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The integrated and conscious self: Attaining and using consciousness in Antonio Damasio's "The Feeling of What Happens"
In Antonio Damasio's discussion of the scientific foundations of studying "consciousness," he presented a two-fold analysis of how consciousness is developed and utilized by humans. In his book, "The Feeling of What Happens," Damasio explicated first on the neurological basis of the creation and development of consciousness in the human mind. In this phase, he attempted to illustrate how consciousness is developed biologically, or more specifically, neurologically. This finding helped relate Damasio's second point in his discourse, which brought into fore the function of consciousness in creating greater rationalization for the individual.
What Damasio's findings in the book proved that consciousness, a concept that has been discussed conceptually and abstractly, was now illustrated in scientific and concrete terms. Consciousness is no longer just a social phenomenon, but is also a scientific one. Through his knowledge of neurology, Damasio was able to put into concrete terms what exactly occurs in the human mind when consciousness is achieved.
Though consciousness is a concept usually associated as a psychological state, Damasio's discourse illustrated consciousness as a product of mental (i.e., physical) processes conducted by the human mind. Thus, he tried to reconcile both psychological and biological explanations to describe what exactly happens on the event that consciousness occurs within an individual. The texts that follow is a discussion of the author's description of the processes involved in the creation of consciousness, or the "integrated self," and its function and significance to human thinking.
One of the most fundamental insights that the author presented in his book was his detailed description of what takes place when people are under the conscious state. Being conscious generally meant being aware of one's thoughts and feelings, and for Damasio, there occurs a more complex process than just being aware for a person to be truly considered "conscious." He likened consciousness -- or more specifically, the "problem of consciousness" -- as "not confined to the matter of self" and "a combination of two intimately related problems." Consciousness' duality foreshadowed his eventual argument that in order to attain consciousness, one must be able to recognize and integrate the two selves influencing human thinking, and in effect, altering his/her perception of reality.
Consciousness, according to Damasio, is the product of bringing together "the object and the self." The object pertains to anything that the individual experiences, which can be perceived physically (or through one's physical senses). He adequately termed the creation of the object within the mind as "movie-in-the-brain," which puts together the mind's assessment of an experience (e.g., interaction with a thing, person, or an event), as perceived by his/her senses, then creates an image that helps the individual generalize about his/her experience.
More than a collective image of one's physical/sensory experience, the object is part of the conscious state that tells the individual to identify an experience as s/he experiences it. In simple terms, the individual under the conscious state has one part of him/her experiencing objectively, devoid of any personal feelings that may be elicited as a result of that experience. Hence, consciousness' objective nature can be attributed to the process that results to "the object."
Half the consciousness' existence, however, depends on the "sense of self in the act of knowing." Damasio described this concept in detail, how this "sense of self" is created during one's attainment of a conscious state:
... concern with text and meaning hardly describes all that goes on in your mind. In parallel with representing the printed words and displaying the conceptual knowledge required to understand what I wrote, your mind also displays something else, something sufficient to indicate, moment by moment, that you rather than anyone else are doing the reading and the understanding of the text. The sensory images of what you perceive externally, and the related images you recall, occupy most of the scope of your mind, but not all of it. Besides those images there is also this other presence that signifies you, as observer of the things imaged, owner of the things imaged, potential actor on the things imaged. There is a presence of you in a particular relationship with some object.
This passage demonstrated how there was a sudden influx of 'images' that originated from…[continue]
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