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.
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)
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)
Throughout history there have been people who say it is all illusion. I think they may be right. But if they are right what could this mean? If you just say "It's all an illusion" this gets you nowhere - except that a whole lot of other questions appear. Why should we all be victims of an illusion, instead of seeing things the way they really are? What sort of illusion is it anyway? Why is it like that and not (...) some other way? Is it possible to see through the illusion? And if so what happens next. (shrink)
Pessoa et al.'s target article shows that although filling-in of various kinds does appear to occur in the brain, it is not required in order to furnish a “bridge locus” where neural events are “isomorphic” to the features of visual consciousness. Some recently uncovered completion phenomena may well play a crucial role in the elaboration of normal visual experience, but others occur too slowly to contribute to normal visual content.
By examining Dainton's account of the temporality of consciousness in the context of long-running debates about the specious present and time consciousness in both the Jamesian and the phenomenological traditions, I raise critical objections to his overlap model. Dainton's interpretations of Broad and Husserl are both insightful and problematic. In addition, there are unresolved problems in Dainton's own analysis of conscious experience. These problems involve ongoing content, lingering content, and a lack of phenomenological clarity concerning the central concept (...) of overlapping experiences. (shrink)
That our ordinary everyday experience exhibits both unity and continuity is uncontroversial, and on the face of it utterly unmysterious. At any moment we have some conscious awareness of both the world about us, as revealed through our perceptual experiences, and our own inner states – our bodily sensations, thoughts, mental images and so on. Since once wakened we tend to stay awake for several hours, tracing out continuous routes through whatever environment we happen to find ourselves in, it is (...) hardly surprising that our experience itself is continuous rather than discontinuous. (shrink)
That our ordinary everyday experience exhibits both unity and continuity is uncontroversial, and on the face of it utterly unmysterious. At any moment we have some conscious awareness of both the world about us, as revealed through our perceptual experiences, and our own inner states.
The most central metaphysical question about phenomenal consciousness is that of what constitutes phenomenal consciousness, whereas the most central epistemic question about consciousness is that of whether science can eventually provide an explanation of phenomenal consciousness. Many philosophers have argued that science doesn't have the means to answer the question of what consciousness is (the explanatory gap) but that consciousness nonetheless is fully determined by the physical facts underlying it (no metaphysical gap). Others have (...) argued that the explanatory gap in the sciences entails a metaphysical gap. The explanatory gap exists, they say, because there are two fundamental properties in the world that do not reduce to one another: Phenomenal and physical. This position is also known as 'property dualism'. A famous argument, formulated and defended at great length by David Chalmers, uses conceptual tools to argue for a metaphysical gap. When we just look at what the notion of phenomenal consciousness implies, we will find that it doesn't rule out that there could be entities functionally and physically identical to us but without phenomenal consciousness. A couple of further argumentative steps can get us from here to the conclusion that laying down the physical facts of our world does not necessitate phenomenal consciousness. I argue that this argument is compelling but that accepting the conclusion doesn't have the implication that science cannot discover what consciousness is. I begin by outlining and assessing a number of different positions philosophers and scientists have recently defended regarding the link between neurological systems and consciousness, I then argue that even if property dualism is true, that doesn't necessarily prevent the sciences from discovering what constitutes consciousness. That is, there may be no explanatory gap even if there is a metaphysical gap. (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)
Anthropologists working on altered states of consciousness (ASC) have suggested that we should do away with psychologizing concepts and use people's own terms for these experiences. With material drawn from the Orang Sakai of Sumatra this paper shows that practitioners who utilize ASC do recognize the alteration of states of awareness as preconditions for numinous interactions. Also critically discussed is the term ASC.
