Gamer_2k4 wrote:Can't we just stick a mirror in front of them and see what happens? For example, I would say that birds who attack their reflections aren't very self-aware.
or they just aren't aware of what a reflection is and don't have the mental facilities to reason out this situation. The bird in question may have complete awareness of what is doing to fight off this other damned stubborn bird who won't back down.
The difference here (and I hope it's a real difference and not just an exploitation of your limited scenario) is that when I'm on the planet, I'm making decisions based on my inputs, rather then simply reacting to them. If I get creamed by a spaceship that operates on some other plane of existence, then yes, I'm as unaware of my environment as a deer is unaware of human civilization. But that has nothing to do with my intelligence or capacity for rational thought and self-awareness.
A question of self-awareness? No.
A question of intelligence and capacity for rational thought? Very yes. Intelligence can be defined as the relative ability to use observation and applied reasoning to negotiate around dangers and other obstacles of all types.
To examine that issue, lets say that both the deer and I see the car and spacecraft (respectively, of course) coming at us. The deer clears out of there because car == unknown and unknown == dangerous. I'll try to get away because spaceship == large object coming at me at high velocity and high velocity impact == injury and/or death.
Bullshit. If you see a spaceship suddenly flying towards you there will be no time to ponder just how much damage it's approximate mass and velocity will inflict upon you. You will see it, freak, and either jump the hell out of the way or mentally lock up... like a deer in the headlights, so to speak. Instincts, say hello!
Now, the deer is acting on instinct. It has a pre-programmed set of things that are good for it, and cars don't fall into that group. Is the deer aware that avoiding the car probably saved its life? Probably not. Therefore, its sense of self-preservation is nothing more than instinct.
Pre-programed, or learned behavior through socializing with it's parents and peers? As to the rest, as soon as you find out how to speak deer we'll have answers. Otherwise you're just performing an ass-pull.
I, on the other hand, recognize that I'm a person, recognize that I'm alive, and recognize that there are things that can end that life. Consequently, I'll take conscious steps to ensure that I experience things that will end my life as little as possible.
...though none of this reasoning and rationalization will occur to your conscious mind until after the moment has passed and raw instinct has already saved your silly human backside.
If you're awake, you're conscious.
yes, that's #6 of the 8 definitions listed for the word 'conscious' according to merriam-webster.
some of those other possiblities sound suspiciously more difficult to differentiate from self-awareness, however... such as #5 and 'aware' being listed as a synonym.
Wiki might help... oh, wait, the first senctence in wiki about consciousness is that it's "impossible to define." Aww shucks.
Consider a bee. If it's not sleeping (or whatever bees do), then it's conscious. However, when a bee interacts with other members of the hive, does it do so because the scents and pheromones are familiar to it, or because it honestly recognizes that the bees have a similar body and behavior to itself, and it therefore considers them to be not enemies?
We really don't know why they do it, we just that from observation that they do. Learn to speak bee and maybe we'll find out.
It might sound annoyingly dismissive, but my point is that until humanity does come into contact with a species that we can perceive to be conscious we will never have any basis for understanding the term outside our own limited experience. Hell, if you want to get technical you still can't prove that other humans are conscious... you just accept the assumption that they are because they react in similar fashion to the way you do. Well, assuming you actually are conscious and not just some insidiously designed conversation machine attached to teh interwebs, of course.