Hurley’s is a difficult book to work through—partly because of its length and the complexity of its arguments, but also because each of the ten essays of which it is composed has a rather different starting point and focus, and because few of her arguments achieve real closure. Essay 2 discusses competing interpretations of Kant, essay 4 articulates nonconceptual forms of self-consciousness, essay 5 offers fresh interpretations of commissurotomy patients’ behavior, essay 6 develops an objection to Wittgenstein on rule (...) following, essay 8 attacks an alleged assumption of externalism, and chapter 10 explores the possibility of combining a “motor theory” and a “control theory” of perception. This is a very rich brew, and at least half the challenge this book presents consists in discerning its central argument and conclusion with enough precision to bring criticism to bear. (shrink)
One of the most important and influential philosophers of the last 30 years, John Searle has been concerned throughout his career with a single overarching question: how can we have a unified and theoretically satisfactory account of ourselves and of our relations to other people and to the natural world? In other words, how can we reconcile our common-sense conception of ourselves as conscious, free, mindful, rational agents in a world that we believe comprises brute, unconscious, mindless, meaningless, mute physical (...) particles in fields of force? The essays in this collection are all related to the broad overarching issue that unites the diverse strands of Searle's work. Gathering in an accessible manner essays available only in relatively obscure books and journals, this collection will be of particular value to professionals and upper-level students in philosophy as well as to Searle's more extended audience in such fields as psychology and linguistics. (shrink)
Self-consciousness constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to functionalism. Either the standard functional definitions of mental relations wrongly require the contents of self-consciousness to be propositions involving “realizations” rather than mental properties and relations themselves. Or else these definitions are circular. The only way to save functional definitions is to expunge the standard functionalist requirement that mental properties be second-order and to accept that they are first-order. But even the resulting “ideological” functionalism, which aims only at conceptual clarification, fails unless (...) it incorporates the thesis that the mental properties are fully “natural” universals. Accordingly, mental properties are sui generis: first-order, nonphysical, natural universals. (shrink)
To make progress on the problem of consciousness, we have to confront it directly. In this paper, I first isolate the truly hard part of the problem, separating it from more tractable parts and giving an account of why it is so difficult to explain. I critique some recent work that uses reductive methods to address consciousness, and argue that such methods inevitably fail to come to grips with the hardest part of the problem. Once this failure is (...) recognized, the door to further progress is opened. In the second half of the paper, I argue that if we move to a new kind of nonreductive explanation, a naturalistic account of consciousness can be given. I put forward my own candidate for such an account: a nonreductive theory based on principles of structural coherence and organizational invariance, and a double-aspect theory of information. (shrink)
In this thoughtful, rich, and extremely ambitious book, Norton Nelkin develops a "Scientific Cartesian" theory of sensation and perception, consciousness, conceptual content, and concept formation. The theory is Cartesian primarily because its account of mental states is realist, individualist, and internalist; Nelkin also holds, with Descartes, that perceptions are spontaneous judgments and that at least some of our concepts are innate. But, unlike Descartes, Nelkin rejects dualism and treats the mind as something that can be studied by the same (...) methods as other natural phenomena; indeed, Nelkin goes further than many contemporary theorists in attempting to make his views consistent with, and informed by, studies in the cognitive sciences. (shrink)
This paper examines how Nietzsche’s view of the mind and its relationship to nature informs his account of human agency. In particular, it focuses on his approach to the causal efficacy of conscious mental states. By examining the Leibnizean and Kantian background to this approach, I contend that Nietzsche proposes a naturalist but non-eliminativist account of mind, central to which is his anti-Cartesian denial that consciousness is intrinsic to the mental. However, Nietzsche ultimately oscillates between two accounts: the first, (...) which I call the ‘enchantment thesis,’ sacrifices the extrinsicality of consciousness but secures the causal efficacy of conscious mental states, whilst the second avoids enchanting nature, securing the extrinsicality of consciousness but sacrificing its causal efficacy. I argue that it is possible to reconstruct his arguments to combine elements of the conflicting accounts and to successfully hold together his anti-Cartesian account of mind with the possibility of autonomous human action. (shrink)
This paper will explore the integration of elements of traditional Eastern meditative procedures with modern objective scientific methodologies. In contrast to the introspective methods usually relied on in modern Western treatments of consciousness, the Eastern procedures in question have the possible advantage of being the products of centuries of effort to develop systematic first-person exploratory methodologies. But since these methodologies developed outside of the context of our traditions of science, their reported results of course cannot simply be taken at (...) face value. Nevertheless, aspects of their internal logic and putative results appear to be cross-culturally congruent, despite great differences of metaphysical frameworks and social milieux. Thus examining them and their effects in the context of modern scientific methodologies and criteria may well prove useful to us in our own task of developing a significant science of consciousness. In the paper we will accordingly describe some common methodological features and claimed results found in several major Eastern meditative traditions, discuss conceptual and methodological problems they raise, review some relevant scientific research on contemporary meditating subjects, and suggest some implications for the scientific study of consciousness. In particular, it will be suggested that the existing meditation-related research already indicates that Eastern varieties of meditative procedures should prove to be a useful component of any future science of consciousness. (shrink)
