Behavioral and Brain Sciences 14 (4):702-726 (1991)

Max Velmans
Goldsmiths College, University of London
This paper replies to the first 36 commentaries on my target article on “Is human information processing conscious?” (Behavioral and Brain Sciences,1991, pp.651-669). The target article focused largely on experimental studies of how consciousness relates to human information processing, tracing their relation from input through to output, while discussion of the implications of the findings both for cognitive psychology and philosophy of mind was relatively brief. The commentaries reversed this emphasis, and so, correspondingly, did the reply. The sequence of topics in the reply roughly follows that of the target article. The discussion begins with a reconsideration of the details of the empirical findings, whether they can be extrapolated to non-laboratory settings, and the extent to which one can rely on their use of subjective reports. This is followed by an in-depth discussion of what is meant by “conscious processing” and of how phenomenal consciousness relates to attentional processing. We then turn to broader philosophical and theoretical issues. I point out some of the reasons why I do not support epiphenomenalism, dualist-interactionism, or reductionism, and elaborate on how first- and third-person views of the mind can be regarded as complementary and mutually irreducible. I suggest how the relation of conscious experiences to their neural correlates can be understood in terms of a dual-aspect theory of information,and how this might be used to resolve some of the paradoxes surrounding the causal interactions of consciousness and brain. I also suggest that, viewed from a first-person perspective, consciousness gives purpose to existence, which allows a different way of viewing its role in evolution.
Keywords consciousness  human information processing  relation of first- to third-person perspectives  unconscious processing  phenomenal content  consciousness and attention  functionalism  dual-aspect theory  psychological complementarity  epiphenomenalism
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DOI 10.1017/s0140525x00072150
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References found in this work BETA

The Principles of Psychology.William James - 1890 - London, England: Dover Publications.
Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature.Richard Rorty - 1979 - Princeton University Press.
Brainstorms.Daniel C. Dennett - 1978 - MIT Press.
The View From Nowhere.Thomas Nagel - 1986 - Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

The Psychology of Folk Psychology.Alvin I. Goldman - 1993 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16 (1):15-28.
Begging the Question Against Phenomenal Consciousness.Ned Block - 1992 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 15 (2):205-206.

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