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Awareness versus consciousness

During our interactions with people often the confusion appears among these two terms. Awareness and consciousness. For many they are the same but they are not.

  • Awareness according wikipedia “Awareness is the state of being conscious of something”
  • Consciousness according wikipedia is “the awareness of internal or external existence”

This may still be confusing even though an interesting differentiator is introduced: “existence”

A tree may be aware of autumn to drop its leaves, but is it conscious of this reaction to autumn? Is it for the tree an automated or voluntary issue? Does the tree “think” about it? Could it for instance decide NOT to drop the leaves this year?

This could provide insight in the difference to be aware through sensing (see, hear, smell, taste, touch and more) and acting accordingly. And to be conscious of ones senses and actions through interpretation, rationalization, comparison of those senses and the actions one takes, in order to make self aware choices.

The question then arises about the human being. We are obviously aware. But to what degree are we conscious? Are there levels of consciousness? For instance, can an executive banker be totally blind to the effects of his or her decisions? In believe they can. Their particular tunnel vision does not make them sensitive to a bigger picture. They are aware, not conscious, at least not conscious enough to question their activities and think of something else.

A typical example we can find in the so called “credit crisis” of 2008. When the crisis exploded the European ministers instantly joined overnight in Brussels to discuss the consequences. Why didn’t they react before? Why were they surprised by the circumstances? Why did they decide to do financial injections into the financial markets rather than into different value systems? Did they learn a lesson? Or are they fixated within the mindset of the establishment? Does this provide them with a biased consciousness? Maybe a lack of a broader awareness?

How about ourselves?


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