Consciousness and awareness - switched-on rheostats: A response to de Quincey

Journal of Consciousness Studies 14 (3):101-106 (2007)
Rob Arp
University of Missouri, Kansas City
I question whether it is completely accurate to think of the philosophical meaning of consciousness as being switched-on or switched-off. It may be that, once consciousness is switched-on, it is then found in degrees in animals we deem conscious. In which case, consciousness is more like a switched-on rheostat, rather than a simple on-off switch. Christian de Quincey (2006) gives a list of what would be considered the marks of consciousness, including 'experience, subjectivity, sentience, feeling, or mentality of any kind'. He also seems to conflate awareness with experience when speaking about the light of consciousness being on. In keeping with de Quincey's desire to get clear about the meaning of consciousness, I will put forward an idea of consciousness as the experience of oneself as a being subject to past, present, and future events, and contrast this idea with a state of awareness. De Quincey claims that 'any entity that is a subject -- that feels its own being -- possesses consciousness'. I want to add to this meaning of consciousness by noting the subject's sense of temporality, so as to further qualify the meaning of consciousness and show how awareness is distinct from consciousness.
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