On Consciousness

“Consciousness is a fascinating but elusive phenomenon: it is impossible to specify what it is, what it does, or why it evolved. Nothing worth reading has been written on it.”

– Stuart Sutherland

Erroneous Priorities

People have different opinions. Now, interesting as this may be, learning how to determine the fact that certain convictions are actually ‘more relevant’, no discussion will ever have to be wearisome and pointless. – Relevant, that is, in the sense that ‘it has its base in reality’, i.e. ‘holds (more) truth’.

There are truths to be known about the world we live in, and since our opinions relate to that world, a number of convictions can correctly be labelled ‘irrelevant’ since they are not based in reality i.e. not related to a verifiable truth in any way.

Opinions and Issues

1.1. Fact:
Opinions can relate to issues i.e. a topic which can be approached from different angles.
1.2.1. Fact:
Concerning one particular issue: One can either do something or nothing.
1.2.2. Hypothesis:
There probably is an infinite amount of something.
1.2.3. Hypothesis:
There probably is only one kind of nothing.
1.2.4. Hypothesis:
There could be no such thing as nothing.

Human Well-Being and Problems

2.1. Fact:
Human well-being concerns objectifiable effects on consciousness.
2.2.1. Fact:
A phenomenon which negatively impacts the standard of human well-being is a problem.
2.2.2. Fact:
By default, a phenomenon which does not negatively impact the standard of human well-being is not a problem.
2.2.3. Fact:
It is true to say there are issues in society which can be identified as problems.
2.2.4. Fact:
By default, it is true to say that some issues cannot be identified as problems.
2.3. Conclusion:
The severity and number in which problems exist in society effect the total amount of human well-being and happiness in that society.

Problems and Solutions

3.1.1. Fact:
It is true to say that actual problems may be assigned different solutions which realise varying degrees of human well-being and happiness.
3.1.2. Hypothesis:
It is probably true to say that here are an infinite number of ways to solve a problem.
3.2.1. Conclusion:
There are solutions to problems which realise a greater amount of human well-being and happiness than other solutions.
3.2.2. Conclusion:
There are solutions to problems which are more relevant than others.

Problems and Priorities

4.1.1. Fact:
Actual problems have a degree of priority i.e. one problem is more relevant than another.
4.1.2. Fact:
The degree of priority of a problem is determined by the quantity of verifiable negative impact on human well-being.
4.2. Fact:
It is empirically true to say that one problem is more conducive to degrading human well-being than a another.
4.3.1. Fact:
The rate or amount of degradation with regard to human well-being is known as the scale of the problem.
4.3.2. Fact:
The scale of the problem determines its priority.
4.4. Conclusion:
Different priorities are assigned to a problem; these priorities can be misplaced in relation to the scale of the problem i.e. erroneous.
4.5. Conclusion:
Worse still, certain priorities are assigned to issues that are not actual problems. These priorities are erroneous.

Consciousness of a Bat

“There’s a brilliant paper by Thomas Nagel, which asks “what’s it like to be a bat?”, and this is the third person experience which he points very clearly to – you cannot have a scientific approach to – but what science does in very simple terms, is to work out what a bat needs to have in order to know it’s a bat. We are never going to know! But how do we know that that bat has the right circuitry to know anything? And I think that is a scientific question, and perhaps it’s an important one. […]

A bat knows it’s a bat enough to survive as a bat, and that may be very little, in comparison to the sort of things we have to know to survive with our complexity.”

– Igor Alexander, In Our Time (Programme 76) “Science of Consciousness”

On Dreaming Beyond The Ego

“The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens to that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was conscious ego and will be soul far beyond what a conscious ego could ever reach.”

– Carl Jung

Psychological Projection

A psychological projection or projection bias is a psychological defence mechanism where a person unconsciously denies their own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, such as to the weather, a tool, or to other people. Thus, it involves imagining or projecting that others have those feelings. It is known as one of the six main self-defence mechanisms.

