In his defence of the identity theory, Professor Smart has attempted to show that reports of mental states are strictly topic-neutral. If this were the case then it would follow that there is nothing logically wrong with the claim that the mind is the brain or that mental states are really nothing but brain states. Some phillosophers have argued that a fundamental objection to any form of materialism is that the latter makes an obvious logical blunder in identifying (...) the mental with the physical. This is the view that dualism is enshrined in our language. If this is true then of course statements such as ‘the mind is actually nothing but the brain’ and ‘mental states are really nothing but physical processes’ would be quite unacceptable on strictly logical grounds. Smart's claim that talk about mental states is topic-neutral, however, appears to exempt materialism from such objections. The question is, does it? That is to say, are sensation reports and the like topic-neutral in the required sense? Are they analogous in principle to statements of the form ‘someone is in the room’? Smart's point is that expressions such as ‘someone phoned: it was the doctor’ are logically similar to those of the form ‘I am having a red after-image: it is a brain process.’ ‘Someone’ is not logically equivalent to ‘the doctor’ , but it may, of course, be true that the doctor is the someone who phoned. Does this analogy hold and is it correct to say that sensation reports and mentalistic expressions in general are topic-neutral, that they refer only to experienced ‘somethings’? Smart's claim runs as follows: When a person says, ‘I see a yellowish-orange after-image’, he is saying something like this: ‘ There is something going on which is like what is going on when I have my eyes open, am awake, and there is an orange illuminated in good light in front of me, that is, when I really see an orange’. Notice that the italicised words, namely ‘there is something going on which is like what is going on when’, are all quasi logical or topic neutral words. This explains why the ancient Greek peasant's reports about his sensations can be neutral between dualistic metaphysics and my materialistic metaphysics. It explains how sensations can be brainprocesses and yet how a man who reports them need know nothing about brainprocesses. For he reports them only very abstractly as ‘something going on which is like what is going on when…’ Similarly, a person may say ‘someone is in the room’, thus reporting truly that the doctor is in the room, even though he has never heard of doctors. (shrink)
A common quest among theoretical psychologists is the transformation of psychology to accommodate human agency and meaning. Several strong experimental methods are used in cognitive neuroscience but are based almost entirely upon a mechanistic ontology. A step toward rapprochement is proposed using precise and powerful experimental methods that are holistic, individualized, and compatible with an agentive ontology. Such methods must be applicable to all aspects of human experience, the subjective and agentive aspects, as well as the behavioural and the neurophysiological (...) Multivariate methods are capable of expressing and capturing the holistic isomorphism among multiple aspects of human existence and might even help provide insight into the mind-body problem. Results from a cognitive neuroscience study are used to illustrate this approach. 2012 APA, all rights reserved). (shrink)
This note brings together three phenomena leading to a tendency toward reductionism in cognitive psychology. They are the reification of cognitive processes into an entity called mind; the identification of the mind with the brain; and the congruence by analogy of the brain with the digital computer. Also indicated is the need to continue studying the effects upon behavior of variables other than brain function. 2012 APA, all rights reserved).
Standard semantic information processing models—information in; information processed; information out —lend themselves to standard models of the functioning of the brain in terms, e.g., of threshold-switch neurons connected via classical synapses. That is, in terms of sophisticated descendants of McCulloch and Pitts models. I argue that both the cognition and the brain sides of this framework are incorrect: cognition and thought are not constituted as forms of semantic information processing, and the brain does not function in terms (...) of passive input processing units organized as neural nets. An alternative framework is developed that models cognition and thought not in terms of semantic information processing, and, correspondingly, models brain functional processes also not in terms of semantic information processing. As alternative to such models: I outline a pragmatist oriented, interaction based, model of representation; derive from this model a fundamental framework of constraints on how the brain must function; show that such a framework is in fact found in the brain, and develop the outlines of a broader model of how mental processes can be realized within this alternative framework. Part I of this discussion focuses on some criticisms of standard modeling frameworks for representation and cognition, and outlines an alternative interactivist, pragmatist oriented, model. In part II, the focus is on the fact that the brain does not, in fact, function in accordance with standard passive input processing models—e.g., information processing models. Instead, there are multiple endogenously active processes at multiple spatial and temporal scales across multiple kinds of cells. A micro-functional model that accounts for, and even predicts, these multi-scale phenomena in generating emergent representation and cognition is outlined. That is, I argue that the interactivist model of representation outlined offers constraints on how the brain should function that are in fact empirically found, and, in reverse, that the multifarious details of brain functioning entail the pragmatist representational model—a very strong interrelationship. In the sequel paper, starting with part III, this model is extended to address macro-functioning in the CNS. In part IV, I offer a discussion of an approach to brain functioning that has some similarities with, as well as differences from, the model presented here: sometimes called the predictive brain approach. (shrink)
