What gives us consciousness?
Consciousness is a symptom of spirit not matter. Nothing gives us consciousness, we are inherently conscious because we are inherently spiritual.
There are two broad categories of energy in this universe. Spiritual and material.
Spiritual energy has the characteristics of life, consciousness, knowledge, happiness and eternity, but when it combines with matter, these qualities are subordinated or covered by the material body. The conscious, living spark of energy is situated in the region of the heart and identifies with the body and can only experience the world through the senses of the body in accordance with the body and its development.
The true nature of spirit lies covered, but it is expressed through the body in which it is placed in the desire to stay alive, the desire for knowledge and the desire for happiness.
In this world everywhere you see anything that is alive, it is the combination of spirit and matter. Matter is always dead and spirit is always alive, but when they combine the spiritual energy that is conscious identifies with the material body that is dead but seems to be alive because of its contact with spirit. Metal is electrified when it is in contact with a source of electricity not electrifies when it is disconnected If a part of the body is separated from the spirit it will revert to dead matter, but when it is connected it appears to be alive, (electrified) because consciousness permeates the body from the spiritual spark or soul that is situated in the region of the heart.
By identifying with the body, we think we will die, we think happiness will come through the mind and senses, and we think we should acquire knowledge about matter.
All consciousness is essentially equal, but when it is in a material body it is limited by that body. The consciousness in animals, insects, fish, plants, reptiles etc can only experience the world via the body that they have, so they do not cross any boundaries that are set by their body.
Humans don't have these restrictions so rigidly enforced. A human has more capacity to choose their actions, and the capacity to wonder about things that are deeper than just matter. This is why humans understand the concepts of good and bad, because the human's consciousness is less covered than the animals. Sometimes it is said that the human consciousness is more evolved than the animals. This is not exactly correct. The situation is that some bodies allow more of the pure consciousness to manifest than others. This is why mammals can interact and reciprocate more with humans than insects or reptiles can, because these bodies allow more consciousness to be exhibited.
A light can be covered with films of coloured plastic and will lose it's brightness and original white colour. By removing those coverings the light will shine brighter and exhibit less colour. When all the coverings are removed the light will be in its original intensity. The consciousness is similarly covered by different layers of ignorance, passion and goodness so there are a multitude of different types of consciousness observable in different bodies.
The spiritual energy constructs a body around it through the manipulation of matter and the different codes of DNA. Then as the body matures the consciousness becomes manifest through the body. If the body is damaged the consciousness will not be manifest nicely because it depends on the body, it cannot think and act separately from the mechanisms in the body. If the brain is damaged the consciousness will be limited according to the extent of the damage.
The consciousness can leave the gross body but still be attached via the subtle body and can reenter it again, but once the soul severs all connection with the gross body it cannot reenter it again except by certain mystic processes that aren't practiced any more.
As you can see, there is little consensus. Many still insist on some "spiritual" aspect to consciousness; a "soul" or some other kind of metaphysical concept.
I'm a materialist through and through. I accept the findings of modern neuroscience. Consciousness is the product of the electrochemical activity of the brain. An "Emergent Property" of the most-complex and most-interconnected brains of any organism on Earth.
We see increasing signs of consciousness in the animal kingdom as brains become larger and more convoluted and more interconnected.
So that rats are brighter than lizards, and dogs brighter than cats, and primates brighter than dogs, and so forth. The brightest critters aside from ourselves are the chimps, who are about as intelligent as a three-year-old human child.
The evidence that the brain, all by itself, is responsible for consciousness is compelling. The insertion of some sort of "other" influence simply "adds undue complexity" and doesn't explain anything anyway, as no one can describe or model how such a thing as a "soul" could exist or function.
All you get is airy-fairy handwaves along the lines of "Well, it's spiritual !" Which says exactly nothing.
Damage X portion of the brain, by trauma or disease, and consciousness is diminished in a predictable way. This motor function is lost, or this memory, or this ability to perceive.
Take psychoactive drugs and predictable effects occur on consciousness. Open the skull and stimulate the brain "here" with an electrode and a particular movement is elicited. Poke that electrode "there" and a particular memory is recalled, reliably.
Reduce the blood sugar level slightly and the person acts as if they are drunk. Reduce it a bit more and the person becomes unresponsive and even unconscious. The brain is starving.
And so on. Tampering with the brain, either physically or chemically produces reliable and usually predictable effects. Why would this happen if "something else" was responsible?
Again, adding "undue complexity". The simple principal described as "Occam's Razor" suffices here; consciousness is the product of the brain, and the brain alone.
We'll need to look into the nature of consciousness first.
We can start with the two following hypotheses:
- There is a world holding minds, holding consciousness, and these parts give rise to appearances of the world and mind, which are perceived by the consciousness.
- There is consciousness and appearances show up in it and are perceived. (Through a dream / simulation / projection of consciousness. Whatever floats your boat.)
Any scientist who wants to apply Occam's razor? Any logicians feel the itch to apply P(A&B) ≤ P(A), P(B)? Any statisticians want to contemplate Boltzmann brains vs the external reality hypothesis vs consciousness as the primary entity?
It should be apparent that hypothesis 2 is an easy pick. It makes less assumptions while accounting for everything experienced, since everything is indeed something that shows up as an appearance in consciousness.
Great, so there's probably no world out there, only consciousness! We are not given consciousness. Consciousness is. You and me just appear in it. Ultimately, we are consciousness, just like the characters in a book written by the author are the author in some sense. That doesn't mean much if we don't take the effort to try to see for ourselves though.
Consciousness and the human brain go together and end their journey together. Consciousness is the product of the working of the human brain. ‘ .. with no brain, there is no consciousness. In fact, this is so strikingly obvious that it is astonishing that anyone can really doubt it. The data of neurology show that all the diverse experiences which we associate with consciousness correlate with particular patterns of brain activity.'(Julian Baggini, the naturalist philosopher). There is thus nothing supernatural about consciousness.
In the universe, you might notice that some things can be classified as alive and somethings not.
We now understand that life is about matter doing a bunch of things which are required for this "being alive" classification.
Similarly, many living things show signs of awareness. That is they do stuff with senses and information which allows them to make purposeful decisions based on their context.
I think it is reasonable to describe consciousness as awareness, but from the first person perspective. It's the ongoing experience of being aware.
What gives us that ability is a mix of information from the sense and inference acting on that information. Another name for that process of inference is computation.