According to commonsense psychology, one is conscious of everything that one pays attention to, but one does not pay attention to all the things that one is conscious of. Recent lines of research purport to show that commonsense is mistaken on both of these points: Mack and Rock (1998) tell us that attention is necessary for consciousness, while Kentridge and Heywood (2001) claim that consciousness is not necessary for attention. If these lines of research were successful they would (...) have important implications regarding the prospects of using attention research to inform us about consciousness. The present essay shows that these lines of research are not successful, and that the commonsense picture of the relationship between attention and consciousness can be. (shrink)
The search for neural correlates of consciousness (or NCCs) is arguably the cornerstone in the recent resurgence of the science of consciousness. The search poses many difficult empirical problems, but it seems to be tractable in principle, and some ingenious studies in recent years have led to considerable progress. A number of proposals have been put forward concerning the nature and location of neural correlates of consciousness. A few of these include.
This paper is a response to the 26 commentaries on my paper "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness". First, I respond to deflationary critiques, including those that argue that there is no "hard" problem of consciousness or that it can be accommodated within a materialist framework. Second, I respond to nonreductive critiques, including those that argue that the problems of consciousness are harder than I have suggested, or that my framework for addressing them is flawed. Third, (...) I address positive proposals for addressing the problem of consciousness, including those based in neuroscience and cognitive science, phenomenology, physics, and fundamental psychophysical theories. Reply to: Baars, Bilodeau, Churchland, Clark, Clarke, Crick & Koch, Dennett, Hameroff & Penrose, Hardcastle, Hodgson, Hut & Shepard, Libet, Lowe, MacLennan, McGinn, Mills, O'Hara & Scutt, Price, Robinson, Rosenberg, Seager, Shear, Stapp, Varela, Velmans. (shrink)
Ned BlockÕs inﬂuential distinction between phenomenal and access consciousness has become a staple of current discussions of consciousness. It is not often noted, however, that his distinction tacitly embodies unargued theoretical assumptions that favor some theoretical treatments at the expense of others. This is equally so for his less widely discussed distinction between phenomenal consciousness and what he calls reﬂexive consciousness. I argue that the distinction between phenomenal and access consciousness, as Block draws it, is (...) untenable. Though mental states that have qualitative character plainly diﬀer from those with no mental qualities, a mental stateÕs being conscious is the same property for both kinds of mental state. For one thing, as Block describes access consciousness, that notion does not pick out any property that we intuitively count as a mental stateÕs being conscious. But the deeper problem is that BlockÕs notion of phenomenal consciousness, or phenomenality, is ambiguous as between two very diﬀerent mental properties. The failure to distinguish these results in the begging of important theoretical questions. Once the two kinds of phenomenality have been distinguished, the way is clear to explain qualitative consciousness by appeal to a model such as the higher-order-thought hypothesis. Ó 2002 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved. (shrink)
My goal is to try to understand the intentionality of consciousness from a naturalistic perspective. My basic methodological assumption is that embodied agents, through their sensory-motor, affective, and cognitive activities directed at objects, engage in intentional relations with these objects. Furthermore, I assume that intentional relations can be viewed from a first- and a third-person perspective. What is called primary consciousness is the first-person perspective of the agent engaged in a current intentional relation. While primary consciousness posits (...) an implicit. (shrink)
My target in this paper is "theories of consciousness". There are many theories of consciousness around, and my view is that they are all misconceived. Consciousness is not a normal scientific subject, and needs handling with special care. It is foolhardy to jump straight in and start building a theory, as if consciousness were just like electricity or chemical valency. We will do much better to reflect explicitly on our methodology first. When we do this, we (...) will see that theories of consciousness are trying to answer a question that isn't there. (shrink)
It is widely assumed that ‘consciousness’ (and its cognates) is multiply ambiguous within the consciousness literature. Some alleged senses of the term are access consciousness, phenomenal consciousness, state consciousness, creature consciousness, introspective consciousness, self consciousness, to name a few. In the paper I argue for two points. First, there are few if any good reasons for thinking that such alleged senses are genuine: ‘consciousness’ is best viewed as univocal within the literature. (...) The second point is that researchers would do best to avoid the semantics of ‘consciousness’, since resorting to “semantic ascent” typically serves no clear purpose in the case of consciousness, and confuses matters more than anything else. (shrink)
The strategy of divide and conquer is usually an excellent one, but it all depends on how you do the carving. Chalmer's attempt to sort the "easy" problems of consciousness from the "really hard" problem is not, I think, a useful contribution to research, but a major misdirector of attention, an illusion-generator. How could this be? Let me describe two somewhat similar strategic proposals, and compare them to Chalmers' recommendation.
