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High School Student,

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What exactly is or defines the self-aware, subjective, and phenomenal experience we call consciousness?

I am a senior in high school and and doing a 100-hour research project on consciousness. I am currently reading the book Self Comes to Mind by Antonio Damasio, but have yet to find clear answers as to something i can label as consciousness. Maybe the problem is that i am trying to label something that inherently cannot be defined or something that is greater than any definition seeing as any form of language or any concept of defining an object results from what we know to be consciousness. I know that Buddhism and Hinduism touch upon the concept of non-self and many-sidedness, and in a sense get at the concept of consciousness but in the physics realm, consciousness becomes something entirely new under the pretexts of general relativity and quantum mechanics. I'm not sure whether these ideas are applicable to the conscious experience in which they were created but maybe they point to some greater truths about what our self-awareness truly is. In my search for discovering consciousness, i have found that it very much overlaps with the idea of 'free will' and 'existential relative liberties,' however, i dont know if these are the same as consciousness or just a product of it. I have also come across the idea of the 'soul,' if it exists, what realm or dimension does it exist in and when or how is it formed? I suppose religion and philosophy try to answer these questions but i am unsure whether or not modern neuroscience will ever be able to get at a concrete answer. Maybe my original question is unanswerable and will only lead to dead ends, but i am curious to see what these dead ends will be. I would greatly appreciate any input on the topic! Thanks!


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    Mar 1 2012: The world you experience you could see as the mirror of consciousness.
    From this you can't extract something out of the mirror to see yourself.
    A definition of consciousness will be senseless unless you take the word in the way it is often used which is the ability to discern yourself from the experience as a distinct being, having the experience.
    • Mar 1 2012: so then we never true experience a fullness of consciousness, just the reflection? i cannot help but wonder if true consciousness even exists or if it is just some form of enlightenment?
      the idea of reflection reminds me of the line from Hamlet, "to hold as twere the mirror up to nature," in that we are all just a mirror with microscopic imperfections, trying to absorb and make sense of what nature is reflecting to us...it just seems strange to think that under these circumstances we can only exist relative to others.
      it is also strange that the reflection of the experience would produce something (consciousness) that is detached from the experience and able to subjectively interpret the experience
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        Mar 2 2012: I don't think there's something like a subject or object.
        Consciousness is both the experience and that what has the experience.

        You see yourself in the limited focus that is highlighted through the code our senses put through.
        Senses act like a filter that relay some patterns from what we call reality. Our acting on this changes that reality.

        Consciousness is all there is (universe) and nothing is outside this. Within life we are indeed actors on a stage absorbed in our roles oblivious of the actor we are off stage as we are beyond life. We all are manifestations of one being each expressing its own typical characteristics.
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          . . 100+

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          Mar 2 2012: "Consciousness is all there is (universe) and nothing is outside this. Within life we are indeed actors on a stage absorbed in our roles oblivious of the actor we are off stage as we are beyond life. We all are manifestations of one being each expressing its own typical characteristics."........every where and all the time at the same time...beautifully said!!
        • Mar 6 2012: I do agree, this was quite wonderfully stated.
          Frans, what do you believe we are as actors offstage? or does the fact that this stage is always present inhibit us from defining ourselves without it? This also makes me wonder whether or not there is every a true self, or even a soul, or if it only comes into existence because of its relative position. I suppose that if there was no idea of a soul or of the self then it would reaffirm your belief that we are all of one. I can't wonder if i am this 'one being' and my existence allows me to obtain consciousness and perceive the world or if its the 'one being' that i am a manifestation of that allows me to identify myself. I feel like i'm having trouble articulating what i want to say but i hope you can understand what i am trying to get at.
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        Mar 7 2012: As a response Tyler I would suggest you as a help to separate "being" itself from being something, being this or that. The notion of to be is universal while we experience this as a relative state from a point within time/space.
        The soul could be compared to a blank mirror with no reflection until somebody starts to reflecting on it. A world of appearances evolves within the watcher distinguishes a body to identify with.
        Outside life concentrated to that one soul we form the seed to evolve from in ever more life’s.

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