What is the purpose of self-awareness?

Discuss the February 2015 philosophy book of the month, The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson.
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Pattern-chaser
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Re: What is the purpose of self-awareness?

Post by Pattern-chaser »

The_architect wrote: July 27th, 2020, 10:30 am What if self-awareness is a human INSTINCT rather than a separate ability apart from our instincts? Are we ALL and ONLY instinct? In biological terms, we are animals but VERY unusual ones. We are so apart from the animal and vegetation kingdoms in SHAPE it demands the theory we came from aliens/creator. The only reason we probably don't consider our cognitive abilities as an instinct individual to us is that its virtualness implies some type of continuation after death (our physicalness).

Imagine us without our 5 senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch) and you have nothingness, no sensation, but there probably is still a sense of PRESENCE that animals also have and as far as they go. Without our senses it is dark (or whatever it is if you don't have sight, could be red you "see" rather than black), silent, no odor, no taste, no touching. However, we do touch the air, an invisible, weightless shell surrounding us all and everything else with a surface. This wasn't known until discovered.

What we don't know we will always come to know. But there will always be and endless string of what we don't know. Unless there exists a ceiling of knowing, which, once reached, is started over in a new series of lives.
  • I think instinct is unconscious, as in not-conscious or not self-aware; it's what we imagine animals (except us, and maybe one or two other exceptions) are/do. Self-awareness is the opposite of instinct, so no, I don't think self-awareness is or could be an instinct.
  • Our SHAPE is shared by apes and monkeys, for a start.... 🤔
  • Human cognition implies life after death? Really? 🤔
  • Without our senses, we have no contact at all with the world external to ourselves. We touch the air, yes, but we'd have no sensation of doing so. Total isolation.
  • One thing we "don't know" is whether we're brains in vats, for example. And this is something that we will never "come to know". There are some things that we humans don't know, can't know, and so will never know. 🤔
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Re: What is the purpose of self-awareness?

Post by Dionysus »

Hello fellow scholars,

I argue that the term "self-awareness" is a fallacy.

What one is aware of is a continuum that includes our physical body, (including our senses, thoughts, emotions, desires, etc.) PLUS the "external world" and its unfolding phenomena.

What exists, what one has "awareness of", is a continuous transaction between our bodies and the external world.

I.e. we would not have a sensation of "Self" or "Individuation" without an external environment interacting with the boundary of our body (I include the mind in my use of the term body.)

We would not be aware of our limbs if they were not facing resistance from the environment, we would not have sight if our eyes had nothing exterior to them to be aware of. Etc.

So, Self-awareness implies, and depends on awareness of "Other" and they are in a perpetual transaction.

Therefore, there is only "Awareness", adding the "Self" to the term is both redundant and reductionist.

You cannot describe a "Self" without describing its context, environment. This is true for any organism, or process.
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Re: What is the purpose of self-awareness?

Post by Jklint »

Not to confuse yourself with someone else.
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Re: What is the purpose of self-awareness?

Post by Belindi »

To know yourself is to include information that would otherwise be lacking.

To know yourself nearly always refers to knowing your own personality, abilities, and deficits.
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Re: What is the purpose of self-awareness?

Post by Pattern-chaser »

The purpose? None, I suspect. Self-awareness came about, but there was no agency or purpose involved, that I can see. Self-awareness just is, I think.
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Re: What is the purpose of self-awareness?

Post by LuckyR »

Pattern-chaser wrote: October 5th, 2020, 10:51 am The purpose? None, I suspect. Self-awareness came about, but there was no agency or purpose involved, that I can see. Self-awareness just is, I think.
I agree, in my experience it is a logical result of the accumulation of a certain level of perceptivity and computational power.
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Re: What is the purpose of self-awareness?

Post by Belindi »

LuckyR wrote: October 6th, 2020, 12:59 pm
Pattern-chaser wrote: October 5th, 2020, 10:51 am The purpose? None, I suspect. Self-awareness came about, but there was no agency or purpose involved, that I can see. Self-awareness just is, I think.
I agree, in my experience it is a logical result of the accumulation of a certain level of perceptivity and computational power.

My dog who is a sight hound looks at herself in the mirror. My other dogs, German shepherds and a collie were more eager to please, and quicker learners than the sight hound but did not look at themselves in the mirror.
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Re: What is the purpose of self-awareness?

Post by LuckyR »

Belindi wrote: October 7th, 2020, 4:15 am
LuckyR wrote: October 6th, 2020, 12:59 pm

I agree, in my experience it is a logical result of the accumulation of a certain level of perceptivity and computational power.

My dog who is a sight hound looks at herself in the mirror. My other dogs, German shepherds and a collie were more eager to please, and quicker learners than the sight hound but did not look at themselves in the mirror.
That is an interesting observation.
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Felix
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Re: What is the purpose of self-awareness?

Post by Felix »

An ironic question since it is self-awareness that invented purpose - kind of like asking, "what is the purpose of doing things on purpose?"
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Re: What is the purpose of self-awareness?

Post by Belindi »

A small baby is subjectively not a separate psyche but is part of its mother. I bet there are adult people who are subjectively more than others separate psyches and more part of their environment. And conversely there are adult people who are subjectively more than others separate selves and less part of their environments. Subjective selfhood relates to personalities, cultures, and to an indeterminable extent to inheritance.

Subjective separation of self from environment is partly inherent and partly cultural. The cultural component of subjective self can be identified according to dates and localities. For instance subjective selfhood became a thing with the European Romantics ,approximately end of 18th century (not to periodise overmuch), and subjective selfhood has remained as a Good Thing to this day, among large sections of Europeanised populations.

Subjective selfhood is rationalised in the cult of the individual. This cult got to be established with industrialisation and urbanisation in Europe: it was beneficial to centralised industry for young workers to move away from ancestral bases to urban centres where the work was, and to do so the young workers needed to psychologically separate themselves from natal families and familiar landscapes.
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Re: What is the purpose of self-awareness?

Post by AgentSmith »

First off, to me, self-awareness means an organism coming to the realization of its own existence. Metacognition (thinking about thinking) seems to be an important, crucial step towards self-awareness.

Secondly, I was till about a year ago under the (false) impression that animals lacked self-awareness.

Why?

Most animals fail the mirror test (Google for more information). However, it dawned on me that self-awareness needn't be visual; dogs recognize their own scent and some animals may have a corresponding self-awareness test based on taste, touch, basically the other senses. Put simply, the mirror test is to narrow in scope and fails to identify animals that have a nonvisual sense of self (smell, taste, sound, touch) and may therefore be self-aware.

The purpose of self-awareness? It (self-awareness) seems to amplify hedonic states - suffering & joy, both, are more intense - and to what end? Spinal pain reflexes, surely there must be some spinal pleasure reflexes are a great asset, but sans some kind of danger avoidance system, it can only get us so far. Enter self-awareness!
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