Sigmund Freud

Projection reduces anxiety by allowing the expression of the unwanted unconscious impulses or desires without letting the conscious mind recognize them.

An example of this behaviour might be blaming another for self failure. The mind may avoid the discomfort of consciously admitting personal faults by keeping those feelings unconscious, and redirect their libidinal satisfaction by attaching, or projecting, those same faults onto another.

According to Sigmund Freud, projection is a psychological defence mechanism whereby one projects one’s own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings onto someone else. ‘Emotions or excitations which the ego tries to ward off are spit out and then felt as being outside the ego […] perceived in another person’. It is a common process that every person uses to some degree. (The related defence of) ‘projective identification differs from projection in that the impulse projected onto an external object does not appear as something alien and distant from the ego because the connection of the self with that projected impulse continues’.

To understand the process, consider a person in a couple who has thoughts of infidelity. Instead of dealing with these undesirable thoughts consciously, they unconsciously project these feelings onto the other person, and begin to think that the other has thoughts of infidelity and may be having an affair. Thus one can obtain ‘acquittal by his conscience – if he projects his own impulses to faithlessness on to the partner to whom he owes faith’. In this sense, projection is related to denial, arguably the only defence mechanism that is more primitive than projection. Projection, like all defence mechanisms, provides a function whereby a person can protect their conscious mind from a feeling that is otherwise repulsive.

Projection can also be established as a means of obtaining or justifying certain actions that would normally be found atrocious or heinous. This often means projecting false accusations, information, etcetera, onto an individual for the sole purpose of maintaining a self-created illusion. One of the many problems with the process whereby ‘something dangerous that is felt inside can be moved outside – a process of projection’ – is that as a result ‘the projector may become somewhat depleted and rendered limp in character, as he loses part of his personality’.

Id, Ego, and Super-ego

Freud’s Diagrams on the Ego and the Id

The id is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality, what little we know of it we have learnt from our study of the dream-work and of the construction of neurotic symptoms, and most of this is of a negative character and can be described only as a contrast to the ego. We all approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations. It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organisation, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle. It contains everything that is inherited, that is present at birth, is laid down in the constitution – above all, therefore, the instincts, which originate from the somatic organisation, and which find a first psychical expression here in the id in forms unknown to us. The id comprises the disorganised part of the personality structure that contains the basic drives. The id acts according to the pleasure principle – The pleasure principle states that people seek pleasure and avoid pain, for instance; people seek to satisfy biological and psychological needs – seeking to avoid pain or unpleasant feelings and are aroused by increases in instinctual tension.

The ego is that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world. The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions. In its relation to the id it is like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse; with this difference, that the rider tries to do so with his own strength, while the ego uses borrowed forces. The ego comprises that organised part of the personality structure that includes defensive, perceptual, intellectual-cognitive, and executive functions. Conscious awareness resides in the ego, although not all of the operations of the ego are conscious. The ego separates what is real. It helps us to organise our thoughts and make sense of them and the world around us.

The Super-ego can be thought of as a type of conscience that punishes misbehaviour with feelings of guilt. For example: having extra-marital affairs. The Super-ego strives to act in a socially appropriate manner, whereas the id just wants instant self-gratification. The Super-ego controls our sense of right and wrong and guilt. It helps us fit into society by getting us to act in socially acceptable ways. The Super-ego aims for perfection.


The preconscious is the part of the mind not present in consciousness, but readily recalled into it like memories. These memories are not conscious, but we can retrieve them to conscious awareness at any time.

“The unconscious is the larger circle which includes within itself the smaller circle of the conscious; everything conscious has its preliminary step in the unconscious, whereas the unconscious may stop with this step and still claim full value as a psychic activity.” – Sigmund Freud

While these memories are not part of your immediate awareness, they can be quickly brought into awareness through conscious effort.

Freud believed that the preconscious functions as an intermediate or transitional level of the mind—between the unconscious and the conscious—through which repressed material passes.