In the past decade, the notion of a neural correlate of consciousness (or NCC) has become a focal point for scientific research on consciousness (Metzinger, 2000a). A growing number of investigators believe that the first step toward a science of consciousness is to discover the neural correlates of consciousness. Indeed, Francis Crick has gone so far as to proclaim that ‘we … need to discover the neural correlates of consciousness.… For this task the primate visual (...) system seems especially attractive.… No longer need one spend time attempting … to endure the tedium of philosophers perpetually disagreeing with each other. Con- sciousness is now largely a scientific problem’ (Crick, 1996, p. 486).2 Yet the question of what it means to be a neural correlate of consciousness is actually far from straightforward, for it involves fundamental empirical, methodological, and _philosophical _issues about the nature of consciousness and its relationship to the brain. Even if one assumes, as we do, that states of consciousness causally depend on states of the brain, one can nevertheless wonder in what sense there is, or could be, such a thing as a neural correlate of consciousness. (shrink)
Todd Moody’s Zombie Earth thought experiment is an attempt to show that ‘conscious inessentialism’ is false or in need of qualification. We defend conscious inessentialism against his criticisms, and argue that zombie thought experiments highlight the need to explain why consciousness evolved and what function(s) it serves. This is the hardest problem in consciousness studies.
Introspection stands at the interface between two major currents in philosophy and related areas of science: on the one hand, there are metaphysical and scientific questions about the nature of consciousness; and on the other hand, there are normative and epistemological questions about the nature of self-knowledge. Introspection seems tied up with consciousness, to the point that some writers define consciousness in terms of introspection; and it is also tied up with self-knowledge, since introspection is the distinctive (...) way in which we come to know about ourselves and, in particular, about our own conscious mental states, processes and events. Each of these topics – consciousness and self-knowledge – has generated an extensive philosophical literature in its own right. But despite some notable exceptions, the relationship between consciousness and self-knowledge has been curiously neglected and remains poorly understood. Indeed, until quite recently, the sub-fields of philosophy of mind and epistemology were pursued largely in isolation from one another. Recent philosophy of mind has been dominated by metaphysical questions about the nature of consciousness and its place in the physical world, while much less attention has been devoted to questions about the epistemic role of consciousness as a source of knowledge and justified belief. Similarly, recent epistemology has been organized around questions about the nature of knowledge and justified belief, but much of this discussion has developed independently of recent work in philosophy of mind about the nature of consciousness. The impetus behind this volume is to bring together these two lines of research by exploring the nature of introspection, which lies at the intersection between consciousness and self-knowledge. This volume collects fourteen new essays and one reprinted essay in which the interplay between concerns in epistemology and the philosophy of mind is a major focus. (shrink)
This article makes five main points. (1) Individual human consciousness is formed in the dynamic interrelation of self and other, and therefore is inherently intersubjective. (2) The concrete encounter of self and other fundamentally involves empathy, under- stood as a unique and irreducible kind of intentionality. (3) Empathy is the precondi- tion (the condition of possibility) of the science of consciousness. (4) Human empathy.
Intentionality is usually defined as the directedness of the mind toward something other than itself. My desire for a cold beer is directed at the cold beer in front of me. Much of consciousness is intentional, my conscious experiences are usually directed at something. However, conscious experiences typically have a phenomenal character: there is something it is like for me to see the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean and to feel the warm water lapping over my feet, and (...) to smell the briny breeze. An important question to answer concerning the relationship between intentionality and consciousness is whether all conscious states are intentional? Another question concerns the explanatory priority of intentionality and phenomenal character: Can phenomenal character be explained in terms of intentionality? Or is it the case that intentionality should be understood in terms of phenomenology? Philosophers from the analytic, phenomenological, and naturalistic traditions have all made important contributions to our understanding of intentionality and consciousness. Some philosophers, such as Dretske, think that our phenomenology is intentionally structured. Others, such as Horgan and Tienson think that intentionality is fundamentally determined by our phenomenology. This looks like an impasse; however it may well be resolved by a combination of contemporary accounts of representation combined with an embodied phenomenology. (shrink)
In this commentary I criticize David Rosenthal’s higher order thought theory of consciousness (HOT). This is one of the best articulated philosophical accounts of consciousness available. The theory is, roughly, that a mental state is conscious in virtue of there being another mental state, namely, a thought to the effect that one is in the first state. I argue that this account is open to the objection that it makes “HOT-zombies” possible, i.e., creatures that token higher order mental (...) states, but not the states that the higher order states are about. I discuss why none of the ways to accommodate this problem within HOT leads to viable positions. (shrink)
Theories about the evolution of consciousness relate in an intimate way to theories about the distribution of consciousness, which range from the view that only human beings are conscious to the view that all matter is in some sense conscious. Broadly speaking, such theories can be classified into discontinuity theories and continuity theories. Discontinuity theories propose that consciousness emerged only when material forms reached a given stage of evolution, but propose different criteria for the stage at which (...) this occurred. Continuity theories argue that in some primal form, consciousness always accompanies matter and as matter evolved in form and complexity consciousness co-evolved, for example into the forms that we now recognise in human beings. Given our limited knowledge of the necessary and sufficient conditions for the presence of human consciousness in human brains, all options remain open. On balance however continuity theory appears to be more elegant than discontinuity theory. (shrink)
