This joint article reflects the authors’ personal views regarding noteworthy advances in the neuroscience of consciousness in the last ten years, and suggests what we feel may be promising future directions. It is based on a small conference at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, Maine, USA, in July of 2012, organized by the Mind Science Foundation of San Antonio, Texas. Here, we summarize recent advances in our understanding of subjectivity in humans and other animals, including empirical, applied, technical and (...) conceptual insights. These include the evidence for the importance of fronto-parietal connectivity and of feedback processes, both of which enable information to travel across distant cortical areas effectively, as well as numerous dissociations between consciousness and cognitive functions, such as attention, in humans. In addition, we describe the development of mental imagery paradigms, which made it possible to identify covert awareness in non-responsive subjects. Non-human animal consciousness research has also witnessed substantial advances on the specific role of cortical areas and higher order thalamus for consciousness, thanks to important technological advances. In addition, much progress has been made in the understanding of non-vertebrate cognition relevant to possible conscious states. Finally, major advances have been made in theories of consciousness, and also in their comparison with the available evidence. Along with reviewing these findings, each author suggests future avenues for research in their field of investigation. (shrink)
Brain, Mind and Consciousness are the research concerns of psychiatrists, psychologists, neurologists, cognitive neuroscientists and philosophers. All of them are working in different and important ways to understand the workings of the brain, the mysteries of the mind and to grasp that elusive concept called consciousness. Although they are all justified in forwarding their respective researches, it is also necessary to integrate these diverse appearing understandings and try and get a comprehensive perspective that is, hopefully, more than the (...) sum of their parts. There is also the need to understand what each one is doing, and by the other, to understand each other's basic and fundamental ideological and foundational underpinnings. This must be followed by a comprehensive and critical dialogue between the respective disciplines. Moreover, the concept of mind and consciousness in Indian thought needs careful delineation and critical/evidential enquiry to make it internationally relevant. The brain-mind dyad must be understood, with brain as the structural correlate of the mind, and mind as the functional correlate of the brain. To understand human experience, we need a triad of external environment, internal environment and a consciousness that makes sense of both. We need to evolve a consensus on the definition of consciousness, for which a working definition in the form of a Consciousness Tetrad of Default, Aware, Operational and Evolved Consciousness is presented. It is equally necessary to understand the connection between physical changes in the brain and mental operations, and thereby untangle and comprehend the lattice of mental operations. Interdisciplinary work and knowledge sharing, in an atmosphere of healthy give and take of ideas, and with a view to understand the significance of each other's work, and also to critically evaluate the present corpus of knowledge from these diverse appearing fields, and then carry forward from there in a spirit of cooperative but evidential and critical enquiry - this is the goal for this monograph, and the work to follow. (shrink)
Existentialist Ontology and HumanConsciousness The majority of the distinguished scholarly articles in this volume focus on Sartre's early philosophical work, which dealt first with imagination and the emotions, then with the critique of Husserl's notion of a transcendental ego, and finally with systematic ontology presented in his best-known book, Being and Nothingness. In addition, since his preoccupation with ontological questions and especially with the meanings of ego, self, and consciousness endured throughout his career, other essays discuss (...) these themes in light of later developments both in Sartre's own thought and in the phenomenological, hermeneutic, and analytic traditions. (shrink)
& Functional brain imaging offers new opportunities for the begin with single-subject (preprocessed) scan series, and study of that most pervasive of cognitive conditions, human consider the patterns of all voxels as potential multivariate consciousness. Since consciousness is attendant to so much encodings of phenomenal information. Twenty-seven subjects of human cognitive life, its study requires secondary analysis from the four studies were analyzed with multivariate of multiple experimental datasets. Here, four preprocessed methods, revealing analogues of phenomenal (...) structures, datasets from the National fMRI Data Center are considered: particularly the structures of temporality. In a second Hazeltine et al., Neural activation during response competi- interpretive approach, artificial neural networks were used tion; Ishai et al., The representation of objects in the human to detect a more explicit prediction from phenomenology, occipital and temporal cortex; Mechelli et al., The effects of namely, that present experience contains and is inflected by presentation rate during word and pseudoword reading; and past states of awareness and anticipated events. In all of 21 Postle et al., Activity in human frontal cortex associated with subjects in this analysis, nets were successfully trained to spatial working memory and saccadic behavior. The study of extract aspects of relative past and future brain states, in consciousness also draws from multiple disciplines. In this comparison with statistically similar controls. This exploratory article, the philosophical subdiscipline of phenomenology study thus concludes that the proposed methods for provides initial characterization of phenomenal structures ‘‘neurophenomenology’’ warrant further application, includ- conceptually necessary for an analysis of consciousness. These ing the exploration of individual differences, multivariate structures include phenomenal intentionality, phenomenal differences between cognitive task conditions, and explora- superposition, and experienced temporality.. (shrink)
