Physiologists have long known that some vertebrates can survive for months without a brain. This phenomenon attracted limited attention until the nineteenth century when a series of experiments on living, decapitated frogs ignited a controversy about consciousness. Pflüger demonstrated that such creatures do not just exhibit reflexes; they also perform purposive behaviours. Suppose one thinks, along with Pflüger's ally Lewes, that purposive behaviour is a mark of consciousness. Then one must count a decapitated frog as conscious. If one rejects this (...) mark, one can avoid saying peculiar things about decapitated animals. But as Huxley showed, this position leads quickly to epiphenomenalism. The dispute long remained stalemated because it rested on conflicting sets of intuitions that were each compatible with the growing body of experiments. What eventually resolved it is that one set of intuitions supported a research programme in physiology that came to seem more fruitful on the whole. So my case study suggests an alternative model for experimental philosophy as compared with more recent practice. Rather than using experiment to bolster our philosophical intuitions directly, we should explore how our philosophical intuitions might bolster fruitful experimental inquiry in science. (shrink)
Despite the remarkable progress made in consciousness research during recent decades, there is still no sign of a general agreement about the location of its object. According to internalists, consciousness resides inside the brain. According to externalists, consciousness is partly constituted by elements or aspects of the environment. Internalism comports better with the existence of dreams, hallucinations and sensory imaging. Externalism seems to provide a more promising basis for understanding how we can experience the world and refer to the content (...) of our consciousness. I argue that the framework of structural realism supports internalism and helps to reveal the reasons behind the apparent explanatory success of the externalist approach. More specifically, structural realism supports the view that the structure of our consciousness is always present in our neural processes and only sometimes in an extended system that includes elements of the environment. (shrink)
This article investigates Hume's account of mental transparency. In this article, I will endorse Qualitative Transparency – that is, the thesis that we cannot fail to apprehend the qualitative characters of our current perceptions, and these apprehensions cannot fail to be veridical – on the basis that, unlike its competitors, it is both weak enough to accommodate the introspective mistakes that Hume recognises, and yet strong enough to make sense of his positive employments of mental transparency. Moreover, Qualitative Transparency is (...) also philosophically satisfying in providing good philosophical reason for why the mental states that are incorrigible should in fact be so. (shrink)
In Paradox in Christian Theology I argued that the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation are paradoxical—that is, they appear to involve implicit contradictions—yet Christians can still be rational in affirming and believing those doctrines. Dale Tuggy has characterized my theory of theological paradox as a form of “positive mysterianism” and argues that the theory “faces steep epistemic problems, and is at best a temporarily reasonable but ultimately unsustainable stance.” After summarizing my proposed model for the rational affirmation (...) of theological paradox and considering whether my proposal is indeed a form of “positive mysterianism” as Tuggy defines the term, I address the two main criticisms raised in Tuggy’s paper: first, that the doctrine of divine incomprehensibility cannot bear the weight required by my defense of paradox; and second, that my proposed model is afflicted with epistemic instability. I conclude that Tuggy has failed to show that a mysterian stance with respect to paradoxical Christian doctrines is in principle unreasonable, unnatural, or unsustainable. (shrink)
There has been considerable debate in the literature as to whether work in experimental philosophy actually makes any significant contribution to philosophy. One stated view is that many X-Phi projects, notwithstanding their focus on topics relevant to philosophy, contribute little to philosophical thought. Instead, it has been claimed the contribution they make appears to be to cognitive science. In contrast to this view, here we argue that at least one approach to X-Phi makes a contribution which parallels, and also extends, (...) historically salient forms of philosophical analysis, especially contributions from Immanuel Kant, William James, Peter F. Strawson and Thomas Nagel. The framework elaborated here synthesizes philosophical theory with empirical evidence from psychology and neuroscience and applies it to three perennial philosophical problems. According to this account, the origin of these three problems can be illuminated by viewing them as arising from a tension between two distinct types of cognition, each of which is associated with anatomically independent and functionally inhibitory neural networks. If the parallel we draw, between an empirical project and historically highly influential examples of philosophical analysis, is viewed as convincing, it follows that work in the cognitive sciences can contribute directly to philosophy. Further, this conclusion holds whether the empirical details of the account are correct or not. (shrink)
