Awareness

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To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are. ~ Eric Hoffer

Awareness is a term referring to the ability to be perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects or patterns, which does not necessarily imply understanding. In biological psychology, awareness comprises a human's or an animal's perception and cognitive reaction to a condition or event.

Quotes[edit]

The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another. ~ Thomas Merton
Humor is perhaps a sense of intellectual perspective: an awareness that some things are really important, others not; and that the two kinds are most oddly jumbled in everyday affairs. ~ Christopher Morley
  • Neurologists who routinely evaluate patients with head injuries define consciousness in terms of waking EEG, the ability to answer questions, report perceptual events, show alertness to sudden changes in the environment, exercise normal voluntary control over speech and action, use memory, and maintain orientation to time, place, and self. ...Physicians make life-or-death decision on the basis of these observable events, and in practice this works very well. Very similar criteria are used in psychological and brain research. Thus medicine and science seem to agree with traditional philosophy that consciousness and subjectivity can be identified in practical ways. ...The empathy criterion is far more demanding.
  • The easy problems of consciousness are those that seem directly susceptible to the standard methods of cognitive science, whereby a phenomenon is explained in terms of computational or neural mechanisms. The hard problems are those that seem to resist those methods. ...The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. When we think and perceive, there is a whir of information-processing, but there is also a subjective aspect. ...When we see, for example, we experience visual sensations: the felt quality of redness, the experience of dark and light, the quality of depth in a visual field. Other experiences go along with perception in different modalities: the sound of a clarinet, the smell of mothballs. Then there are bodily sensations, from pains to orgasms; mental images that are conjured up internally; the felt quality of emotion, and the experience of a stream of conscious thought.
  • Another useful way to avoid confusion [used by e.g. Allen Newell 1990 Unified Theories of Cognition] is to reserve the term "consciousness" for the phenomena of experience, using the less loaded term "awareness" for the more straightforward phenomena... If such a convention were widely adopted, communication would be much easier; as things stand, those who talk about "consciousness" are frequently talking past each other.
    • David J. Chalmers, ibid., "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness"
  • Why doesn't all this information-processing go on "in the dark", free of any inner feel? ...We know that conscious experience does arise when these functions are performed, but the very fact that it arises is the central mystery. There is an explanatory gap [a term due to J. Levine, "Materialism and qualia: The explanatory gap" Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 64:354-61, 1983] between the functions and experience, and we need an explanatory bridge to cross it.
  • Since the problem of consciousness is such a central one, and since consciousness appears so mysterious, one might have expected that psychologists and neuroscientists would now direct major efforts toward understanding it. This, however, is far from being the case. The majority of modern psychologists omit any mention of the problem, although much of what they study enters into consciousness. Most modern neuroscientists ignore it. ...Not only because of experimental difficulties but also because they considered the problem both too subjective and too "philosophical," and thus not easily amenable to experimental study.
    • Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul (1994)
  • Human conscousness is just about the last surviving mystery. ...Consciousness stands alone today as a topic that often leaves even the most sophisticated thinkers tongue-tied and confused. And, as with all earlier mysteries, there are many who insist—and hope—that there will never be a demystification of consciousness.
  • The scientific course is to put the burden of proof on the attribution. As a scientist, you can't just declare, for instance, that the presence of glutamate molecules amounts to the presence of mind; you have to prove it, against a background in which the "null hypothesis" is that mind is not present. There is substantial disagreement among scientists as to which species have what sorts of mind, but even those scientists who are the most ardent champions of consciousness in animals accept this burden of proof—and think they can meet it, by devising and confirming theories that show which animals are conscious. But no such theories are yet confirmed, and in the meantime we can appreciate the discomfort of those who see this agnostic, wait-and-see policy as jeopardizing the moral status of creatures that they are sure are conscious.
