Given its ubiquitous presence in everyday experience, it is surprising that the phenomenology of doing—the experience of being an agent—has received such scant attention in the consciousness literature. But things are starting to change, and a small but growing literature on the content and causes of the phenomenology of first-person agency is beginning to emerge.2 One of the most influential and stimulating figures in this literature is Daniel Wegner. In a series of papers and his book The Illusion of (...) class='Hi'>Conscious Will (ICW) Wegner has developed.. (shrink)
Wegner’s analysis of the illusion of conscious will is close to my own account of how conscious experiences relate to brain processes. But our analyses differ somewhat on how conscious will is not an illusion. Wegner argues that once conscious will arises it enters causally into subsequent mental processing. I argue that while his causal story is accurate, it remains a first-person story. Conscious free will is not an illusion in the sense that this first-person (...) story is compatible with and complementary to a third-person account of voluntary processing in the mind/brain. (shrink)
A "machine" is any causal physical system, hence we are machines, hence machines can be conscious. The question is: which kinds of machines can be conscious? Chances are that robots that can pass the Turing Test -- completely indistinguishable from us in their behavioral capacities -- can be conscious (i.e. feel), but we can never be sure (because of the "other-minds" problem). And we can never know HOW they have minds, because of the "mind/body" problem. We can (...) only know how they pass the Turing Test, but not how, why or whether that makes them feel. (shrink)
To reduce the likelihood that psychology will develop in a deeply flawed manner, the present article seeks to provide an introduction to Freud?s conception of consciousness because, for among other reasons, his general theory is highly influential in our science and culture and among the best understood by clinicians and experimentalists. The theory is complex and all of its major parts have a bearing on one another; indeed, consciousness has a central place in the total conceptual structure ? as is (...) argued, in effect, throughout the present article. The discussion focuses mainly on how conscious psychical processes differ from processes of the psychical apparatus that do not instantiate the Freudian attribute of consciousness. This intrinsic attribute that belongs to every conscious psychical process is seen as including, along with qualitative content, an unmediated, witting awareness of the psychical process that is directed upon itself. (shrink)
We often consciously will our own actions. This experience is so profound that it tempts us to believe that our actions are caused by consciousness. It could also be a trick, however – the mind’s way of estimating its own apparent authorship by drawing causal inferences about relationships between thoughts and actions. Cognitive, social, and neuropsychological studies of apparent mental causation suggest that experiences of conscious will frequently depart from actual causal processes and so might not reﬂect direct perceptions (...) of conscious thought causing action. (shrink)
The commentators' responses to The Illusion of Conscious Will reveal a healthy range of opinions – pro, con, and occasionally stray. Common concerns and issues are summarized here in terms of 11 “frequently asked questions,” which often center on the theme of how the experience of conscious will supports the creation of the self as author of action.
Setting aside the problems of recognising consciousness in a machine, this article considers what would be needed for a machine to have human-like conscious- ness. Human-like consciousness is an illusion; that is, it exists but is not what it appears to be. The illusion that we are a conscious self having a stream of experi- ences is constructed when memes compete for replication by human hosts. Some memes survive by being promoted as personal beliefs, desires, opinions and pos- (...) sessions, leading to the formation of a memeplex (or selfplex). Any machine capa- ble of imitation would acquire this type of illusion and think it was conscious. Robots that imitated humans would acquire an illusion of self and consciousness just as we do. Robots that imitated each other would develop their own separate languages, cultures and illusions of self. Distributed seflplexes in large networks of machines are also possible. Unanswered questions include what remains of consciousness without memes, and whether artificial meme machines can ever transcend the illusion of self consciousness. (shrink)