The study of human evolution has attracted scientists of various disciplines, judging by the attendance of the conferences devoted to it, and by the publications concerned. In the course of years I became amazed about the seeming absence of a synthesis of the available information. This article presents an attempt to combine some results of the various publications.The study of human evolution has become particularly focussed on the emergence of language and humanconsciousness with respect to (...) the social behaviour and mental capacities of our closest relatives: the apes. Social relations imply communication, and mentation underlies the ability to communicate. The more it becomes apparent that the social behaviour of the apes resembles that of man in many respects, the greater the danger that typically, and perhaps even uniquely, human traits are ascribed to anthropoids. Anthropomorphic descriptions of animal behaviour tend to prevent a clear view on animal mentality. (shrink)
This paper considers where contemporary neuroscience leaves us in terms of how humanconsciousness fits into the material world, and whether consciousness is reducible to merely mechanical physical systems, or on the contrary whether consciousness is a self-organizing system that can in a sense use the brain for its own purposes. The paper discusses how phenomenology can be integrated with new findings about “neural plasticity” to yield new approaches to the mind–body problem and the place of (...)consciousness as a causal player in the physical world. By phenomenology, I mean simply any attempt to have introspective or reflective access to the meaning of our own conscious states, and to carefully take account of the notorious pitfalls of subjective introspection (often subsumed within the concept of “folk psychology” in the empirically oriented cognitive theory literature). (shrink)
Chauncey Wright was an early intellectual follower of Darwin, and a mentor to American pragmatists, C.S. Peirce and William James. Starting with the discussion of Wright’s interpretation of natural selection, the paper proceeds to outline the distinction he draws between theoretical (scientific) and practical consciousness and the way that this distinction plays out in his account of the development of humanconsciousness within the context of natural selection. Formulating the problem of reconfiguring the relationship between instrumental intelligence (...) and detached theoretical reason in the light of evolutionary thinking is then identified as central to understanding Wright’s intellectual legacy. (shrink)
Lonergan's account of humanconsciousness as polymorphic self-presence differs significantly from both the variety of contemporary reductionistic accounts and phenomenological treatments still influenced strongly by Cartesian suppositions and/or Kantian restrictions. It is argued that Lonergan's account grounds not only a critical meta-philosophy, but also provides a heuristic structure for a nuanced genetic account of philosophic differences. In this regard, Lonergan's account is claimed to be an adequate grounding for a thorough contemporary response to the Hegelian requirement that philosophers (...) account not only for their own views but for the existence of contrary and differing philosophic convictions. (shrink)
Catholic theology’s traditional understanding of the spiritual nature of the human person begins with the idea of a rational soul and human mind that is made manifest in free will—the spiritual experience of the act of consciousness and cause of all human arts. The rationale for this religion-based idea of personhood is key to understanding ethical dilemmas posed by modern research that applies a more empirical methodology in its interpretations about the cause of human (...) class='Hi'>consciousness. Applications of these beliefs about the body/soul composite to the theory of evolution and to discoveries in neuroscience, paleoanthropology, as well as to recent animal intelligence studies, can be interpreted from this religious and philosophical perspective, which argues for the human soul as the unifying cause of the person’s unique abilities. Free will and consciousness are at the nexus of the mutual influence of body and soul upon one another in the traditional Catholic view, that argues for a spiritual dimension to personality that is on a par with the physical metabolic processes at play. Therapies that affect consciousness are ethically problematic, because of their implications for free will and human dignity. Studies of resilience, as an example, argue for the greater, albeit limited, role of the soul’s conscious choices in healing as opposed to metabolic or physical changes to the brain alone. (shrink)
