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Consider the following perspective:

  1. Consciousness is associated with (but not identified with) mental events describing its contents. For example, the thought, "I see a dog" can be interpreted as "my consciousness contains the visual experience of a dog."
  2. Consciousness is not the mental events describing its contents, and those mental events are not necessary for it. Whether I think the words, "I see a dog," or whether I do not think that, I still see the dog, provided the other mental events that could have led me to that statement are there.
  3. Consciousness is the object described by these mental events.

In other words, consciousness is not self-awareness, nor is self-awareness necessary for consciousness, but self-awareness does refer to something, and the object it refers to is consciousness.

This is in the same ordinary sense that we talk about other objects. A ship is not the statement, "there is a ship in the harbor"; it is the object described by that statement. The actual ship caused the statement. But the ship is still a ship whether or not anyone makes the statement. The statement is not necessary for the ship.

It follows that if we could obtain general principles of what a statement refers to, which is related to what caused the statement, we could apply these principles to determine what specifically the object of these consciousness-describing statements is.

I have called this the "object" notion of consciousness. It is implicit in much discussion of consciousness, but I have rarely if ever seen it named and reified like this. On the other hand, I have seen the notion opposed by those claiming that self-awareness is consciousness or indispensable to consciousness. Does this notion go by another name, or who is known for discussing it?

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  • It looks as if you present us your personal thoughts about consciousness. And eventually ask the community about a title for your thoughts. - It is questionable whether reification as object is a good approach for a phenomenon which is a dynamic process. I would start with the most simple phenomena of conscious processes, namely qualia in form of sense perceptions. Possibly one can check the usefulness of any approach to conceptualize consciousness first with qualia.
    – Jo Wehler
    Feb 6 at 15:09
  • I can't follow what you are saying, I'm afraid. Surely thoughts are part of consciousness. If you have the thought 'I see a dog', that thought is as much a part of your conscious experience as seeing the dog is. Feb 6 at 16:36
  • Are you using "consciousness" as a synonym of mind rather than a property of mind? Feb 6 at 17:09
  • @MarcoOcram Yes. In point 2 I'm saying, having the thought, "I see a dog," is not necessary to see the dog. You can see the dog without having that meta-thought about what you are seeing.
    – causative
    Feb 6 at 23:21

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The first question you ask is about whether all acts of consciousness (in the sense of Brentano) are intentional or not. I believe Brentano said yes, Husserl said no, but I don't know a lot about the topic.

The second (and n-th) question seems to me to be a mixture of many different issues which cannot be answered unless you make it more precise. It seems obvious that consciousness cannot be in any literal way identical to the object, unless you qualify that assertion.

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