The Concept and Essence of Consciousness

Consciousness is the highest form of reflection of objective reality peculiar only to man, the way he relates to the world and to himself, which is the unity of mental processes that are actively involved in human understanding of the objective world and his own being and is not determined directly by his bodily organization ( in animals), and acquired only through communication with other people the skills of objective actions. Consciousness consists of sensory images of objects that are sensations or representations and therefore have meaning and meaning, knowledge as a set of sensations imprinted in memory, and generalizations created as a result of higher mental activity, thinking and language. Thus, consciousness is a special form of human interaction with reality and its management.

The attitude of consciousness to being forms the basic question of philosophy, which is a combination of two elements: ontological (the question of the primacy of spirit or matter) and gnoseological (the question of the knowability of the world).

I adhere to the materialistic point of view on the nature and essence of consciousness, because, in my opinion, any solution of this question in idealistic (and even more so in subjectively idealistic) spirit will inevitably lead to solipsism. Considering Plato’s “cave theory”, one can notice that his “prisoners” (subjects) can only perceive “shadows of objects” (objectified ideas), and it becomes unclear how the “feedback” is performed, i.e. how the individual is able to change reality and whether he is capable of this at all. In fact, if the “prisoner” sees (or rather, senses) a jug in one handle and attaches a second jug to it, then two options are possible — either from the beginning there are all possible ideas outside the “cave” (now the shadow will cast another jar, two handles) or human consciousness and creativity are fully determined. The danger of a solipsistic approach bordering on cynicism is evident from the story of Stanislav Lem.

Thus, if we take the term “consciousness” in the philosophical sense as an activity of the subject, aimed at knowing the world and ourselves and developing attitudes towards these objects, then Helvetia’s point of view is closest to me, if we take the concept of consciousness in the philosophical and psychological sense as a set of multi-level mental processes that are simultaneously either in a state of activity or passivity, I adhere to the concept of Sigmund Freud, as it is consistent with my empirical observations most close to my worldview.

Conscious and unconscious

Unconscious – either reflex extra-conscious action (instinct, reflex, under hypnosis, in a state of somnambulism), not participating in the subject’s conscious attitude towards reality, or designation of a particular area of ​​the psyche that has concentrated in itself eternal cravings, motives, aspirations, whose meaning is determined by instincts and is inaccessible consciousness. Obviously, to understand the unconscious as a philosophical category, only the second meaning of this term is important to us. Although, it should be noted that throughout the history of the development of philosophical thought, these two meanings merged and interchanged (for example, it is very difficult to draw a line between them in the works of Descartes, Freud, etc.) I clearly recognize the legitimacy of using the term “unconscious” in the meaning of a reflex urge , movements, etc., for this is a well-established practice in psychology and is not directly related to the philosophical problem being analyzed. As for the second meaning of this concept, it was the most controversial issue throughout the history of philosophy. It breaks down into a number of individual problems: the credibility of the theory of “innate truths”, the essence of the “inner voice” (see the quote about the demonism of Socrates), the nature of intuition, the existence of the original idea or the first idea (as allowed in objective idealism), the question of the identity of the unconscious in various individuals.

Adhering to consistently materialistic positions, I never raised the question of the existence of a “primary idea” (in the person of absolute spirit or God) for my worldview. Guided by similar reasons, I rejected the theory of “innate truths”. In fact, for truths to be innate, there must be eternal ideas of these truths – thus, everything again rests on the “original idea”, although on the other hand, I recognize “innate truths” in the form of a priori categories close to Kant’s. Finally, I consider the question of intuition and the “inner voice” to be psychological rather than philosophical, and here I adhere to Freud’s theory that the unconscious (including intuition) is latent (forgotten, repressed) conscious.

Thus, on the basis of the foregoing, I believe that a consistently materialistic solution to the problem of the unconscious is quite possible, as has been repeatedly shown in the history of philosophy.

Consciousness and thinking

Thinking is the process of displaying objective reality, constituting the highest stage of human cognition. Thinking gives knowledge about the essential properties, connections and relations of objective reality, in the process of cognition it makes the transition “from the phenomenon to the essence”. Unlike sensation and perception, i.e. processes of direct sensory reflection, thinking gives an indirect, complexly mediated reflection of reality. Thinking is closely connected with consciousness and the unconscious, and because of this, it crosses the boundaries of directly sensory cognition and allows a person to gain knowledge about such properties, processes, connections that cannot be perceived by his senses.