The Latin conscius does not translate anything like mind or consciousness. Only in the mid-nineteenth century do we find the first attempts to study consciousness as its own discipline. Wundt, James, and Freud disagreed about how to approach the science of consciousness, although agreeing that psychology was a 'science of consciousness' that takes lived biological experience as its object. The behaviorists vetoed this idea. By the 1950s, for cognitive science, mind (conscious and unconscious) was considered analogous to computer software. (...) Recently, the science of consciousness has returned as Consciousness Studies, a new interdisciplinary synthesis of neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and cultural anthropology. But what is new in this renaissance of the science of consciousness? New first, second and third person approaches all propose to take consciousness itself as a variable. This approach is as controversial as the nineteenth-century science of consciousness--controversy perhaps inherent to any science of consciousness. (shrink)
Many special problems crop up when evolutionary theory turns, quite naturally, to the question of the adaptive value and causal role of consciousness in human and nonhuman organisms. One problem is that -- unless we are to be dualists, treating it as an independent nonphysical force -- consciousness could not have had an independent adaptive function of its own, over and above whatever behavioral and physiological functions it "supervenes" on, because evolution is completely blind to the difference between a (...) class='Hi'>conscious organism and a functionally equivalent (Turing Indistinguishable) nonconscious "Zombie" organism: In other words, the Blind Watchmaker, a functionalist if ever there was one, is no more a mind reader than we are. Hence Turing-Indistinguishability = Darwin-Indistinguishability. It by no means follows from this, however, that human behavior is therefore to be explained only by the push-pull dynamics of Zombie determinism, as dictated by calculations of "inclusive fitness" and "evolutionarily stable strategies." We are conscious, and, more important, that consciousness is piggy-backing somehow on the vast complex of unobservable internal activity -- call it "cognition" -- that is really responsible for generating all of our behavioral capacities. Hence, except in the palpable presence of the irrational (e.g., our sexual urges) where distal Darwinian factors still have some proximal sway, it is as sensible to seek a Darwinian rather than a cognitive explanation for most of our current behavior as it is to seek a cosmological rather than an engineering explanation of an automobile's behavior. Let evolutionary theory explain what shaped our cognitive capacity (Steklis & Harnad 1976; Harnad 1996, but let cognitive theory explain our resulting behavior. (shrink)
One of the more refractory problems in contemporary discussions of consciousness is the problem of determining what a mental state's being conscious consists in. This paper defends the thesis that a mental state is conscious if and only if it has a certain reflexive character, i.e., if and only if it has a structure that includes an awareness of itself. Since this thesis finds one of its clearest expressions in the work of Brentano, it is his treatment of (...) the thesis on which I initially focus, though I subsequently bring in Sartre where he addresses himself to an important point not considered by Brentano. As part of this investigation, the paper also, more specifically, aims to exhibit as perspicuously as possible the relationship between self-awareness and the phenomenal, or 'what-it- is-like', dimension of conscious experience. I attempt to show, in particular, that the phenomenal character of at least perceptual consciousness can be fully explained in terms of self-awareness, i.e., in terms of a low-level or 'implicit' self-awareness that is built into every conscious perceptual state. (shrink)
Daniel Wegner argues that conscious will is an illusion. I examine the adequacy of his theory of apparent mental causation and whether, if accurate, it suggests that our experience of agency and authorship should be considered illusory. I examine various interpretations of this claim and raise problems for each interpretation. I also distinguish between the experiences of agency and authorship.
Philosophers have devoted a great deal of discussion to the question of whether an inverted spectrum thought experiment refutes functionalism. (For a review of the inverted spectrum and its many philosophical applications, see Byrne, 2004.) If Ho?man is correct the matter can be swiftly and conclusively settled, without appeal to any empirical data about color vision (or anything else). Assuming only that color experiences and functional relations can be mathematically represented, a simple mathematical result.