Illusionism about consciousness is the thesis that phenomenal consciousness does not exist, but merely seems to exist. Embracing illusionism presents the theoretical advantage that one does not need to explain how consciousness arises from purely physical brains anymore, but only to explain why consciousness seems to exist while it does not. As Keith Frankish puts it, illusionism replaces the “hard problem of consciousness” with the “illusion problem.” However, a satisfying version of illusionism has to explain not only why the illusion (...) of consciousness arises, but also why it arises with its particular strength: Notably, why we are so deeply reluctant to recognize the illusory nature of consciousness. Explaining our strong intuitive resistance to illusionism means solving what I call the “illusion meta-problem,” which I think is a part of the illusion problem. In this paper, I argue that current versions of illusionism are unable to solve the illusion meta-problem. I focus on two of the most promising recent illusionist theories of consciousness, and I show why they fail to explain the peculiar reluctance we encounter whenever we try to accept that consciousness is an illusion. (shrink)
Defenders of the phenomenal concept strategy have to explain how both physical and phenomenal concepts provide a substantive grasp on the nature of their referents, whilst referring to the very same experience. This is the ‘new challenge’ to physicalism. In this paper, I argue that if the physicalist adopts the powerful qualities ontology of properties then a new and powerful version of the phenomenal concept strategy can be developed, which answers the new challenge.
One sometimes believes a proposition without grasping it. For example, a complete achromat might believe that ripe tomatoes are red without grasping this proposition. My aim in this paper is to shed light on the difference between merely believing a proposition and grasping it. I focus on two possible theories of grasping: the inferential theory, which explains grasping in terms of inferential role, and the phenomenal theory, which explains grasping in terms of phenomenal consciousness. I argue that the phenomenal theory (...) is more plausible than the inferential theory. (shrink)
In this paper we try to diagnose one reason why the debate regarding the Hard Problem of consciousness inevitably leads to a stalemate: namely that the characterisation of consciousness assumed by the Hard Problem is unjustified and probably unjustifiable. Following Dennett : 4–6, 1996, Cognition 79:221–237, 2001, J Conscious Stud 19:86, 2012) and Churchland :402–408, 1996, Brainwise: studies in neurophilosophy. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2002), we argue that there is in fact no non-question begging argument for the claim that consciousness (...) is a uniquely Hard Phenomenon. That is; there is no non-question begging argument for the claim that consciousness is necessarily in explicable in terms of the structure and function of mental states. Unfortunately the debate has not moved on because the majority of materialists feel the pull of the at least one of, what we call, the ‘key’ intuitions that supposedly support dualism and the existence of a Hard Phenomenon and so try to accommodate them rather than denying them. Although this a possible response to the intuitions it tends to mask the fact that there is in fact no argument for the existence of a Hard Phenomenon. So we end up participating in our own hornswoggling :402–408, 1996) and chasing our tails trying to answer a question we should in fact ignore. We have no reason to think there is a Hard Problem of consciousness because we have no reason to think the Hard Phenomenon exists. (shrink)
Muchos psiquiatras se encuentran constantemente con pacientes cuyos síntomas incluyen trastornos o alteraciones de la conciencia. Infortunadamente, el significado del término conciencia es poco claro. Este artículo hace un repaso sistemático de varios significados atribuidos a dicho término, así como de diversos problemas filosóficos asociados. Asimismo, reconstruye varias teorías filosóficas y científicas de la conciencia, identificando sus ventajas y desventajas. Al final, ofrece algunas sugerencias para el uso del término conciencia en la psiquiatría.