Newcomers to the philosophy of mind are sometimes resistant to the idea that pain is a mental state. If asked to defend their view, they might say something like this: pain is a physical state, it is a state of the body. A pain in one’s leg feels to be in the leg, not ‘in the mind’. After all, sometimes people distinguish pain which is ‘all in the mind’ from a genuine pain, sometimes because the second is ‘physical’ while the (...) first is not. And we also occasionally distinguish mental pain (which is normally understood as some kind of emotional distress) from the ‘physical pain’ one feels in one’s body. So what can be meant by saying that pain is a mental state? Of course, it only takes a little reflection shows that this naive view is mistaken. Pain is a state of consciousness, or an event in consciousness, and whether or not all states of mind are conscious, it is indisputable that only minds, or states of mind, are conscious.2 But does the naive view tell us anything about the concept of pain, or the concept of mind? I think it does. In this paper, I shall give reasons for thinking that consciousness is a form of intentionality, the mind’s ‘direction upon its objects’. I shall claim that the consciousness involved in bodily sensations like pain is constituted by the mind’s direction upon the part or region of the body where the sensation feels to be. Given this, it is less surprising that the naive view of pain says what it does: the apparent ‘physicality’ of pain is a consequence of confusing the object of the intentional state—the part of the body in which the pain is felt—with the state of being in pain. (shrink)
By accepting that the formal structure of human language is the key to understanding the uniquity of human culture and consciousness and by further accepting the late appearance of such language amongst the Cro-Magnon, I am free to focus on the causes that led to such an unprecedented threshold crossing. In the complex of causes that led to human being, I look to scholarship in linguistics, mythology, anthropology, paleontology, and to creation myths themselves for an answer. I conclude that (...) prehumans underwent an existential crisis, i.e., the realization of certain mortality, that could be borne only by the discovery-creation of the larger realm of symbolic consciousness once experienced as the sacred (but today we know it as "the world" – as opposed to our immediate natural environment and that of other animals). Thus, although we, the human species, are but one species among innumerable others, we differ in kind, not degree. This quality is our symbolically enabled self-consciousness, the fortress of cultural identity that empowers but also imprisons awareness. (shrink)
My purpose in this article is to propose an explicitly naturalized account of the experience of present nowness on the basis of two complementary sources: phenomenological analysis and cognitive neuroscience. What I mean by naturalization, and the role cognitive neuroscience plays will become clear as the paper unfolds, but the main intention is to use the consciousness of present time as a study case for the phenomenological framework presented by Depraz in this Special Issue.
Ayahuasca, a hallucinogen with profound consciousness- altering properties, has been increasingly utilized in recent studies (e.g., Strassman, 2001; Shanon, 2002a,b). However, other than Shanon's recent work, there has been little attempt to examine the effects of ayahuasca on perceptual, affective and cognitive experience, its relation to fringe consciousness or to pertinent personality variables. Twenty-one volunteers attending a seminar on ayahuasca were administered personality measures and a semi-structured interview about phenomenal qualities of their experience. Ayahuasca ingestion was associated with (...) profound alterations of temporal- spatial experiences including expansive space and slowed time. Ayahuasca use was also associated with positive emotional states, higher levels of fantasy proneness and psychological absorption and a greater openness to mystical experiences. Conversely, quickened time was associated with negative emotionality. The results are discussed within a multi-faceted model of fringe consciousness with a particular emphasis on Hunt's (1995) models of cross-modal translation as the basis for higher-order symbolic cognition and support James' (1890/1950) contention that fringe consciousness is essential to human cognition. (shrink)
From the assumption that the presence of consciousness is detectable, in the first instance, only from behavioral indicators, I offer a proof to the effect that, with respect to any theory T that states that some particular state or process is the neural correlate of consciousness, there are always rival neural correlates that, from T’s perspective, can never be empirically ruled out. That's because, with respect to these states, the means of detecting consciousness is disrupted along with (...) the empirical test. Possible responses are discussed. (shrink)
Perception is sensory awareness. Cognition is reflective awareness. Consciousness is awareness-as-such. In Indian psychology, as represented by Samkhya-Yoga and Advaita Vedanta systems, consciousness and mind are fundamentally different. Reality is the composite of being (sat), knowing (cit) and feeling (ananda). Consciousness is the knowledge side of the universe. It is the ground condition of all awareness. Consciousness is not a part or aspect of the mind. Mind is physical and consciousness is not. Consciousness does (...) not interact with the mind, the brain or any other physical objects or processes. Nor does it have any causative role in mental activity. Hence the existence of consciousness does not interfere or upset the apparently closed physical system. Mind in this view is the interfacing instrumentality that faces consciousness on one side and the brain and the rest of the physical world on the other. Mind is closely connected with the different systems of the brain. In normal perceptions, the mind takes the forms of objects via the channels of the sensory system and the processes in the brain. The forms themselves are non-conscious representations of the world of objects. The mental forms (vrittis) become conscious experiences in the light of the purusha. The vritti in sensory form is perception and with the reflection of the purusha it becomes cognition. All conscious perceptions are therefore cognitions. (shrink)
The terminology surrounding the dispute between higher-order and first-order theories of consciousness is piled so high that it sometimes obscures the view. When the debris is cleared away, there is a real prospect.