    • Daniel C. Dennett, Kinds Of Minds: Toward An Understanding Of Consciousness (2008)
  • To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are.
    • Eric Hoffer, in The Passionate State of Mind, and Other Aphorisms (1955) Aphorism 151, p. 93
  • They who lack talent expect things to happen without effort. They ascribe failure to a lack of inspiration or ability, or to misfortune, rather than to insufficient application. At the core of every true talent there is an awareness of the difficulties inherent in any achievement, and the confidence that by persistence and patience something worthwhile will be realized. Thus talent is a species of vigor.
    • Eric Hoffer, in Reflections on the Human Condition (1973), p. 49
  • Every individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of the linguistic tradition into which he has been born — the beneficiary inasmuch as language gives access to the accumulated records of other people's experience, the victim in so far as it confirms him in the belief that reduced awareness is the only awareness and as it bedevils his sense of reality, so that he is all too apt to take his concepts for data, his words for actual things.
  • The study a posteriori of the distribution of consciousness shows it to be exactly such as we might expect in an organ added for the sake of steering a nervous system grown too complex to regulate itself.
  • The total possible consciousness may be split into parts which co-exist but mutually ignore each other.
    • William James, The Principles of Psychology (1890)
  • Genius is not so much a light as it is a constant awareness of the surrounding gloom.
    • Stanisław Lem, in His Master's Voice (1968) as translated by Michael Kandel (1983)
  • What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
    • Abraham Maslow, as quoted in Life in the Open Sea‎ (1972) by William M. Stephens, p. 21
  • The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.
    • Thomas Merton, in his final address, during a conference on East-West monastic dialogue, delivered just two hours before his death (10 December 1968), quoted in Religious Education, Vol. 73 (1978), p. 292
  • Some form of self-awareness is surely essential to highly intelligent thought... On the other hand, I doubt that any part of a mind can see very deeply into other parts; it can only use models it constructs of them.
  • This peculiar type of mental state is sometimes called a "Mystical Experience" or "Rapture," "Ecstasy," or "Bliss." Some who undergo it call it "wonderful," but a better word would be "wonderless," because I suspect that such a state of mind may result from turning so many [inner] Critics off that one cannot find any flaws in it. ...such experiences can be dangerous—for some victims find them so compelling that they devote the rest of their lives to trying to get themselves back to that state again.
    • Marvin Minsky, The Emotion Machine (2006)
  • Consciousness is a suitcase-like word that we use to refer to many different mental activities, which don't have a single cause or origin—and, surely, that is why people have found it so hard to "understand what consciousness is." ...this produced a problem that will remain unsolvable until we find ways to chop it up. ...we can replace that single, big problem by many smaller, more solvable ones.
  • Humor is perhaps a sense of intellectual perspective: an awareness that some things are really important, others not; and that the two kinds are most oddly jumbled in everyday affairs.
    • Christopher Morley, as quoted in An Enchanted Life : An Adept's Guide to Masterful Magick‎ (2001) by Patricia Telesco, p. 189
  • Praying without ceasing is not ritualized, nor are there even words. It is a constant state of awareness of oneness with God; it is a sincere seeking for a good thing; and it is a concentration on the thing sought, with faith that it is obtainable.
    • Peace Pilgrim, in Peace Pilgrim : Her Life and Work in Her Own Words‎ (1994), p. 75
  • The great awareness comes slowly, piece by piece. The path of spiritual growth is a path of lifelong learning. The experience of spiritual power is basically a joyful one.
    • M. Scott Peck, as quoted in The Enlightened Savage : Using Primal Instincts for Personal & Business Success (2006) by Anthony Hernandez, p. 147
  • Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.
    • Emily Post, as quoted in Reader's Digest v. 68 (1956)
  • It is not worth asking how to define consciousness, how to explain it, how it evolved, what its function is, etc., because there's no one thing for which all the answers would be the same. Instead, we have many sub-capabilities, for which the answers are different: e.g., different kinds of perception, learning, knowledge, attention control, self-monitoring, self-control, etc.
  • Let's not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness.
  • If you ask me what I want to achieve, it's to create an awareness, which is already the beginning of teaching.
    • Elie Wiesel, in a 1978 interview with John S. Friedman, published in The Paris Review 26 (Spring 1984); and in Elie Wiesel : Conversations (2002) edited by Robert Franciosi, p. 85

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