I argue that the hard problem of consciousness occurs only in very limited contexts. My argument is based on the idea of explanatory perspectivalism, according to which what we want to know about a phenomenon determines the type of explanation we use to understand it. To that effect the hard problem arises only in regard to questions such as how is it that concepts of subjective experience can refer to physical properties, but not concerning questions such as what gives rise (...) to qualia or why certain brain states have certain qualities and not others. In this sense we could for example fully explain why certain brain processes have certain subjective qualities, while we still don’t have a viable theory of concepts that explains co-referentiality of phenomenal and physical concepts. Given this limitation, the hard problem doesn’t pose a problem for the empirical study of consciousness. (shrink)
A pressing philosophical problem is how to respond to the existential, anxiety and disenchantment resulting from a naturalistic worldview that eschews transcendent foundations for meaning and value. This problem is becoming more urgent as the popularization of neuroscientific findings renders a disenchanted conception of human beings ever more vivid, compelling, and widespread. I argue that the study of transformative experiences occasioned by classic psychedelic drugs such as lysergic acid diethylamide and psilocybin may reveal the nature of a viable practical solution (...) to this problem. Despite the apparent centrality of nonnaturalistic metaphysical apprehensions to psychedelic transformation, findings from psychedelic research suggest that key elements of psychedelic or “entheogenic” spirituality are consistent with naturalism. These include disruption to neurocognitive mechanisms underpinning the sense of self, and consequent experiences of self-transcendence and of the decoupling of attention from personal concerns. This liberation of attention can result in the availability of broader perspectives and the development of wonder and appreciation for life. (shrink)
Phenomenal consciousness presents a distinctive explanatory problem. Some regard this problem as ‘hard’, which has troubling implications for the science and metaphysics of consciousness. Some regard it as ‘easy’, which ignores the special explanatory difficulties that consciousness offers. Others are unable to decide between these two uncomfortable positions. All three camps assume that the problem of consciousness is either easy or hard. I argue against this disjunction and suggest that the problem may be ‘tricky’—that is, partly easy and partly hard. (...) This possibility emerges when we recognise that consciousness raises two explanatory questions. The Consciousness Question concerns why a subject is conscious rather than unconscious. The Character Question concerns why a conscious subject’s experience has the phenomenology it has rather than some other. I explore the possibility of one or other of these explanatory challenges being hard and the other easy, and consider the dialectical ramifications this has for all sides of the debate. (shrink)
Although the present paper looks upon the formal apparatus of quantum mechanics as a calculus of correlations, it goes beyond a purely operationalist interpretation. Having established the consistency of the correlations with the existence of their correlata, and having justified the distinction between a domain in which outcome-indicating events occur and a domain whose properties only exist if their existence is indicated by such events, it explains the difference between the two domains as essentially the difference between the manifested world (...) and its manifestation. A single, intrinsically undifferentiated Being manifests the macroworld by entering into reflexive spatial relations. This atemporal process implies a new kind of causality and sheds new light on the mysterious nonlocality of quantum mechanics. Unlike other realist interpretations, which proceed from an evolving-states formulation, the present interpretation proceeds from Feynman’s formulation of the theory, and it introduces a new interpretive principle, replacing the collapse postulate and the eigenvalue–eigenstate link of evolving-states formulations. Applied to alternatives involving distinctions between regions of space, this principle implies that the spatiotemporal differentiation of the physical world is incomplete. Applied to alternatives involving distinctions between things, it warrants the claim that, intrinsically, all fundamental particles are identical in the strong sense of numerical identical. They are the aforementioned intrinsically undifferentiated Being, which manifests the macroworld by entering into reflexive spatial relations. (shrink)
