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What is the nature of consciousness? Is consciousness merely a by-product of the physical brain?

Consciousness is perhaps the greatest mystery ever to be presented to mankind. My question is: What is the nature of consciousness? How can the materialistic world view of mankind explain the phenomenon of consciousness. By its nature, which is of a totally immaterial and invisible, with its inner activity of thinking, also a totally invisible activity, which the whole of the scientific world view rests upon..."Thinking". What is thinking if not a non-physical super-sensible invisible, immaterial reality. For the scientific world view to understand itself, it must examine the nature of thinking. And in doing so, the "religious" world view will be able to find something to hang onto.Science and religion can meet on this question. Because it is here where they both fall short. Science cannot explain consciousness out of the materialistic world view. Religion cannot explain evolutionary principles in nature without adapting the scientific world view. The two are locked in an unending battle. Can it be that thinking is,in fact, the "spiritual activity of man"

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    Mar 10 2011: Below was a thread that was getting kind of long, but touching on an interesting concept that Daniel has raised. I don't really know the answer to this question, but it would be really interesting if everyone could offer their description (the more the merrier):

    What is spirit?
    • Mar 11 2011: OK Tim, fine with a new thread. I would like to see a better system here on TED but I don't know what that is... Maybe we could get one of these observers to help out.. The threads get so long and then one looses the original question or idea... it all just spins around on lots of different ideas.
      But this is good. We can take it from here. I'm on my way to work right now so no time to write. Its 8.30 am for me. What time is it there? Next new thread ... What is time?... what is space? Infinity? Eternity? Its a complicated world we live in... thats for sure !! Catch you later
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        Mar 11 2011: Daniel: When I first read your description of the lion in reference to spirit I thought, man, are our definitions different. But the more times I read it, the more I think we are really thinking the same, just describing it differently. I mentioned how I thought of the spirit as ying/yang, the whole which is more than the sum of the parts. And you described how a lion is not known by the description of a bunch of facts, but in it's totality. Aren't we really on the same track?
        • Mar 11 2011: I don't think we are on the same track yet.... As I understand the Yin/Yang principle, they are polarities right? I know very little about this ancient philosophy from China. But the polarity of light and dark, matter and spirit, white and black, opposites seem to be the creative processes in the whole. This doesn't sound to strange to my way of seeing things... but then the yin force would be material and the yang force the spirit... I'm not so sure about what your getting at. The sum of the parts isn't "more" than the whole,but is the complete whole, visible and invisible... What I started on earlier about the nature of thinking, the "subject---object" relation. This is the key to the "whole being of the lion" the object.... and the "whole being of the subject" the observer. But I really don't want to go into that because it will lead so far away from the original question of consciousness / by-product / spirit.
          If we were on the same track, I guess you would now be excepting my proposition that the spirit actually exists... as the polarity of yin/yang ... matter/spirit could be something within the range of your world view. The word "spirit" is, as you say, very difficult to define with physical words. .. but as I have tried to present my way of understanding the word spirit, do you feel that you have come any closer to an understanding of how I see it and do you eventually agree with it... I have yet to really say that I have this impression...
          I am trying to present the consciousness/spirit as a living active principle that is working in and through everything that is material. If you don't see the other half of the whole, if you just see the material side of the yin/yang, then we are far from seeing things the same....
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        Mar 12 2011: Daniel: Perphaps I'm misapplying the concept or yin/yang (excuse my previous mis-spelling), in that it refers specifically to polar opposites, although the concept of the whole being greater then the sum of the parts is applicable. Let's explore another term - quintessence (the "fifth" essence). The etymology of this term comes from the medieval concept of the four essences - earth, air, water, fire. The philosophers found that lacking and proclaimed that there must be a fifth essence - the quintessence.

        This is another example of how whenever we attempt to dissect reality into distinct parts, something will be missing. Hence the need for the term "spirit".
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      Mar 11 2011: in my view spirit is action that we do, the way it affects and how it is accepted by other beings. The trace that changes surroundings, and the mark that keeps influencing others even after our death.
      In words "spirit" is also a fast way to explain children how to behave.

      Or is it "soul"? have to work on my english very hard.
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        Mar 12 2011: Hi George - What did you mean by - "soul" XD?

        And your reference to children. Did you mean this is a way to get children to accept responsibility for their actions, or did you mean that children act spontaneously?

        You have interesting ideas, just trying to understand.
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          Mar 12 2011: Sorry for language issues again.
          I used Spirit as synonym to Soul, and didn't know if this is allowed in english, after definition check it seems ok. Also removed "XD" smile emoticon.

          Words "soul" and "spirit" is an easy way to explain kids responsibility, as mentioned, and bring life value and purpose.
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        Mar 12 2011: George,
        I wish I could speak/write Ukrainian as well as you do English!