Right now my conscious experience is directed at part of the world. It takes in some aspects of things around me and not others. Some bits of the world occupy my attention, other worldly goings on condition or colour the character of my current perceptual experience. I experience buildings in view through the window, the clothes in the corner of the room, the colour of the walls, the plate with breads, the coffee mugs, the smell of fresh laundry, the muffled (...) sounds of someone in the kitchen, the sounds from the street: a sequence of things that in turn capture my attention moment to moment. And all the while thoughts occur to me, modulating my conscious awareness. I have no doubt that the world and my place in it, together with my recent past history, explains the particular form my consciousness takes right now. But what shape does that explanation take? Things out there beyond the boundaries of my skin enter into the conscious events I undergo. The inner is in this way shaped and determined by those outer things that impress themselves on the mind. What is it, though, for consciousness of this kind to go on at all? (shrink)
Over a decade ago, I introduced a large-scale theory of the cognitive brain which explained for the first time how the human brain is able to create internal models of its intimate world and invent models of a wider universe. An essential part of the theoretical model is an organization of neuronal mechanisms which I have named the Retinoid Model (Trehub, 1977, 1991). This hypothesized brain system has structural and dynamic properties enabling it to register and appropriately integrate disparate foveal (...) stimuli into a perspectival, egocentric representation of an extended 3D world scene including a neuronally-tokened locus of the self which, in this theory, is the neuronal origin of retinoid space. As an integral part of the larger neuro-cognitive model, the retinoid system is able to perform many other useful perceptual and higher cognitive functions. In this paper, I draw on the hypothesized properties of this system to argue that neuronal activity within the retinoid structure constitutes the phenomenal content of consciousness and the unique sense of self that each of us experiences. -/- Trehub, A. (1977). Neuronal models for cognitive processes: Networks for learning, perception, and imagination. _Journal of Theoretical Biology_ 65: 141-169. -/- Trehub, A. (1991). _The Cognitive Brain_. MIT Press. -/- . (shrink)
This paper distinguishes three conceptual problems that attend philosophical accounts of consciousness. The first concerns the problem of properly characterizing the nature of consciousness itself, the second is the problem of making intelligible the relation between consciousness and the physical, and the third is the problem of creating the intellectual space for a shift in philosophical framework that would enable us to deal adequately with the first two problems. It is claimed that physicalism, in both its reductive (...) and non-reductive forms, fails to deal adequately with either the first or second problem. The diagnosis of this failure is connected to the fact that consciousness cannot be treated in its own terms while being simultaneously fitted into an object-based conceptual schema. In light of this, it is proposed that a Bradleian version of absolute idealism may provide a metaphysical and epistemological framework which would enable us to recognize the conceptual diversity required to treat conscious phenomena on their own terms without forcing us to abandon naturalism. (shrink)
While the recent special issue of JCS on machine consciousness (Volume 14, Issue 7) was in preparation, a collection of papers on the same topic, entitled Artificial Consciousness and edited by Antonio Chella and Riccardo Manzotti, was published. 1 The editors of the JCS special issue, Ron Chrisley, Robert Clowes and Steve Torrance, thought it would be a timely and productive move to have authors of papers in their collection review the papers in the Chella and Manzotti book, (...) and include these reviews in the special issue of the journal. Eight of the JCS authors (plus Uziel Awret) volunteered to review one or more of the fifteen papers in Artificial Consciousness; these individual reviews were then collected together with a minimal amount of editing to produce a seamless chapter-by-chapter review of the entire book. Because the number and length of contributions to the JCS issue was greater than expected, the collective review of Artificial Con- sciousness had to be omitted, but here at last it is. Each paper’s review is written by a single author, so any comments made may not reflect the opinions of all nine of the joint authors! (shrink)
One of the aspects of consciousness deserving of study is what might be called its subjective unity - the way in which, though conscious experience moves from object to object, and can be said to have distinct ‘states', it nevertheless in some sense apparently forms a singular flux divided only by periods of unconsciousness. The work of William James provides a valuable, and rather unique, source of analysis of this feature of consciousness; however, in my opinion, this component (...) of James’ theory of the mind has so far gone under-emphasized in the scholarly literature. This paper undertakes some philosophical geography, trying to draw out and elucidate some of the relevant ideas from James’ corpus, and also subjects those ideas to some analysis to try and assist in judgements of their current importance. (shrink)
The standard behavioral index for human consciousness is the ability to report events with accuracy. While this method is routinely used for scientific and medical applications in humans, it is not easy to generalize to other species. Brain evidence may lend itself more easily to comparative testing. Human consciousness involves widespread, relatively fast low-amplitude interactions in the thalamocortical core of the brain, driven by current tasks and conditions. These features have also been found in other mammals, which suggests (...) that consciousness is a major biological adaptation in mammals. We suggest more than a dozen additional properties of human consciousness that may be used to test comparative predictions. Such homologies are necessarily more remote in non-mammals, which do not share the thalamocortical complex. However, as we learn more we may be able to make “deeper” predictions that apply to some birds, reptiles, large-brained invertebrates, and perhaps other species. (shrink)
