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University of Toronto Scarborough
Steve Joordens

Roshan Singh 120807 Mr. Joordens PSYA01H3 Chapter 9 Notes Historically, people have taken 3 philosophical positions about the nature of consciousness: Consciousness is not a natural phenomenon. (Natural phenomena are those subject to the laws of nature that all scientists attempt to discover: laws purely involving matter and purely physical forces.) It is supernatural and cannot be understood by the human mind. Consciousness is a natural phenomenon but also that, for various reasons, we cannot understand it. So, consciousness exists because of the nature of the human brain, but just how this occurs is unknown. People are indeed conscious; that this consciousness is produced by the activity of the human brain and that there is every reason for us to be optimistic about ability to understand this phenomenon. Donald Hebb supported the 3 position and stated that, consciousness, a variable state, is a present activity of thought processes in some form; and thought itself is an activity of the brain. He rejected the notion that concepts like consciousness were nothing but neural impulses. To understand consciousness, we must not mix it up with processes such as perceiving, remembering or thinking. Consciousness is the awareness of these processes, not the processes themselves. In other words, it is a characteristic that exists in addition to functions such as perception, memory, thinking and planning. The word consciousness is a noun, but it does not refer to a thing as life is a noun as well but you dont see scientist looking around for life. Instead, they study characteristics of living organisms. Similarly, consciousness doesnt exist. Instead, humans have the ability to be conscious. Consciousness is a private experience, which cannot be shared directly. We experience our own consciousness but not of others. Consciousness is primarily a social phenomenon. (author of book opinion) Verbal communication allows us to express our needs, thoughts, perceptions, memories, intentions, and feelings to other people. All of these accomplishments require 2 general capacities: We must be able to translate private events (needs, thoughts, and other processes) into symbolic expressions. Our words (or other symbols) must have an effect on the person listening. We can make plan in words, think about the consequences of these plans in words, and use words to produce behaviours all without actually saying the words. We think them. The brain mechanisms that permit us to understand words and produce speech are the same ones we use to think in words. The ability to communicate with ourselves symbolically gives rise to our consciousness. We are conscious of those private events we can talk about, to ourselves or to other people our perceptions, needs, intentions, memories and feelings.
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