It is common to hold that our conscious experiences at a single moment are often unified. But when consciousness is unified, what are the fundamental facts in virtue of which it is unified? On some accounts of the unity of consciousness, the most fundamental fact that grounds unity is a form of singularity or oneness. These accounts are similar to Newtonian views of space according to which the most fundamental fact that grounds relations of co-spatiality between (...) various points (or regions) of a space is the fact that these points (or regions) are parts of the same single space. In this paper, I sketch and defend an alternative account of unity of consciousness. Very roughly, the view holds that experiences are unified when they are connected in the right way. In this respect, the view is analogous to Leibnizian views of space according to which the oneness of space emerges from certain conditions over spatial relations. The Leibnizian alternative has significant implications for our understanding of the metaphysics of conscious experience, the cognitive architecture of the mind and our assessment of the conditions under which unity of consciousness breaks. (shrink)
This report highlights and explores five questions which arose from The Unity of Consciousness and Sensory Integration conference at Brown University in November of 2011: 1. What is the relationship between the unity of consciousness and sensory integration? 2. Are some of the basic units of consciousness multimodal? 3. How should we model the unity of consciousness? 4. Is the mechanism of sensory integration spatio-temporal? 5. How Should We Study Experience, Given Unity (...) Relations? (shrink)
This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions which arose from The Unity of Consciousness and Sensory Integration conference at Brown University in November of 2011. This portion of the report explores the question: What is the relationship between the unity of consciousness and sensory integration?
This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions which arose from The Unity of Consciousness and Sensory Integration conference at Brown University in November of 2011. This portion of the report explores the question: Is the mechanism of sensory integration spatio-temporal?
This paper concerns the role that reference to subjects of experience can play in individuating streams of consciousness, and the relationship between the subjective and the objective structure of consciousness. A critique of Tim Bayne’s recent book indicates certain crucial choices that works on the unity of consciousness must make. If one identifies the subject of experience with something whose consciousness is necessarily unified, then one cannot offer an account of the objective structure of (...) class='Hi'>consciousness. Alternatively, identifying the subject of experience with an animal means forgoing the conceptual connection between being a subject of experience and having a single phenomenal perspective. (shrink)
This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions which arose from The Unity of Consciousness and Sensory Integration conference at Brown University in November of 2011. This portion of the report explores the question: Are some of the basic units of consciousness multimodal?
This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions which arose from The Unity of Consciousness and Sensory Integration conference at Brown University in November of 2011. This portion of the report explores the question: How should we study experience, given unity relations?
This is an excerpt of a report that highlights and explores five questions which arose from The Unity of Consciousness and Sensory Integration conference at Brown University in November of 2011. This portion of the report explores the question: How should we model the unity of consciousness?
The paper argues that empirical work on Buddhist meditation has an impact on Buddhist epistemology, in particular their account of unity of consciousness. I explain the Buddhist account of unity of consciousness and show how it relates to contemporary philosophical accounts of unity of consciousness. The contemporary accounts of unity of consciousness are closely integrated with the discussion of neural correlates of consciousness. The conclusion of the paper suggests a new direction (...) in the search for neural correlates of state consciousness or creature consciousness. (shrink)
In "The Disunity of Consciousness," Gerard O'Brien and Jon Opie argue that human consciousness is not synchronically unified. They suggest that the orthodox conception of the unity of consciousness admits of two readings, neither of which they find persuasive. According to them, "a conscious individual does not have a single consciousness, but several distinct phenomenal consciousnesses, at least one for each of the senses, running in parallel." They call this conception of consciousness the _multi-track (...) account. I make three points in reply: (1) O'Brien and Opie's characterization of the orthodox conception of the unity of consciousness is problematic; (2) their arguments in support of the multitrack account are unpersuasive; and (3) the phenomenon of intersensory integration suggests that O'Brien and Opie are wrong to claim that "the only sense in which it is correct to talk of a 'unified' consciousness (...) is that in which the representational contents of the various components coincide.". (shrink)
Both Kant and Davidson view the existence of mental states, and so the possibility of mental content, as dependent on the obtaining of a certain unity among such states. And the unity at issue seems also to be tied, in the case of both thinkers, to a form of self-reflexivity. No appeal to self-reflexivity, however, can be adequate to explain the unity of consciousness that is necessary for the possibility of content- it merely shifts the focus (...) of the question from the unity of consciousness in general to the unity of self-reflexivity in particular. Through a comparison of the views of Kant and Davidson on these matters, the nature of the unity of consciousness is explored, in relation to both the idea of the unity of the self and the unity that would seem to be required for the possibility of content. These forms of unity are seen to be indeed connected, and to be grounded, in Davidson and perhaps also in Kant, in organized, oriented, embodied activity. (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)
As part of his case for emergent dualism, William Hasker proffers a _unity-of-_ _consciousness_ (UOC) argument against materialism. I formalize the argument and show how the warrant for two of its premises accrues from the warrant one assigns to two distinct theses about unified conscious experience. I then argue that though both unity theses are plausible, the materialist has little to fear from Hasker.
