The functional contributions of consciousness

Consciousness and Cognition 104 (C):103383 (2022)
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Abstract

The most widely endorsed philosophical and scientific theories of consciousness assume that it contributes a single functional capacity to an organism’s information processing toolkit. However, conscious processes are a heterogeneous class of psychological phenomena supported by a variety of neurobiological mechanisms. This suggests a plurality of functional contributions of consciousness (FCCs), in the sense that conscious experience facilitates different functional capacities in different psychological domains. In this paper, I first develop a general methodological framework for isolating the psychological functions that are associated with conscious experience. I then use this to show that the leading accounts—Global Workspace Theories, Higher Order Thought Theory and Information Integration Theory—all fail to acknowledge this functional pluralism, which limits their applicability as theories of consciousness.

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