Nowadays the real threat has appeared: "thinking man" will disappear from the planet, and his place will be taken by "information consuming man." The rapidly evolving spiritually dependent consumer will turn into a completely controlled human being. A value orientation that we did not create will entirely determine all our choices and dominate our attention. Both the values and the products of mass culture are being spread among consumers as extensively as possible by mechanisms of culture manufacture, in accord (...) with the technological opportunities of the modern culture industry, connected in many ways with the mass media, and are being consumed on the same level as other products offered in the modern market. It becomes clear that the ecology of consciousness, along with the ecology of human life, is the most urgent and the most current problem of contemporary society.The main tasks of a global ecology of consciousness are to understand the conditional character of the external system of values and the radical reorientation that is appropriate to it; to create a culture of life as the realization of the original boundlessly disclosing free spirit, manifested in the encounter of man and world; and to return from captivity to imaginary things to life as dialogue with the world. First of all it is necessary to advance to a deep ecological understanding of the world—an understanding of nature, completed in the "noosphere," as the unique and perfect home of humanconsciousness. When a human being recognizes "the internal eco-crisis" and discovers the chaos and senselessness behind the imaginary clarity, he inevitably realizes the necessity for radical changes. His activity is initiated by the deepest satisfaction accompanying the expansion of the bounds of perception. We are speaking about the integral human being, personifying in himself both nature and civilization at the point of their intersection, removing the contradictions between the physical and the spiritual, between naturalness and technological progress. (shrink)
Recent progress in neurosciences has improved our understanding of chronic disorders of consciousness. One example of this advancement is the emergence of the new diagnostic category of minimally conscious state (MCS). The central characteristic of MCS is impaired consciousness. Though the phenomenon now referred to as MCS pre-existed its inclusion in diagnostic classifications, the current medical ethical concepts mainly apply to patients with normal consciousness and to non-conscious patients. Accordingly, how we morally should stand with persons in (...) minimally conscious state remains unclear. In this paper, I examine whether the notion of human dignity could provide us with guidance with the moral difficulties MCS gives rise to. More precisely, I focus on the question of whether we are justified in holding that persons in minimally conscious state possess human dignity. (shrink)
In recent years, philosophers have shown a rapidly increasing interest in the problem of consciousness and it is arguably the central issue in current interdisciplinary discussions about the mind. Any convincing theory of consciousness has to account for the perplexing aspects of human self-consciousness. This paper deals with Ibn Sina’s view on the human self-consciousness with special reference to his well-known “Flying Man” thought experiment. In a brief comparative discussion, we will consider some of (...) the parallels between Ibn Sina’s account of “consciousness of consciousness” and the contemporary “higher-order” theories of consciousness. An important point of divergence between Ibn Sina’s line of argument and Descartes’ method over the problem of self-consciousness will be examined, as well. Further, Thomas Nagel’s famous view on the subjective character of conscious experience will be mentioned and compared with the implications of Ibn Sina’s dictum that “our self-consciousness is identical to our existence”. (shrink)
The paper introduces the field of consciousness studies to an audience outside of philosophy and the cognitive sciences, using the work of the late David Brooks as a starting point. Brooks' account of consciousness, and the cognitive and evolutionary significance of for-the-organism properties, are discussed. Brooks' account is evaluated in the light of the debate over conscious inessentialism; and alternative lines for developing Brooks' account are proposed, drawing on the work of Gerald Edelman.
This book is a philosophical examination of the main stages in our journey from hominid to human. It deals with the nature and origin of language, the self, self-consciousness, and the religious ideal of a return to Eden. It approaches these topics through a philosophical anthropology derived from the later writings of Wittgenstein. The result is an account of our place in nature consistent with both a hard-headed empiricism and a this-worldy but religiously significant mysticism.
Human and animal olfactory perception is shaped both by functional demands and by various environmental constraints seemingly peculiar to chemical stimuli. These demands and constraints may have generated a sensory system that is cognitively distinct from the major senses. In this article we identify these various functional demands and constraints, and examine whether they can be used to account for olfaction’s unique cognitive features on a case-by-case basis. We then use this as grounds to argue that specific conscious processes (...) do have functional value, a finding that naturally emerges when a comparative approach to consciousness across the senses is adopted. More generally, we conclude that certain peculiar features of olfactory cognition may owe more to limited neocortical processing resources, than they do to the challenges faced by perceiving chemical stimuli. (shrink)
The fascination of Velasquez's painting Las Meninas stems largely from the ambiguous relationship between the painting as a whole, viewed by a single perceiver, and the variety of different perceptual viewpoints it invites. This situation resonates strongly with a central puzzle in the study of consciousness: the apparent unity of perceptual experience despite multiple sense modalities. Understanding more of this latter might help to explain the way we respond to the painting.
