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What is the Etymology of the Word "Consciousness?"

Posted Jan. 3, 2014 by dustproduction in Open

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commented on March 16, 2014
by dustproduction



Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time. By an extension, the term "the etymology of [a word]" means the origin of the particular word.

If we are to understand the concept that is so debated should we not explore the very nature to the word itself?

  • Anonymous Icon

    dustproduction Mar 16, 2014


    Maxwell Bennett, Professor in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, delivers a Franke lecture entitled, "The History of Consciousness".

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    dustproduction Mar 10, 2014

    So let's see what we have here so far.
    Consciousness seems limited to the self observable subjective, condition of awareness which creates a sense of knowing, if we rely on the origins of the term.
    Definitions of a word are not particularly helpful since they adapt and change in accordance to the ways a word is being used.
    So from these origins why would we infer that there is a spiritual aspect to consciousness. Did this notion arise from the religious dominance of the culture at the time? These sources do not tell us.

    The search goes on.

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    RealityOverScience Jan 05, 2014

    Two true! ;)

  • NoetPoet Jan 05, 2014

    From http://www.etymonline.com:

    consciousness (n.) 1630s, "internal knowledge," from conscious + -ness. Meaning "state of being aware" is from 1746.conscious (adj.) c.1600, "knowing, privy to," from Latin conscius "knowing, aware," from conscire (see conscience); probably a loan-translation of Greek syneidos. A word adopted from the Latin poets and much mocked at first. Sense of "active and awake" is from 1837.

    conscience (n.) early 13c., from Old French conscience "conscience, innermost thoughts, desires, intentions; feelings" (12c.), from Latin conscientia "knowledge within oneself, sense of right, a moral sense," from conscientem (nominative consciens), present participle of conscire "be (mutually) aware," from com- "with," or "thoroughly" (see com-) + scire "to know" (see science).
    Probably a loan-translation of Greek syneidesis, literally "with-knowledge." Sometimes nativized in Old English/Middle English as inwit. Russian also uses a loan-translation, so-vest, "conscience," literally "with-knowledge."

    science (n.) mid-14c., "what is known, knowledge (of something) acquired by study; information;" also "assurance of knowledge, certitude, certainty," from Old French science "knowledge, learning, application; corpus of human knowledge" (12c.), from Latin scientia "knowledge, a knowing; expertness," from sciens (genitive scientis) "intelligent, skilled," present participle of scire "to know," probably originally "to separate one thing from another, to distinguish," related to scindere "to cut, divide," from PIE root *skei- "to cut, to split" (cf. Greek skhizein "to split, rend, cleave," Gothic skaidan, Old English sceadan "to divide, separate;" see shed (v.)).

    From Google:


    suffix: -ness

    1. forming nouns chiefly from adjectives:.
    2. denoting a state or condition."liveliness"
    -an instance of a state or condition.
    "a kindness"
    3. something in a certain state. "wilderness"

    So it looks like the original etymological meaning of the word "consciousness" is "the state or condition of thoroughly cutting and splitting".

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    dustproduction Jan 03, 2014

    It is not the experience that need be express in words, nor am I asking for a definition of consciousness.
    The word "consciousness" I believe comes to us from the Middle English, though its roots are much older.
    A friend informs me that it involved the notion of knowing of a matter with another, as though of some 'inside knowledge.'

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    Gharak Jan 03, 2014

    Perhaps we get to distracted by words and labels. The language of Consciousness comes in awareness and impressions and feelings. If you experience an expanded awareness of any state it is sometimes not easy to express it in words! Just enjoy the experience:)

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