Does Consciousness exist or have our brains tricked us?


Paul Bush, PhD computational neuroscience. Nonmaterialist.

Answered Mar 15, 2016


Find out for yourself. It’s not difficult, just takes persistence.

First: The theory that consciousness is an illusion comes from neuroscientists who have shown that the contents of consciousness are produced by the brain. Your thoughts are groups of brain cells firing. Everything you experience corresponds to the activity of one of these groups. However, no one can explain why you are aware of this activity. We can show that the concept of what “you” are is generated by the brain, so maybe the question is “why is there awareness?”. Still, no one has an explanation. The best that they can do is to say it must come from the processing of the brain. To perceive something, to be aware of it, the representation of that thing must be presented to, or have some form of interaction with, the representation of the self, “you”. In some unspecified way the combination of the object-representation and the self-representation generates awareness, or awareness is no more than this cognitive process, hence an illusion.

So is this true? Is awareness an epiphenomenon of cognition? Here’s the test:
Find a quiet place and get comfortable. Close you eyes if it doesn’t make you fall asleep. Then just watch what happens. Whatever you notice, ignore it. After a while the tumult of thoughts and sensations will begin to die down. You’ll probably have to try it more than once. Some people find that concentrating on their breath helps them ignore everything else.

Anyway, after a while thoughts and other mental activity will actually stop, at least for some time.  All the activity that scientists say “generates”, or is, awareness. Yet there you are, aware. More aware than normal, actually. Is it real? Is anything else real? Is it anything other than you?



About amartingarcia

General surgeon (retired). Studied Western philosophy at U of Toronto. Afterwards interest turned to advaita vedanta and non-duality for past 20 yrs, plus a long interlude in Sufism coinciding with that period. Now contributing in ’Advaita Vision’ with regular posts and discussions.
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