issues that are threatening our society, I would say that one of the most amazing thinkers that I have come across is a biologist called Jeremy Griffith. He seems to me to explain and deal with human consciousness and the problems associated with by far better than anybody else that I have come across. Although, I must admit that I am not particularly widely read or knowledgeable. Griffith says that:

“We humans suffer from a consciousness-derived, psychological human condition, not an instinct- derived, stimulus-and-response-driven animal condition—it is unique to us.”

Our fully conscious brain is very obviously unique on this planet, and we are clearly the only animal that can fully understand cause and effect in our lives and can make conscious adjustments according to what we learn from different events and outcomes. So it would seem to me to make perfect sense that that is where our problems stem from. Sure any animal you like to make an example of in the world around us is carrying out all kinds of behaviors and actions, but they are not conscious of why they are doing them, they are ruled by their instincts. A lion cannot explain why he needs to kill the zebra, he just does it and doesn’t have the ability to understand why or to think about carrying out an alternative action. It is only a conscious brain that has the ability to assess outcomes of behaviors—and more importantly asses or wonder whether the action they carried out were right or wrong? Goodness!, now I’ve said it—right and wrong? Good or bad? Are humans fundamentally good, and more specifically, am I? Am I good or bad? According to Griffith, you have come to the question of questions or in other words the human condition. Griffith describes the human condition as:

“The human condition arises from the existence of so-called ‘good and evil’ in our make-up. We humans are capable of shocking acts of inhumanity like rape, murder and torture and our agonizing predicament or ‘condition’ has been that we have never been able to explain and thus understand why. And even in our everyday behavior, why are we competitive, aggressive and selfish when clearly the ideals are to be the complete opposite, namely cooperative, loving and selfless?”

I am going to leave it there for people to make of Griffith’s work what they will, but surely Griffith has got one thing right at least that our issues as humans are psychological based ones, they are based on our conscious brains needing to understand what is going on within and around us. Surely he is right in the sense that biology does need to find understanding of our conscious behaviors to make this planet a better place for us all?

BIO

Samara is primarily a thinker… hence the title of her post! Thankful to be raised in a Christian household and trusts in her faith however determined to never stop wondering and questioning the world around her.  Her email if you want to contact her is thinksandlearns at gmail dot com.



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