Does it even make sense to attempt to define the concept, as it would arguably require to take a view point "outside of it"?

  • 1
    Joseph Campbell's unequivocal interpretation is interesting, undeniable that all living things are conscious by virtue of the fact they seek to survive and exist, firstly. youtube.com/watch?v=TV_PGJMe5gM -- You might also be interested in Stuart Hameroff's view of the origin of consciousness: The Nature of Reality: youtube.com/watch?v=sEQeRBZcScY
    – user48972
    Apr 4, 2021 at 16:15
  • @Dylan: Deciding not to exist doesn't make someone become unconscious. An AI or synthetic being might be created to want to die but exhibit consciousness - like the Ameglian Major Cow in HHGTTG. OrchOR I like, though it badly needs a more precise articulation.
    – CriglCragl
    Apr 5, 2021 at 0:20
  • @CriglCragl - I appreciate your reply. Campbell's interpretation is but one of many. His view is that everything is conscious, and then considering the perspective of biologists, medical doctors, physicists, spiritualists... yes, a creature or entity can choose to not exist. Campbell's observation is perhaps simpler. All life is conscious, and all life contains an innate drive to survive and exist. There are exceptions, and along with new discoveries technologies and theories.
    – user48972
    Apr 5, 2021 at 15:40
  • That's just an artifact of natural selection, of occuring in a 'chain of being'. With an OrchOr perspective, it's been suggested neutron stars might have ongoing processes complex enough to support cognition. That kind of entity/cognitive space wouldn't necessarily fit with our intuitions at all, in the same way understanding our own cognitive processes as survival of the 'fittest' cognitive pattern would fail.
    – CriglCragl
    Apr 5, 2021 at 17:13
  • CriglCragl, cognition is not part of how philosophers define consciousness. Aug 11, 2021 at 3:44

2 Answers 2


This is from wikipedia's "defintion" of Consciousness:

Consciousness, at its simplest, is "sentience or awareness of internal and external existence". Despite millennia of analyses, definitions, explanations and debates by philosophers and scientists, consciousness remains puzzling and controversial, being "at once the most familiar and most mysterious aspect of our lives". Perhaps the only widely agreed notion about the topic is the intuition that it exists. Opinions differ about what exactly needs to be studied and explained as consciousness.

From an idealist or Cartesian dualist POV, you're almost right consciousness is like a philosophical ecstasy and actually should be avoided to try to be seriously defined and reduced further since it would arguably require to take a more fundamental substance "outside of it" while an idealist or a Cartesian dualist should not do that.

From a physicalist or functionalist POV, one may further define consciousness. A physicalist who subscribes to Behaviorism, for example, can define consciousness entirely based physical behavior of humans and other animals through scientific experiments or observations. A functionalist, on the other hand, can define consciousness as brain's functional relation between sensory inputs and behavioral outputs with multiple physical realizability by heart.


I believe that among philosophers there is a vast consensus as to the meaning of the word "consciousness" (at least as it has been used in the past three decades). But for reasons closely related to why the "hard problem of consciousness" is hard, the word "consciousness" is apparently impossible to define in words.

The best that can be done is to provide synonyms for it (like sentience), or examples of it (seeing the color red, smelling a rose).

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