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William O

Axioms of Consciousness

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Let's define an axiom as a self evidently true proposition that serves as the foundation of all other knowledge.

I've noticed that there are a lot of axioms pertaining to consciousness:

  1. Consciousness (trivially)
  2. Perception
  3. Free will
  4. Intentionality
  5. Introspection
  6. Understanding
  7. Concept
  8. Belief
  9. Memory
  10. Thought
  11. Reason

That's eleven. It is self evident that each of these exists, and the denial that any one of them exists is self refuting (I assume the latter is obvious with a little reflection, but I can prove it if necessary).

Also, each of 1-4 (consciousness, perception, free will, and intentionality) is "convertible" with the concept of consciousness. If you have any of 1-4, then you have consciousness; and if you have consciousness, then you have all of 1-4. Maybe one of you can argue that some of 5-11 are convertible with the concept of consciousness too, although I can't.

I found this interesting, so I thought I'd share it. If you can refute me or add something to what I've said then I'd appreciate it.

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2 hours ago, William O said:

Also, each of 1-4 (consciousness, perception, free will, and intentionality) is "convertible" with the concept of consciousness. If you have any of 1-4, then you have consciousness; and if you have consciousness, then you have all of 1-4. Maybe one of you can argue that some of 5-11 are convertible with the concept of consciousness too, although I can't.

I would just say, not all consciousness has to be the same kind of consciousness. I don't think your grouping of free will in with the "convertible" group works. If free will is the same as consciousness, then wouldn't animals have the same type of will as humans? I don't think they do. Surely a cockroach and a human have different levels of consciousness. The "free" in free will is supposed to be contrasted with impediments or determination in some way, which is already at a different level of discussion. The word volition based on the Latin voluntas seems a better fit, for the idea of the principal of motion originating from within the sensory mechanism.

Secondly I would add something like pain and pleasure for consideration. Is pain axiomatic? Or desire or inclination? Are the consciousnesses without these? Or maybe they belong in the second grouping? 

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On a tangential point, your list of 11 is a list of eleven nouns / concepts, and not propositions. I presume you have in mind some relationship between the list of words and 11 propositions, but I don't know what proposition "intentionality" represents, so I don't understand how it is different from "free will".

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17 hours ago, 2046 said:

I would just say, not all consciousness has to be the same kind of consciousness.

Right, that did cross my mind when I wrote the OP.

One thing that I would like to be able to say here is that there's a concept of "consciousness on the human level" which is convertible with some of 1-11. For example, we might think that "reason" is convertible with "consciousness on the human level." I didn't say that because "consciousness on the human level" sounds more like a cross-classification than an actual distinct concept.

Like, what's the difference between that and just substituting any conscious organism for X in "consciousness on the X level?" Why say "the human level" and not just state that humans have concepts, propositional thought, reason, and all of the other components of human consciousness?

Aristotle's concept of the rational soul might be of use here.

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I don't think your grouping of free will in with the "convertible" group works. If free will is the same as consciousness, then wouldn't animals have the same type of will as humans? I don't think they do. Surely a cockroach and a human have different levels of consciousness.

I'm influenced by Binswanger there. Consciousness is metaphysically active. If an entity is just pulled along by external forces, and has no capacity to initiate its own thought or action, it is not conscious. This is why I don't think computers are conscious. So I'd say either cockroaches aren't conscious (in other words, they are little robots), or they have some limited capacity to make free choices.

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The "free" in free will is supposed to be contrasted with impediments or determination in some way, which is already at a different level of discussion. The word volition based on the Latin voluntas seems a better fit, for the idea of the principal of motion originating from within the sensory mechanism.

What's the distinction you're drawing between free will and volition? I've always used those terms as synonyms.

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Secondly I would add something like pain and pleasure for consideration. Is pain axiomatic? Or desire or inclination? Are the consciousnesses without these? Or maybe they belong in the second grouping? 

This is interesting. I think the concept of a goal (or desire or inclination) has to be related to the concept of reason, because reason is goal directed. So I think those concepts are likely axiomatic as well. I can't personally make that case for pain or pleasure.

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6 hours ago, DavidOdden said:

On a tangential point, your list of 11 is a list of eleven nouns / concepts, and not propositions. I presume you have in mind some relationship between the list of words and 11 propositions

You're right, I listed axiomatic concepts rather than axioms as I defined the term.

The axiomatic propositions (what I called axioms in the OP) would be:

  1. I am conscious.
  2. I can perceive the world.
  3. I have free will.
  4. My concepts, beliefs, and thoughts have intentionality.
  5. I have the faculty of introspection.
  6. I can understand things.
  7. I can form concepts.
  8. I can form beliefs.
  9. I have the faculty of memory.
  10. I can think.
  11. I have the faculty of reason.

I see now that not stating these as axiomatic propositions in the OP was a major mistake - the process of translation is more complex and error prone than I realized. It's not mechanical.

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I don't know what proposition "intentionality" represents, so I don't understand how it is different from "free will".

The IEP explains the concept of intentionality pretty well. I assume you are already familiar with this concept, but other people might not be:

"If I think about a piano, something in my thought picks out a piano. If I talk about cigars, something in my speech refers to cigars. This feature of thoughts and words, whereby they pick out, refer to, or are about things, is intentionality. In a word, intentionality is aboutness."

https://www.iep.utm.edu/intentio/

It seems clear how intentionality is conceptually distinct from free will given this characterization.

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Thanks to Dr. Odden's suggestion that I write out the actual axiomatic propositions, it occurs to me that "self" (or "I have a self") is another axiom pertaining to consciousness. It has to be, since the term "I" appears in nearly all of 1-11.

"Knowledge" (or "I have knowledge") is another one.

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