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Posted by Paul R. Martin on January 7, 2004 21:46:23 UTC

Hi William,

"Can you not see the forest because of all the trees?"

I'm not sure what you are implying here, William. You seem to be suggesting that either we disagree on something, or that I have overlooked something obvious. After reading your post a few times it doesn't seem to me that we disagree at all. And, if I have overlooked something, you haven't clearly pointed it out because I missed it. If that's the case, maybe you could spell it out more directly.

If you think we disagree on something, you probably think I would answer some of your many rhetorical questions differently than you would. In order to clear this up, assuming that is the problem, I'll answer each of your questions and from that, you may see that we are in pretty close agreement after all. If not, you will be in a better position to point out to me what I am missing.

"Live organisms? as compared to dead organisms?"

Here I think you are referring to Wanda's statement: "My start on these questions [about consciousness] is to claim that consciousness is the experience of information by which a live organism relates to the outside world."

I dropped the adjective 'live' when I proposed the alternative statement, "My start on these questions is to claim that consciousness is the experience of information by which organisms know things.", because in my view, dead organisms are not conscious and so the adjective is redundant.

So to answer what I think you are asking in your questions, yes, live organsims are conscious and, no, dead organisms are not conscious.

"What about crystals? "

I'd say crystals are not conscious.

"What about plants and and microbs?"

I don't have a strong opinion but I wouldn't rule the possibility out.

"Many organisms process knowlege through instinct ( sunlight, drought, nutrients) and adapt accordingly. But is this conciouness?"


"Am I concious when I react by reflex to a wind blown speck of dirt in my eye?"

Yes. You are not consciously aware of the speck for the first millisecond or so even though your body might have reacted, but you soon do become consciously aware if the speck causes pain.

"Dogs, cats, fish, man, have thoughts, but to what degree?"

I don't know. It seems likely to me that they all have thoughts in varying degrees.

"How do we mesure the conciouness of a fish or dog? or cabbage?"

Good question. I don't even know how we might measure the consciousness of a human.

"Awareness and conciouness are not the same thing."

I'm not sure what you are getting at here. If you are saying that you make a distinction between the two, I think that's fine. I think it is important to be as specific as we can be on what we mean by words such as these. But we have to be careful; one poster (I think it was on this forum) was adamant that the only aspect of consciousness he felt was important was awareness.

"Knowlege that is known, or information that informs?"

Again, I don't know what you are getting at. Are you proposing that consiousness involves knowledge and awareness involves information? If so, then you and I think pretty much alike on this question. In my view, as I quoted myself saying above, "consciousness is the experience of information by which organisms know things." And, as I mentioned in my first response to you, I consider there to be two types of information: Upward information which becomes known to consciousness, and downward information which informs non-conscious entities.

"A plant is informed when the sun shines, and this is information, but is it knowlege?"

I don't have a strong opinion but I wouldn't rule the possibility out.

"Is the plant concious of what is going on around and within it or is it reaction by genetic “programing”?"

I don't have a strong opinion but I wouldn't rule the possibility of consciousness out.

"In formation, is not that when all the soldiers are lined up the way they are told?"

Yes. (Good one. I missed the pun for a while and just thought it was a typo.)

"who does the telling? "

The sergeant.

"Language is all important. whether mathmatics, or sign, or written or spoken word.
What are the definitions?"

In general, the definitions are whatever are agreed upon by the community. If you are asking for specific definitions in this discussion, they haven't been spelled out yet. Rather than start by proposing a set of definitions, I think we can cordially begin without them and when we detect that we may not connote certain words the same way, we can stop and resolve each case as it comes up.

"I think we need to agree to assume some given points: Knowlege is that which the concious can understand>
It is not a stimuli that an organism responds to by reflexive instinct."

I agree completely.

Warm regards,


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