In his recent book, Reasons and Persons, Derek Parfit propounds a version of the psychological criterion of personal identity.1 According to the variant he adopts, the numerical identity through time of persons consists in non-branching psychological continuity no matter how it is caused. One traditional objection to a view of this sort is that it is circular, since psychological continuity presupposes personal identity. Although Parfit frequently denies the importance of personal identity, he considers his own psychological account of identity important (...) enough to attempt to defend it against the charge of circularity. The aim of this paper is to argue that Parfit's attempted defence is unsuccessful because it ultimately rests on an analysis of the unity of consciousness that is itself either circular or otherwise inadequate. (shrink)
There are researchers in cognitive science who use clinical and experimental evidence to draw some rather skeptical conclusions about a central feature of our conscious experience, its unity. They maintain that the examination of clinical phenomena reveals that human consciousness has a much more fragmentary character than the one we normally attribute to it. In the article, these claims are questioned by examining some of the clinical studies on the deficit of anosognosia. I try to show that these (...) studies support a moderate sense of the unity of reflexive consciousness. (shrink)
Consciousness has a number of puzzling features. One such feature is its unity: the experiences and other conscious states that one has at a particular time seem to occur together in a certain way. I am currently enjoying visual experiences of my computer screen, auditory experiences of bird-song, olfactory experiences of coffee, and tactile experiences of feeling the ground beneath my feet. Conjoined with these perceptual experiences are proprioceptive experiences, experiences of agency, affective and emotional experiences, and conscious (...) thoughts of various kinds. These experiences are unified in a variety of ways, but the kind of unity that I’m interested in here concerns their phenomenal character. Take just two of these experiences: the sound of bird-song and the smell of coffee. There is something it is like to have the auditory experience, there is something it is like to have the olfactory experience, and there is something it is like to have both the auditory and olfactory experiences together. These two experiences occur as parts or components or aspects of a larger, more complex experience. And what holds of these two experiences seems to hold – at least in normal contexts – of all of one’s simultaneous experiences: they seem to be subsumed by a single, maximal experience.2 We could think of this maximal experience as an experiential perspective on the world. What it is like to be me right now is (or involves) an extremely complex conscious state that subsumes the various simpler experiences that I outlined above (seeing my computer screen, hearing bird-song, smelling coffee, and so on). I will follow recent literature in using the term “co-consciousness” for the relation that a set of conscious states bear to each other when they have a complex phenomenology (Bayne and Chalmers 2003; Dainton 2000; Hurley 1998; Lockwood 1989). (shrink)
Recent findings in neuroscience strongly suggest that an object’s features (e.g., its color, texture, shape, etc.) are represented in separate areas of the visual cortex. Although represented in separate neuronal areas, somehow the feature representations are brought together as a single, unified object of visual consciousness. This raises a question of binding: how do neural activities in separate areas of the visual cortex function to produce a feature-unified object of visual consciousness? Several prominent neuroscientists have adopted neural synchrony (...) and attention-based approaches to explain object feature binding. I argue that although neural synchrony and attentional mechanisms might function to disambiguate an object’s features, it is difficult to see how either of these mechanisms could fully explain the unity of an object’s features at the level of visual consciousness. After presenting a detailed critique of neural synchrony and attention-based approaches to object feature binding, I propose interactive hierarchical structuralism (IHS). This view suggests that a unified percept (i.e., a feature-unified object of visual consciousness) is not reducible to the activity of any cognitive capacity or to any localized neural area, but emerges out of the interaction of visual information organized by spatial structuring capacities correlated with lower, higher, and intermediate levels of the visual hierarchy. After clarifying different notions of emergence and elaborating evidence for IHS, I discuss how IHS can be tested through transcranial magnetic stimulation and backward masking. In the final section I present some further implications and advantages of IHS. (shrink)
At any given time, a subject has a multiplicity of conscious experiences. A subject might simultaneously have visual experiences of a red book and a green tree, auditory experiences of birds singing, bodily sensations of a faint hunger and a sharp pain in the shoulder, the emotional experience of a certain melancholy, while having a stream of conscious thoughts about the nature of reality. These experiences are distinct from each other: a subject could experience the red book without the singing (...) birds, and could experience the singing birds without the red book. But at the same time, the experiences seem to be tied together in a deep way. They seem to be unified, by being aspects of a single encompassing state of consciousness. (shrink)
Stream of Consciousness is about the phenomenology of conscious experience. Barry Dainton shows us that stream of consciousness is not a mosaic of discrete fragments of experience, but rather an interconnected flowing whole. Through a deep probing into the nature of awareness, introspection, phenomenal space and time consciousness, Dainton offers a truly original understanding of the nature of consciousness.