Children seem to have a profound implicit knowledge of human behaviour, because they laugh at Bugs Bunny cartoons where much of the humour depends on animals behaving like humans and our intuitive recognition that this is absurd. Scientists, on the other hand, have problems defining what this 'human difference' is. I suggest these problems are of cultural origin. For example, the industrial revolution and the protestant work ethic have created a world in which work is valued over play, (...) object intelligence over social intelligence, and science and technology over the arts. This may explain why we have so many imaging studies of tool-use and object manipulation, but only four studies of dance, two of pretend play, and one of role-play. Yet in order to understand child development, the evolution of the brain, and the emergence of human self-consciousness, we need to look at social displays-- such as dance, song, image-making and role-play-- which underpin human culture, cooperation and the arts. I will discuss recent brain imaging research on playful versus instrumental behaviour and show how, in conjunction with archaeological data, we can use this to make sense of human evolution. (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)
Consciousness is typically construed as being explainable purely in terms of either private, raw feels or higher-order, reflective representations. In contrast to this false dichotomy, we propose a new view of consciousness as an interactive, plastic phenomenon open to sociocultural influence. We take up our account of consciousness from the observation of radical cortical neuroplasticity in human development. Accordingly, we draw upon recent research on macroscopic neural networks, including the “default mode”, to illustrate cases in which (...) an individual’s particular “connectome” is shaped by encultured social practices that depend upon and influence phenomenal and reflective consciousness. On our account, the dynamically interacting connectivity of these networks bring about important individual differences in conscious experience and determine what is “present” in consciousness. Further, we argue that the organization of the brain into discrete anti-correlated networks supports the phenomenological distinction of prereflective and reflective consciousness, but we emphasize that this finding must be interpreted in light of the dynamic, category-resistant nature of consciousness. Our account motivates philosophical and empirical hypotheses regarding the appropriate time-scale and function of neuroplastic adaptation, the relation of high and low frequency neural activity to consciousness and cognitive plasticity, and the role of ritual social practices in neural development and cognitive function. (shrink)
This paper examines how Nietzsche’s view of the mind and its relationship to nature informs his account of human agency. In particular, it focuses on his approach to the causal efficacy of conscious mental states. By examining the Leibnizean and Kantian background to this approach, I contend that Nietzsche proposes a naturalist but non-eliminativist account of mind, central to which is his anti-Cartesian denial that consciousness is intrinsic to the mental. However, Nietzsche ultimately oscillates between two accounts: the (...) first, which I call the ‘enchantment thesis,’ sacrifices the extrinsicality of consciousness but secures the causal efficacy of conscious mental states, whilst the second avoids enchanting nature, securing the extrinsicality of consciousness but sacrificing its causal efficacy. I argue that it is possible to reconstruct his arguments to combine elements of the conflicting accounts and to successfully hold together his anti-Cartesian account of mind with the possibility of autonomous human action. (shrink)
Consciousness is a central theme of Susanne Langer's three-volume work Mind: An essay on human feeling. Langer proposes an evolutionary history of consciousness in order to establish a biological vocabulary for discussing the subject. This vocabulary is based on the qualities of organic processes rather than generic material objects. Her historical scenario and new terminology suggest that Langer views the “cash value” of consciousness in terms of symbolic thinking and aesthetics. This paper provides an overview of (...) Langer's proposed evolutionary scenario of consciousness, along with an examination of her process-oriented philosophy of mind. It is suggested that Langer's basic ideas are importantly similar to those present in dynamical systems theory. As research on consciousness in dynamical systems theory is still young, researchers in this field may find in Langer's work ideas for future exploration, particularly in its connection with aesthetics. (shrink)
In consciousness research, two rival sets of theories can be recognized: (A) Scientific material interpretations of consciousness are based on axioms that view consciousness in the context of highly advanced intentional processing of information in which subject-object relations evolve, and (B) humanistic interpretations of consciousness are based on axioms that view consciousness in the context of, say, "centered pulsations" that enable a conscious agent to act from his or her center of awareness. In this paper (...) I will argue for the selection of axioms that favor humanistic interpretations of consciousness. (shrink)
Metaphysical and epistemological dualism informs much contemporary discussion of the relationships of science and religion, in particular in relation to the neurosciences and the religious understanding of the human person. This dualism is a foundational artifact of modern culture; however, contemporary scientific research and historical theological scholarship encourage a more holistic view wherein human personhood is most fittingly understood as an emergent phenomenon of, but not simply reducible to, evolutionary and developmental neurobiology.
The best reason for believing that robots might some day become conscious is that we human beings are conscious, and we are a sort of robot ourselves. That is, we are extraordinarily complex self-controlling, self-sustaining physical mechanisms, designed over the eons by natural selection, and operating according to the same well-understood principles that govern all the other physical processes in living things: digestive and metabolic processes, self-repair and reproductive processes, for instance. It may be wildly over-ambitious to suppose that (...)human artificers can repeat Nature's triumph, with variations in material, form, and design process, but this is not a deep objection. It is not as if a conscious machine contradicted any fundamental laws of nature, the way a perpetual motion machine does. Still, many skeptics believe--or in any event want to believe--that it will never be done. I wouldn't wager against them, but my reasons for skepticism are mundane, economic reasons, not theoretical reasons. (shrink)