A stream of conscious experience is extremely contextual; it is impacted by sensory stimuli, drives and emotions, and the web of associations that link, directly or indirectly, the subject of experience to other elements of the individual's worldview. The contextuality of one's conscious experience both enhances and constrains the contextuality of one's behavior. Since we cannot know first-hand the conscious experience of another, it is by way of behavioral contextuality that we make judgements about whether or not, and to (...) what extent, a system is conscious. Thus we believe that a deep understanding of contextuality is vital to the study of consciousness. Methods have been developed for handling contextuality in the microworld of quantum particles. Our goal has been to investigate the extent to which these methods can be used to analyze contextuality in conscious experience. (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)
b>. One major problem many hypotheses regarding the neural correlate of consciousness (NCC) face is what we might call “the why question”: _why _would this particular neural feature, rather than another, correlate with consciousness? The purpose of the present paper is to develop an NCC hypothesis that answers this question. The proposed hypothesis is inspired by the Cross-Order Integration (COI) theory of consciousness, according to which consciousness arises from the functional integration of a first-order representation of (...) an external stimulus and a second-order representation of that first-order representation. The proposal comes in two steps. The first step concerns the “general shape” of the NCC and can be directly derived from COI theory. The second step is a concrete hypothesis that can be arrived at by combining the general shape with empirical considerations. (shrink)
According to David Chalmers, the hard problem of consciousness consists of explaining how and why qualitative experience arises from physical states. Moreover, Chalmers argues that materialist and reductive explanations of mentality are incapable of addressing the hard problem. In this chapter, I suggest that Chalmers’ hard problem can be usefully distinguished into a ‘how question’ and ‘why question,’ and I argue that evolutionary biology has the resources to address the question of why qualitative experience arises from brain states. From (...) this perspective, I discuss the different kinds of evolutionary explanations (e.g., adaptationist, exaptationist, spandrel) that can explain the origins of the qualitative aspects of various conscious states. This argument is intended to clarify which parts of Chalmers’ hard problem are amenable to scientific analysis. (shrink)
The value of resting electroencephalogram (EEG) in revealing neural constitutes of consciousness (NCC) was examined. We quantified the dynamic repertoire, duration and oscillatory type of EEG microstates in eyes-closed rest in relation to the degree of expression of clinical self-consciousness. For NCC a model was suggested that contrasted normal, severely disturbed state of consciousness and state without consciousness. Patients with disorders of consciousness were used. Results suggested that the repertoire, duration and oscillatory type of EEG (...) microstates in resting condition quantitatively related to the level of consciousness expression in brain-damaged patients and healthy-conscious subjects. Specifically, results demonstrated that (a) decreased number of EEG microstate types was associated with altered states of consciousness, (b) unawareness was associated with the lack of diversity in EEG alpha-rhythmic microstates, and (c) the probability for the occurrence and duration of delta-, theta- and slow-alpha-rhythmic microstates were associated with unawareness, whereas the probability for the occurrence and duration of fast-alpha-rhythmic microstates were associated with consciousness. In conclusion, resting EEG has a potential value in revealing NCC. This work may have implications for clinical care and medical–legal decisions in patients with disorders of consciousness. (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)
A chief aim of the science of consciousness is to discover general principles that determine exactly which states of phenomenal consciousness occur in exactly which conditions. In this paper I argue that making progress towards the discovery of such principles requires developing a new regimented language for describing phenomenal states. This language should allow us to describe phenomenal states in a way that is commensurable with our descriptions of physical states. I suggest one way of doing this. My (...) approach extends and sharpens the language used in the scientific literature to describe phenomenal states. The end result is a representational language of consciousness without the metaphysical baggage of a representational theory of consciousness. (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 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?
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?
According to Uriah Kriegel’s self-representational theory of consciousness, mental state M is conscious just in case it is a complex with suitably integrated proper parts, M1 and M2, such that M1 is a higher-order representation of lower-order representation M2. Kriegel claims that M thereby “indirectly” represents itself, and he attempts to motivate this claim by appealing to what he regards as intuitive cases of indirect perceptual and pictorial representation. For example, Kriegel claims that it’s natural to say that in (...) directly perceiving the front surface of an apple one thereby perceives the apple itself. Cases such as this are supposed to provide intuitive support for the principle that if X represents Y, and Y is highly integrated into complex object Z, then X indirectly represents Z. In this paper I provide counterexamples to Kriegel’s principle of indirect representation, before going on to argue that we can explain what is going on in those cases in which the subject seems to represent a complex whole by representing one its parts without positing indirect representations anyway. I then argue that my alternative approach is superior to Kriegel’s in a number of ways, thereby rendering his theory of consciousness implausible. (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: 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: 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 model the unity of consciousness?
Recent results from neuroimaging appear to indicate that some patients in a vegetative state have partially intact awareness. These results may demonstrate misdiagnosis and suggest the need not only for alternative forms of treatment, but also for the reconsideration of end-of-life decisions in cases of disorders of consciousness. This article addresses the second consequence. First, I will discuss which aspects of consciousness may be involved in neuroimaging findings. I will then consider various factors relevant to ethical end-of-life decision-making, (...) and analyse whether and to what extent the above consequence applies to these factors. It will be shown that knowledge of the existence of partial awareness in patients with disorders of consciousness only influences end-of-life decision-making if certain background assumptions are made. (shrink)
Disorders of consciousness include coma, the vegetative state and the minimally conscious state. Such patients are often regarded as unconscious. This has consequences for end of life decisions for these patients: it is much easier to justify withdrawing life support for unconscious than conscious patients. Recent brain imaging research has however suggested that some patients may in fact be conscious.