Thinking is one of the most interesting, most studied and least known problems of psychology and philosophy. In the process of preparing this development, I read “Chrestomathy in Psychology” for the psychological department of Moscow State University and noticed that with a huge number of theories advanced, not one can fully explain the essence of thinking. I am convinced that from a philosophical point of view, thinking is not just a combination of neurophysiological and mental processes, but a kind of ladder of self-awareness. Thinking, in my opinion, is the realization of consciousness, at the same time its beginning and end. In addition, I think Marx’s postulate about social thinking is incorrect. It is purely individual and egocentric, for any process of self-realization cannot be public. Similarly, I suppose the hopelessly outdated theory of associations, which is not applicable in modern conditions due to excessive simplification.

On the issue of the essence of thinking, the closest to me is the somewhat idealistic position of representatives of the so-called Würzburg school (Ah, Külpe, Messer, etc.). Within the framework of the concept of this school, thinking is viewed as a special spiritual ability, expressed in the course of complex internal mental processes that cannot be simply associated with verbal concepts and subject to a determining tendency.

Consciousness and memory

Memory is the ability of an organism to preserve and reproduce information about the external world and its internal state for its further use in the process of life activity. Memory connects the elements of a person’s life experience into one, is one of the most important and necessary prerequisites for the formation of his consciousness and personality. Along with sensations, memory is the second most important component necessary for initiating the process of thinking.

In the entire history of philosophy, there were no serious disagreements on the essence and purpose of memory. Beginning with antiquity, all philosophers unanimously recognized memory as the foundation on which thinking rests, and without which neither a generalization (in the absence of accumulated impressions), nor reasoning would be possible (for it is impossible to build the simplest argument without the presence of postulates or other basic data), or inference. However, in the philosophy of New Time, there was a question about the method of storing information in memory (see comments to the quotations by Diderot, Helvetius and de Condillac in part 1) – do the chronological sequence, ordered by the power of sensation, form the illusion of time or does the time elapsed power of sensation.

It seems to me that the second point of view can be considered the only correct one. In fact, it was not by chance that Immanuel Kant chose time as the first of a priori categories. Indeed, let us take as subject the “statue” of de Condillac. Arguing about her perception, he comes to the most obvious logical contradiction: the statue has no idea about time, but, meanwhile, he says that she sees the difference between the feeling that lasts at the moment and which already was – in what way, without the idea of ​​time, can we distinguish the present from the past? Although it is very difficult for us, educated since childhood with the idea of ​​time as the fourth dimension, to imagine it.

My conclusion: memory based on the chronological ordering of sensations is the basis of thinking, and, consequently, of consciousness, confirmation of which can be found in the writings of many philosophers.

Consciousness and language

Language is a sign system of any physical nature that performs cognitive and communicative functions in the process of human activity. Language is a form of existence and manifestation of thinking and at the same time plays a significant role in the formation of consciousness.

The problem of language appeared relatively recently in philosophy, but researchers have already disagreed about its essence. The first position, formulated by Hegel, is to understand language as an objectified thinking. I hold this point of view. The second position put forward by Marx, and later confirmed by practical achievements of linguistics, linguistic analysis, structuralism, hermeneutics, linguistic philosophy, etc., is as follows: “… language,” writes Marx, is practical, existing for other people and only thus, the actual consciousness existing also for me … ”I prefer to follow the Hegelian view of language as objectified thinking, for this understanding of the language does not contradict the latest psychological and by investigations. This position allows complete independence of thinking from the language, the possibility of “non-word”, “non-categorical” thinking, while understanding the language as a “sign world” with special laws uniquely encloses thinking in the framework of the “world of texts”. Recently I read the work of prof. Bernhardt and E. Stenser “Figurative thinking” says precisely that language is secondary to thinking, and in no way parallel. In fact, psychologists have shown long ago that we can far from express everything in words, but we can understand any word spoken by man.

Thus, I consider unpromising directions, similar to linguistic philosophy, because it is impossible to study the laws of language in isolation from the laws of thinking.

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