The human ability to represent, conceptualize, and reason about mind and behavior is one of the greatest achievements of human evolution and is made possible by a “folk theory of mind” — a sophisticated conceptual framework that relates different mental states to each other and connects them to behavior. This chapter examines the nature and elements of this framework and its central functions for social cognition. As a conceptual framework, the folk theory of mind operates prior to any particular (...) class='Hi'>conscious or unconscious cognition and provides the “framing” or interpretation of that cognition. Central to this framing is the concept of intentionality, which distinguishes intentional action (caused by the agent’s intention and decision) from unintentional behavior (caused by internal or external events without the intervention of the agent’s decision). A second important distinction separates publicly observable from publicly unobservable (i.e., mental) events. Together, the two distinctions define the kinds of events in social interaction that people attend to, wonder about, and try to explain. A special focus of this chapter is the powerful tool of behavior explanation, which relies on the folk theory of mind but is also intimately tied to social demands and to the perceiver’s social goals. A full understanding of social cognition must consider the folk theory of mind as the conceptual underpinning of all (conscious and unconscious) perception and thinking about the social world. (shrink)
Memory researchers have discussed the relationship between consciousness and memory frequently in the last few decades. Beginning with research by Warrington and Weiskrantz (1968; 1970), memory has been shown to influence task performance even without awareness of retrieval. Data from amnesic patients show that a study episode influences task performance despite their lack of conscious memory for the study session. More recently, issues of intentionality, awareness, and the relationship between conscious and unconscious forms of memory have come to (...) the forefront. Conscious memory has sometimes been defined by intention to retrieve and sometimes by awareness of retrieval. This distinction has been debated as measurement methodologies have developed. In addition, the functional relationship between conscious and automatic forms of memory has implications for measurement of memory processes and the development of models of memory task performance. Several measurement techniques for conscious and automatic memory are reviewed. The current state of these issues is also discussed. (shrink)
Are we the robots? This question surfaces often in current psychological re- search, as various kinds of robot parts-automatic actions, mental mechanisms, even neural circuits-keep appearing in our explanations of human behavior. Automatic processes seem responsible for a wide range of the things we do, a fact that may leave us feeling, if not fully robotic, at least a bit nonhuman. The complement of the automatic process in contemporary psychology, of course, is the controlled process (Atkinson & Shiffrin, 1968; Bargh, (...) 1984; Posner & Snyder, 1975; Shiffrin & Schnieder, 1977), and it is in theories of controlled processes that vestiges of our humanity reappear. Controlled processes are viewed as conscious, effortful, and intentional. and as drawing on more sources of information than automatic processes. With this power of conscious will, controlled processes seem to bring the civilized quality back to psychological explanation that automatic processes leave out. Yet by reintroducing this touch of humanity, the notion of a controlled process also brings us within glimpsing range of a fatal theoretical error-the idea that there is a controller. (shrink)
This paper explores the psychoanalytic conception of the unconscious and critiques it from a phenomenlogical perspective, especially Sartre and Heidegger, with a view to conceptualizing the unconscious from an ontological rather than psychological mindset.
In recent decades, with advances in the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences, the idea that patterns of human behavior may ultimately be due to factors beyond our conscious control has increasingly gained traction and renewed interest in the age-old problem of free will. In this book I examine both the traditional philosophical problems long associated with the question of free will, such as the relationship between determinism and free will, as well as recent experimental and theoretical work directly related to (...) consciousness and human agency. I argue that our best scientific theories indeed have the consequence that factors beyond our control produce all of the actions we perform and that because of this we do not possess the kind of free will required for genuine or ultimate responsibility. I further argue that the strong and pervasive belief in free will, which I consider an illusion, can be accounted for through a careful analysis of our phenomenology and a proper theoretical understanding of consciousness. Indeed, the primary goal of this book is to argue that our subjective feeling of freedom, as reflected in the first-person phenomenology of agentive experience, is an illusion created by certain aspects of our consciousness. So after working to establish that free will is an illusion in the early chapters, I then proceed to give a novel account of just how that illusion is created in the later chapters. I present my illusionist account using one leading theory of consciousness—the higher-order thought (or HOT) theory of consciousness. I maintain that by combining the theoretical framework of the HOT theory with empirical findings in the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences, we can come to see that the illusion of free will is created by the particular way our higher-order thoughts make us conscious of our mental states and how our sense of self is constructed within consciousness. (shrink)
