Sunday, June 20, 2004

on Consciousness



This is Abby. I use to not think very highly of cats... but then I got to know Abby. My relationship with Abby is both personal AND professional. She is my pet, but she is also my lab rat in the Sourmonkey Research Facility of Consciousness. I have no doubt that within her feline brain rests a unique seat of consciousness.

An aspect of her consciousness includes a limited ability to reason. When she was younger, she was terrified of the outside world. Now, after spending countless hours gazing outside through our front door screen, she begs us to let her outside. We have conversations... (Abby says:"meow" and I respond "what, Abby?", Abby-"merow", me-"what?", Abby-"merrooow", me- "what?"). Surely, she must think I'm a moron. Abby likes to sit in my lap. She makes her way over to me when I sit down, looks up at me, and meows. I watch her calculate the angles of the jump into my lap, glancing at the top of my legs, measuring the length and width of my lap, taking note of any obstacles. When she feels confident, she leaps up and lands softly in my lap. She greets me by licking (kissing) the surface of my skin, and begins to purr. At night, when I go to bed, she is soon to join me, and curls up along my side, and enters her own dreamland. In the mornings, she wakes up my wife if we oversleep... she's hungry and wants to be fed consistently.

I've seen Abby get scared. She rolls back her ears and lips, and hisses, making an almost demonic face. I've heard her whimper when she gets uncomfortable, and I've heard her scream when we take her to the vet. She has a very profound emotional state of mind.

If, on the simplest level, the mind's core task is to differentiate the outside world from the inside world of the body, then could we say that all life contains some form of consciouness? Observe nature. Analyze the behavior of the living organisms around you. It might teach you something about your own mind...

Consciousness is a mystery. I think we humans take our consciousness for granted. Now, one might argue that I'm anthropomorphizing the character traits of my cat. That might be true... but I doubt it's relevance to the issue of consciousness. My cat IS a unique individual containing subjective preferences and fears. We have much in common...

11 Comments:

Blogger sourmonkey said...

First of all, thank you for the honest post. I've taken note. I would leave it at that, but I feel that this would stand against the theme of your post. So, in answering your comment (as opposed to defending myself or ignoring it), I will instead honor it with a little of my own honesty. I found, however, that my response became a bit of a manifesto, and it wouldn't fit on the comment page. Please read on...

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Blogger sourmonkey said...

Please disregard the above post. Mucho blog chaos...

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