Consciousness and Conscious Episodes

Humans seem to have a great urge towards self-improvement. We have embraced a variety of tools to assist in this project.

Some are intellectual tools. Mathematics and written language, for example. These inventions have extended the potential effects of our thoughts and made possible collaboration that would have been undreamed of before.

Some are ethical tools. Religion imposes a code of conduct and shapes our identity — children of God. Law enforces compliance around routines that society deems valuable.

But at the end of the day, our striving for self-improvement has not led to definitive answers to who we are. Even if we have fantastic visions of our greatness (like the Great Oz,) but we do not understand where this greatness comes from. Put more bluntly, we do not understand the origins of our identity — our consciousness.

There are two possibilities. One is that our consciousness is the product of the materials in our brains. By evolutionary trickery, inert matter produces something that believes it is alive, with all of the attendant questions that living imposes. The other is that our consciousness uses matter but is not bound by it. It originates from non-material sources.

Does it matter? It does. If our consciousness is shaped, our life strategy is to facilitate the best use of materials. If we shape our consciousness, our life strategy is to shape our attitude. The first strategy, for example, may focus on exercise or nutrition. The second strategy may focus on meditation.

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