Sunday, October 9, 2005

A note on terminology

A big part of the problem in this whole area has to do with the ambiguity and outright confusion of the terms that deal with it. E.g., "consciousness" sometimes is just supposed to mean linguistic consciousness or self-awareness, sometimes to mean just "awareness" or "sentience" as such, and sometimes, indiscriminately, to mean both or either. That's not so bad if the distinction among these usages is clear (more or less) from the start, but is a great source of muddle and pointless disputation if it's not. Similarly, terms like "perception" and (especially) "experience" have been used in a wide variety of contexts and carry with them such considerable semantic baggage that their use in more specific or defined senses carries the constant threat of misunderstanding. Still, it's difficult to do without them without seeming merely artificial. And this kind of dilemma will recur in subsequent posts as I try to deal with familiar topics but from a less familiar, and perhaps more comprehensive, standpoint. So I won't try to invent a new jargon to cope with this perspective, but I will try to alert any readers from time to time, as here, that some common words are being used in some uncommon ways.

As an example, the terms "perception" and "experience" are often used somewhat interchangeably, though the latter usually includes awareness of internal states as well. But in the preceding post, and subsequently, I'd like to reserve the term "perception" to refer to the rendering of environmental stimuli on the internal "world" of consciousness, and "experience" to refer to the apprehension of that world (which includes other internal states, such as memories, imaginations, dispositions, etc.) by the "actor" component of consciousness. (But I can't promise I won't lapse into more casual usages myself.)

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