Consciousness is what drives us forward, is what decides, what sets targets, what defines our fate. And there is a fundamental sign of the achievement of this goals and satisfaction of our personal motivations, which is joy. Bergson says: "The joy always announces that life has triumphed, that has gained ground, that has achieved a victory: any great joy has a triumphant accent. Wherever joy is, creation is: As creation is richer, joy is more profound. The mother who watches her son is joyful, because she is conscious of having created him, physically and morally. The trader who carries out his business, the factory owner who sees his industry prosper, is he joyful because of the money he earns and the notoriety he acquires? Richness and consideration obviously come much satisfaction he feels, but they bring pleasure rather than joy, and what he enjoys with true joy is the feeling of having mounted a company that marches, of having called something to life. Take exceptional joys, the artist who has performed his thinking, the wise who has discovered or invented. You will hear to say that these men work for glory and that they draw their liveliest joys from admiration that they inspire. Deep mistake! One holds on praise and honors on the exact extent he is not sure he succeeded. But one who is sure, absolutely sure, having produced a viable and durable work, this one has nothing to do with praise and he feels above the glory, because he is the creator, because he knows it, and because the joy he experiences with it is a divine joy." This is about the satisfaction of personal needs of each one, the feeling of power over the circumstances of life and world in which we move, the conviction that the world operates according we think, that events occur as we anticipate. This is the confirmation of the contents of our consciousness in the reality, and this is surely the greatest satisfaction we can have.
We never have any warranty that our knowledges correspond to reality. Often our 'knowledges' rather than approach us, they take us away from reality, they constitute a network of ideas and certainties that we see that reality dismantles again and again, if we test them. Ignorance is not a void of knowledge, but rather it is the madness of excess of certainties that must be dismantled, as argued by A. Finkielkraut.
Without realizing it, anything that happens in reality (in the present) we turn it into words, in a time frame (past and future) of predefined and predictable arguments. This is what makes our consciousness. We articulate a network of fictional representations and thoughts that, even they try to represent it, they separate us from the simple reality. We submit reality to the forms of language; so consciousness works. We strive to narrate, in past and future, the reality of the present. We subordinate ourselves to our narrative world, we take ourselves and our ideas as the measure of things. And 'the more exclusively the man takes himself, as a subject, as a measure of things, more far equivocal is the measurement', as Heidegger says.
This reason is not empirical, disregards the immediate reality. This is a wrong consciousness. It forgets the concrete, the real, the objective, taking just the minimum to keep 'reasoning', it has a tendency to deal just gross generalities, to subjetivize in excess and quickly lose the measure of its object. To no question itself. Holding on to the apparent, going back and forth between the nearby and common ideas is where resides the error, in the sense of aimlessly wandering through the world of easy ideas and alleged knowledge, creating 'reasons' without real referents. This is the source of the errors that disfigure and hide reality. It happens when we put words to facts, when we create representations that replace them, by giving them a narrative texture, just happens when we 'reason'.
Consciousness is, in turn, the intelligence that guides us. We will be able to achieve our goals, to anticipate the future, to understand the world (and be happy) based on our intelligence, on the adequacy of our knowledge to the situation and on our ability to acquire new knowledges when they do not produce satisfactory results. Consciousness can be smart or not, or smarter or less. We are largely dependent on the knowledge we already have, our past experiences, and we will have to show an alert reaction and a more intense awareness to new situations that our knowledge does not allow an adequate response; we will must be more aware to details and to all the information that concurs in the given situation.
It is in society where our conscience and our intelligence are mainly tested, so they are pooled with other individuals. Only in society full satisfaction can be achieved since our behavior mainly occurs in social situations. "The society, which is the pooling of individual energies, benefits from the efforts of anyone and turns easier the effort of anyone. It can only survive if subordinates the individual; it can only make progress if left him: conflicting demands, which would have to be reconciled. If the individual forgets himself, society in turn forgets its destination; one and the other, in a state of somnambulism, made and remade endlessly round the same circle, instead of walking straight forward, with a larger social efficiency and a more complete individual freedom. Only human societies have their eyes fixed to both goals to reach. Fighting with themselves and in war with each other, they try visibly, by friction and collision, round off angles, erode antagonisms, eliminate contradictions, make individual wills were inserted without deforming the social will, and that different societies enter in turn, without losing their originality and independence, in a wider society: disturbing and soothing sight, one can not contemplate without saying that here too, through countless obstacles, life works identifying and integrating to obtain as much as possible, the richer variety, the highest qualities of invention and effort."
The others are the most relevant for our future, what most occupies our attention and our thoughts, what we must further discover how do they work. Society yet gives us the resources to understand and control the physical world; the important thing is to understand people, which are the most complex, unpredictable and what should concern us most.
Society is a confrontation of consciousness. Some are more shared than the others. It sometimes happens, unfortunately, that societies are rigid and impose the dominant reason, and people is subjected to them and loses his freedom, his ability to decide, his creativity; they are authoritarian societies or groups that despise the individual and threate the individual conscience. This are bad places and bad times to live. They confuse the reason (some specific reasons), the arguments of consciousness (some concrete consciences) with reality and absolute truth. In the background, simply they do not understand that they do not understand the mechanism of consciousness, but they seem to only understand the mental contents, which are its outcome; they blindly confuse their subjectivity with reality. Without possibility of reconciliation these societies lose their orientation as soon individuals forget themselves, as Bergson says. Individuals and the group fall in a state of 'somnambulism' and do nothing but roam around endlessly about the same issues that do not lead to anything new, to any kind of progress. There is no progress; subjects are slaves of goals that are not theirs, their consciences are alienated. The wills of individuals are deformed, they have surrendered to the official truths. The progress that should arise from the confrontation individuation-integration no longer exists. No effort, no intelligence, no creation... And all this because of the confusion between consciousness as action and consciousness as knowledge, by reducing the first to the second. We are not always able, admittedly, to understand the reasoning rather than as absolute knowledge and not as a process of personal consciousness, as action, as a motor of change and evolution that it is.
Our thoughts and knowledges, by themselves, do not let us know what we usually think we know about reality. They are only a small part of it and very influenced by our individual expectations. We do not perceive every moment all reality, or remember all our knowledge. On the contrary: we are terribly selective; we just remember, perceive and update a small bunch of information that we believe is useful in that specific circumstance which we live. We ignore the rest; we hide it.
Our consciousness is attention to life, expectation. And as we know in psychology, attention is selective, only attend to one thing at a time. We reduce the infinite potential information to unique, concrete and present one. "It's the brain that gives us the service to keep our attention fixed on life; and life looks ahead; returns back only to the extent that the past can help to illuminate and prepare for the future. Live, to the spirit, is essentially to concentrate on the act to comply. Then it is to be inserted into the things through a mechanism that will extract of consciousness all that is usable for action, at the risk of obscuring most of the rest. Such is the role of the brain in memory operation: it does not work to preserve the past, but to cover it first, then to make transparent what is practically useful."
Consciousness is a mechanism that makes the time, a mechanism which acts in the eternal present and creates the illusion of past and future, cause and effect. It is a mechanical which plots ideas about what may have happened and what could happen, but it has almost no information of its own performance, which does not capture the thinking itself, the act that defines us as human. It does not capture the moment, nor, therefore, the become of the successive moments, his true causality; inevitably it refers to past and future, their own inventions. Reason always justifies itself. No one should therefore take himself too seriously... only the necessary.
Henri Bergson, L'energie spirituelle.