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Dictionary definitions such as this one often seem to use the terms sentience, awareness, and consciousness as if they are synonymous with each other. Is this really the case? If not, how do they differ? Some books suggest that sentience and awareness are simply facets of the larger concept of consciousness.

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3 hard to define terms, but consider: a sentient being can be unconscious, and a conscious being can be unaware. –  obelia Jan 8 '13 at 21:58
@obelia I take it then that they are different but related terms :) How can a conscious being be unaware? –  coleopterist Jan 9 '13 at 9:50
Well not completely unaware but when you're concentrating or reading or daydreaming you're awareness can sometimes be reduced. –  obelia Jan 10 '13 at 0:27

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These are all terms that one frequently reads in texts on Cognitive Science. I will try to find some exemplary definitions:

  1. Consciousness: Many philosophers have argued that consciousness is a unitary concept that is understood intuitively by the majority of people in spite of the difficulty in defining it. Others, though, have argued that the level of disagreement about the meaning of the word indicates that it either means different things to different people, or else is an umbrella term encompassing a variety of distinct meanings with no simple element in common (Wikipedia). You should check the SEP article for there is a lot more to say about consciousness than one of us could actually summarise here.

  2. Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive, or be conscious, or to have subjective experiences. Eighteenth century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think ("reason") from the ability to feel ("sentience"). In modern western philosophy, sentience is the ability to have sensations or experiences (described by some thinkers as "qualia"). Sentience is a minimalistic way of defining "consciousness", which is otherwise commonly used to collectively describe sentience plus other characteristics of the mind. (Wikipedia)

  3. Awareness is the state or ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects, or sensory patterns. In this level of consciousness, sense data can be confirmed by an observer without necessarily implying understanding. More broadly, it is the state or quality of being aware of something. In biological psychology, awareness is defined as a human's or an animal's perception and cognitive reaction to a condition or event. (Wikipedia)

If I'm not mistaken it's halfway safe to say that awareness and sentience are levels or subclasses of the consciousness. Awareness is mainly the physical act of perceiving, while sentience is a subjective way of actually being affected. Consciousness then is used in many different meanings, but often as a umbrella term for several faculties. Hope I could help, check the links for more information.

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I have been recently reviewing the question of consciousness vs. awareness and it seems to me that consciousness includes an element of knowing something that is in awareness while awareness can be sub-conscious as demonstrated by selectively becoming conscious of specific stimuli as they arise which would not be possible without sensory awareness. Based on this consciousness requires awareness but awareness does not require consciousness. Most of what we are aware of is not conscious and usually never will be and some of it cannot be conscious, at least normally, such as sensory processing. Consciousness is a known model of some of what is in awareness which itself is a representation of the output of various forms of unconscious processing. For reference see Psychology: The Study of Human Behaviour by Robert Ornstein an Laura Carstensen (1991). Sentience implies the capability of consciousness or highly responsive awareness.

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Awareness can be observed. For example we can observe a flower tracking the sun through the course of a day. Consciousness is an English word of 16th century origin still in need of a proper definition. As such, its use is somewhat problematic. As far as sentience goes, if my memory serves me correctly, Himalayan Buddhist use this term to distinguish actual beings (sentient ones) from imaginary ones when discussing beings.

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Consciousness: Is basically the only non-biological extension of a living thing, using the brain as a socket to connect with neurons, It is actually the spirit of a being in religious terms...

Sentience: Is all biological, senses based subjective experience, alone it deciphers nothing but with the consciousness it gives

Awareness: is what when consciousness and Sentience combines to give a meaning

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Using the brain as a socket. I see. Do you have any sources or references to go with that, or is that your opinion? –  iphigenie Jun 24 at 22:33

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