I argue that metaphysicians of mind have not done justice to the notion of accessibility between possible worlds. Once accessibility is given its due, physicalism must be reformulated and conceivability arguments must be reevaluated. To reach these conclusions, I explore a novel way of assessing the zombie conceivability argument. I accept that zombies are possible and ask whether that possibility is accessible from our world in the sense of ‘accessible’ used in possible world semantics. It turns out that the question (...) whether zombie worlds are accessible from our world is equivalent to the question whether physicalism is true at our world. By assuming that zombie worlds are accessible from our world, proponents of the zombie conceivability argument beg the question against physicalism. In other words, it is a mistake to assume that the metaphysical possibility of zombies entails that physicalism is false at our world. I will then consider what happens if a proponent of the zombie conceivability argument should insist that zombie worlds are accessible from our world. I will argue that the same ingredients used in the zombie conceivability argument—whatever exactly they might be—can be used to construct an argument to the opposite conclusion. At that point, we reach a stalemate between physicalism and property dualism: while the possibility of zombies entails property dualism, the possibility of other creatures entails physicalism. Since these two possibilities are mutually inconsistent, either one of them is not genuine or one of them is inaccessible from the actual world. To resolve this stalemate, we need more than traditional conceivability arguments. (shrink)
Philip Pettit has advocated a “looks as powers” theory as an alternative to theories that rely on instances of qualia in their account of looking red. Andy Clark has offered a similar view. If these accounts are successful, the Hard Problem is moribund. This paper asks how red comes into cases of something’s looking red to someone. A likely suggestion leads to a conundrum for LAPT: the physical complexity that it attributes to the property red is not evident in experience, (...) yet the view requires manifestness of that very property. Attempts to avoid this difficulty only lead to other problems. LAPT thus fails to provide a solution to the HP. (shrink)
In this article, I present a novel approach to the scientific understanding of consciousness. It is based on the hypothesis that the full range of phenomenal qualities is built into the frequency spectrum of a ubiquitous background field and proceeds on the assumption that conscious systems employ a universal mechanism by means of which they are able to extract phenomenal nuances selectively from this field. I set forth that in the form of the zero-point field (ZPF) physics can offer a (...) promising candidate that is qualified for playing the dual role as both the carrier of energy and consciousness. The appropriate mechanism, which rests upon the principle of dynamical coupling of ZPF modes, is a unique feature of quantum systems, suggesting that the dividing line between conscious and non-conscious systems is defined by the differentiation between quantum systems and classical systems. The presence of this mechanism in the brain is supported by the neurophysiological body of evidence, leading to a consistent explanation of the dynamical properties of the neural correlates of consciousness. Building on these findings, I lay the foundations for the conceptually coherent integration of consciousness into the physical worldview, derive an indicator for the quantity of consciousness of a given system, and outline the further steps toward a theory of consciousness. (shrink)
In this commentary, I critically assess Rex Welshon’s position on the neural substrates of ownership unity. First, I comment on Welshon’s definition of ownership unity and underline some of the problems stemming from his phenomenological analysis. Second, I analyze Welshon’s proposal to establish a mechanistic relation between neural substrates and ownership unity. I show that it is insufficient and defend my own position on how neural mechanisms may give rise to whole subjects of experience, which I call the neuro-integrative account (...) of consciousness. Lastly, I comment on Welshon’s philosophical contribution and claim that it leaves the reader theoretically stranded. (shrink)
The existence of group agents is relatively widely accepted. Examples are corporations, courts, NGOs, and even entire states. But should we also accept that there is such a thing as group consciousness? I give an overview of some of the key issues in this debate and sketch a tentative argument for the view that group agents lack phenomenal consciousness. In developing my argument, I draw on integrated information theory, a much-discussed theory of consciousness. I conclude by pointing out an implication (...) of my argument for the normative status of group agents. (shrink)
Two decades in, whether we are making any progress towards solving, or even explaining away, what David Chalmers calls the ‘hard’ problem of consciousness is as controversial as ever. This paper aims to argue that there are, in actual fact, two explanatory targets associated with the hard problem. Moreover, this in turn has repercussions for how we assess the explanatory merits of any proposed solution to the problem. The paper ends with a brief exposition of how the present distinction goes (...) beyond similar ones already made by respondents to Joseph Levine's explanatory gap. (shrink)
I argue that Ludwig Wittgenstein’s idea of the metaphysical subject sheds new light on subjective qualities of experience. In this article I draw first of all on the interpretations provided by Michael Kremer and James Conant. Subsequently, I conclude that “what is it like” means primarily “what is it like to see myself as the metaphysical subject”.
Some problems in neuroscience are nearly solved. For others, solutions are decades away. The current pace of advances in methods forces us to take stock, to ask where we are going, and what we should research next.
