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On Perceptual Consciousness

    A perceptual being is able to automatically retain and integrate sensations, and perceive entities by means of percepts. Many people take that to mean that other animals have a similar experience of entities as we do. That's not quite the case.

    We experience entities as things separate from us, within a context, which is also different from us and the entity itself. When I look at a chair, I see it and know that I am in a particular room, with a particular chair, that is standing still, but could also move if I push it. I perceive it while also having a good direct grasp of my life so far, and on the objective relationship between that chair and me - I know, for example, that if I happen to feel hungry while looking at the chair, it has nothing to do with it.

    This type of perception requires a number abstractions, only possible to conceptual beings. To perceive an object as something separate from oneself requires an abstract understanding of individuality. To perceive an entity as something different than what it is currently doing, requires an abstract understanding of causality. To perceive one's entire life as a coherent whole, and this particular situation as a part of it, requires both, and more.

    A dog isn't really aware of it's owner per se. It perceives him - it can see him, smell him, hear him, and integrate these perceptions into a single mental existent. It cannot, however, properly differentiate him from everything else, including itself. It also cannot grasp the causality involved in his interactions with him.

    To make it more concrete, think of the way we perceive things in a dream. We do not really know how we got to the situation we are at, and we do not even think to ask - the idea of "before" is foreign. There isn't a clear difference between action and intention, and we can just as easily change our situation by thinking and feeling as we can by actually acting within the dream.

    Lacking an understanding of causality, conscious beings can only perceive correlation. Instincts are not conditioned by integration, but by association. If this chair is always there when our hypothetical dog is hungry, it will associate it with the hunger, much like Pavlov's dogs and his metronome. It's not that he imagines that the chair causes, or is caused by the hunger - the chair and the hunger are perceived as the same existent, much like we perceive the sight of a person and the sound of their speech, because doing otherwise would require abstract thought.

    Why is any of this relevant, other then allowing for a more accurate relationship with your pet? Because we are perceptual beings as much as we are conceptual beings, and our perceptual apparatus still follows those rules. More importantly, to the extent that people default on rationality, they devolve into perceptual beings, and their actions can only be properly understood through those lenses.

    It is no accident that philosophies like Pragmatism and Positivism shun causality in favor of correlation. That is, by necessity, all we are left with in the absence of abstraction.

  -  April 8th, 2020