Dr. Grossi's Blog

A Role for Consciousness

Dr. Philip Grossi
Thursday, 05 April 2012

illustration to role for consciousness blogTwo recent patients come to mind that each can contribute to the question of the role of consciousness.  One is a young man who sold his company, is quite wealthy as a result, drinks champagne daily, and has lots of female friends.  He has good physical health, trim, and enjoys a large number of pleasures. Another young man spends most of his time playing video games and enjoys those experiences, including the competition with other gamers. He too has many pleasurable conscious experiences yet feels unfulfilled.  Isn't the ultimate value of consciousness to us as humans that it allows us to enjoy pleasure? Does actual contact with the real world matter? These two patients offer limited help in answering this question because one in engaged in the real world and the other in locked in his own phenomenologically bounded world.

John Stuart Mill, the British philosopher who wrote extensively about the relation of the individual to the state as well as the principles of falsification used in the scientific method, underwent what would appear to be a major depression when he was 22 years of age. As he recovered, he discovered that those that are happy are those that have their minds on some other object than their own happiness. What he meant was that experiencing pleasure was essential for good life but not sufficient.  He also meant that subjective sense was insufficient to judge the senses but their origin had to be considered. Therefore, a good feeling in order to be valuable had to arise from an experience that was considered worthwhile. So aiming at something that is considered valuable or worthwhile in the real world is what we as human beings care about and the good feelings that result are a by-product of those activities. Therefore the good feelings of consciousness are valuable in themselves but even more because  they help to produce objects in the real world that are considered valuable by the individual.

The two patients cited above were not producing anything that they considered valuable in the real world. The first person had when he created his company, but he was no longer.  The second had a more difficult problem in that he was not engaged with the real world but only in a conscious sensory one.