Re: virus: kurzweil cuts the mustard

Freespeak (
Fri, 08 Jan 1999 16:16:32 -0700

Has anyone considered the utility of a distinction between "sentience" and "consciousness." In this context I use "sentience" as referring to the senses, processing data received from the senses, and actions based on that data and processing.

A "sentient" entity has senses, perceives aspects of the environment, processes the data "received" (including making certain "predictions"), and acts accordingly. However, this entity may have little or no concept of "self" and little or no awareness of its data processing and its efficacy.

A "conscious" entity has some awareness of the nature of its senses, their peculiarities, and limitations, can observe at least some of its data processing and improve it. So "consciousness" refers to the awareness of "sense operations" and the ability to improve them.

Using the words "sentience" and "consciousness" in this manner, animals tend to be sentient but not conscious. Humans tend to be sentient and more or less conscious. An activity such as driving a car can be performed utilizing the faculties of sentience without the necessity of any consciousness.

Frederick Mann

At 07:38 PM 1/8/99 +0000, Robin Faichney <> wrote:
>In message <>, David McFadzean
><> writes
>>>Just that it's a meme that serves a function in
>>>human relationships, and that there is *nothing*
>>>"out there" to which it "points". Not just that
>>>it has fuzzy boundaries, or that we can't define
>>>it sufficiently well, but that IT AIN'T THERE!
>>Would you say it (consciousness) is like colour in
>>that sense? That it is necessarily subjective, even
>>though it is obviously correlated with an external
>>pattern (wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation in
>>the case of colour).
>Nope. I don't think there's anything that corresponds
>to consciousness as wavelength corresponds to colour.
>(Is that the usual Canadian spelling?)
>(But, as an aside, I don't think matter is any more
>real than consciousness.)
>>If not, could you give some examples of other distinction
>>memes that <consciousness> is like and unlike?
>OK, how about <sexiness>? Nobody would claim that
>there's any particular thing "out there" that is
>sexiness -- it's entirely subjective. Of course,
>that doesn't rule out quite a lot of agreement on
>what's sexy and what's not, for which the technical
>term is "intersubjectivity". Similarly, we all
>agree that all humans are to be considered
>conscious -- but the more unlike us the thing in
>question is, the less likely we are to consider it
>conscious. That's because the main function of
><conscious> is to denote those things with which
>we might identify, things which we see as having
>a point of view, being capable of experiencing
>pleasure, pain, etc.
><Consciousness> is different from <sexiness>, and
>more complicated, because when we consider someone
>conscious, we recognise that they, in turn, might
>or might not consider *us* to be conscious. A lot
>of the confusion over consciousness stems from
>that mutual recursion, I think.
>BTW, it may or may not already be obvious that I
>use the word in a slightly different way from you,
>David -- for me <conscious> is more-or-less
>equivalent to <aware>, while for you it seems it's
>more like <self-aware>.

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