Disorders of consciousness pose a substantial ethical challenge to clinical decision making, especially regarding the use of life-sustaining medical treatment. For these decisions it is paramount to know whether the patient is aware or not. Recent brain research has been striving to assess awareness by using mainly functional magnetic resonance imaging. We review the neuroscientific evidence and summarize the potential and problems of the different approaches to prove awareness. Finally, we formulate the crucial ethical questions and outline the different (...) articles in this special issue on disorders of consciousness. (shrink)
In the care of patients with disorders of consciousness (DOC), some ethical difficulties stem from the challenges of accurate diagnosis and the uncertainty of prognosis. Current neuroimaging research on these disorders could eventually improve the accuracy of diagnoses and prognoses and therefore change the context of end-of-life decision making. However, the perspective of healthcare professionals on these disorders remains poorly understood and may constitute an obstacle to the integration of research. We conducted a qualitative study involving healthcare professionals from (...) an acute care university medical center. A short questionnaire captured demographic data as well as the experience of participants with DOC patients. A semi-structured interview was used to explore attitudes toward ethical issues identified in a previous literature review. Qualitative content analysis of interviews was conducted with the NVivo software. Accurate diagnosis among DOC is often regarded as a challenge, but this was generally not the case for our participants because most reported high confidence in DOC diagnoses. However, participants reported struggling with prognosis, especially because of its essential role for end-of-life decision making and communication with families. Variability of opinion between healthcare professionals was reported and identified by some as a minor issue while others stressed how families struggle with different medical opinions. End-of-life decision making encompassed a large proportion of ethical challenges in these patients, and the removal of artificial nutrition and hydration created significant discomfort in a minority of participants. The concept of futility was subject to wide-ranging understandings with both favorable and unfavorable opinions. Our data suggest that to ensure the incorporation of new evidence-based advances, attention should be directed to the real-world practices and challenges of accurate diagnosis and prognosis. Given pervasive challenges in end-of-life care, we recommend improved training of healthcare professionals in the care of patients with DOC, particularly in end-of life care, understanding the context of decision making, and determining how to optimally integrate new neuroscience research on the care of patients with DOC. (shrink)
Chronic disorders of consciousness, particularly the vegetative and the minimally conscious states, pose serious diagnostic challenges to neurologists and clinical psychologists. A look at the concept of “diagnosis” in medicine reveals its social construction: While medical categorizations are intended to describe facts in the real world, they are nevertheless dependent on conventions and agreements between experts and practitioners. For chronic disorders of consciousness in particular, the terminology has proven problematic and controversial over the years. Novel research utilizing functional (...) brain imaging has demonstrated that a substantial number of patients retain their capabilities to communicate by brain activity even when they are incapable of classic verbal and nonverbal responses due to the dysfunction of their motor behavior. Moreover, thorough diagnostic assessments constitute the foundations for suitable rehabilitation measures. Thus, ethical arguments support the claim that the potential of emerging methods for communication via brain activity should be evaluated comprehensively in patients with chronic disorders of consciousness, once the technological methodology for this endeavor progresses to a reliable and affordable stage. (shrink)
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)
Charles Darwin is generally credited with having formulated the first systematic attempt to explain the evolutionary origins and function of the expression of emotions in animals and humans. His ingenious theory, however, was burdened with popular misconceptions about human phylogenetic heritage and bore the philosophical and theoretical deficiencies of the brain science of his era that his successors strove to overcome. In their attempts to rectify Darwin?s errors, William James, James Mark Baldwin and John Dewey each made important contributions to (...) a theory of emotion, which attempted to put it on a more secure philosophical and scientific footing. My contention is that Dewey and his collaborator, infant experimentalist Myrtle McGraw, succeeded where their contemporaries failed. They pointed the way out of the morass of recapitulationism, and showed how a developmental theory of consciousness, mind and emotion could be formulated that avoided the epistemological and ontological pitfalls of Darwin?s theory. Drawing on an extensive body of research from contemporary experimental studies of infant development, this essay attempts to put the questions raised by these historical figures about the structure, function and value of emotions in a theoretical framework. A developmental theory is proposed about the complex, interacting neurobiological and neurobehavioral factors that contribute to human emotional development. This theory identifies the possible relationships among emotions, consciousness and mind and how their co-development influences the capacity of young children to form moral judgments. (shrink)
Consciousness is seen as a difficult “binding” problem. Binding, a process where different sensations evoked by an item are associated in the nervous system, can be viewed as a process similar to associative learning. Several reports that consciousness is associated with some form of memory imply that different forms of memories have a common feature contributing to consciousness. Based on a proposed synaptic mechanism capable of explaining different forms of memory, we developed a framework for consciousness. (...) It is based on the formation of semblance of sensory stimulus from (1) synaptic semblances when excitatory postsynaptic potentials arrive at functionally LINKed postsynaptic membranes, and (2) network semblances when these potentials summate to elicit action potential initiating activity in a network of neurons. It is then possible to derive a framework for consciousness as a multi-dimensional semblance. According to this framework, a continuum of semblances formed from background sensory stimuli and oscillating neuronal activities serve to maintain consciousness. Feasibility of this framework to explain various physiological and pathological states of consciousness, its subjective nature and qualia is examined. (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)
