Need Help: PHL 255-Non-Western Philosophy

Need Help: PHL 255-Non-Western Philosophy

Non-Western Philosophy – PHL 255

Essay #2


Due:                September 26th


Format:          3 pages,           12 pt. Times New Roman,    1” margins,  double-spaced,

                        stapled,           Works Cited pg,                    in-text citations

 Need Help: PHL 255-Non-Western Philosophy 

Essay # 2 – Consciousness


We all know what consciousness is.  All of us experience the feeling (phenomenology) of being an individual who interacts with the world.  One might say that “consciousness” is at the center of all of our experiences.  And yet, at the same time, an explanation of the nature of  consciousness has eluded philosophers for thousands of years.  If the brain and the body are primarily physical, material “things,” how does this give rise to an “immaterial,” thinking, mind? Could consciousness be a fundamental part of the universe?


Essay #2:        Challenge:  Write an essay in which you reflect on the mystery of                      human consciousness. Explain what consciousness is and why it is a                   central concern for philosophers. Remember to structure your essay              around a basic claim/conclusion you want to make.


Here are some things to consider:


  • What is consciousness (in your own words)? Explain why it is so difficult to explain consciousness. Try to be precise.


  • Will we ever be able to explain it? Why does it seem like maybe we will not?


  • Where do you think consciousness comes from? What could it be “made of”?


  • Could mind/consciousness be a fundamental part of the universe? Could things be “made of mind” instead of matter?


  • Why do human beings seem to have such a unique form of consciousness? What makes us different? Could non-human beings be conscious? 


  • Could it be possible for conscious beings to exist on other planets? Why or why not?


  • What would happen if human beings were not conscious? Could this be possible?


  • How does the notion of consciousness relate to the Non-Western ideas we have studied so far?


  • What effects do meditation, sleep, yoga, and death have on consciousness?


*Remember, consciousness and conscience are not the same thing!*



Unraveling the mystery of consciousness

By Antonio Damasio, Special to CNN

updated 10:05 AM EST, Sun February 5, 2012


Editor’s note: Antonio Damasio, author of “Self Comes to Mind”, published by Pantheon/Vintage, is a professor of neuroscience and director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California.

(CNN) — How do living organisms become conscious of what is happening to them and around them?

How is it that I as well as you, reader of these words, can be conscious of our respective existences and of what is going on in our minds — in my case, ideas about how the brain generates consciousness, about the fact that I was asked to prepare this particular text for a specific deadline, along with the fact that I happen to be in Paris, at the moment, not Los Angeles, and that I am writing this on a cold January day.

The biological mechanisms behind the phenomena of consciousness remain unclear although it is fair to say that recently our understanding has made remarkable progress. What are we are certain of understanding and where is it that our understanding fails?

On the side of understanding, we can point to the process of sensory representation as an important part of consciousness. Most of what we are conscious of (conceivably all that we are conscious of) consists of representations of objects and events in the sensory modalities in which our brains trade, for example, vision, hearing, touching, smelling, taste, sensing the state of our body’s interior. Mapping, in other words.

Our brains, at all the levels of their organization, are inveterate makers of maps, simple and not so simple, and as far as I can gather, we only become conscious of the things and actions that the sensory systems help us map.

We depend, for the business of consciousness, on constructing maps of the most varied features and events. We construct those maps in brain regions that serve as platforms for this natural process of cartography.

These are regions where signals about topographic and topological relationships among components of objects and actions can be broken down and assembled in a manner that corresponds to the way in which they happen in the objects and actions themselves.

But while mapped representations are a necessity for consciousness, as far as I can imagine, they are not sufficient for consciousness to occur. For example, several orders of computers aboard a Boeing 747 represent with great fidelity many parts of the airplane body — moving parts of the wings, undercarriage, rudder — not to mention outside temperature, wind speeds, levels of fuel, and so forth. And yet we do not expect even the most integrated computer among the 747’s computer family to be “conscious” of what goes on in the plane, except in a metaphorical sense. That top computer knows a lot about the plane’s behavior but it does not “know,” in the sense that the reader and I know, at this very moment, that we are alive and puzzling over the mysteries of consciousness.

What is different about us? Plenty, I would say. Beginning at the top of the scale of differences, the 747 lacks a self in the sense that you and I have one. I have proposed that selves are built from, but not limited to, myriad, integrated representations of the structure and operations of our bodies, and of the sum total of memories of what has happened to our own body in its history. The 747 does not have the equivalent of that part of a self for the very good reason that it does not need one to comply with the demands of its captain. But we do.

There is an even deeper difference, however, that has to do with the issue of feeling. An integral part of the notion of self, beginning at the lowest level of self — the primordial self and present all the way up to the autobiographical self — is the fact that we feel the living body to which experiences are happening. We feel our body as it lives in the world and wanders in it.

We experience everything we map through our senses because we feel the body that is the site of all the mappings. Or to put it more clearly, when we move about or see an object, or hear a voice, we feel the changes that such actions and perceptions caused in our organism.

I believe to be conscious of our perceptions is to have ongoing representations of streams of events that affect our bodies, cause feelings, and become felt representations. Representing and feeling are dovetailed phenomena that sit at the rock bottom of experience.

As we unravel the biological mechanisms behind feeling I suspect we will come to uncover their origins at the level of single neurons.




Other Resources:



Quantum Reality, The Importance of Consciousness in the Universe…



Modern Physics and Hindu Philosophy


Jill Bolte Taylor’s Stroke of Insight (video)



This is a great resource for papers on consciousness! >>

Need Help: PHL 255-Non-Western Philosophy

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