The so-called unity of consciousness consists in the compelling sense we have that all our conscious mental states belong to a single conscious subject. Elsewhere I have argued that a mental state's being conscious is a matter of our being conscious of that state by having a higher-order thought (HOT) about it. Contrary to what is sometimes argued, this HOT model affords a natural explanation of our sense that our conscious states all belong to a single conscious subject. (...) HOTs often group states together, so that each HOT is about a cluster of target states; single HOTs represent qualitative states as spatially unified and intentional states as unified inferentially. More important, each HOT makes one conscious of oneself in a seemingly immediate way, encouraging a sense of unity across HOTs. And the same considerations that make us assume that our first-person thoughts all refer to the same self apply also to HOTs; becoming conscious of our HOTs in introspection thus leads to a sense that our conscious states are unified in a single self. I argue that neither essential-indexical reference to oneself nor the alleged immunity to error through misidentification conflicts with this account. I close by discussing the apparent connection of unity with free agency. (shrink)
Hypnosis appears to generate unusual—and sometimes even astonishing—changes in the contents of consciousness. Hypnotic subjects report perceiving things that are not there, they report not perceiving things that are there, and they report unusual alterations in the phenomenology of agency. In addition to apparent alterations in the contents of consciousness, hypnosis also appears to involve alterations in the structure of consciousness. According to many theorists—most notably Hilgard—hypnosis demonstrates that the unity of consciousness is an illusion (...) (Hilgard 1977). (shrink)
Foundations. The phenomenal field ; Phenomenal unity : mereology ; Phenomenal unity : closure -- Consciousness unified?. Motivating the unity thesis ; How to evaluate the unity thesis ; Fragments of consciousness? ; Anosognosia, schizophrenia, and multiplicity ; Hypnosis ; The split-brain syndrome -- Implications. The quilt of consciousness ; The body ; The self.
According to conventional wisdom, the split-brain syndrome puts paid to the thesis that consciousness is necessarily unified. The aim of this paper is to challenge that view. I argue both that disunity models of the split-brain are highly problematic, and that there is much to recommend a model of the split-brain—the switch model—according to which split-brain patients retain a fully unified consciousness at all times. Although the task of examining the unity of consciousness through the lens (...) of the split-brain syndrome is not a new one—such projects date back to Nagel’s seminal paper on the topic—the time is ripe for a re-evaluation of the issues. (shrink)
The binding problem is frequently discussed in consciousness research. However, it is by no means clear what the problem is supposed to be and how exactly it relates to consciousness. In the present paper the nature of the binding problem is clarified by distinguishing between different formulations of the problem. Some of them make no mention of consciousness, whereas others are directly related to aspects of phenomenal experience. Certain formulations of the binding problem are closely connected to (...) the classical philosophical problem of the unity of consciousness and the currently fashionable search for the neural correlates of consciousness. Nonetheless, only a part of the current empirical research on binding is directly relevant to the study of consciousness. The main message of the present paper is that the science of consciousness needs to establish a clear theoretical view of the relation between binding and consciousness and to encourage further empirical work that builds on such a theoretical foundation. (shrink)
Human consciousness usually displays a striking unity. When one experiences a noise and, say, a pain, one is not conscious of the noise and then, separately, of the pain. One is conscious of the noise and pain together, as aspects of a single conscious experience. Since at least the time of Immanuel Kant (1781/7), this phenomenon has been called the unity of consciousness . More generally, it is consciousness not of A and, separately, of B (...) and, separately, of C, but of A-and-B- and-C together, as the contents of a single conscious state. (shrink)
Though there has been a huge resurgence of interest in consciousness in the past decade, little attention has been paid to what the philosopher Immanuel Kant and others call the unity of consciousness. The unity of consciousness takes different forms, as we will see, but the general idea is that each of us is aware of many things in the world at the same time, and often many of one's own mental states and of oneself (...) as their single common subject, too. (shrink)
subjective appearance of unity, but respects unity can be adequately dealt with by the theory. I the actual and potential disunity of the brain will close by briefly considering some worries about processes that underwrite consciousness. eliminativism that often accompany discussions of unity and consciousness.
