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)
Impressions, energy radiated by phenomena in the momentary environmental scene, enter sensory neurons, creating in afferent nerves a data stream. Following Kant, by our inner sense the mind perceives its own thoughts as it ties together sense data into an internalized scene. The mind, residing in the brain, logically a Language Machine, processes and stores items as coded grammatical entities. Kantian synthetic unity in the linguistic brain is able to deliver our experience of the scene as we appear to (...) see it. Uniquely, the brain records its own history, synthesizing a Movie-in-the-Brain, called the Noumenal Cosmos. Attempting thereby to represent the actual Universe, this makes for a sovereign brain that governs itself. The brain is domicile of an Ego, with its selfhood at stake at all times. Yet, it can know itself only by its actions, in which it appears as an actor in its own movie. Phenomena enter garbled, as confused apparitions, and must be put in good form using top–down feedback control by Ego, so that each movie frame makes rational sense within the overall context of the Noumenal Cosmos. A stack of frames is processed typically in 40 Hz rhythm with 300 ms process time each, for about 12 in the stack at any time. Successive neural centers are processing the stack in the brain assembly line, based on data from increasingly global receptive fields. Ego stitches together the movie frames, but only the top frame is in consciousness for 25 ms. The top frame contains the whole scene where the Ego makes an appearance as the actor that imposes Kantian synthetic unity on the scene, merely an assembly of grammatical texts, in a system-internal coded process language, fitting the scene into the Noumenal Cosmos. But Ego observes Ego only to the extent permitted by the objectivity rule, only what it does and thinks, not its true face. From the Noumenal Cosmos, the Ego receives grammatical messages in the internal sense code. They are integrated into a whole in the reaction of the Ego to the momentary scene. The voluntary nature of Ego’s decisions is explained, based on its ability to code in advance its own actions sequentially in time, as it sees fit with a view to an orderly Noumenal Cosmos, records of code being arranged spatially in neural structures. (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)
Augustine of Hippo (354–430 A.D.) meditated on the transcendent attributes of numbers that accountants so skillfully employ and on the attributes of moral rules. He thereby achieved a profound awareness of their Source in Truth. Nature is also governed by numbers; it is a “melody” that, again, woos one to its Source in Beauty. Whereas some businessmen meditate to clear their minds of clutter so as to make successful business decisions, Augustine persisted beyond the mere absence of clutter. Within the (...)stream of his own consciousness he found a focal point that led to the experience of the presence of a transcendent God in his own deeper self. The “order of love” enables one to achieve balance and a higher freedom wherein one cannot do wrong and possesses the courage to work toward building an earthly city that is just and beautiful, one that facilitates Everyman’s penetration of his own depth. (shrink)
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 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)
Yasunari Kawabata’s 1952 novel The Sound of the Mountain is widely praised for its aesthetic qualities, from its adaptation of aesthetics from the Tale of Genji, through the beauty of its prose and the patterning of its images, to the references to arts and nature within the text. This article, by contrast, shows that Kawabata uses these features to demonstrate the effects of the mass trauma following the Second World War and the complicated grief it induced, on the psychology of (...) moral/ethical understanding, decision-making and action. The stream of consciousness traces the protagonist’s growing awareness of social changes and the ensuing difficulties of ethical decision-making. (shrink)
This study, which is based upon ethnographic data collected between 1999 and 2008 in Nepal, examines the connection between the shaman's altered states of consciousness (ASC; i.e., what goes on inside the healer's mind/brain) and therapeutic changes that take place in the patient's mind/body. Unlike other studies that primarily emphasize the shaman's internal psychological state, this article attempts to explain the role of the healer's ASC and elucidate how desired therapeutic changes depend upon patient–healer interactions. This question is explored (...) in the context of a healing ritual highlighting various aspects of the cosmology of Nepalese shamans. (shrink)
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)
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)