[opening paragraph]: Nicholas Humphrey argues persuasively that consciousness results from active and efferent rather than passive and afferent functions. These arguments contribute to the mounting recent evidence that consciousness is inseparable from the motivated action planning of creatures that in some sense are organismic and agent-like rather than passively mechanical and reactive in the way that digital computers are. Newton calls this new approach the ‘action theory of understanding'; Varela et al. dubbed it the ‘enactive’ view of consciousness. It was (...) endorsed in passing by the early Dennett , although he never followed up on it in his later work. According to Dennett, ‘No afferent can be said to have a significance ‘A’ until it is ‘taken’ to have the significance ‘A’ by the efferent side of the brain’ . Luria also stressed the neurophysiology of efferent processes as correlated with consciousness . Further elaborations of the enactive approach are defended by Ellis , Newton , Ellis and Newton , Watt , Thelen and Smith , Jarvilehto and Gendlin . According to this view, conscious information processing can arise only as the self-regulated action of a self-organizing process that confronts the world as a system of action affordances. While information can be passively absorbed in the form of afferent input, only efferent nervous activity in the interest of a living organism's homeostatic balance can create consciousness of any information, whether perceptual, imagistic, emotional or intellectual. (shrink)
Fifty years ago J. J. C. Smart published his pioneering paper, “Sensations and BrainProcesses.” It is appropriate to mark the golden anniversary of Smart’s publication by considering how well his article has stood up, and how well the identity theory itself has fared. In this paper I first revisit Smart’s text, reflecting on how it has weathered the years. Then I consider the status of the identity theory in current philosophical thinking, taking into account the objections and (...) replies that Smart discussed as well as some that he did not anticipate. Finally, I offer a brief manifesto for the identity theory, providing a small list of the claims that I believe contemporary identity theorist should accept. As it turns out, these are more or less the ones that Smart defended fifty years ago. (shrink)
A hypothesis on the physiological conditions of consciousness is presented. It is assumed that the occurrence of states of consciousness causally depends on the formation of complex representational structures. Cortical neural networks that exhibit a high representational activity develop higher-order, self-referential representations as a result of self-organizing processes. The occurrence of such states is identical with the appearance of states of consciousness. The underlying physiological processes can be identified. It is assumed that neural assemblies instantiate mental representations; hence (...) consciousness depends on the rate at which large active assemblies are generated. The formation of assemblies involves the activation of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor channel complex which controls different forms of synaptic plasticity including rapid changes of the connection strengths. The various causes of unconsciousness (e.g., anaesthetics or brain stem lesions) have a common denominator: they directly or indirectly inhibit the formation of assemblies. (shrink)
SUPPOSE that I report that I have at this moment a roundish, blurry-edged after-image which is yellowish towards its edge and is orange towards its centre. What is it that I am reporting?l One answer to this question might be that I am not reporting anything, that when I say that it looks to me as though there is a roundish yellowy orange patch of light On the wall I am expressing some sort of temptation, the temptation to say that (...) there is a roundish yellowy orange patch on the wall. This is perhaps Wittgenstein's view in the Philosophical Investigations. Similarly, when I "report" a pain, I am not really reporting anything, but am doing a sophisticated sort of wince. 2 I prefer most of the time to discuss an afterimage rather than a pain, because the word "pain" brings in something which is irrelevant to my purpose: the notion of "distress." I think that "he is in pain" entails "he is in distress," that is, that he is in a certain agitation-condition.3 Similarly, to say "I am in pain" may be to do more than "replace pain behavior": it may be partly to report something, though this something is quite nonmysterious, being an agitation-condition, and so susceptible of behavioristic analysis. The suggestion I wish if possible to avoid is a different one, namely that "I am in pain" is a genuine report, and that what it reports is an irreducibly psychical something. And similarly the suggestion I wish to resist is also that to say "I have a yellowish orange after-image" is to report something irreducibly psychical. (shrink)
