This paper considers where contemporary neuroscience leaves us in terms of how human consciousness 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)
As globalized corporations are traded intemationally, with investors and workers from many countries, nation-states have diminishing interest in fighting wars promoting competitive profit interests of intemational companies. Theoretically, this trend could prompt diminution in the role of warfare. Militarism continues to serve corporations that are globally owned, operated, and controlled, fought by the very workers who then must compete against the resulting unregulated and often cormpt intemational labor and resource markets—driving down the real wages of domestic and foreign workers. But (...) if philosophical attitudes eventually catch up with the new thinking about wars that are fought in the context of such complete globalization of labor and resource markets, it seems inevitable that voters will understand that the interests of the people within nation-states no longer coincide with any one global corporation any more than with any other—reducing incentives to sacrifice national blood and treasure defending the interests of nationless entities. (shrink)
Introduction: Searching for the covert agent of consciousness -- The devil's pact (or, why the hard problem is now so hard) -- Action at the macro level : an agent-based theory of intentionality -- Action imagery and representation of the external world -- Do we need an emergency metaphysician? : action versus reaction at the micro level -- Herding neurons : the causal structure of self-organizing systems -- The paradoxes of phenomenal consciousness -- The self-organizing imagination : addressing the mind-body (...) problem -- Introspection and private access -- Action imagery and the role of efference -- Connecting physiology with phenomenology. (shrink)
If human motivation is "enactive" rather than merely a series of passive reactions to extemal stimuli, then a correspondingly "enactive" approach to education should be taken seriously. This paper argues that recent research on the emotional brain by such neuropsychologists as Jaak Panksepp, combined with a self-organizational approach to the concept of action, and the importance of the questioning process in human understanding of information, suggests that treating humanities education as intrinsically valuable, and not just as means toward other ends, (...) is cmcially important. The questioning process that appealsto students' natural exploratory tendencies, or what Hume called a "love of truth," is fostered by an approach that, rather than dumbing down, actually appeals to the "glamour of the complex." The glamour of the complex cannot stop with interesting application of memorized information; it must go all the way down to basic epistemology and the basic questioning of human nature itself that are encouraged by taking the humanities seriously and for their own sake. (shrink)
While much of contemporary psychology preserves the legacy of behaviorism and consummatory drive-reductionism, this paper by contrast grounds itself in an "enactivist" approach to emotion and motivation, and goes on to consider the implications of this view for the psychology of inspiration, especially as applied to love and religion. Emotions are not responses to stimuli, but expressions of an active system. The tendency of complex systems is to prefer higher-energy basins of attraction rather than settle into satiation and dull comfort. (...) Given this understanding of the emotions in complex animals, there is a fundamental need for inspiration to fuel the self-initiated activation of the system; lack of this basic inspiration is depression. In sophisticated conscious beings, the need for inspiration is exacerbated by awareness of the problems of finitude; love, the arts and religion are meant to address this heightened need for inspiration. Fundamentalist approaches, however, contend with the problem of finitude in an inauthentic way-by simply denying them. This fundamentalist approach leads to corresponding distortions of ethical and political attitudes. (shrink)
This paper reports on the Kuhnian revolution now occurring in neuropsychology that is finally supportive of and friendly to phenomenology – the “enactive” approach to the mind-body relation, grounded in the notion of self-organization, which is consistent with Husserl and Merleau-Ponty on virtually every point. According to the enactive approach, human minds understand the world by virtue of the ways our bodies can act relative to it, or the ways we can imagine acting. This requires that action be distinguished from (...) passivity, that the mental be approached from a first person perspective, and that the cognitive capacities of the brain be grounded in the emotional and motivational processes that guide action and anticipate action affordances. It avoids the old intractable problems inherent in the computationalist approaches of twentieth century atomism and radical empiricism, and again allows phenomenology to bridge to neuropsychology in the way Merleau-Ponty was already doing over half a century ago. (shrink)
Lewis's dynamical systems emotion theory continues a tradition including Merleau-Ponty, von Bertallanfy, and Aristotle. Understandably for a young theory, Lewis's new predictions do not follow strictly from the theory; thus their failure would not disconfirm the theory, nor their success confirm it – especially given that other self-organizational approaches to emotion (e.g., those of Ellis and of Newton) may not be inconsistent with these same predictions.
