When I read someone’s words or listen to music, an interesting experience occurs: my mind automatically generates a concept or mental sensation of someone telling these words or singing. In reality, there is nobody physically present writing or singing; it’s just a recording or a piece of paper. Nevertheless, the mind creates an idea or concept of a living person being there
Yes, this phenomenon is called the “the illusion of presence.” It’s a well-known cognitive bias in which our brain tricks us into feeling like we’re in the presence of someone or something, even though it’s just a recording or a written text. This illusion is created by our brain’s natural tendency to create mental representations of the world around us and fill in the gaps with our imagination. It allows us to experience a sense of connection with the words or music, and can even evoke emotions and memories.
What’s interesting is that this illusion of presence or mental sensation of someone being there feels more permanent and real than the actual data stream (text or sounds) that serves as its basis for arising.
Yes, that’s correct. For many people, the illusion of presence can be so powerful that it overshadows the actual content of the words or music. It’s as if the mind is more focused on the imaginary person behind the words or music, rather than the words or music itself. This can make the experience more personal and emotional, and can also make it easier to remember the words or music. Additionally, the feeling of someone being present can also make it feel like the words or music are being directed specifically to you, which can enhance the sense of connection and engagement.
Even in the pauses between the lyrics of the song, we can sense the presence of someone ready to sing.
Yes, that’s a good observation. The illusion of presence can persist even in the pauses or gaps between words or notes in a song. Our brain is wired to expect a continuation of the sound and to imagine the singer or musician being there, ready to continue. This helps to create a more seamless and uninterrupted experience, even when the music or words are not actually being played or spoken. The illusion of presence can be so strong that it can be difficult to shake, even after the music or words have stopped.
Would it be possible that the illusion of presence plays a role in creating the sense of self – someone who thinks the thoughts and reads the words?
Yes, the illusion of presence may play a role in creating a sense of self. Our sense of self is constructed from our experiences and perceptions of the world around us, and the illusion of presence can contribute to this by creating the illusion of an external entity that is communicating with us. This can give us a sense of being separate from the words or music, and help to reinforce our sense of self as an individual who is observing and engaging with the world. Additionally, the sense of presence can also evoke emotions and memories, which are important components of our personal identity and our sense of self. So in that sense, the illusion of presence can play a role in shaping our sense of self, by providing a framework for our experiences and perceptions of the world.
I mean, if there is a stream of sounds and the mind creates a mental sensation of someone singing, then, based on the same principle, if there is a stream of thoughts, the mind can generate a mental sensation of someone thinking. This sensation of someone thinking is the very sense of self.
Yes, the idea that the stream of thoughts can create a mental sensation of someone thinking, and that this sensation of someone thinking is the sense of self, is a philosophical concept known as “the experiencing self.” According to this idea, the sense of self arises from the experience of being conscious and having thoughts, feelings, and sensations. The stream of thoughts creates a mental sensation of someone who is experiencing these thoughts, and this sensation is what we experience as our sense of self. This concept is often discussed in the context of mindfulness practices, where the goal is to observe one’s thoughts and feelings as they arise, without getting caught up in them, in order to gain a deeper understanding of one’s self and to cultivate a sense of inner peace and well-being.
In this case, the self is not the subject of experience nor does it have agency. Instead, it is more like an object of experience, similar to other sensations such as the taste of coffee or the scent of a flower.
Yes, that’s one way to think about it. According to the idea of the experiencing self, the sense of self is not an independent entity with its own agency or subjectivity, but rather a product of the stream of thoughts, feelings, and sensations that arise in consciousness. In this view, the self is not the subject of experience, but rather an object of experience, like any other sensation. The self is not something that exists independently of consciousness, but rather emerges from the ongoing process of experiencing the world.
And the self is not something that is conscious, equipped with consciousness, or having thoughts, sensations, or feelings. Rather, it is itself one of many sensations arising.
