Rick (in another thread) wrote:
Consciousness is not physical because it doesn't have location
This claim that consciousness does not have a location cannot be correct.
The intention of Rick's comment, I assume, is to take a position against the "Cartesian mistake" of locating the seat of consciousness in a particular part of the brain. In this sense, yes, consciousness cannot be pinpointed or found underneath a microscope.
However consciousness does
have a location. And it has a location in many difference senses. For example:
1) From a physical standpoint, consciousness is located more or less
in the brain. One can debate whether all parts of the brain are equally involved in consciousness or not. And one could argue that consciousness does not stop at the brain but extends into the physical body and its interactive contact with the environment. In any case, our personal consciousness is not exactly located physically in someone else's brain, or in a rock, or on the planet Pluto. So in this sense, an individual consciousness can be physically located even if the boundary between self and other cannot be precisely defined.
2) From an experiential standpoint, consciousness has a subjective point of view that is located somewhere. If I'm reflecting on the tree outside my window, my experience is relative to where I live physically. Furthermore, I have no awareness and can hardly fathom "what it's like" in parts of the world I know nothing about. Our experience of the world follows our body around, because that is where all the information we have about the world is coming from. Our awareness is, by necessity, from the perspective of our sense organs which are attached to our body.
In some ways, the location of experiential consciousness can be shifted at will. If we close our eyes and reflect on our trip to Paris, we are, in a sense, shifting some aspect of our conscious to that location. This is strenghened if we are working with people in Paris, on the phone with them often, keeping track of local events, and having video conference calls. We could say that we are practically there.
In the social realm, when lawyers speak on behalf of a client, they are adopting the point of view of another. Through "power of attorney", our society actually accepts the transfer of awareness and personal agency as a defensible and enforceable construct. If your attorney was informed, institutionally it is as if you were informed.
Part of the confusion surrounding consciousness is that operates concurrently on multiple levels of abstraction and is not one single phenomenon. Here are 5 layers that seem to be operating:
1) physical consciousness - which brain is maintaining a particular consciousness though its neural activity? location is tied mainly to the brain.
2) experiential consciousness - which sense and motor organs are determining the location of subjective point of view? location is the experiental manifold eminating outward from our sense and motor organs. video cameras and microphones can move this location via "telepresence". ironically, the physical shape of experiential consciousness includes a "blind spot" analogous to the one in our retina. That blind spot is our body(!). Experience begins (for the most part) at our eyes and skin and extends outward as far as acuity allows. We have zero physical awareness of our brain, which contains no sense organs at all. If it weren't for mirrors and cameras, most people would not know what they look like.
3) domain consciousness - what is the conceptual world onto which consciousness is being projected (focus of attention, cosmic unity phenomenon), and from what perspective? location is a fluid construct of the neural apparatus and can include domains without physical correlates (e.g. contemplating the world of mathematics).
4) social consciousness - whose point of view is being represented in the social construct created by a society of conscious beings? the transfer of agency via institutions and power of attorney illustrate the fluidity here. location is within the relationship web of society and is defined and maintained by cultural and institutional rules.
5) collective consciousness - coherent conscious systems that span multiple conscious individuals . For example, a community with feelings, goals, and awareness; or a married couple that practically "think for each other"; or left-brain, right-brain studies on people with a severred corpus callosum. location encompasses the union of all participating members.
Dissociative disorder (a.k.a. multiple personality disorder) can be understood as a disruption of consciousness at layers #3 and #4 leading to the emergence of separately maintained personal identities, each with its own personal narrative.