If a brain is uploaded into a computer, will consciousness continue in digital form or will it end forever when the brain is destroyed? Philosophers have long debated such dilemmas and classify them as questions about personal identity. There are currently three main theories of personal identity: biological, psychological, and closest continuer theories. None of these theories can successfully address the questions posed by the possibility of uploading. I will argue that uploading requires us to adopt a new theory of (...) identity, psychological branching identity. Psychological branching identity states that consciousness will continue as long as there is continuity in psychological structure. What differentiates this from psychological identity is that it allows identity to continue in multiple selves. According to branching identity, continuity of consciousness will continue in both the original brain and the upload after nondestructive uploading. Branching identity can also resolve long standing questions about split-brain syndrome and can provide clear predictions about identity in even the most difficult cases imagined by philosophers. (shrink)
Is disagreement about consciousness largely owed to no adequate initial clarification of the subject, to people in fact answering different questions clarified as actual consciousness. Philosophical method like the scientific method includes transition from the figurative to literal theory or analysis. A new theory will also satisfy various criteria not satisfied by many existing theories. The objective physical world has specifiable general characteristics including spatiality, lawfulness, being in science, connections with perception, and so on. Actualism, the literal theory or analysis (...) of actual consciousness, deriving mainly from the figurative database, is that actual consciousness has counterpart but partly different general characteristics. Actual consciousness is thus subjectively physical. So physicality in general consists in objective and also subjective physicality. Consciousness in the case of perception is only the dependent existence of a subjective external physical world out there, often a room. But cognitive and affective consciousness, various kinds of thinking and wanting, differently subjectively physical, is internal – subjectively physical representations-with-attitude, representations that also are actual. They differ from the representations that are lines of type, sounds etc. by being actual. Thus they involve a subjectivity or individuality that is a lawful unity. Actualism, both an externalism and an internalism, does not impose on consciousness a flat uniformuity, and it uniquely satisfies the various criteria for an adequate theory, including naturalism. Actual consciousness is a right subject and is a necessary part of any inquiry whatever into consciousness. All of it is a subject for more science, a workplace. There is no unique barrier or impediment whatever to science, as often said, no want of understanding of the mind-consciousness connection, no known unique hard problem of consciousness, no insuperable difficulty having to do with physicality and the history of science, no arguable ground at all of mysterianism. (shrink)
Common sense suggests that visual consciousness is essential to skilled motor action, but Andy Clark—inspired by Milner and Goodale's dual visual systems theory—has appealed to a wide range of experimental dissociations to argue that such an assumption is false. Critics of Clark's argument contend that the content driving motor action is actually within subjects' experience, just not easily discovered. In this article, I argue that even if such content exists, it cannot be guiding motor action, since a review of current (...) visual neuroscience indicates that the visual brain areas producing conscious representations are distinct from those driving motor action. (shrink)
The principle of mass additivity states that the mass of a composite object is the sum of the masses of its elementary components. Mass additivity is true in Newtonian mechanics but false in special relativity. Physicists have explained why mass additivity is true in Newtonian mechanics by reducing it to Newton’s microphysical laws. This reductive explanation does not fit well with deducibility theories of reductive explanation such as the modern Nagelian theory of reduction, and the a priori entailment theory of (...) reduction that is prominent in the philosophy of mind. Nonetheless, I argue that a reconstruction of the explanation that incorporates distinctively philosophical concepts in fact fits both theories. I discuss the implications of this result for both theories and for the reductive explanation of consciousness. (shrink)
In this paper, we use a phenomenological approach to compare the unusual ways in which language can be experienced by individuals with schizophrenia or severe mood disorders, specifically mania and melancholia. Our discussion follows a tripartite/dialectical format: first we describe traditionally observed distinctions ; then we consider some apparent similarities in the experience of language in these conditions. Finally, we explore more subtle, qualitative differences. These involve: 1, interpersonal orientation, 2, forms of attention and context-relevance, 3, underlying mutations of experience, (...) and 4, meta-attitudes toward language. Such distinctions appear to reflect significant differences in underlying forms of subjectivity; they are broadly consistent with work in phenomenological psychopathology on other aspects of experience, including body, self, and social world. An understanding of such distinctions may assist with difficult cases of differential diagnosis, while also contributing to a better understanding of suffering persons and of psychological factors underlying their disorders. (shrink)
