What Are We?

I think that the best answer to the question “What are we” is, “consciousness”.

But what is consciousness?

It seems to me that consciousness is the interaction between our physical bodies and the outside world. When you remove either one of these, you lose consciousness. You only get consciousness when your physical body comes into contact with the outside world.

So the correct answer to the question “What are we” is niether “purely physical bodies” or “the external universe”, but rather, the relationship between the two.

A consequence of this view is that because we all share the same world but not the same bodies, we are all simulatenously the same and different.


  1. Does this sound reasonable to you?
  2. Is this an original philosophical position, or is this something that has been thought of and discussed before?


You’ll have to pardon me here, but having read your argument I feel inclined to pose a different question to you:

Why have you made the/do you find there is a separation between the 2 concepts?

It seems to me as though you have abstracted “physical body” and “external universe” from their sum, which presumably is either totality or something less that includes only the concepts relevant towards addressing the opening question, “what are we?”

Perhaps in answering my question, you will understand better why your answer revolves around re-connecting the 2 concepts.

Probably the most famous instance of this kind of questioning took place back in the 17th century with René Descartes who you may know. Although, he took on the challenge in a more personal self-examining way, concerning himself with “I” rather than “we”.

Unified consciousness is an illusion. Consciousness is really an array of many different interconnected mental processes working together.

Or at least it is once you’ve picked apart your start point into smaller components that you then link back together to only resemble what you started from, but with a greater perceived predictability and feeling of security.

The argument is reasonable except that its a lousy way of describing the relationship between material things to reflect forward upon their organization. Materialistic or mechanical language is inapropriate for describing consciousness. The neurons in your brain may be channels for something but they are not things in the domain of thought, unless you think about them. :smiley: In thought all we have is ideas of things not things themselves.

All the questions we ask are born out of the answers we already have.

Consciousness is the fundamental basis. WE are an imagination. Descartes is wrong. Ultimately there is no such thing as a thinker ; only thought exists. The mind and/or thought do indeed exist outside the human body; and the only real relationship between the two is that the body is a manifestation and it is consciousness and/or thought is dreaming it.
“We” or “I” are a bi-product from a survival tactic of the human animal. This nervous activity is the ego. Ego is fear. We can believe we are that I. The identity is ego derived. There is no such thing as I there is only that nervous activity imagining it. The same nerve (brain) tissues in that phantasm we call the human body.

The real issue is that everything is connected, the mind is just a piece of the universe looking at itself, everything in nature is holistically unified. When something “dies” it’s constituents become a part of something else. Existence from one form to → Another form of existence.

Consciousness has to be embedded fundamentally in reality as stored potentials and then is released as levels of organization and order materialize over time to greater and greater levels of cognition until one reaches some kind of basic self-awareness.

We should see consciousness as a gradient that goes form → unconscious consciousness, to aware or awake consciousness.

The universe is a material place, there nee be no talk of souls or the opposite extreme, extreme reductionism. The truth is our conceptual paradigms for science and knowledge need to advance to the point that everything is unified and self-similar, things are merely distinct (different) manfiestations of the same unified underlying reality.

In fact no truth would be possible if nature/environment/god whatever you prefer to call it was not a unified whole, with merely distinct manifestations, which we think are “seperate objects” or “seperatness” but are not.

The space itself between things is actually an unusual kind of kind of plane that unifies everything to everything else in the universe.

consciousness is the void which is filled only by pretending to have an idea what consciousness is.

what are you? you are an animal lifeform composed of cells. “consciousness” is just a word youve come up with to apply to yourself, in order to invent a nice box to put yourself in. now you can look at the box youve made up and pretend youre looking at yourself. pretend to learn something.

and what are these animal lifeforms? just more words. schemas youve invented for yourself. now gaze at them in wonder and awe. you are so intelligent. so enlightened.

so conscious.

All we are is thought.
We are not the body. The body could have been raised in Bangkok , it would then manifest another “I” or “me” . “I” is a product of the relationship to its environment. If that body had been raised some other wheres - “Lastman” never would have been imagined.

I see your point, but its not entirely true. I’m not just “comforting myself with the delusion of consciousness”, I’ll explain.
After enough memories have accumulated in the mind of a human, the human will gain a sense of “self-awareness” at around age 5.
This “sense of self” is not simply called upon whenever the infant wants to know “what he is” - The “sense of self” is fully integrated in the thinking process, allowing the individual to make goal-orientated behaviour and develop an ego and persona.
The sense of self is for the purpose of socialization (animals who do not socialize as more than a means of reproduction have been shown experimentally to lack a concept of “self”).
Evolution found it beneficial to keep socialization, as individuals who cooperated (more than just having sex with one another) were more likely to survive - hence, through evolution, we gained a sense of “self” so that we may find for ourselves the best role to play in society (which will generally benefit the society).
Leaders think in terms of cooperation and commanding others (an example that they have integrated their sense of “self” into their way of thinking),
The non-alphas/leaders tend not to think in terms of commanding anyone besides themselves (their are exceptions to this, but these are usually individuals who want to be leaders themselves but aren’t leaders).

