I once saw a movie of a stroke patient who post-stroke was unable to communicate, unable to move eyes in response to external stimuli, physically paralyzed also, therefore one could conclude that there was no ‘presence’ there and that there was no neural processing going on inside. I describe this as someone watching the world as through a camera lens without being able to perform any processing of the incoming visual or auditory data, the processing switch being turned off. Data is going in but going nowhere. What we define as ‘brain dead’. No processing, no intellect, no presence. Yet the movie implied or inferred that the patient was aware of external stimuli, was processing, was having an inner-dialogue, was experiencing emotions of anger and frustration without being able to externalize these. This was tested by placing the patient in a P.E.T. scan or M.R.I. machine and being able to see how different parts of the brain were being stimulated when the patient was being asked questions, the limbic region thalamus were being ignited and so we conclude that feelings were being experienced. The patient wasn’t ‘brain dead’ so to speak. However can we conclude from a P.E.T. scan that ‘normal’ function or consciousness is present? We cannot.
One gets lost in senseless argument when one posits that culture is necessary for consciousness, it isn’t but it does alter perception and analysis of inputs whether auditory, visual, or tactile. The mind is greater than the brain, just as consciousness is greater than the mind. Both brain and mind are necessary for consciousness. Presence is the ability to share one’s brain and mind externally through eyes or speech or bodily movement. The brain is just the computer processor, but the mind contains emotions and thoughts as substances or forms. The mind is mediated by the soul. Not a scientific acceptance I know, yet real. What is relationship between soul and presence? We give soul the attribute of ‘anima’ and that without soul the body dies. Yet can we say that soul or ‘anima’ is the essential source of consciousness? What happens to it when presence is absent? Has the soul really left the body and gone to another plane of being, leaving the body behind in a catatonic state?
Because presence is a necessary criteria for consciousness we may conclude that patients with dementia who are not perceived by observers to be present to the external environment are not conscious. They are alive but we are unaware of whether they are conscious of the external environment if they can’t communicate their presence somehow.
the discussion doesn’t make reference to the spiritual aspect of consciousness being energetic in nature or in the least non-physical or material. Perhaps someone could make reference to how we define consciousness in its pure form and how it manifests or expresses itself as presence, with humans experiencing dementia and loss of communicative process, ie: speech, how can we differentiate soul from consciousness? What I experienced with my mother who had progressing dementia and loss of presence, I was unable to ascertain whether there was ‘anybody home’ because her stare was blank without facial expression whatsoever. There appeared to be an absence of ‘presence’ yet she was still clearly conscious. Awake but not necessarily aware? A person is alive while soul is still in the body but not necessarily present. Therefore can we conclude that presence is consciousness and that in the absence of presence consciousness is absent yet life is present and possible without consciousness.