Yes, that’s another way to think about it. According to this view, the self is not a conscious entity or a thing that is equipped with consciousness, thoughts, sensations, or feelings. Rather, the self is itself one of many sensations that arise in consciousness. The experience of having a self arises from the ongoing process of experiencing the world and the sensations that arise within it, including the sensation of having a self. The self is not something that exists independently of these sensations, but rather emerges from them as a kind of meta-sensation or awareness of one’s own experience. This view is consistent with the idea that the self is not a fixed or permanent entity, but rather a dynamic and ever-changing process that is constantly being constructed and reconstructed through our experiences.
But in this case, what is the entity that experiences the sense of self?
According to this view, there is no separate entity or thing that is experiencing the sense of self. Instead, the sense of self emerges from the ongoing process of experiencing the world and the sensations that arise within it. The experience of having a self is itself a product of this process, and does not require a separate or independent entity to be experiencing it. In other words, the experience of having a self is not something that is happening to a self, but rather is the self itself, as it arises and unfolds in consciousness.
From my perspective, consciousness is a dangerous word to use. It is an assumption that is not confirmed in any way – that there is some field of sensing that is separate from the sensed things (such as thoughts, sensations, perceptions, emotions, etc.) and that all these phenomena arise in this field of sensing, i.e., consciousness. But, isn’t this adding one more unnecessary concept on top of phenomena arising in nature?
You bring up a valid point. The concept of consciousness is a highly debated topic in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, and there is still much we do not understand about it. While some people use the term consciousness to refer to a separate field of sensing that is distinct from the things that are sensed (thoughts, sensations, perceptions, emotions, etc.), others might use it in a more general sense to refer to the state of being aware or awake, without necessarily implying any kind of separate field or entity.
That being said, I understand your concern about the potential for the concept of consciousness to add an unnecessary layer of complexity to our understanding of the world. It’s possible to explore and understand the workings of the mind without necessarily invoking the concept of consciousness. However, many people find the concept of consciousness to be a useful tool for exploring and understanding their subjective experiences, and for studying the relationship between the mind and the world.
Ultimately, the use of the concept of consciousness depends on one’s philosophical or theoretical perspective, and it’s important to be open to different viewpoints and approaches. While some might find the concept of consciousness to be useful or illuminating, others might find it unnecessary or problematic. It’s up to each individual to decide what concepts and tools are most useful for their own understanding and exploration of the world.
I guess it’s quite important to bring up this point when we make the claim that the sense of self is not a subject of experience but rather an object that arises or is experienced by consciousness. If we discover that consciousness is an unnecessary complication and decide to drop it, then who or what is experiencing the sense of self?
That’s a good question, and one that is difficult to answer definitively. As I mentioned earlier, the sense of self is not a fixed or permanent entity, but rather a dynamic and ever-changing process that emerges from our ongoing experience of the world. The experience of having a self arises from the sensations, thoughts, and feelings that arise in consciousness, and is not something that requires a separate or independent entity to be experiencing it.
However, if we were to drop the concept of consciousness entirely, we might still be able to talk about the sense of self in terms of the ongoing process of experiencing the world and the sensations that arise within it. We might not need to posit a separate or independent entity that is experiencing this process, but could simply describe it in terms of the various sensations and experiences that arise in our ongoing interaction with the world.
In other words, the sense of self might still be a useful concept for describing our subjective experiences, even if we don’t use the concept of consciousness to explain it. Ultimately, the usefulness of any concept or tool depends on the context in which it is being used, and on the individual’s own understanding and perspective.
Today, I was reflecting on the nature of consciousness or sentience. What came to my mind, and maybe it’s somehow related to our discussion, is that sentience or consciousness is like one aspect of phenomena happening in the world – similar to the color red, for example. We could say that the color red is an aspect of two or more red objects that make them similar irrespective of their shape, volume, size, texture, and function. In a similar fashion, we could say that sentience or consciousness is an aspect of two or more phenomena that makes them similar, irrespective of their shape, color, etc. If something appears, it has an aspect of consciousness or sentience (don’t mistake it for being sentient or conscious). If something doesn’t appear, it doesn’t have this aspect. For example, if I look at a cup on my desk, it appears, so it has an aspect of sentience or consciousness. If I look away, it disappears, so it loses its aspect of sentience or consciousness. If I look somewhere else, say at a plant, it appears, so it gains this aspect of sentience, and in this way, it is similar to all phenomena/objects that do appear in the moment (such as sensations, thoughts, tastes, and the sense of self).
