The Concept of Space (Part II) – Vectors of Consciousness

Following from where we left off yesterday… If what we are concerned with when thinking on the nature of Outside Space is the relationship between the consciousnesses of those that are present in the space, we need to introduce a more precise way of thinking about this. In order to do this I need to first define a few terms:

Objects of Consciousness: The question as to what consciousness is, is exceedingly complex to say the least. That said, there is a certain amount of consensus amongst modern day philosophers, cognitive scientists, neuroscientists and so on that in analyzing the nature of consciousness as it brings to bear on how we think and behave it is useful to think of the contents of consciousness as consisting of certain ‘objects’. Objects might include ocurrent thoughts of the form ‘It is raining outside’, standing belief states (such as the fact that you believe in God) that are not present in ones immediate consciousness all the time, the awareness that the apple in my hand is solid and the colour red and so on. It is not important to be overly precise in trying to specify what the class of entities is that we consider mental objects, just to understand that this is a useful way of thinking about the contents of our mind.

Phenomenal Objects of Consciousness: If we think about consciousness as containing objects, then we can acknowledge that a certain subset of these objects will be the result of our sensory experience of the world. As I sit here typing, my visual field is presented with the light and colours of my computer screen, my fingertips feel the texture of the keys on the keyboard, I can see light streaming in from my window from the corner of my eye and so on.

In short, our PRESENCE in space entails PRESENCE in relation to phenomenal stimuli.

Whatever our circumstances, we are receiving sensory (phenomenal) stimuli from the outside world. This stimuli is interpreted and is what constitutes our immediate relation with the world.

Others as Phenomenal Objects of Consciousness: So far so good… Given the above, we can think of Outside Space in terms of the fact that there is a reciprocity of consciousness involving Being (one person) and Others (everyone else) in terms of them being Phenomenal Objects of Consciousness for each other.

So if you are sitting in your living room with friends you are all phenomenal objects for each other. Or in simple terms you can all see and hear each other (which is what makes the consciousness reciprocal).

The question we now need to reflect on is how this reciprocal phenomenal consciousness that people have of each other in outside space can be understood such that it reflects differences in the structure of various Outside Spaces, as this is what will enable us to introduce some notions that can help us to develop a taxonomy of Outside Space.

Let me begin by introducing a few terms that will make things clearer:

Vectors of Consciousness: When one is present in Outside Space, we need to think of how the consciousnesses of others are oriented within the spatial context. For example, if we are at piano recital, we can expect the consciousnesses of those that are at the recital to be focused on the performer. If this is the case we can say that the performer is the object of consciousness of those that are watching him. This is not sufficient, however. We need to say more since we must reflect the fact that he is the simultaneous object of consciousness of a number of people in the theatre. In saying this we note this is only so because objects of phenomenal consciousness are objects in physical space and since this is so, they are objects that have a particular physical relation to us. Things can be near to us, far way from us, slightly to the left and so on. Therefore, to capture an important feature of our relation to objects in our sensory/phenomenal field, we need to introduce a notion that captures the spatial relation that we have to these objects. We need to capture the fact that, for example, everyone on the left hand side of the concert hall has to angle their head towards the right in order to see the performer.

We capture the idea that Object of Consciousness have a particular spatial relation to us by introducing the notion of a Vector of Consciousness.

In the world of geometry, a vector is defined by direction and magnitude. The vector, therefore, will capture the idea that the Object of Consciousness is the performer and the direction that the object stands in relation to you is to the right. We can envision times when some people’s consciousness may stray from what is happening on the stage. Maybe someone in the next row sneezes, maybe the person next to you stands up, maybe you don’t like the performer etc. Therefore, it is not necessarily the case that you will maintain your focus on the moment at hand; your consciousness may stray. Therefore, ones vector of consciousness describes the direction of focus of consciousness, and will vary with time. It’s important to note also that it is not my contention that at any particular time consciousness consists of only one vector. What is important is to understand the dynamic nature of the consciousness of objects in its relation to its phenomenal environment.

Intersection of Objects of Consciousness: We now take note of an important fact, which is that in group situations (which, by definition, are in Outside Space) certain phenomenal stimuli will be objects of consciousness for multiple people. The performer on stage is someone of whom everyone (I should hope!) will be conscious. In contrast, if I am holding my program in my left hand I can be certain that, at the most, a few people other than myself will be conscious of the program. The common Objects of Consciousness can be said to Intersect across the consciousnesses of those that are in the hall.

Locus of Consciousness: To the extent to which the performer is the focus of the consciousness of the observers at the recital, we can say that the performer is the Locus of Consciousness at that point in time and space. It is the object within the space that is the focus of the majority of consciousnesses.

It’s important to note that it is possible that the Locus of Consciousness is not defined for a given space. Consider, for example, a super market. There is no single object that is the primary focus of all shoppers.

Spatial Vectors of Consciousness: We might want to think about things from the perspective of the space itself by suggesting that it can be understood as the sum total of all of the individual vectors at a particular point in time. In the event that everyone is focused upon the performer, we can say the vector that represents the entire space is directed at the performer. The precision of this alignment towards the performer then defines the magnitude of the vector. In the event that half the audience is distracted, the vector will not be fully directed at the performer, nor will its magnitude be as great.

This idea captures the sense that we have, for example, when we are part of a crowd that is watching a mesmerizing speech or an amazing artistic performance. Imagine what it might have been like to watch Hitler give a speech. We can imagine that the entire crowd was completely enthralled. That this was so would have resulted in a certain collective sense; a certain commonality to the experience – that of everyone being mesmerized by Hitler! In this scenario, the Spatial Vector of Consciousness would have been very large.

In contrast, if one is at a boring lecture ones mind tends to stray. One starts looking around the room, observing others, thinking about what is for dinner later in the evening and so on. Ones focus of consciousness is not directed at a fixed point in space in the say way. If others feel the same way, the feeling (or maybe we can say ‘energy’) in the room won’t be the same.

The significance of the idea of the Vector of Consciousness is that the magnitude of the Spatial Vector of Consciousness describes the extent to which participants in a particular group at a point in space and time have their collective consciousnesses directed at the Locus of Consciousness. It describes the extent to which the Locus of Consciousness is the collective object of consciousness. We note that the Spatial Vector of Consciousness is a property of the group.


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