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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Awareness and Self-consciousness


Because all consciousness is consciousness of something, it always requires an object (Sartre, 1956). However, although one is conscious of an object and has knowledge of it, consciousness, the object, and the knowledge of the object remain separate and distinct. This is because knowledge is an abstraction and serves to represent the object in a form necessitated by the nature of consciousness for understanding. Moreover, because conscious knowledge is a descriptive representation of something other than consciousness--at least in respect to the verbal aspects of consciousness-- knowledge cannot be identified with consciousness, even knowledge of consciousness.
Awareness, as opposed to consciousness, is non-verbal, bilateral, and pre-reflective and is not always subject to the more abstract forms of understanding that characterize conscious knowledge. Though we are aware of our awareness, once we consciously scrutinize this tacit dimension it becomes transformed and abstracted and all information gained is an indirect verbal representation of that which is without verbal representation. Since awareness is pre-language and pre-verbal thought, and may encompass emotions, sounds, spatial relations, or other variables that are non-verbal, it is thus difficult for the verbal aspects of consciousness to perceive the existence of this dimension without transforming it so that it may be understood consciously. Therefore, though consciousness can posit itself as an object in order to know itself, awareness is pre-objective and cannot be an object for consciousness except in the abstract.
Awareness, then, is distinct from consciousness. Awareness is a non-organization, existing prior to consciousness, thought, language, or other information processes that utilize organized temporal-sequential processes for expression and communication. Awareness as a mental process, is associated with the right hemisphere and limbic system.
Consciousness is defined as being dependent on language, and temporal sequential modes of organization and perception. The verbal aspects of consciousness are linked to the left hemisphere.
Consciousness cannot think about or organize that which is without organization, without organizing and transforming this information so that it may be understood by consciousness. However, once information is altered, it becomes an abstraction and thus becomes something else.
. Hence, awareness always remains non-explicit and cannot be made conscious, except as an abstraction. Hence, when consciousness thinks about itself, the “itself” of which it is conscious is its own organization, an abstraction.
Although such attempts at self-knowledge form the bases of self-consciousness, the “I” that is thought about can never be the “I” that is thinking.
However, consciousness and awareness cannot be posited as a duality. That is because consciousness is also an abstraction, the attempt to organize that which one is aware of, as well as the result of this attempt.
Consciousness is thus always a response, a result or rather the consequence of acting in the world, the developmental endpoint of awareness. Nevertheless, consciousness is distinct from awareness in that consciousness is descriptively representational, relating as either a passive force manipulating representations of the world through thought, or actively transforming reality through organized goal directed behavior. It can be stated that awareness is often represented by consciousness which acts to test and manipulate reality.
Hence, consciousness and awareness are processes of acting and being in the world; acting as an organization of thought and behavior, and being that which it is: aware. Consciousness, through organized actions, symbolically represents that which is without organization, or descriptive representation and therefore appears to be separate from that which has no appearance, i.e., awareness.
However, it seems we have nevertheless created a duality in our distinction between awareness and consciousness. It might be asked, if consciousness is distinct yet the same as awareness, what causes this appearance of separation?
We must place the blame on consciousness, which separates—when attempting to know and think about itself—into both observer and observed. Thus the distinguishing characteristic of consciousness is that it does not coincide with itself (Sartre, 1956). Consciousness points itself as a duality—a reflection which is its own reflecting.
Hence, we have the consciousness that we are, actively representing and reflecting upon the awareness that we are, thereby creating a separation of itself through itself by attempting to witness itself.
Self-consciousness, or consciousness of self, is thus a consciousness of awareness, for self-consciousness appears only when consciousness attempts to reflect upon the self-image. However, consciousness is no more separate from itself than a man is separate from the self he ponders in a mirror. The image is not the man, nor is the reflection of consciousness the consciousness. The “I” is neither image nor reflection, it simply is.
Because consciousness is always relational, it appears separate yet remains identical with itself in that the separation appears to occur when consciousness seeks to be conscious of itself as a consciousness. Nevertheless, consciousness cannot apprehend itself because it is already that which it attempts to apprehend.