Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mind, Consciousness and Self-awareness

If you are reading this you have a mind. But a consensus has yet to emerge regarding what exactly a mind is. We tend to define the mind in terms of things like consciousness and self-awareness though there is little agreement as to what those phenomena are either. I maintain that in the simplest sense your mind is the convergence of your self-awareness and consciousness. Self-awareness is your perception of what you are and your consciousness is your perception of what you are not.

To be conscious an entity must also be self-aware. For example, the computer monitor displaying these words is not conscious of them because it has no sense of itself in the context containing them. In other words, there is no intrinsic component of the monitor can be interpreted by the monitor as representing the monitor displaying the words. By contrast, you are conscious of these words because in addition to interacting with them, you are also aware of yourself interacting with them. This is because there is an intrinsic component of you that is interpreted by you as you reading these words.

Self-awareness is the component of your mind that interprets the relationship between the entity reading these words and the being recognizing itself as that entity as a connection. As such, you are both the subject and object of your self-awareness. Consciousness is the component of your mind that interprets the relationship between the object of your self-awareness and these words (and everything else that you are interacting with in some manner) as a separation.

Elsewhere I have defined time as the separation between instances of the same being (e.g., the person who started reading this parenthetical and the person who is now finishing it) and space as the separation between instances of different beings (e.g., the opening and closing parentheses surrounding this example). In this context, self-awareness spans time while consciousness spans space.

Consciousness represents the boundary of our self-awareness in that it essentially delineates what we are not. Since we are shaped by what we are not, for many of us consciousness is the primary vehicle by which we can understand what we are.

In general the mind is a self-aware phenomenon that is self-limited by its consciousness, through which it acquires knowledge of the world around it. In this sense it is evident that though consciousness seems to be ignited in the brain it is not necessarily limited to it anymore than the illumination produced by a neon light is limited to the bulb.

Self-awareness is essentially our capacity to see ourselves in beings that influence us (typically our predecessor instances). The more self-aware we are the less of a separation we will perceive from others. Complete self-awareness would allow us to see ourselves as being connected to everything, thus invalidating the concept of "other".

Since consciousness is what limits our self-awareness, the less of it we have the more complete our self-awareness will be. Our consciousness keeps our self-awareness from being complete by allowing us to perceive certain entities that shape us as being distinct from us. In other words, our consciousness is the basis of our uniqueness. As a result, one of our primary goals as conscious beings is to transcend our consciousness and become completely self-aware minds that can see ourselves in everything and everything in us.
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