theorists insist that consciousness is essentially unified. Other theorists assert that the unity of consciousness is an illusion, and that consciousness is often, if not invariably, disunified. Unfortunately, it is rare for proponents of either side of the debate to explain what the unity of consciousness might involve. What would it mean for consciousness to be unified? In this chapter I provide a brief cartography of the unity of consciousness. In the (...) next section I introduce a number of unity relations that can hold between conscious states, and in the following sections I show how these unity relations can be used to construct various conceptions of the unity of consciousness—what I call unity theses. These unity theses provide us with a set of reference points by means of which we can orient discussions of the (dis)unity of consciousness. (shrink)
After a survey of relevant issues, the focus turns onto the question of how best to make sense of the unity of consciousness in experiential terms. Elucidations appealing to higher-order mental states and phenomenal space are found wanting; different ways of construing unity as a primitive feature of consciousness are then considered and compared Matters are brought to a close with a brief look at different approaches to the diachronic unity of consciousness.
The law of coherence helps us understand the physical force behind the increasing complexity of the evolutionary process, from quanta, to cells, to self-awareness and collective consciousness. The coherent electromagnetic field is the inner glue of every system, the "intelligent" energy-information communication that assures a cooperative and synergic behavior to all the components of the system, as a whole, allowing harmonious evolution and unity of consciousness. Neuropsychological experiments show that the different brain areas communicate with more or (...) less coherence according to different states of consciousness: high values are correlated with states of psychophysical integrity and well-being, whereas low values with states of conflict and depression. If we expand isomorphically these brain discoveries, we will have four main general states of coherence: from disgregation to unity, which represents an important element, in the General System Theory, to differentiate between inanimate and animate system, and to understand how billions cells become a single living organism, and then how billions of human beings could eventually generate planetary consciousness. In this light the resolution of the global ecosystem crisis implicates human transformation from a low to a highly coherent state of consciousness. The key to the entire process seems to be the coherent nature of consciousness. (shrink)
Brentano's thoughts on unity of consciousness are of central importance to an understanding of his psychology and of his ontology. By means of a reistic interpretation of his views on unity of consciousness, and in contrast with the Aristotelian approach to unity of consciousness, one begins to see the paradoxically objective and realistic spirit of Brentano's subjectivism in psychology.
