Philosophers, going back to Aristotle and Plato, have all contemplated deeply on just what constitutes ‘consciousness’. They came to no satisfactory answer. Even now, in the 21st century, we are no further on in our search for the answer to this most intriguing question.
Yet, we think that we may have answered the question, to the best of our understanding, about the state of consciousness. Our understanding being that consciousness is being ‘aware’ of our own existence. Now, we cannot possibly know whether or not any other life form on the planet is intelligent enough to KNOW that they exist. And we will never truly know the answer to that question.
Suffice to say that it is we, human beings, that consciousness forms in such a way that we become self-aware of our own existence. Our understanding about our state of consciousness means exactly what has been mentioned. The self-awareness issue is something that has dogged philosophers for centuries. This is because it directly confronts the issues we have with self-awareness within other life forms – and not just mankind.
To understand consciousness means that we also have to understand about self-awareness. The two go hand-in-hand and cannot be separated. For if we try to separate them, then where does consciousness begin? Understanding the state of consciousness means that we must have an understanding about our own existence.
This is the beginning to understanding consciousness. Everything else after that just throws up more questions than answers. And the question of understanding consciousness can really be likened to the chicken and the egg scenario. What came first, the chicken…or the egg?
So, what came first, our self-awareness in the womb – or our consciousness? To understand the state of consciousness means that we are never truly conscious until we become, aware of our own surroundings and our own existence. It seems – so far – that only we human beings have this capability of understanding this. However, it is interesting to note that chimpanzees, when faced with their own reflections, recognise themselves within the mirror. They are the only animals, thus far, to be able to do this using some form of understanding about their own existence.
Understanding consciousness is the ability to realise that we are ‘aware’of ourselves? Yes, there are different forms of consciousness, but can a thing be conscious enough to realize their surroundings, or their own existence? Does this self-awareness happen before birth, in the womb?
Understanding consciousness and being aware of ourselves goes hand-in-hand. Yet a jellyfish is conscious, but is the animal aware of itself? A flea is conscious but is it aware of its own existence? How can we, as human beings possibly tell? A flea does what it does, as does a jellyfish – but again, do they realize they exist?
This is what is meant by different forms of consciousness. We, on the other hand, are not only conscious – on another level completely to the flea and jellyfish in terms of consciousness – but we realise that we are alive as well. The debate to understanding consciousness has gone on for centuries
It will, no doubt, continue to rage as the years pass by. Until we have some form of technology that can know, if another life form is fully aware of its surroundings and its own existence, then we will never be able to fully understand the concept – and the state of consciousness as much as we would like too.