Art and the Conscious Mind

The conscious mind is just a small mentality of the mind. The conscious mind distinguishes us from anything else, we have a conscious awareness. Humans are the only things, as far as we can tell, that make art. Creativity isn’t something you find in animals. Nobody knows how consciousness works. Art is telling us about who we are and what we think.

  • Anthony Van Dyck, Cupid and Psyche, 1640.

She’s not dead, but she’s unconscious and oblivious to everything that’s going on. Cupid’s just come across her body and realised what’s happening. Represents the waking of a mindless person and a highly aroused male figure (cupid).

  • Why would we have a conscious mind?

William James, founding father of psychology; it’s for selecting things out of all the possibilities put before us.

Freud; we have sensory capacities, like all animals, but we have a sensory awareness unlike others.

Daniel Dennett; we’re effectively computers- sophisticated robots.

Roger Penrose; not computer programmes.

Consciousness helps to enable us to become better in social situations, it’s letting us inhabit each other- to know what others are thinking and to understand.

(Looking at the Cupid painting again);

The trees in the background reflect the nature of the beings beneath them. One is dead (the girl) and the other is alive. When first looking, you are mostly conscious of the figures in the foreground. But now the trees are present in a way that they weren’t before. This seems to be what consciousness does. Consciousness brings the world into being for us. She’s about to be brought back around.

How do we become conscious of the world?
We have this view that we are aware of the reality before us (direct realism).

Visual indeterminacy full of visual information but you can’t tell what it is. Get a sense that there’s something there but can’t clearly see what it is.

Perception is a dynamic process. Searching for the best determination with the available data.



It’s been interesting looking at the different ideologies of these psychologists, yet quite confusing at the same time, as none of them seem to have a definite answer to what consciousness is or what the cause is. That we are similar to animals and other creatures in the world, yet we seem to be the only things that have a consciousness; does this mean we just haven’t yet discovered if other things have a consciousness or that we are superior as humans seem to think we are?


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