Consciousness and the World

By Brian O'Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

1 The Experience

'And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars'

Dylan Thomas

'For time is inches
And the heart's changes
Where ghost has haunted
Lost and wanted'

W. H. Auden

The entry point into consciousness is the experience. That is to say, what is before your mind right now, the most familiar thing in the world: perceptions, thoughts, emotions, images, etc. They are all members of the one tribe. And they continue in a continuous unbroken 'stream' as long as consciousness endures (and beyond). If there is an especial mystery in consciousness, there is as much and probably the identical mystery in the experience, if there is cause for ontological wonder at the one, there is at the other. All that sets the head spinning when one thinks of the emergence of consciousness, somewhere aeons ago in the remote past of this planet, seems to be gathered up in the experience. An eye opened upon the World: here we have a familiar and natural image for this momentous occurrence. It can be no coincidence that the image takes the form of an experience.

And it is not as if these phenomena are things set apart: consciousness, and experience. The very word 'conscious' gets pressed into use when we record either. 'The patient is now conscious', 'He was conscious of a sudden impulse to laugh', 'He was conscious of a faint noise': we are not dealing with gross or accidental ambiguities in these cases, these are not mere verbal similarities. The phenomenon of awareness lies at the centre of them all. Just what relation exists between these several 'awarenesses' or 'consciousnesses', I shall not for the moment consider, but plainly it is a relation of some intimacy. For one thing, 'consciousness' in the sense of waking, which is a phenomenon that is directed to no object, entails the occurrence of 'experiential consciousness': one cannot be awake without having experiences, consciousness encompasses no hiatuses or blackouts. It is possible for one

-37-

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Consciousness and the World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Consciousness and the World iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I Consciousness 35
  • 1: The Experience 37
  • 2: The Anatomy of Consciousness 68
  • 3: Self-Consciousness and Self-Knowledge 102
  • 4: 'Translucence' 164
  • 5: Consciousness and the Mental Will 200
  • 6: Interiority and Thinking 233
  • Part II the Attention and Perception 265
  • 7: The Attention 275
  • 8: The Attention and Perception (1) 291
  • 9: The Attention and Perception (2) 302
  • 10: Perception and Truth 318
  • 11: The Imagination (1) 339
  • 12: The Imagination (2) 362
  • 13: Imagination and Perception 371
  • 14: Active Attending or a Theory of Mental Action 379
  • Part III Seeing 407
  • 15: 'Blindsight' and the Essence of Seeing 415
  • 16: Seeing the Light 439
  • 17: Sense-Data (1) or the Ways of the Attention 465
  • 18: Sense-Data (2) 502
  • 19: Secondary Qualities 515
  • 20: The 'Perceptual Given' and 'Perceptual Mediators' or the Formation of the Visual Experience 538
  • 21: Appearances 570
  • 22: Perceptually Constituting the Material Object 592
  • Part IV Perception and the Body 621
  • 23: Proprioception and the Body Image 628
  • 24: The Sense of Touch 656
  • Conclusion 681
  • Index 697
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