“This is surely the ultimate expression of the top-down approach to consciousness, written with Sommerhoff's characteristic clarity and precision. It says far more than other books four times the size of this admirably concise volume. This book is destined to become a pillar of the subject.” —Rodney Cotterill, Technical University of Denmark The problem of consciousness has been described as a mystery about which we are still in a terrible muddle and in Understanding Consciousness: Its Function and Brain (...) class='Hi'>Processes, the author attempts to unravel this mystery by offering a clarification of the main concepts related to consciousness, and positing a comprehensive biological explanation. Consequently, this book will be ideal for a wide-range of upper level undergraduate and postgraduate courses. The author interprets consciousness as a property that can be possessed by many creatures lacking a language faculty and comprises all of the following: awareness of the surrounding world; awareness of the self as an entity; and awareness of such things as thoughts and feelings. He argues that a biological approach can achieve both the necessary conceptual clarifications and a joint explanation of these divisions of awareness in terms of just two accurately defined concepts of 'internal representation' and two empirically supported assumptions about the functional architecture of a specific set of brainprocesses. Despite this striking simplicity, his model covers these divisions of awareness both as objective faculties of the brain and as subjective experience. These conclusions are applied to a broad range of fundamental questions, including the biological rationale of subjective experience and where consciousness resides in the neural networks. (shrink)
The first paper in this pair developed a model of the nature of representation and cognition, and argued for a model of the micro-functioning of the brain on the basis of that model. In this sequel paper, starting with part III, this model is extended to address macro-functioning in the CNS. In part IV, I offer a discussion of an approach to brain functioning that has some similarities with, as well as differences from, the model presented here: sometimes (...) called the Predictive Brain approach. (shrink)
A hypothesis on the physiological conditions for the occurrence of phenomenal states is presented. It is suggested that the presence of phenomenal states depends on the rate at which neural assemblies are formed. Unconsciousness and various disturbances of phenomenal consciousness occur if the assembly formation rate is below a certain threshold level; if this level is surpassed, phenomenal states necessarily result. A critical production rate of neural assemblies is the necessary and sufficient condition for the occurrence of phenomenal states.
The processing of time intervals in the sub- to supra-second range by the brain is critical for the interaction of primates with their surroundings in activities, such as foraging and hunting. For an accurate processing of time intervals by the brain, representation of physical time within neuronal circuits is necessary. I propose that time dimension of the physical surrounding is represented in the brain by different types of neuronal oscillators, generating spikes or spike bursts at regular intervals. (...) The proposed oscillators include the pacemaker neurons, tonic inputs, and synchronized excitation and inhibition of inter-connected neurons. Oscillators, which are built inside various circuits of brain, help to form modular clocks, processing time intervals or other temporal characteristics specific to functions of a circuit. Relative or absolute duration is represented within neuronal oscillators by “neural temporal unit,” defined as the interval between regularly occurring spikes or spike bursts. Oscillator output is processed to produce changes in activities of neurons, named frequency modulator neuron, wired within a separate module, represented by the rate of change in frequency, and frequency of activities, proposed to encode time intervals. Inbuilt oscillators are calibrated by (a) feedback processes, (b) input of time intervals resulting from rhythmic external sensory stimulation, and (c) synchronous effects of feedback processes and evoked sensory activity. A single active clock is proposed per circuit, which is calibrated by one or more mechanisms. Multiple calibration mechanisms, inbuilt oscillators, and the presence of modular connections prevent a complete loss of interval timing functions of the brain. (shrink)
An essential prerequisite for the development of a theory of consciousness is the clarification of the fundamental mechanisms underlying conscious processes. In this article I present an approach that sheds new light on these mechanisms. This approach builds on stochastic electrodynamics (SED), a promising theoretical framework that provides a deeper understanding of quantum systems and reveals the origin of quantum phenomena. I outline the most important concepts and findings of SED and interpret the neurophysiological body of evidence in the (...) context of these findings, indicating that the functioning of the brain rests upon exactly the same principles that are characteristic for quantum systems. On this basis, I construct a new hypothesis on the mechanisms behind conscious processes and discuss the new perspectives this hypothesis opens up for consciousness research. In particular, it offers the possibility of elucidating the relationship between brain and consciousness, of specifying the connection between consciousness and information, and of answering the question of what distinguishes conscious processes from unconscious processes. (shrink)
(2013). Phenomenal Consciousness: Understanding the Relation Between Experience and Neural Processes in the Brain, by Dimitris Platchias. Australasian Journal of Philosophy: Vol. 91, No. 3, pp. 617-620. doi: 10.1080/00048402.2013.788529.
Mental Processes in the Human Brain provides an integrative overview of the rapid advances and future challenges in understanding the neurobiological basis of mental processes that are characteristically human. With chapters from leading figures in the brain sciences, it will be essential for all those in the cognitive and brain sciences.