Quite apart from what I have written in the final paragraph of my most recent posting, I have left this blog concerning the conscious and unconscious mind until now in “the makeup of mind” for reasons which should also be self-evident. Without memory, communication/language, perception, thought and feeling, such terms would not only be meaningless, they would not and could not arise in the first place. The term consciousness entails our perceptual span, i.e. awareness of everything that is within and around us at any given moment and which affords meaning and context by courtesy of memory, perception, thought feeling; in short, via the sum total of experience. The key term in all of this is, of course, “awareness”, since it is solely by this means that we are consciously able to assign any kind of meaning, coherence, hierarchy, status or relevance to given raw materials e.g. sense data etc. of learning and whatever subsequent knowledge we acquire.
Consciousness then is that point of contact with both our internal and external worlds. By this means alone are we able to access and interpret the crude, visual and other forms of sense data, e.g. sound/noise, smell etc., into the simply and complexly patterned and meaningful stimuli of day-to-day living. We distinguish a bus from a taxi, a church from a supermarket, the sound of the doorbell or the noise of thunder from that of a dog barking. Thus are we aided in an instant, to assign identity, order, meaning and context to the myriad elements of sensory input, which, in the first place, as we have said, constitute the raw materials from which a meaningful whole, e.g. our global and individual environments, are composed and fashioned.
It can also be reasonably assumed that for all such forms of instant recognition, a good deal remains on the periphery of consciousness of which we are only subliminally· aware and presumably, much more still of which, though an essential part of our total selves, we are not conscious at all. For example, we may visit an air show in which perhaps a Spitfire or Lancaster bomber of World War Two fame is on display. The ‘thousand and one’ components of our knowledge about airfields and aeroplanes and the like of war-time Britain have, very possibly, been ‘assembled’ and arranged – some long ago, some more recently – out of stories and visual inputs, especially films (and maybe actual memories) of World War Two. Moreover, their complex connections and associations may even give rise to the sudden and unexpected awareness of a World War Two song title and tune – or a face from those days long ago – stirring a host of other memories as we drive back home.
This leads us on to perceive how it is that via consciousness we are enabled to make contact with and receive information about our internal and subjective worlds, i.e. of thought, imagination ideas and the like, through the medium of “introspection”**. This, in reality, forms the central core of human consciousness, since by this means we develop a true identity of self and others – and where used in an appropriate context – enjoy and share that self with those about us. © SB.
- Preconscious in the sense of dwelling somewhat below the threshold of conscious perception.
- * I use this term simply to refer to that process whereby we look into and sometimes report upon our own thoughts and feelings. I am aware that the term possesses something of a chequered history in philosophical and psychological terms, all of which does of course lie outwith the remit of these letters.