        I could easily interchange the words energy, spirit, soul, consciousness most of the time:>)
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        Mar 11 2011: Very thought provoking Birdia. So, if spirit is the propeller, is the will really free?
      • Mar 11 2011: Mark,

        Will is the least free ........asleep

        Feelings are more free than the will.........dreaming

        Thinking is most free.......awake
      • Mar 11 2011: Hi Birdia and welcome to the discussion!

        The will to action ...begins with an idea. It must begin here. In the thinking. Then, it passes through the feelings...the question arises "Do I like this action", my sympathy and antipathy come into the decision here, will it bring me pleasure or can it result in pain... finally...at the end of the process, it comes to the will and the action is either put out into the world or it is not, depending on the conclusion of what your head (thinking) and your heart(feeling)come to.
        The head or the thinking element of man might be looked at as the opposite of the will side of man which one might say is the limbs,.... arms and legs.. The heart, the feeling realm is the middle part, the part where you feel...you feel love for the deed. This is the real freedom. Doing what you love to do.... To take action out of a religious conviction, a sense of duty, your mother or father telling you how to live, to take any form of action without the action being fully yours, then the action is less free or even can be very unfree.
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      • Mar 11 2011: .....Reverse ....?

        We have sympathy... propel forward ....I like the dog... I go and pet it.
        We have antipathy....propel backward....I don't like dogs... I go away..
        We have negetive sympathy...I propel forward... I kick the dog.
        Or we have apathy towards the dog and don't bother with it at all.

        One can work "consciously" on ones attitude towards dogs.... Imagine ... my wife loves dogs and I hate dogs, in three weeks my wife is buying a dog.. I will now try to learn to like dogs..
        If I succeed in liking dogs.. than my idea "I will learn to like dogs" passes over time.. and an inner energy through the dislike and perhaps a person can learn to like dogs. If his or her dislikes are over ridden or outnumbered by the possible likes.. The consciousness can penetrate the will to win freedom over it, but without an active inner force to overcome the negative and turn it into a positive, then the will has not been "worked on" by the consciousness. It is unfree, controlled by fears perhaps... dogs bite, or dogs are dirty.. . or my mother always hated dogs...
      • Mar 11 2011: That was a quick response!
        Well, I don't really know if your question is serious or not....
        A flower cannot have a will in the form of a conscious will as we are talking about.
        An animal can't have a free will either. An animal is driven by its desires.
        Man/woman can take control of their desires if the really want to..... stop smoking for example...
      • Mar 11 2011: I must admit that I'm not so familiar with the TAO way of thinking... but I see the human being as being a three part individuality...

        1)Thinking, 2)feeling and 3)willing. Man/woman is the only being of the four planes of existence (the four elements) that can really have a free will.
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        Mar 12 2011: Bidia: In response to your question:

        "Based on that order, we can establish that a 'will' can be in either state, and therefore 'free'?

        In other words free to switch states without outside influence? Are we back to quantum theory? Einstein thought that "god does not play dice". Others disagreed. I'm confused.
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        Mar 12 2011: Birdia: "a cyclical reality as in the cause and the effect being interchangeable"

        Now that is something I can handle. Two perspectives of reality (caused and causer) that more fully describe the whole. Is that what you're getting at?

        Physics is full of dualities which parallel this discussion beautifully. The wave/particle, determinism/probablity, ... It keeps coming back to the mind's inability to grasp the totality. So we utilize metaphors from the world of our senses to try to comprehend it better.

        btw - when I said "I'm confused", I meant by the whole debate between Einstein and the other camp. It is a confusing topic.
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        Mar 14 2011: Birdia

        "Maybe consciousness is both the past and present, around and inside us, rather than "just a by-product of our physical brain..."? What do you think?"

        "I'm curious, what's Heidegger's ideas on "Being-in-the-world"?"

        It's amazing (though perhaps in retrospect, understandable) how much the conversations on religion, free will and consciousness have become intertwined. My response (don't want to call it an answer, that's too conclusive) to two of your questions follows.

        I'm far from being an expert on Heidegger, but perhaps an anecdote will shed some light on the topic(s). In preparation to reading "Being and Time" I listened to a podcast of a course by the professor Hubert Dreyfus, who is often referred to as the world's foremost authority on Heidegger. He related the story of how, when he was teaching at MIT there was an ongoing debate over how soon AI (Artificial Intelligence) would match human thinking. His response was that Heidegger's theories showed that it wouldn't happen. I believe his argument was basically that Dasein, as a Being-in-the-world, had such an intimate connectedness to the world, is intertwined in the world, is part of the world, that a discrete thinking machine would not come close to duplicating it.

        So, I think you are making a good point about "consciousness is both the past and present, around and inside us".

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