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Volition or will is the cognitive process by which an individual decides on and commits to a particular course of action. It is defined as purposive striving and is one of the primary human psychological functions. Wikipedia
One could certainly do that, I guess. As I think consciousness itself spans a wide scale from very simple to very complex, so also would volition. But when does either one reach the point of simplicity where consciousness or volition ceases, and responses become merely biochemical ? We have no way of determining that, so far as I can see.
I'm certainly willing to accept that viruses - the most abundant type of biological entity according to Wikipedia - are neither conscious nor sentient, but cell-based life forms are a little more problematic. In the end, I hold all life to be worthy of respect and compassion, sentient or not.
I was a little uneasy using the word sentient in that post. Perhaps sapient would have been a better choice.
you need to be able to ... back 'em up
Merriam Webster defines sentient thusly: > responsive to or conscious of sense impressions •
By this token, I understand that all life is sentient because all life responds to external stimuli. I would also infer that consciousness requires sentience, but sentience does not require consciousness.
On the other hand, @Shoshin makes the excellent point that :
"Sentient beings are composed of the five aggregates, or skandhas: matter, sensation, perception, mental formations and consciousness"
which would seem to say pretty clearly that, by the Buddhist definition, all sentient beings are also conscious.
The Dalai Lama says:
Every sentient being—even insects—have Buddha nature. The seed of Buddha means consciousness, the cognitive power—the seed of enlightenment.
So for Buddhist purposes, consciousness and sentience, though not the same thing, would seem always to go together.
@person: Amoebae are, so far as I know, never mentioned in Buddhist literature, and in the Buddha's time were not even known to exist, so perhaps it would be best to exclude them from consideration solely on the grounds of convenience.
You've raised some other issues with my ramblings - I'll try to address some of them as time allows.
What does that mean for your Buddhism? Buddhism generally refers to sentient beings, so does treating a wound with antibiotics or eating a carrot create negative karma in your book?
Life feeds on life, and we do the best we can. Karma too finely minced becomes an entanglement.
Does an amoeba have Buddha nature?
... explain more about how you do define it?
I wouldn't even try. It seems a bit like the self to me, nothing I can grasp or point to and say this is my consciousness. I seem to have it, others seem to have it, but I've no idea what it is.
Sentience is one of the defining characteristics of life - the ability to sense and respond to stimuli. All life is sentient by definition. Others will disagree, but that is how I use the word, and I'm sticking with it.
Sentience runs the gamut from very simple (bacteria, say) to very complex (humans), but they are all sentient.
Consciousness is another matter entirely - a speculative matter, one could say. I've never seen a definition of consciousness that really conveys (to me) much sense of what it actually is, but it certainly is like sentience in that it appears to run an extensive gamut from very simple to very complex. Unlike sentience, however, there is no way to say just where it leaves off as one descends down the evolutionary chain.