So I was wondering if consciousness is continous and I found out it might not be the case. But in that case it begs a question, what if in every frame of consciousness my old me dies and new is reborn or rather there is nothing as consciousness but its just a reaction?

What I mean is if I clone a person, the clone would think its the original and we would be unable to determinate it either (if by clone i mean literall copy on the atomic level and with exclusion of any effect of quantum mechanics). If we would annihilate original and put clone into its place noone would be able to tell and to him it would look like everything is continous and nothing happened.

So can it be just illusion in our minds that we are continous sentient beings because we have access to our memory which tells us its like that, same as a clone but as the perception lost focus we die - frame stops to exists?

Can someone clarify this to me or point me to some interesting literature/article on this topic?


closed as primarily opinion-based by Bryan Krause, David, kmm, WYSIWYG Apr 19 '18 at 12:16

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    $\begingroup$ This is really not a question biology can answer. You may find people willing to discuss the definitions of consciousness in a philosophy forum. $\endgroup$ – S. McGrew Apr 18 '18 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ I was wondering if there is some sort of scientific view/consensus on this topic. If you suggest that this thing is still rather philosophical question without any viable explanation or evidence then I am OK with it being unanswered but I feel it might be OK to leave it hanging here for times to come when biology will be able to answer it. Anyways thanks for info. $\endgroup$ – eXPRESS Apr 18 '18 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ The basic problem is that, so far, there is not a definition of consciousness that provides a way to test by experiment whether a system is conscious or not. If it can't be tested by experiment, then it belongs to the philosophers (or sometimes to those mathematicians for whom logical consistency is the basic constraint, and to whom physical meaning is irrelevant). $\endgroup$ – S. McGrew Apr 18 '18 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ I am not sure it is completely valid to say what you've said in the first sentence. We are not able to determine that something has no consciousness but we are able to state if it does. Well at least that was told to me when I was attending high school (there are some tests to qualify if living organism is indeed conscious). But I understand what you mean. More I think about it, it might be a thing which will be out of our grasp forever. $\endgroup$ – eXPRESS Apr 18 '18 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ OK, I need to agree with you: it's certainly possible to make a definition for consciousness that is testable; but there is no consensus that any such definition is useful or correct. $\endgroup$ – S. McGrew Apr 18 '18 at 16:34

You trespass upon a question as old as antiquity: what properties constitute consciousness? The best means to respond to the question concerns a metaphysical answer and an answer in modern biology

We can perhaps divide consciousness into two categories: contiguous thought from past experience and identity and secondly, self-awareness.

The reputed example of the Sorites problem of Theseus' Ship describes how the physical entity of Theseus' ship, during his various battles and broils, loses certain components of his ship: his braces or mast, in example. They are replaced with exact replicates until the time that every component of the ship has been supplanted by a replaced component. Is it the same ship? It is dependent on your definition of identity.

Leibniz's Law of Identity whether in humans, ships or spaghetti monsters, states that objects x and y hold the same identity if and only if they share all the same predicates - qualities or attributes. If this be of functionality, the ship completes the same function and comprises the same components, albeit of different origin - thus, the ship has the same identity. This is important regarding your question whether your 'old [you] dies'. Over time, your cells undergo mitosis and eventually apoptosis. Hence, although your parts are in constant flux, the predicates between your old self and latter self are constant. Ideologically however, there is no set identity!

If you read David Hume's literature, you will observe the notion that one is only the composition of impressions (sensory reception) and thus there exists no identity.

Your question regarding clones is a challenge for biology. Behaviourism is an approach in biology concerning the interpretation of behaviour as a response to a stimulus. Furthermore, humans express complex instinctive behaviours in response to various stimuli. If there exists no 'mental substance' distinct from the body, then it seems plausible to consider human consciousness merely an extension of an advanced instinctive epiphenomenon: self-awareness is a by-product to these advanced behavioural patterns. To support this position, simply recall what factors allow one to discriminate individuals whom one meets, behavioural patterns and appearance.

Finally, one could attempt to assess consciousness in regard to self-awareness by conducting the mirror assessment. If one is capable of identifying himself/herself, then it is indicative of an ability to discern one's personal existence from general matter.

This is by no means a comprehensive answer to this question yet I bid you well in your continued explorations of human consciousness.

  • $\begingroup$ Wow thanks, this certainly broadened the way I look at it. $\endgroup$ – eXPRESS Apr 18 '18 at 18:26

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