The transcendental deduction of Integrated Information Theory: connecting the axioms, postulates, and identity through categories

Synthese 200 (3):1-27 (2022)

Abstract

This paper deals with a foundational aspect of Integrated Information Theory of consciousness: the nature of the relation between the axioms of phenomenology and the postulates of cause-effect power. There has been a lack of clarity in the literature regarding this crucial issue, for which IIT has received much criticism of its axiomatic method and basic tenets. The present contribution elucidates the problem by means of a categorial analysis of the theory’s foundations. Its main results are that: IIT has a set of nine fundamental concepts of reason, called categories, which constitute its categorial lexicon and through which it formulates a system of principles incorporating the axioms, the postulates, and the central identity; and the connection between the axioms and postulates is grounded by their common root in this categorial lexicon, the categories of which find their justification by means of a phenomenological and transcendental deduction. Some further results are the unique origin of axioms and postulates in the categories; the distinction between conceptual and formalized postulates; a clarification of the uniqueness problem of categorial lexica in general; and an IIT account of objectivity by explicating how the physical is defined by means of categories. All of this is put to use against various criticism targeting IIT’s theoretical core. If successful, the proposed interpretation illuminates a central issue in the contemporary study of consciousness and contributes to an environment of mutual understanding between defenders and critics of the theory.

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Robert Chis-Ciure
University of Wisconsin, Madison

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