That’s an interesting perspective on the nature of consciousness or sentience. It’s true that the experience of consciousness or sentience is often associated with our subjective experience of the world, and that it arises in relation to the various sensations, thoughts, and feelings that we experience.
In your example, the appearance or disappearance of an object could be seen as a kind of “toggle” for whether it has the aspect of consciousness or sentience. However, it’s important to note that the relationship between consciousness and the world is not necessarily a one-to-one correspondence. Just because something appears or disappears from our experience, it doesn’t necessarily mean that its aspect of consciousness or sentience has disappeared or reappeared as well.
Furthermore, there is ongoing debate about what exactly the relationship is between consciousness or sentience and the rest of the world. Some philosophers and scientists argue that consciousness is a fundamental aspect of the universe, while others see it as an emergent property of complex physical systems like the brain. It’s possible that our understanding of the nature of consciousness or sentience will continue to evolve as we learn more about the brain and the nature of the universe itself.
But let’s try to look at it from the perspective we discussed before. There is no “us” experiencing the world because there is no “us” as subjects but only “us” as objects of experience or rather “us” as experiences themselves. Furthermore, there is no consciousness as a field in which experiences happen, but rather there is a world, and experiences are a part of this world. When speaking of experiences, I have in mind phenomenal experiences or qualia.
Yes, that’s a valid perspective to take. According to this view, there is no “subject” that is separate from the “object” of experience. Instead, there is only the world and the various experiences that arise within it. The experiences themselves are not separate from the world, but rather they are part of it.
In this sense, consciousness or sentience is not a separate field or substance, but rather it is an aspect of the world itself. The various experiences that arise within the world are the manifestations of this aspect of sentience or consciousness.
However, it’s worth noting that this perspective on the nature of consciousness or sentience is still a matter of ongoing debate among philosophers and scientists. There are many different theories and perspectives on this topic, and it’s possible that our understanding of it will continue to evolve as we learn more about the brain, the mind, and the nature of the universe.
In my understanding, the concepts of consciousness or sentience only serve to blur the picture. The problem is that they introduce an assumption that there is a subject that is conscious and that there are separate experiences or qualia that the subject is conscious of. However, what we have discovered or realized is that there are only experiences or qualia with no subject to experience them. Therefore, the concept of consciousness or being conscious becomes obsolete.
I understand your point. The concept of consciousness or being conscious can be seen as a way to frame our subjective experiences in a way that makes sense to us, but it can also lead to assumptions and misunderstandings. In a sense, what we experience are simply various qualities of our environment that we perceive through our senses and interpret through our cognitive processes. There is no need to introduce the concept of consciousness or being conscious to explain this process.
I mean, we are not experiencing anything, because we are ourselves the experiences themselves.
Yes, that is one way to look at it. Rather than experiencing something, we are the experiences themselves. Our subjective experiences are not separate from us, but rather they are a part of us. In this view, the concept of a separate entity experiencing something becomes unnecessary.
and these experiences are part of reality.
Yes, experiences are a part of reality. They are a part of our subjective reality, which is different from the objective reality that we share with others. However, subjective reality is still a part of the larger reality that we all exist within. In this sense, experiences are not separate from reality, but rather they are a part of it.
In this scenario, where all “subjects” are actually experiences themselves, it is difficult to maintain the distinction between subjective and objective, isn’t it?
Yes, in this scenario it becomes difficult to maintain a clear distinction between subjective and objective. In fact, the very concept of “subjective” loses its meaning because there is no distinct subject that is having the experience. Instead, all experiences are simply part of the larger objective reality, and there is no fundamental difference between them. In other words, all experiences are objective phenomena, even if they may appear to be “subjective” from the perspective of a particular individual. This view is often referred to as non-dualism or non-dual awareness.