The so-called 'higher-order thought' (HOT) theory of consciousness says that what makes a mental state conscious is the presence of a suitable higher-order thought directed at it (Rosenthal, 1986; 1990; 1993; 2002; 2004; Gennaro, 1996; 2004). The HOT theory has been or could be attacked from two apparently opposite directions. On the one hand, there is what Stubenberg (1998) has called 'the problem of the rock' which, if successful, would show that the HOT theory proves too much. On the (...) other hand, it might also be alleged that the HOT theory does not or cannot address the so-called 'hard problem' of phenomenal consciousness. If so, then the HOT theory would prove too little. We might say, then, that the HOT theory is arguably between a rock and a hard place. In this paper, I critically examine these objections and defend the HOT theory against them. In doing so, I hope to show that the HOT theory, or at least some version of it, neither proves too little nor too much, but is just right. I also show that these two objections are really just two sides of the same coin, and that the HOT theory is immune from David Chalmers' (1995; 1996) criticisms of other attempted reductionist accounts of consciousness. (shrink)
Traditionally, what we are conscious of in self-consciousness is something non-corporeal. But anti-Cartesian philosophers argue that the self is as much corporeal as it is mental. Because we have the sense of proprioception, a kind of body awareness, we are immediately aware of ourselves as bodies in physical space. In this debate the case histories of patients who have lost their sense of proprioception are clearly relevant. These patients do retain an awareness of themselves as corporeal beings, although they (...) hardly feel their bodies (they have normal sensation in the head, but from the neck downwards only sensations of pain and temperature, and of fatigue and deep touch). They can initiate movements, and with the help of visual feedback learn to control them. It is shown that the traditional view of the self as immaterial is not supported by these cases. But the argument against this view has to be amended. It relies too much on bodily sensations, and misses the importance of active self-movement. (shrink)
Quite a few recent models are rapidly introducing new concepts describing diﬀerent levels of consciousness. This situation is getting confusing because some theorists formulate their models without making reference to existing views, redundantly adding complexity to an already diﬃcult problem. In this paper, I present and compare nine neurocognitive models to highlight points of convergence and divergence. Two aspects of consciousness seem especially important: perception of self in time and complexity of self-representations. To this I add frequency of (...) self-focus, amount of self-related information, and accuracy of self-knowledge. Overall, I conclude that many novel concepts (e.g., reﬂective, primary, core, extended, recursive, and minimal consciousness) are useful in helping us distinguish between delicate variations in consciousness and in clarifying theoretical issues that have been intensely debated in the scientiﬁc literature—e.g., consciousness in relation to mirror self-recognition and language. Ó 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. (shrink)
The neurobiological systems that mediate the basic emotions are beginning to be understood. They appear to be constituted of genetically coded, but experientially refined executive circuits situated in subcortical areas of the brain which can coordinate the behavioral, physiological and psychological processes that need to be recruited to cope with a variety of primal survival needs (i.e., they signal evolutionary fitness issues). These birthrights allow newborn organisms to begin navigating the complexities of the world and to learn about the values (...) and contingencies of the environment. Some of these systems have been identified and characterized using modern neuroscientific and psychobiological tools. The fundamental emotional systems can now be defined by the functional psychobiological characteristics of the underlying circuitries ? characteristics which help coordinate behavioral, physiological and psychological aspects of emotionality, including the valenced affective feeling states that provide fundamental values for the guidance of behavior. The various emotional circuits are coordinated by different neuropeptides, and the arousal of each system may generate distinct affective/neurodynamic states and imbalances may lead to various psychiatric disorders. The aim of this essay is to discuss the underlying conceptual issues that must be addressed for additional progress in understanding the nature of primary process affective consciousness. (shrink)
Neural Darwinism (ND) is a large scale selectionist theory of brain development and function that has been hypothesized to relate to consciousness. According to ND, consciousness is entailed by reentrant interactions among neuronal populations in the thalamocortical system (the ‘dynamic core’). These interactions, which permit high-order discriminations among possible core states, confer selective advantages on organisms possessing them by linking current perceptual events to a past history of value-dependent learning. Here, we assess the consistency of ND with 16 (...) widely recognized properties of consciousness, both physiological (for example, consciousness is associated with widespread, relatively fast, low amplitude interactions in the thalamocortical system), and phenomenal (for example, consciousness involves the existence of a private flow of events available only to the experiencing subject). While no theory accounts fully for all of these properties at present, we find that ND and its recent extensions fare well. (shrink)
This study, which is based upon ethnographic data collected between 1999 and 2008 in Nepal, examines the connection between the shaman's altered states of consciousness (ASC; i.e., what goes on inside the healer's mind/brain) and therapeutic changes that take place in the patient's mind/body. Unlike other studies that primarily emphasize the shaman's internal psychological state, this article attempts to explain the role of the healer's ASC and elucidate how desired therapeutic changes depend upon patient–healer interactions. This question is explored (...) in the context of a healing ritual highlighting various aspects of the cosmology of Nepalese shamans. (shrink)
