What are the differences between sentience, consciousness and awareness?

  • Dictionary definitions such as this one often seem to use the terms sentience, awareness, and consciousness as if they are synonymous with each other. Is this really the case? If not, how do they differ? Some books suggest that sentience and awareness are simply facets of the larger concept of consciousness.

    3 hard to define terms, but consider: a sentient being can be unconscious, and a conscious being can be unaware.

    @obelia I take it then that they are different but related terms :) How can a conscious being be unaware?

    Well not completely unaware but when you're concentrating or reading or daydreaming you're awareness can sometimes be reduced.

  • iphigenie

    iphigenie Correct answer

    8 years ago

    These are all terms that one frequently reads in texts on Cognitive Science. I will try to find some exemplary definitions:

    1. Consciousness: Many philosophers have argued that consciousness is a unitary concept that is understood intuitively by the majority of people in spite of the difficulty in defining it. Others, though, have argued that the level of disagreement about the meaning of the word indicates that it either means different things to different people, or else is an umbrella term encompassing a variety of distinct meanings with no simple element in common (Wikipedia). You should check the SEP article for there is a lot more to say about consciousness than one of us could actually summarise here.

    2. Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive, or be conscious, or to have subjective experiences. Eighteenth century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think ("reason") from the ability to feel ("sentience"). In modern western philosophy, sentience is the ability to have sensations or experiences (described by some thinkers as "qualia"). Sentience is a minimalistic way of defining "consciousness", which is otherwise commonly used to collectively describe sentience plus other characteristics of the mind. (Wikipedia)

    3. Awareness is the state or ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects, or sensory patterns. In this level of consciousness, sense data can be confirmed by an observer without necessarily implying understanding. More broadly, it is the state or quality of being aware of something. In biological psychology, awareness is defined as a human's or an animal's perception and cognitive reaction to a condition or event. (Wikipedia)

    If I'm not mistaken it's halfway safe to say that awareness and sentience are levels or subclasses of the consciousness. Awareness is mainly the physical act of perceiving, while sentience is a subjective way of actually being affected. Consciousness then is used in many different meanings, but often as a umbrella term for several faculties. Hope I could help, check the links for more information.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM