Consciousness and the World

By Brian O'Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

2 The Anatomy of Consciousness

I turn from the unanalysable elemental phenomenon of experience to an examination of the closely associated phenomenon that is thought by many to be the most fundamental and important factor in the lives of humans, and indeed of animals generally: namely, consciousness itself. At once a whole set of problems confront us. What we mean when we speak of 'consciousness'. What the character of the phenomenon is, considered both from a general classificatory and from an analytical point of view. And so on. It is with these considerations in mind that I have divided the present chapter into three parts. The first part is devoted to a discussion of the type and general status of consciousness; the second to an examination of the characteristics of consciousness; and the third part consists in an elaboration of the main conclusions of the preceding discussion.


A Type and Status

1 States of Consciousness

(1) Some might take the problem of consciousness to be the elucidation of the nature of the experience. Others might take it to be the elucidation of the category of the mental. My concern here is with something different again. It is with the vastly familiar light that appears in the head when a person surfaces from sleep or anaesthetic or dream. In other words with the state we call 'waking', which I shall mostly refer to as 'consciousness'. Then perhaps the first question to settle about consciousness is, whether it is a variety of a wider kind, or instead a kind all on its own (rather as livingness is). Then the natural presumption is, that it is a variety of the kind, state of consciousness. Whether or not this is so, depends upon the reality of 'states of consciousness'. This I shall try to demonstrate.

Might consciousness be to the animal what life is? That is, of the essence? It may not. The evident existence of events that are losses or regainings of consciousness demonstrates that consciousness cannot be necessarily coextensive with vitality (and thus with sheer existence or being) in animals. Something can be a living animal and not conscious. This entails that an animal can be in one or other of the two conditions, conscious or not-conscious; and that might look like the contrast

-68-

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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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