Minimal Sense of Self, Temporality and the Brain

Julian Kiverstein
University of Amsterdam
Cognitive neuroscientists are currently busy searching for the neural signatures of conscious experience. I shall argue that the notion of neural correlates of consciousness employed in much of this work is subject to two very different interpretations depending on how one understands the relation between the concepts of “state consciousness” and “creature consciousness”. Localist theories treat the neural correlates of creature consciousness as a kind of background condition that must be in place in order for the brain to realise particular conscious experiences. Holists on the other hand take the neural correlates of creature consciousness to be a part of the core realiser of a particular conscious experience. My aim in this paper will be threefold. First I argue we should understand creature consciousness as a property of those creatures that have a minimal sense of self. Given this conception of creature consciousness I argue that the localist position is untenable: creature consciousness cannot simply be a background condition. Finally I argue that the minimal sense of self is a consequence of the temporal structure of consciousness. It follows that any theory of NCCs must explain how experiences with a complex temporal structure can be implemented in neural processing
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