Transcendental consciousness is described by Kant as 'the one single thing' in which 'as in the transcendental subject, our perceptions must be encountered.' The unity of that subject depends on intellectual functions. I argue that its singularity is just the same as that of Kant's pre-intellectual 'form' of spatiotemporal 'intuition.' This may seem excluded by Kant's claim that it is through intellect that 'space or time are first given as intuitions.' But while preintellectual form is insufficient for space (...) and time as distinct 'things,' it is sufficient for the constitution of a 'single thing' indifferently construable as both. Contrary to what are typically seen as the main differences between Kant and Hume on identity of 'self,' there is thus already a difference in play below the level of either's concern with the sorts of connections available for the combining, or illusion of combining, of manifolds of 'impressions' or 'ideas.'. (shrink)
Consciousness has many elements, from sensory experiences such as vision, audition, and bodily sensation, to nonsensory aspects such as volition, emotion, memory, and thought. The apparent unity of these elements is striking; all are presented to us as experiences of a single subject, and all seem to be contained within a unified field of experience. But this apparent unity raises many questions. How do diverse systems in the brain co-operate to produce a unified experience? Are there conditions (...) under which this unity breaks down? Is conscious experience really unified at all? -/- In recent years, these questions have been addressed by researchers in many fields, including, neurophysiologists and computational modellers, neuropsychology, cognitive psychology, and philosophy. With chapters from some of the leading thinkers on consciousness, this is a thought-provoking book that attempts to answer some of the big questions. -/- Contributors include - Chris Frith, David Chalmers, Guilio Tononi, Anne Treisman, Andrew Young, Sydney Shoemaker, Glyn Humphreys, Rodney Cotterill, Zoltan Dienes, Susan Hurley, Randall O'Reilly, Andreas Engel, Pierre Perruchet, Catherine Tallon-Baudry, and Francisco Varela. -/- . (shrink)
We argue that human consciousness may be a property of single electron in the brain. We suppose that each electron in the universe has at least primitive consciousness. Each electron subjectively “observes” its quantum dynamics (energy, momentum, “shape” of wave function) in the form of sensations and other mental phenomena. However, some electrons in neural cells have complex “human” consciousnesses due to complex quantum dynamics in complex organic environment. We discuss neurophysiological and physical aspects of this hypothesis and (...) show that: (1) single chemically active electron has enough informational capacity to “contain” the richness of human subjective experience; (2) quantum states of some electrons might be directly influenced by human sensory data and have direct influence upon human behavior in real brain; (3) main physical and philosophical drawbacks of “conventional” “quantum theories of consciousness” may be solved by our hypothesis without much changes in their conceptual basis. We do not suggest any “new physics”, and our neuroscientific assumptions are similar to those used by other proponents of “quantum consciousness”. However, our hypothesis suggests radical changes in our view on human and physical reality. (shrink)
This paper defends and develops the structuring account of conscious attention: attention is the conscious mental process of structuring one’s stream of consciousness so that some parts of it are more central than others. In the first part of the paper, I motivate the structuring account. Drawing on a variety of resources I argue that the phenomenology of attention cannot be fully captured in terms of how the world appears to the subject, as well as against an atomistic conception (...) of attention. In the second part of the paper, I show how the structuring account can be made precise: attention causes and causally sustains phenomenal relations to hold between the parts of the stream of consciousness; most importantly the relation of one part being peripheral to another. I end by pointing out consequences for both the scientific study of attention as well as for several areas of central philosophical interest. (shrink)
commentary on Dainton, B. (2000). Stream of Consciousness: Unity and Continuity in Conscious Experience. London: Routledge. ABSTRACT: Stream of Consciousness is a detailed and insightful analysis of the nature of phenomenal consciousness, especially its unity at a time and continuity over stretches of time. I find Dainton's approach to phenomenal consciousness in many ways sound but I also point out one major source of disgreement between us. Dainton believes that to explain phenomenal unity (...) and continuity, no reference to anything outside experience is required. Thus, he postulates a fundamental experiential relation called co-consciousness which is supposed to do all the explanatory work. On the contrary, I hold that to truly explain features of consciousness such as phenomenal unity and continuity, reference to mechanisms outside the phenomenal realm are necessary. (shrink)
A central issue in philosophy and neuroscience is the problem of unified visual consciousness. This problem has arisen because we now know that an object's stimulus features (e.g., its color, texture, shape, etc.) generate activity in separate areas of the visual cortex (Felleman & Van Essen, 1991). For example, recent evidence indicates that there are very few, if any, neural connections between specific visual areas, such as those that correlate with color and motion (Bartels & Zeki, 2006; Zeki, 2003). (...) So how do unified objects arise in visual consciousness? Some neuroscientists propose that neural synchrony is the mechanism that binds an object's features into a unity (e.g., see Crick, 1994; Crick & Koch, 1990; Engel, 2003; Roelfsema, 1998; Singer, 1996; von der Malsburg, 1996, 1999). I argue, on both empirical and philosophical grounds, that neural synchrony fails to explain the unity of visual consciousness. (shrink)
Some argue that split-brain cases undermine the thesis that phenomenal consciousness is necessarily unified. This paper defends the phenomenal unity thesis against Michael Tye's (2003 ) version of that argument. Two problems are identified. First, his argument relies on a questionable analysis of the split-brain data. Second, his analysis leads to the view that in experimental situations split-brain patients are not single subjects – a result that would render the analysis harmless to the phenomenal unity thesis.