BackgroundWhether patients in the vegetative state (VS), minimally conscious state (MCS) or the clinically related locked-in syndrome (LIS) should be kept alive is a matter of intense controversy. This study aimed to examine the moral attitudes of lay people to these questions, and the values and other factors that underlie these attitudes.MethodOne hundred ninety-nine US residents completed a survey using the online platform Mechanical Turk, comprising demographic questions, agreement with treatment withdrawal from each of the conditions, agreement with a (...) series of ethical principles and three personality tests.ResultsMore supported treatment withdrawal from VS (40.2 % agreed, 17.6 % disagreed) than MCS (20.6 %, 41.2 %) or LIS (25.3 %, 35.8 %). Agreement with treatment withdrawal was negatively correlated with religiosity (r = −0.272, P < 0.001), though showed no significant relationship with need for cognition or empathy, and only a partial association with utilitarian judgment in a standard moral dilemma. Support for treatment withdrawal was most strongly associated with endorsement of the importance of patient autonomy, dignity, suffering, best interests. Distributive justice was not given significant weight by most. Importantly, agreement with treatment withdrawal was noticeably higher when considered from a first as opposed to third person perspective for VS (Z = −6.056, P < 0.001), MCS (Z = −6.746, P < 0.001) and LIS (Z = −6.681, P < 0.001).ConclusionLay attitudes to withdrawal of treatment in brain damaged patients are largely shaped by values similar to those central to the secular ethical debate. Neither traditional values such as the sanctity of life nor utilitarian values relating to resource allocation seem to play a central role. Far greater weight is given to autonomy, which may explain why participants were far more willing to endorse withdrawal of treatment when the issue was presented in the first person, or in relation to a concrete case involving a patient’s explicit wishes. Surveys focusing on abstract cases presented in the third person may not provide an accurate picture of lay attitudes to these critical ethical questions. (shrink)
My professional interest originally focused on curriculum planning and development, but for the last 30 years I have been researching, publishing and teaching in the field of human rights education. Suddenly, I became a human rights educator. Suddenly? No, nothing in our personal and professional life is the result of an abrupt occurrence. We are subjects of a particular history, a succession of events and narratives, located in time, space and circumstances. I constructed myself, consciously or unconsciously, as a human (...) rights educator as a consequence of many personal factors. Being the son of the first Rabbi in Chile, I felt, at a very early age, that I was different and suffered from discriminatory behaviour, prejudice and intolerance. In addition, I started to learn about the Holocaust. I lived in a poor neighbourhood and poverty had a profound impact on me. During the 1960s and 1970s many political changes took place in Chile. Severe human rights violations occurred, not only in Chile but also in the different contexts of many other Latin American countries. I became much more aware of, and sensitive to, human rights and their ethical implications. I decided to make use of my educational knowledge towards recovering democracy. I became a strong supporter of human rights education as an ethical and moral imperative throughout Latin America. (shrink)
Dennett depicts human minds as both deeply different from, yet profoundly continuous with, the minds of other animals and simple agents. His treatments of mind, consciousness, free will and human agency all reflect this distinctive dual perspective. There is, on the one hand, the (in)famous Intentional Stance, relative to which humans, dogs, insects and even the lowly thermostat (e.g. Dennett (1998) p.327) are all pronounced capable of believing and desiring in essentially the same theoretical sense. And there is, on the (...) other hand, a noteworthy (and increasing) insistence that human minds are special in that they exhibit a distinctive kind of “informational organization”: one that confers consciousness (Dennett (1998) p.347), and creates the space for agency, purpose, self-control (Dennett (1984) p.100), and “significant suffering” (Dennett (1998) p.351). What follows is a critical examination of this dual perspective, and of Dennett’s account of the key factor that makes us special - human language and our immersion in the sea of culture (Dennett (1998) p.146, (1996) p.130, (in press) p.7). In particular, I shall ask whether Dennett’s dual perspective masks a deeper tension in his accounts of consciousness and personhood, and whether the appeal to the transformative power of human language and culture can bear the heavy explanatory burden Dennett places upon it. These turn out to be significant challenges but ones which also help clarify the scope and power of this complex, multi-layered account. I end by commenting briefly on the wider significance of Dennett’s project as a major contribution to current debates concerning the continuity (or otherwise) of evolved cognitive strategies and the essentially hybrid (biological and non-biological) nature of human minds and persons. (shrink)
In recent years, several minimalist accounts of joint action have been offered (e.g. Tollefsen Philosophy of the Social Sciences 35:75–97, 2005; Sebanz et al. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 31(6): 234–1246, 2006; Vesper et al. Neural Networks 23 (8/9): 998–1003, 2010), which seek to address some of the shortcomings of classical accounts. Minimalist accounts seek to reduce the cognitive complexity demanded by classical accounts either by leaving out shared intentions or by characterizing them in a way that (...) does not demand common knowledge of complex, interconnected structures of intentions. Moreover, they propose models of the actual factors facilitating online coordination of movements. The present proposal aims to enrich a minimalist framework by showing how shared emotions can facilitate coordination without presupposing common knowledge of complex, interconnected structures of intentions. Shared emotions are defined for the purposes of this paper as affective states that fulfill two minimal criteria: (a) they are expressed (verbally or otherwise) by one person; and (b) the expression is perceived (consciously or unconsciously) by another person. Various ways in which the fulfillment of (a) and (b) can lead to effects that function as coordinating factors in joint action are distinguished and discussed. (shrink)