What is this thing we each call “I” and consider the eye of consciousness, that which beholds objects in the world and objects in our minds? This inner perceiver seems to be the same I who calls forth memories or images at will, the I who feels and determines whether to act on those feelings or suppress them, as well as the I who worries and makes plans and attempts to avoid those worries and act on those plans. Am (...) I the subject, thus the source, of my awareness, just as you are the subject and source of your awareness? If this is the case, it is likely impossible to be conscious without the self (yours or mine), the eye of consciousness, and it must certainly not be desirable, for such a consciousness would have no focal point, no self-that-is-conscious to guide it, so it would be cast adrift on a wide and wild sea like a boat that has broken from its anchor. Without self-enclosure, “We shall go mad no doubt and die that way,” as Robert Graves (1927/1966) expressed it in "The Cool Web". (shrink)
The phenomena of human consciousness and subjectivity are explored from the perspective of affect-logic, a comprehensive meta-theory of the interactions between emotion and cognition based mainly on cognitive and social psychology, psychopathology, neurobiology Piaget?s genetic epistemology, psychoanalysis, and evolutionary science. According to this theory, overt or covert affective-cognitive interactions are obligatorily present in all mental activity, seemingly ?neutral? thinking included. Emotions continually exert numerous so-called operator-effects, both linear and nonlinear, on attention, on memory and on comprehensive thought, or logic (...) in a broad sense. They deeply ?affect? also consciousness and subjectivity, as showed by the analysis of four crucially involved phenomena, namely (1) attention, (2) abstraction, (3) language, and (4) the prevailing affective state. The conclusion is that neither consciousness nor subjectiovity can be adequately understood without fully considering their emotional aspects. (shrink)
The relationship between mental representation and consciousness is considered. What it means to 'represent', and several types of representation (e.g., analogue, digital, spatial, linguistic, mathematical), are described. Concepts relevant to mental representation in general (e.g., multiple levels of processing, structure/process differences, mapping) and in specific domains (e.g., mental imagery, linguistic/propositional theories, production systems, connectionism, dynamics) are discussed. Similarities (e.g., using distinctions between different forms of representation to predict different forms of consciousness, parallels between digital architectures of the brain (...) and connectionist models) and dissociations (e.g., insensitivity to gaps in subjective experience, explicit memory/implicit memory, automatic processing/controlled processing, blindsight, neglect, prediction/ explanation) of mental representation and consciousness are discussed. It is concluded that representational systems are separable from consciousness systems, and that mental representation appears necessary but not sufficient for consciousness. Considerations for future research on correspondences between representation and consciousness are suggested. (shrink)
What is the potential for improvements in the functioning of consciousness? The paper addresses this issue using global workspace theory. According to this model, the prime function of consciousness is to develop novel adaptive responses. Consciousness does this by putting together new combinations of knowledge, skills and other disparate resources that are recruited from throughout the brain. The paper's search for potential improvements in consciousness is aided by studies of a developmental transition that enhances functioning in (...) whichever domain it occurs. This transition involves a shift from the use of procedural (implicit) knowledge to declarative (explicit) knowledge. However, the potential of the transition to enhance functioning has not yet been realised to any extent in relation to consciousness itself. The paper assesses the potential for consciousness to use declarative knowledge to improve its own functioning and to thereby enhance human adaptability. A number of sources (including the practices of religious and contemplative traditions) are drawn on to investigate how this potential might be realised. (shrink)
In this short paper I will introduce an idea which, I will argue, presents a fundamental additional challenge to the machine consciousness community. The idea takes the questions surrounding phenomenology, qualia and phenomenality one step further into the realm of intersubjectivity but with a twist, and the twist is this: that an agent’s intersubjective experience is deeply felt and necessarily co-affective; it is enkinaesthetic, and only through enkinaesthetic awareness can we establish the affective enfolding which enables first the perturbation, (...) and then the balance and counter-balance, the attunement and co-ordination of whole-body interaction through reciprocal adaptation. (shrink)
There is a long and storied history of debates over 'realism' that has touched literally every academic discipline. Yet realism- antirealism debates play a relatively minor role in the contemporary study of consciousness. In this paper four basic varieties of realism and antirealism are explored (existential, epistemological, semantic, and ontological) and their potential impact on the study of consciousness is considered. Reasons are offered to explain why there is not more debate over these issues, including a discussion of (...) the powerful influence of externalist versions of physicalist realism. Examples are given of approaches to consciousness studies that challenge contemporary versions of physicalist realism. (shrink)
