005a-Stuff, awareness and representation
What is stuff?
When we look at our experience we are confronted with contents, with things, with stuff. Clearly stuff exists. And wherever we find stuff, it's tied to awareness. There is no stuff, not any kind of thing, without an awareness of it. And there seems to be no awareness without the stuff coming along with it. Stuff is the content of awareness.
Awareness is fundamental to nature. And we are unable to separate awareness from it's contents.
All the objects of the universe, even the universe itself is tied to awareness in this way. Awareness is the ontological glue of the universe. It binds the full range of existence and experience together. It is where all the stuff gets associated, related, or represented to all the other stuff in the universe.
This sounds like metaphysical mumbo jumbo. But wherever we look for examples of objects without awareness we always find awareness. All of the kinds of things we think of as real and existing, only have that quality because we are aware of them as having that quality of existing. If we talk about existence as a state of an object then awareness of objects is critical in demonstrating that state.
Awareness is how we know the difference between fiction and fact. It is how the contents of experience exist to us. And the contents of experience are, literally, everything. The contents of awareness are everything. Certainly new contents come into experience, but there are not contents outside of experience. We may so, that another person is not aware of some fact, or some detail of some experience, and this is certainly true in a third person sort of way. But it is impossible to separate awareness from the contents of awareness.
When we say that a third person is unaware of some object, it is a speculation on our part. We may inquire with the person about the contents of their awareness, but even then we are speculating. Because a third person is not an awareness, but is an object that we are aware of. Thus, for our own selves, other people may demonstrate a lack of awareness of objects, but we cannot demonstrate that objects exist independently of awareness. It is our own awareness that is in question. We assume, or ordinarily believe, that objects exist independently of our awareness because we see that we may be aware of things that others appear not to be aware of. Or we become aware of new things and this changes our experience. We account for this change by representing the objects as existing separately from awareness. But we cannot show this to be the case for ourselves, but we assume it and we believe it.
Object permanence and object independence and the awareness of other people as separate from our own awareness are not explanatory problems of awareness. There is nothing to explain in awareness, because awareness is the content of awareness. We cannot find any objects that exist independently of awareness. Each of us always finds that objects are the same as the awareness of objects. There are no examples of objects that exist apart from awareness.
Object permanence, independence, the awareness of other people, how we account for new objects and new ideas, while maintaining that objects are always the same as the awareness of those objects, is a problem of representation. This is a problem of our ability to represent the contents of our awareness, it is not that our awareness is inconsistent.
We can assume that new objects spontaneously pop into existence at the moment we are aware them. They pop into existence with their history and causal paths all spontaneously instantiated. This belief would provide an account for how new objects come into existence without having to assume that objects exist independently of the awareness of them. Of course no one believes this because it is impossible to verify, and it does not provide us with much power to understand how objects work or behave. But there is nothing in our awareness that explicitly prevents this possibility.
This idea is just another way to represent our experience. There are many people today that make just this argument to explain their religious ideas and experiences. We do not rely on these descriptions of how things work because they are not particularly explanatory. They are types of representations that can be used to bring coherence to seemingly contradictory representations or experiences, but they do not offer any kind of predictive power about what objects, experiences or events may happen next, or what other people may see or become aware of apart from oneself.
But even if experiences (the contents of awareness) are contradictory or incoherent, that does not mean they do not exist. Coherence, contradiction, sensibility, truth are all themselves representations that we overlay on top of experience. That is, they are objects we experience too.
What we, and seemingly all aware creatures are confronted by, is the variety of experience and an imperative to make some sense or order out of that. As human beings, we have constructed a wide variety of meta-physical explanations for how the contents we experience fit together, but those explanations, even our modern ones of a material world, are representations we make. they do not supervene awareness, but are themselves objects we are aware of and associate to other objects we are aware.
This sounds like more metaphysical mumbo jumbo. And it is. But it is important because an artificial consciousness or intelligence has to deal with this same mumbo jumbo too. It has to deal with reality itself, which includes the constructs it will put on top of reality. An artificial mind like one in a computer system will have to form beliefs about how the world works and what it is like. It has to confront all the variety of objects of it's experience and make sense of them. And there is a great variety
Take as examples, the number 5, clouds, stars, paintings by Klimt, the sexuality expressed by klimt, the feeling of excitement at a concert, internal combustion, the force of gravity, even change itself. These are all objects of awareness and they are all tied to each other through and in awareness.
There is nothing we can name, where we can somehow, magically extract awareness from the thing itself. Any sort of object, or action, or event, or idea, or error is intimately tied to awareness. All the stuff that exists, exists because there is awareness of it. And the reverse is true, objects entangle the awareness of them. And much of this stuff that we experience are representations.
They are not sensations, such as the light received on the retina, but rather they are the faces seen, the cars on the road, clouds, light, dark. the feelings we have, either through our skin or in our heart are not merely sensations, but are in fact tied, inextricably to our representations. A deep breath is not merely a series of sensations, it is an awareness of ideas, such as the idea of breathing, the idea of deep, the idea of air.
The experience of a deep breath is not the collection of words I'm writing. If you take a deep breath, your experience is different than it was before. Things change, you change, because your actions have changed.
Action is itself a representation. Action is not a sensation, it is not something we experience directly. If I say to you "action", you cannot "do" action. You can "take a deep breath". But that is a complex of associated sensations and actions that must be coordinated and understood for you to even do it.
Our experiences are full of representations down to the most basic level. We refer to them with words and commands (as telling a dog to sit must be a representation that dog learned.) But are representations real? That is, are representations fundamental to reality?
If representations are real, they must exist. but are they fundamental to the universe itself or are they something "in my own mind"?
I think the only answer to this is that representations are fundamental to reality itself. Do words exist, or do they only exist in my own mind? Does the air exist or does it only exist in my own mind? When a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?
All questions about representation. Think about them. How do you know your answers are right? That itself is another representational question. Assignments of validity or "truth values" occur in complex representational structures. Human experience is richly representational, down to very basic experiences.
We can consider all kinds of representations we have of our experiences, and the ordering of our sensations. One of these representations that we are all familiar with is air. What is air?
Is air the molecules 'in the air'? Is air a concept and not just something we need to breathe? Does the concept of air exist independently of us? Is "air" a conceptual aggregation for molecules of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide? Or is air a thing that exists in in my mind and is independent of the rest of the universe? "Air" as an external thing is an obvious example of "air" as a representation.
Are representations such as air, a fundamental part of reality? Or are they like a fiction, an invention of the mind? Is there another option besides these two?
Perhaps you could hold your breath and find out.