This paper presents the results of five years of research involving three studies. The first two studies investigated the impact of the value honesty/integrity on the ethical decision choice an individual makes, as moderated by the individual personality traits of self-monitoring and private self-consciousness. The third study, which is the focus of this paper, expanded the two earlier studies by varying the level of moral intensity and including the influence of demographical factors and other workplace values: achievement, fairness, and concern (...) for others on the ethical decision process. These studies were designed using a laboratory format and a decision exercise that attempted to establish realistic business conflict situations through decision scenarios. Support is presented for the influence of gender and achievement on ethical choice. Recommendations for the future direction of this stream of research are given. (shrink)
In this article, I argue that the relationship between place and self can be accounted for by recent theoretical work on autobiographical memory. The link between place and self is conceptualized as a transitory mental representation that emerges as a ?place of mine? (personal autobiographical experience) from a ?place? (declarative knowledge). The function of ?place of mine? is to guide personal memory and self-knowing consciousness of periods of our lives. I combine inquiries of memory, self, and place in a triadic (...) relationship, a synthesis, suggesting a conceptual model for the phenomenon of place-related self as a sub-system of the self. This is formed by a causal progression from a physical place across time via emotional and cognitive bonds, components of the autobiographical information grounding the self, apportioned across declarative memory. Finally, using the methods of factor analysis and structural equation modeling, I show that the proposed model accounts for previous and new data on place-related identity. (shrink)
Mental state reasoning or theory-of-mind has been the subject of a rich body of imaging research. Although such investigations routinely tap a common set of regions, the precise function of each area remains a contentious matter. With the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we sought to determine which areas are involved when processing mental state or intentional metarepresentations by focusing on the relational aspect of such representations. Using non-intentional relational representations such as spatial relations between persons and between (...) objects as a contrast, the results ascertained the involvement of the precuneus, the temporal poles, and the medial prefrontal cortex in the processing of intentional representations. In contrast, the anterior superior temporal sulcus and the left temporo-parietal junction were implicated when processing representations that refer to the presence of persons in relational contexts in general. The right temporo-parietal junction, however, was specifically activated for persons entering spatial relations. The level of representational complexity, a previously unexplored factor, was also found to modulate the neural response in some brain regions, such as the medial prefrontal cortex and the right temporo-parietal junction. These findings highlight the need to take into account the critical roles played by an extensive network of neural regions during mental state reasoning. (shrink)
Features of consciousness difficult to understand in terms of conventional neuroscience have evoked application of quantum theory, which describes the fundamental behavior of matter and energy. In this paper we propose that aspects of quantum theory (e.g. quantum coherence) and of a newly proposed physical phenomenon of quantum wave function "self-collapse"(objective reduction: OR -Penrose, 1994) are essential for consciousness, and occur in cytoskeletal microtubules and other structures within each of the brain's neurons. The particular characteristics of microtubules suitable for quantum (...) effects include their crystal-like lattice structure, hollow inner core, organization of cell function and capacity for information processing. We envisage that conformational states of microtubule subunits (tubulins) are coupled to internal quantum events, and cooperatively interact (compute) with other tubulins. We further assume that macroscopic coherent superposition of quantum-coupled tubulin conformational states occurs throughout significant brain volumes and provides the global binding essential to consciousness. We equate the emergence of the microtubule quantum coherence with pre-conscious processing which grows (for up to 500 milliseconds) until the mass-energy difference among the separated states of tubulins reaches a threshold related to quantum gravity. According to the arguments for OR put forth in Penrose (1994), superpositioned states each have their own space-time geometries. When the degree of coherent massenergy difference leads to sufficient separation of space-time geometry, the system must choose and decay (reduce, collapse) to a single universe state. In this way, a transient superposition of slightly differing space-time geometries persists until an abrupt quantum classical reduction occurs. Unlike the random, "subjective reduction"(SR, or R) of standard quantum theory caused by observation or environmental entanglement, the OR we propose in microtubules is a self-collapse and it results in particular patterns of microtubule-tubulin conformational states that regulate neuronal activities including synaptic functions. Possibilities and probabilities for post-reduction tubulin states are influenced by factors including attachments of microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) acting as "nodes"which tune and "orchestrate"the quantum oscillations.. (shrink)