In addressing the shortcomings of computationalism, we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. That consciousness is not merely an epiphenomenon with optional access to unconscious computations does not imply that unconscious computations, in the limited domain where they do occur (e.g., occipital transformations of visual data), cannot be reformulated in a way consistent with a self-organizational view.
Mack and Rock show evidence that no consciousperception occurs without a prior attentiveact. Subjects already executing attention taskstend to neglect visible elements extraneous tothe attentional task, apparently lacking evenbetter-than-chance ``implicit perception,''except in certain cases where the unattendedstimulus is a meaningful word or has uniquepre-tuned salience similar to that ofmeaningful words. This is highly consistentwith ``enactive'' notions that consciousnessrequires selective attention via emotional subcortical and limbic motivationalactivation as it influences anterior attentionmechanisms. Occipital activation withoutconsciousness suggests that motivated search,enacted through the organism's (...) subcorticalmotivational functions, is needed beforevisual stimulation engenders consciousness.This enactive view – that searching for,rather than receiving or processing input isthe basis of consciousness – was slow ingaining acceptance lacking empirical evidenceof this kind, combined with thestimulus-response assumption that brain eventssubserving perceptual consciousness must resultfrom transformation of perceptual input ratherthan from the organism's self-regulatedactivity as manifested through subcorticalactivity. Implicit perception occurring withword priming is ``paradoxical'' according to Mackand Rock, suggesting late selection forattention after extensive unconsciousprocessing, while most trials involvingnonverbal rather than verbal images mightsuggest earlier selection, sinceunattended objects are unseen, apparently evenimplicitly. This paper argues that anteriorand subcortical motivational mechanisms play animportant role in early selection; posteriormechanisms then unconsciously enhance signals;if data survive early gating andcorticothalamic enhancement, then still further anterior-limbic loops motivatedlyactivate ``image schemas'' resonating withposterior nonconscious processing; at thatpoint, consciousness occurs. (shrink)
Knowing only what is empirically knowable can't by itself entail knowledge of what consciousness "is like." But if dualism is to be avoided, the question arises: how can a process be completely empirically unobservable when all of its components are completely observable? The recently emerging theory of self-organization offers resources with which to resolve this problem: Consciousness can be an empirically unobservable process because the emotions motivating attention are experienced only from the perspective of the one whose phenomenal states are (...) executed by the self-organizing processes which themselves constitute the consciousness. I argue that a self-organizing process can differ from the sum of its (empirically observable) substrata because, rather than just being realized by them, it actively rearranges the background conditions under which alternative component causal sequences can realize the self-organizing pattern into the future. (shrink)
This essay describes the authentic use of religious experience to address the value expressive dimension of being human. This value expressive dimension intensifies our experiential affirmation of the value of existence itself in a way not available through attaining valued or valuable outcomes.
The ‘embodied self’ is the purposeful dimension of any organism capable of acting toward a unified motivation to maintain a self-organizing structure by appropriating, replacing, and reproducing material components to serve as substrata. We reflect on the ‘self’ in this sense when we direct attention away from the objects of experience and toward the way our bodies motivate our experiences in terms of emotional purposes of the organism, by looking, searching, shifting the focus of attention, etc.---actions rather than reactions of (...) our bodies and nervous systems. The ‘transcendental self,’ by contrast, cannot be identified with any particular embodied state of consciousness, because it is that which unifies all the particular stages and gives them direction. It is argued here that affect and motivation are the keys to understanding and unifying the transcendental and embodied selves, because both reflect the organism’s self-organizing tendency; and that we can know ourselves by understanding the way affect and motivation shape the pattern and direction of our stream of consciousness. (shrink)