How are the states of consciousness intrinsically so that they all qualify as ?feelings? in William James?s generic sense? Only a small, propaedeutic part of what is required to address the intrinsic nature of such states can be accomplished here. I restrict my topic mainly to a certain characteristic that belongs to each of those pulses of mentality that successively make up James?s stream of consciousness. Certain statements of James?s are intended to pick out the variable ?width? (...) belonging to a stream of consciousness as it flows. Attention to this proposed property brings me to a discussion of (a) the unitary character of each of the states of consciousness however complex they may frequently be and (b) how to conceive of their complexity without recourse to a misleading spatial metaphor. (shrink)
This paper examines Husserl’s fascination with the issues raised by Hume’s critique of the philosophy of the ego and the continuity of consciousness. The path taken here follows a continental and phenomenological approach. Husserl’s 1905 lecture course on the temporalization of immanent time-consciousness is a phenomenological-eidetic examination of how the continuity of consciousness and the consciousness of continuity are possible. It was by way of Husserl’s reading of Hume’s discussion of “flux” or “flow” that his discourse (...) on temporal phenomena led to the classification of a point-like now as a “fiction” and opened up a horizonal approach to the present that Hume’s introspective analyses presuppose but that escaped the limitations of the language that was available to him. In order to demonstrate the radicality of Husserl’s temporal investigations and his inspiration in the work of Hume, I show how his phenomenological discourse on the living temporal flow of consciousness resolves the latter’s concern about the problem of continuity by re-thinking how, in the absence of an abiding impression of Self, experience is continuous throughout the flux of its running off impressions. (shrink)
This is a special double issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies (vol. 14, Sept/Oct) which I guest edited. It is also sold separately as a book and published by Imprint Academic. The essays are authored by both philosophers and psychologists (including Jose Bermudez, Georges Rey, Art Markman, Jesse Prinz, and Simon Baron-Cohen) and include topics such as conceptualism, phenomenal concepts, infant consciousness, and synesthesia.
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.
Even if all of the content of conscious experience is encoded in the brain, there is a considerable difference between the view that consciousness does independent processing and the view that it does not. If all processing is done by the brain, then conscious experience is unnecessary and irrelevant to behavior. If consciousness performs a function, then its association with particular aspects of brain processing reflect its functional use in determining behavior. However, if consciousness does perform a (...) function, it cannot be described entirely by known physical laws. Rather, even if the content of conscious experience follows physical encoding in the brain, consciousness must then be governed in part by a principle which is different from any known physical principle. (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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
same thing, so the two concepts of consciousness may come to the same thing in the brain.Â The focus of this paper is on the problems that arise when these two concepts of consciousness are conflated. I will argue that John Searleâ€™s reasoning about the function of consciousness goes wrong because he conflates the two senses.Â And Francis Crick and Christof Koch fall afoul of the ambiguity in arguing that visual area V1 is not part of the (...) neural correlate of consciousness. Crick and Kochâ€™s work raises issues that suggest that these two concepts of consciousness may have different (though overlapping)Â neural correlates--despite Crick and Kochâ€™s implicit rejection of this idea. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â I will start with two quotations from Searle.Â You will see what appears to be a contradiction, and I will later claim that the appearance of contradiction can be explained if one realizes that he is using two different concepts of consciousness.Â Iâ€™m not going to explain yet what the two concepts of consciousness are.Â That will come later, after Iâ€™ve presented Searleâ€™s apparent contradiction and Crick and Kochâ€™s surprising argument.Â. (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)
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)
A frequent criticism of the neuroscientific approach to consciousness is that its theories describe only 'correlates' or 'analogues' of consciousness, and so fail to address the nature of consciousness itself. Despite its apparent logical simplicity, this criticism in fact relies on some substantive assumptions about the nature and evolution of scientific explanations. In particular, it is usually assumed that, in expressing correlations, neural correlate of consciousness (NCC) theories must fail to capture the causal structure relating brain (...) and mind. Drawing on work in the history and philosophy of science, I argue that this assumption - along with the related claim that even a correct NCC theory would fail to explain consciousness - is grounded in an inadequate conception of the way in which scientific explanations develop. Examination of parallel developments in 20th century biology reveals that, under the right circumstances, seemingly crude correspondences can play an essential role in scientific discovery and can sometimes become central to our everyday understanding of the phenomena in question. A proper understanding of this process clarifies the value of NCC theories and sheds light on the standards by which they should be evaluated. In closing, I describe two specific criteria for evaluating NCC proposals: intertheoretic bridge potential and detailed mapping. (shrink)