The first part of this paper defends a 'two-factor' approach to mental representation by moving through various choice-points that map out the main peaks in the landscape of philosophical debate about representation. The choice-points considered are: (1) whether representations are conceptual or non-conceptual; (2) given that mental representation is conceptual, whether conscious perceptual representations are analog or digital; (3) given that the content of a representation is the concept it expresses, whether that content is individuated extensionally or intensionally; (4) whether (...) intensional contents are individuated by external or internal conditions; and (5) given that conceptual content is determined externally, whether the possession conditions for concepts are external or internal. The final part of the paper examines the relationship between representation and consciousness, arguing that any account of mental representation, though necessary for a complete account of consciousness, cannot be sufficient for it. (shrink)
'Consciousness' has been called the 'final frontier' for science, philosophy's 'hard problem', and the greatest mystery in mysticism. It is a central focus in philosophy of mind. Yet confusion abounds about what 'consciousness' means -- even among philosophers, scientists, and mystics who have built careers exploring the mind. Different scholars and different disciplines use the same word to mean very different things. Debates and dialogues on consciousness often run aground because scholars conflate two radically different uses of (...) the term. This paper addresses the problem by elucidating a fundamental distinction between the philosophical and psychological uses of 'consciousness'. (shrink)
Some attempts to understand emotion have failed to account for important features of our emotional experience ? notably, the experience of gaining insight when we express our emotions. In this essay I will hold that if we properly understand emotions, then we see that the expression of emotion contributes to the growth of consciousness by providing a process wherein consciousness can recognize and reclaim its inherent wholeness, and thereby overcome fragmentation. Hence, in this essay I will strive to: (...) (1) demonstrate that we do get insight when we express our emotions, (2) offer a suggestion as to why this feature is often overlooked, (3) propose a model for understanding the emotions that helps to explain this holistic feature of emotion, and (4) show how this insight into the nature of emotion contributes to our understanding of the growth of consciousness. (shrink)
Causation can be regarded from either an explanatory/epistemic or an ontological viewpoint. From the former, emergent features enter into a host of causal relationships which form a hierarchical structure subject to scientific investigation. From the latter, the paramount issue is whether emergent features provide any novel causal powers, or whether the 'go' of the world is exhausted by the fundamental physical features which underlie emergent phenomena. I argue here that the 'Scientific Picture of the World' (SPW) strongly supports the claim (...) that ontological causation is exhausted in the elementary physical features of the world. A method is developed for distinguishing 'emergent ontological causation' from the epistemological emergent explanatory patterns sanctioned by the SPW, and it is argued that the SPW implies that all emergence is mere epistemological emergence. However, this leads to a paradox when applied to consciousness itself, which turns out to be both epiphenomenal and viewpoint dependent. (shrink)
Human cognition and action are intentional and goal-directed, and explaining how they are controlled is one of the most important tasks of the cognitive sciences. After half a century of benign neglect this task is enjoying increased attention. Unfortunately, however, current theorizing about control in general, and the role of consciousness for/in control in particular, suffers from major conceptual flaws that lead to confusion regarding the following distinctions: (i) automatic and unintentional processes, (ii) exogenous control and disturbance (in a (...) control-theoretical sense) of endogenous control, (iii) conscious control and conscious access to control, and (iv) personal and systems levels of analysis and explanation. Only if these flaws are overcome will a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between consciousness and control emerge. (shrink)
What are the states of consciousness in themselves, those pulses of mentality that follow one upon another in tight succession and constitute the stream of consciousness? William James conceives of each of them as being, typically, a complex unitary awareness that instantiates many features and takes a multiplicity of objects. In contrast, Brian O?Shaughnessy claims that the basic durational component of the stream of consciousness is the attention, which he understands to be something like a psychic space (...) that is simultaneously occupied by several experiences. Whereas, according to the first conception, emotion is a feature of a temporal segment of the stream of consciousness and colors through and through each consciousness state that instantiates it, the second conception considers an emotion to be a distinct one of a system of simultaneous experiences that interact with each other, for example, limiting each other?s number and intensity. Among other matters discussed is the two theorists? mutually contrasting conception of how the non-inferential awareness which we have of our states of consciousness is accomplished. (shrink)
Abstract: Many astrologers attribute a successful birth-chart reading to what they call intuition or psychic ability,where the birth chart acts like a crystal ball. As in shamanism,they relate consciousness to a transcendent reality that,if true, might require are-assessment of present biological theories of consciousness.In Western countries roughly 1 person in 10,000 is practising or seriously studying astrology, so their total number is substantial. Many tests of astrologers have been made since the 1950s but only recently has a coherent (...) review been possible. A large-scale test of persons born less than five minutes apart found no hint of the similarities predicted by astrology. Meta-analysis of more than forty controlled studies suggests that astrologers are unable to perform significantly better than chance even on the more basic tasks such as predicting extraversion. More specifically,astrologers who claim to use psychic ability perform no better than those who do not. The possibility that astrology might be relevant to consciousness and psi is not denied, but such influences, if they exist in astrology,would seem to be very weak or very rare. -/- . (shrink)
