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The Feeling of Consciousness

Damasio distinguishes the different levels of consciousness, piecing together the feeling of knowing with physiological functions, experiences, and observations. He begins by introducing the importance and basic understanding of the presence of consciousness. Damasio transitions into demonstrating how emotion and feeling are strongly connected to consciousness. Emotion is defined as that of an unconscious reaction to any internal or external stimulus which activates neural patterns in the brain. Feeling is defined as a still, unconscious state which simply senses the changes affecting the Protoself due to the emotional state.

Awareness of a feeling or response to an emotion shows us that consciousness is present. Next, Damasio introduces the different levels that make up consciousness as a whole. Firstly, there’s the Protoself, defined as our most basic representation of self. It is the most fundamental level of awareness and a pre-conscious state that detects any internal changes which affect the body’s homeostasis.

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The Protoself is strongly linked to the hypothalamus, which controls homeostasis. Next in the hierarchy is core consciousness. This is the process when one becomes consciously aware of feelings that are experienced after certain internal changes occur. It also recognizes the perspective and individuality of thought. Images are produced in the brain, resulting from mental patterns powered by an interaction with a stimulus. Core consciousness solely deals with the present.

Following this stage is extended consciousness, fueled by the autobiographical self. Extended consciousness is the process when consciousness moves beyond the here and now. It uses memory to draw on past experiences and develops over time. Each level of consciousness in the hierarchy cannot function without the one before it, because each one is based on the one before it.

In class, we’ve touched on the connection between wakefulness and consciousness, and Damasio expands on this idea by explaining how they relate but do not go hand in hand. Wakefulness is a state when one can create images of their interior and environment.

Contrastingly, consciousness is a state when one can create images of knowing, centered on a self. The two are not the same. Damasio states that, “We can be awake yet deprived of consciousness” (90). This only happens in certain neurological conditions, such as coma, Alzheimer’s, and being under deep anesthesia. Additionally, we can be asleep yet maintain a sense of consciousness.

Damasio backs this up with the evidence that when we wake up, we can still remember certain snippets of our dreams. I chose to mention this idea because the combination of wakefulness and consciousness really interested me. The examples Damasio provided which talked about the degrees of each combination that certain people had in certain situations drew me in and allowed me to understand the similarities and differences between both concepts. The connection between the two is a key part of understanding consciousness as a whole, so comprehending this is important as the book goes on.

We’ve talked about how consciousness evolved to help humans with survival. Damasio agreed and expanded on this idea by noting, “consciousness certainly appears to postdate both life and the basic devices that allow organisms to maintain life…consciousness has succeeded in evolution precisely because it supports life most beautifully”(135).

The sense of self helps us be aware of the need for survival, the need to maintain homeostasis, and ensure that our environment around us doesn’t impede on these internal needs. Now, all animals and organisms do have the urge to stay alive, but humans have the highest degree of awareness of this urge. Because we are such a complex species, it is only fitting that we have the highest level of consciousness. It provides us with important skills such as planning, responding, and decision making, all of which a nervous system is crucial to.

I chose to mention this idea because it’s a topic that we directly went over in class. We talked about how consciousness is a part of human evolution and this book went into more detail about this idea. This idea isn’t extremely crucial to being able to understand the book as a whole, but it does address the question of how evolution plays into consciousness. My additional research through the book “Human Survival and Consciousness Evolution” by Stanislav Grof states that consciousness is a form of evolution.

It quoted Aurobindo’s ideas that, “Evolution of consciousness is the central motive of terrestrial existence” and our next step is a “change of consciousness.” This means that we have already reached our goal and achieved a very high level of consciousness, and now we need to change it and use it as a drive to do good. It connected the evolution of consciousness to the present day and how we can continue to develop it.

In class, we talked about emotion and the role it plays, but Damasio goes into depth about how we feel emotions. Feeling emotions “consists of having mental images arising from the neural patterns which represent the changes in body and brain that make up an emotion”(280).

The awareness of having a certain emotion only becomes clear after obtaining second-order representations for core consciousness. These representations demonstrate the relationship between the organism and the emotion in this case. Basically, emotions can only be known after we give rise to the proto-self. This makes sense because evolutionarily, the proto-self came before basic feeling and the feeling of knowing.

Damasio’s explanation of feeling and emotion is extremely important because these two things constitute core consciousness. I chose to incorporate this information because it is crucial to understanding what core consciousness is and it expands on my past knowledge about emotion and feeling. My additional research through the article “Trends in Cognitive Sciences: Emotion and Consciousness” has narrowed emotion down to requiring an emotional state as well as feeling. Consciousness requires a level and content.

It confirmed the need for consciousness when emotion is present. This is demonstrated biologically because structures that are important for emotion overlap with structures that regulate the level of consciousness. Some examples of these structures are brainstem nuclei and midline cortices. It connected the relationship between emotion and consciousness to our biological systems, furthering my knowledge.

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The Feeling of Consciousness
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Damasio distinguishes the different levels of consciousness, piecing together the feeling of knowing with physiological functions, experiences, and observations. He begins by introducing the importance and basic understanding of the presence of consciousness. Damasio transitions into demonstrating how emotion and feeling are strongly connected to consciousness. Emotion is defined as that of an unconscious reaction to any internal or external stimulus which activates neural patterns in the brain.
2021-09-19 09:09:35
The Feeling of Consciousness
$ 13.900 2018-12-31
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