The aim of this essay is to show that phenomenal properties are contentless modes of appearances of representational properties. The essay initiates with examination of the first-person perspective of the conscious observer according to which a “reference to I” with respect to the observation of experience is determined. A distinction is then drawn between the conscious observer and experience as observed, according to which, three distinct modifications of experience are delineated. These modifications are then analyzed with respect to the content (...) of experience and from this the ground of the distinction between phenomenal and representational properties is identified. (shrink)
Although it is well accepted that working memory is intimately related to consciousness, little research has illuminated the liaison between the two phenomena. To investigate this under-explored nexus, we used an imagery monitoring task to investigate the subjective aspects of WM performance. Specifically, in two experiments, we examined the effects on consciousness of holding in mind information having a low versus high memory load, and holding memoranda in mind during the presentation of distractors . Higher rates of rehearsal occurred in (...) the high load and distractor conditions than in comparable control conditions. Examination of the temporal properties of the rehearsal-based imagery revealed that, across subjects, imagery events occurred evenly throughout the delay. We hope that future variants of this new imagery monitoring task will reveal additional insights about WM, consciousness, and action control. (shrink)
The belief in free will has been frequently challenged since Benjamin Libet published his famous experiment in 1983. Although Libet’s experiment is highly dependent upon subjective reports, no study has been conducted that focused on a first-person or introspective perspective of the task. We took a neurophenomenological approach in an N = 1 study providing reliable and valid measures of the first-person perspective in conjunction with brain dynamics. We found that a larger readiness potential is attributable to more frequent occurrences (...) of self-initiated movements during negative deflections of the slow cortical potentials . These negative deflections occur in parallel with an inner impulse reported by an expert meditator which may in turn lead to a voluntary act. We demonstrate in this proof-of-principle approach that the first-person perspective obtained by an expert meditator in conjunction with neural signal analysis can contribute to our understanding of the neural underpinnings of voluntary acts. (shrink)
According to higher-order theories of consciousness, a mental state is conscious only when represented by another mental state. Higher-order theories must predict there to be some brain areas (or networks of areas) such that, because they produce (the right kind of) higher-order states, the disabling of them brings about deficits in consciousness. It is commonly thought that the prefrontal cortex produces these kinds of higher-order states. In this paper, I first argue that this is likely correct, meaning that, if some (...) higher-order theory is true, prefrontal lesions should produce dramatic deficits in visual consciousness. I then survey prefrontal lesion data, looking for evidence of such deficits. I argue that no such deficits are to be found, and that this presents a compelling case against higher-order theories. (shrink)
This paper aims to show that there is a lot of philosophy in the philosophy of chemistry—not only in the problems and questions specific to chemistry, which this science brings up in philosophical discussions, but also in the topics of wider interest like reductionism and emergence, for which chemistry proves to be an ideal case study. The fact that chemical entities and properties are amenable to a quantitative understanding, to measurement and experiment to a greater extent than those in psychology (...) or biology, makes chemistry an ideal case study for those interested in reductionism and emergence. (shrink)
This paper compares tracking and phenomenal intentionality theories of intentionality with respect to the issue of naturalism. Tracking theories explicitly aim to naturalize intentionality, while phenomenal intentionality theories generally do not. It might seem that considerations of naturalism count in favor of tracking theories. We survey key considerations relevant to this claim, including some motivations for and objections to the two kinds of theories. We conclude by suggesting that naturalistic considerations may in fact support phenomenal intentionality theories over tracking theories.
This paper is concerned with the role of conscious agency in human action. On a folk-psychological view of the structure of agency, intentions, conceived as conscious mental states, are the causes of actions. In the last decades, the development of new psychological and neuroscientific methods has made conscious agency an object of empirical investigation and yielded results that challenge the received wisdom. Most famously, the results of Libet’s studies on the ‘readiness potential’ have been interpreted by many as evidence in (...) favor of a skeptical attitude towards conscious agency. It is questionable, however, whether action initiation should be regarded as the touchstone of conscious agency. I shall argue that the traditional folk-psychological view, but also some of the objections leveled against it, rest in part on an over-simplified conception of the structure of agency, that neglects both the role of control processes after action initiation and the role of planning processes before action initiation. Taking these processes into account can lead to a reassessment of the relation between intentions and action and of the role of conscious agency in action production. (shrink)