Although our sense of consciousness may be illusionary in some aspects, it is evident that we have integrated it into our cognition - therefore, it couldn’t be entirely illusionary; it exists to an extent.




I’ve never heard a theory of consciousness quite put that way before, but I think you’d have to flesh it out a bit more for us to see if it ends up looking like something more common. For example, consciousness couldn’t just be the interaction between the world and the body, for the body reacts to the world in various ways that go on below the level of consciousness. For example, it fights off germs without us knowing (sometimes). It reacts to harmful rays like ultraviolet light without us knowing. Our bodies can be affected by brute mechanical forces like incurring cuts and bruises (we do feel these things, of course, but you could also anesthetise certain parts of the body and it will still react the same way). How do you respond to those considerations?

Hmm…if accumulation of memories (information) triggers the creation of [sense of] self, then machines, with right built-in programming, could eventually become self-aware, as well.

Well, we are not just consciousness, or we would cease to exist when we lose consciousness. Which we don’t seem to.

Consciousness is neither the interaction between us and the outside world - we could be completely unconscious and still burn, if set on fire.

A relation is not a thing. Relations are not literally, physically, real.

You have made us unreal.

That has been done many times in the history of philosophy. One way or another.

According to other people in ‘later’ consciousness.

Regaining consciousness is gauged against the feeling we wake up with, in the surroundings we wake up in. Someone who wakes up in an unfamiliar place and/or in an unfamiliar state will find it harder to place their ‘INFERRED’ lack of conscious existence (inferred by familiar continuations of supposed familiar causal eventualities).

The familiar surroundings and familiar feeling upon regaining of consciousness is ‘explained away’ simply by previous experience of other peoples’ claims, which can only be experienced consciously after the supposed ‘lack of consciousness’. The inference of existence during the period of losing consciousness and regaining it is SOLEY honoured by the ever-present communication of people’s current happening claims: in current words or currently read words.

If we throw out everything we think we know because we, in part, know it through other people, then we are left with very little.

Correction: we are left with God.

The OP’s position assumes that we are only the part of us that speaks or at least that thinks.

This is rewarmed Cartesianism.

My foot is part of me. And if i lose it, I am diminished. Even without losing consciousness. Doesn’t mean I am less “human”.

But such simplistic essentialism flies in the face of much emprical evidence.

Unless God rescues it.

That is a great leap of faith - greater than assuming a commonsense non-solipsist point of view.

But feel free. It just strikes me that the OP claims that this is the “best” answer out of hand, and that no one has challenged this.

Well Faust, presumably you just have. In favour of your supposedly neat ‘God’ explanation? Or just side by side with it?

This is utterly unacceptable. Are we left with God if we “throw out everything we think we know because we, in part, know it through other people?” The only remotely plausible way that this could be considered with any kind of validity is if you tautologically define God soley by what is left if you if you “throw out everything we think we know because we, in part, know it through other people”, which gets you nowhere. So presumably you want to throw in all the other God connotations with it just to justify an outdated conservative religion?

If you regard what people tell you as existing outside of your knowingly experienced existence - like someone telling you they watched you sleep - as something experiencable to you, it’s only experiencable to you in your imagination. You can hear and understand and interpret the words and form an imaginary recreation of the events to the best of your ability, you still have not proven it to have existed to you. You can either dump it into the backworld-box with all the other ideas of a world existing independent of you, or you can just be lazy and equally unacceptible by just dumping it in your God-box.

What you REALLY are left with is an existence that is without the need for a subject/object differentiation, where everything that exists has actually happened in existence. Not God or an independently-of-you existing world, unless you want to exercise your imagination or you prefer to believe that things are not of you and they have power over you - similar to a domination fantasy where you are the ‘submissive one’ lol.

Descartes made the mistake, with his thought experiment, of assuming there was a clear cut-off point where losing a certain amount of your self would suddenly cross a line that went from human to no-longer-human, upon losing parts of yourself. He refused to treat identity as a general graduation, in favour of a sum of parts: typical of a mathematician.

The idea in the OP is typical of a mathematician also. The idea that existence really is divided into “purely physical bodies” and “the external universe”, which in turn have a ‘relationship’ between each other. A similar example, also, of a Kantian “by means of a faculty” lmao.

Everything is energy. Energy is colorless, tasteless, soundless, massless, and ordorless. The body you think you are in is an electrical image formed in the brain. The brain is an electrical image formed in ?. The brain is also an image. Life a thought. Life is a thought in space. We are not the body and we are not permanent witness. The thing “you” call “I” see only an imagination. An imagination.

Everything is energy. Energy is colorless, tasteless, soundless, massless, and ordorless. The body you think you are in is an electrical image formed in the brain. The brain is an electrical image formed in ?. The brain is also an image. Life is a thought. Life is a thought in space. We are not the body and we are not permanent witness. The thing “you” call “I” see only an imagination. An imagination.