Preface/Introduction: The question under discussion is metaphysical and truly elemental. It emerges in two aspects — how did we come to be conscious of our own existence, and, as a deeper corollary, do existence and awareness necessitate each other? I am bold enough to explore these questions and I invite you to come along; I make no claim to have discovered absolute answers. However, I do believe I have created here a compelling interpretation. You’ll have to judge for yourself. -/- (...) What follows is the presentation of three essays I have worked on over the past several years seeing publication for the first time. “Hollows of Experience” was written first as an invited chapter for a collection on the ontology of consciousness. However, when cuts became necessary, my chapter got the knife. Its length has prohibited it from publication in any print journal. “Myth and Mind” was written next as a journal article, but as my involvement with it grew so did its length, so it has also idled on my websty awaiting its call. “From Panexperientialism to Conscious Experience” was written most recently, but it is the only one to have been available to the public elsewhere than my own website. Under the name, “The Continuum of Experience”, it was Target Article #95 on the recently closed Karl Jaspers Forum (for discussion purposes only). -/- I have put them in a different sequence here, for reasons of logical sense. Up first, “Panexperientialism” deals with an idea difficult for many to accept, namely that conscious experience is a particular mode of symbolically reflected experience that is largely unique to our species. However, I aver that experienced sensation in itself (as found, for example, in autonomic sensory response systems) goes “all the way down” into nature, and thus the title, panexperientialism. -/- Understanding this idea is helpful to dealing with the focus on language in Part I of “Hollows”, next, since here speech and general symbolic interaction in general are found to be the catalysts for the creation of our consciously experienced world (our “lived reality”). In Part II, however, I explore how experienced sensations must be coeval with existence, and, with even greater temerity, how all this sensational existence might have arisen within some literally inconceivable background of awareness-in-itself that yet has a dynamism that occasionally breaks into existence as experiential events and entities. (The latter may sound wacky, but physicists and cosmologists are themselves attempting to come to terms with that which seethes with vast potential energy in what they refer to as the quantum vacuum.) -/- “Myth and Mind” was put third since it deals with a major lacuna in “Hollows” — that presumed prehistoric period when members of our species made the painful crossing of the symbolic threshold into the beginnings of cultural consciousness. Speech plays a central role here, too, but I look more at narrative structures from the dawn of self-awareness when ritual and myth became vital to human survival. Why would fantastic stories and bizarre rituals be necessary? I speculate that growing foresight led to the unavoidable realization of certain mortality, from which, in turn, emerged the secondary realization that we were now alive. In contrast to our yet-to-come death, we have life here and now, and by ritually identifying with a symbolically expanded mythic, i.e., sacred, reality, we may continue to live on after bodily death, just as our ancestors and loved ones must also do. Language and mythmaking are necessary to avoid mortal despair and they remain at the core of human consciousness. -/- As Ernst Cassirer (1944) has noted, language and myth are “twin creatures”, both metaphoric webs over a reality we can never wholly comprehend. We live in the symbolic and construct our works of imagination and wars of conquest to make life meaningful, to feel immortal, and to sense that we ourselves participate in a reality greater than ourselves. No doubt we do, but this does not mean our culturally constructed self-identities survive the death of our bodies, and it does not imply that our symbolic concepts can ever indicate the ultimate truth. We simply must symbolize an extended reality that was sacred to our ancestors: “Is it not our way, as illusory as it may be, to force continuance on our world and our life in the face of their inevitable ending? Are we not compelled to extend those imaginary horizons as far as we can despite the terror and the sometime joy their extension incites? Is their closure not a form of death?” (Crapanzano, p. 210) -/- Of course, this leaves me in the uncomfortable position of being forced to admit that this venture of mine must inevitably be another attempt at meaningful mythmaking. But what else could it be? This is certainly not a scientific proof though it is indeed an academically rigorous exploration. (Just try to count the citations!) I hope the reader will judge my thesis on the basis of its coherence, the sense of meaning it evokes, my intellectual responsibility, and, finally, the engagement it inspires. If you have read my expositions and found yourself immersed in the timeless questions I here call forth, I would call these writings successful (even if you violently disagree with my answers). -/- I am very grateful to Huping Hu for granting me this special issue of JCER in which to present my ideas in some detail. He has patiently dealt with my exuberant approach and allowed the many changes I kept coming up with right until the final publication date. I also wish to thank the many potential commentators who politely replied to my invitation, and, even more, I thank those who made time to write actual commentaries. -/- References -/- Cassirer, E. (1944). An Essay on Man: An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture. New Haven/London: Yale UP. -/- Crapanzano, V. (2004). Imaginative Horizons: An Essay in Literary-Philosophical Anthropology. Chicago: U of Chicago Press. -/- Gregory M. Nixon University of Northern British Columbia Prince George, British Columbia, Canada Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Websty: http://members.shaw.ca/doknyx. (shrink)