Friday, September 11, 2015

Nonmetaphysical consciousness

The last post reminded me of this post from the Ning IPS archive:

Can we be conscious during deep sleep? It seems perhaps so, but it is a prereflective or reflexive sort of consciousness. When awakened from deep sleep sometimes we forget who are what we are, but we know that we are. This is a temporary loss of our reflective, autobiographical self that must be reconstituted by memory. But there is a certainly about our prereflective awareness in that moment. I'm reminded of the discussion of the aggregates in the fold thread, how they are impermanent and fleeting and must be continually reconstituted from moment to moment. But that would apply equally as well to this prereflective awareness, that it too is not some permanent, pristine or original face.

Yogacara and Vedanta schools posit that upon awakening one remembers the experience of this prereflective state. It's a state of consciousness without an object, whereas waking and dreaming have objects. It is an absence of objects but not of awareness. However it is interpreted as a pristine, original and metaphysical face due to its lack of taking fluctuating objects as its focus, the True Self or Witness, when in actuality it is simply our natural, embodied and prereflective awareness. Sure it seems like something metaphysical due to activating more primal brain areas and temporarily suspending the brain areas that give a sense of self in relation to space and time. But that is an apparent phenomenological sense devoid of the more third-person neurosciences that contextualize it more accurately.

“It seems possible, however, to extract the phenomenological core of the Advaita Vedanta conception of dreamless sleep from Vedanta metaphysics,” that such a state “is logically distinct from the Vedanta belief that the self is essentially pure consciousness” (245). Vedanta assumes that since a sense of ego is absent from this state that it must therefore be “transcendental—meaning not fundamentally embodied. It's open to us today, however, to think that the egoless consciousness in dreamless sleep is a fundamentally embodied consciousness, by which I mean a consciousness that contingent on the brain and other systems of the body,” thereby removing it from Vedanta's metaphysical frame (250).

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