Within theoretical and empirical enquiries, many different meanings associated with consciousness have appeared, leaving the term itself quite vague. This makes formulating an abstract and unifying version of the concept of consciousness – the main aim of this article –into an urgent theoretical imperative. It is argued that consciousness, characterized as dually accessible (cognized from the inside and the outside), hierarchically referential (semantically ordered), bodily determined (embedded in the working structures of an organism or conscious system), and (...) useful in action (pragmatically functional), is a graded rather than an all-or-none phenomenon. A gradational approach, however, despite its explanatory advantages, can lead to some counterintuitive consequences and theoretical problems. In most such conceptions consciousness is extended globally (attached to primitive organisms or artificial systems), but also locally (connected to certain lower-level neuronal and bodily processes). For example, according to information integration theory (as introduced recently by Tononi and Koch, 2014), even such simple artificial systems as photodiodes possess miniscule amounts of consciousness. The major challenge for this article, then, is to establish reasonable, empirically justified constraints on how extended the range of a graded consciousness could be. It is argued that conscious systems are limited globally by the ability to individuate information (where individuated information is understood as evolutionarily embedded, socially altered, and private), whereas local limitations should be determined on the basis of a hypothesis about the action-oriented nature of the processes that select states of consciousness. Using these constraints, an abstract concept of consciousness is arrived at, hopefully contributing to a more unified state of play within consciousness studies itself. (shrink)
With his notion of absolute consciousness, Sartre tries to rethink the relation between consciousness and the self. What is the origin of subjectivity in relation to a consciousness that is characterized as impersonal and as a radical lucidity? In this article, I attempt to question that origin and the nature as such of the subject in its relation to a consciousness that in its essence is not yet subjective. On the contrary, it is characterized by a (...) selfpresence that is so radical that it threatens every form of self-knowledge. (shrink)
This long-awaited book sets out the implications of Habermas's theory of communicative action for moral theory. "Discourse ethics" attempts to reconstruct a moral point of view from which normative claims can be impartially judged. The theory of justice it develops replaces Kant's categorical imperative with a procedure of justification based on reasoned agreement among participants in practical discourse.Habermas connects communicative ethics to the theory of social action via an examination of research in the social psychology of moral and interpersonal development. (...) He aims to show that our basic moral intuitions spring from something deeper and more universal than contingent features of our tradition, namely from normative presuppositions of social interaction that belong to the repertoire of competent agents in any society. JÃ¼rgen Habermas is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Frankfurt. (shrink)
We offer a scientific approach to the philosophical 'hard problem' of consciousness, as formulated by David Chalmers in this journal. Our treatment is based upon two recent insights concerning the endogenous nature of consciousness and the minimal thermodynamic conditions for being alive. We suggest that a combination of these insights specifies sufficient conditions for attributing feeling to being.
Consciousness and Mind presents David Rosenthal's influential work on the nature of consciousness. Central to that work is Rosenthal's higher-order-thought theory of consciousness, according to which a sensation, thought, or other mental state is conscious if one has a higher-order thought that one is in that state. The first four essays develop various aspects of that theory. The next three essays present Rosenthal's homomorphism theory of mental qualities and qualitative consciousness, and show how that theory fits (...) with and helps sustain the HOT theory. A crucial feature of homomorphism theory is that it individuates and taxonomizes mental qualities independently of the way we're conscious of them, and indeed independently of our being conscious of them at all. So the theory accommodates the qualitative character not only of conscious sensations and perceptions, but also of those which fall outside our stream of consciousness. Rosenthal argues that, because this account of mental qualities makes no appeal to consciousness, it enables us to dispel such traditional quandaries as the alleged conceivability of undetectable quality inversion, and to disarm various apparent obstacles to explaining qualitative consciousness and understanding its nature. Six further essays build on the HOT theory to explain various important features of consciousness, among them the complex connections that hold in humans between consciousness and speech, the self-interpretative aspect of consciousness, and the compelling sense we have that consciousness is unified. Two of the essays, one an extended treatment of homomorphism theory, appear here for the first time. There is also a substantive introduction, which draws out the connections between the essays and highlights their implications. (shrink)
The first half of this book argues that physicalism cannot account for consciousness, and hence cannot be true. The second half explores and defends Russellian monism, a radical alternative to both physicalism and dualism. The view that emerges combines panpsychism with the view that the universe as a whole is fundamental.
The significance of consciousness in modern science is discussed by leading authorities from a variety of disciplines. Presenting a wide-ranging survey of current thinking on this important topic, the contributors address such issues as the status of different aspects of consciousness; the criteria for using the concept of consciousness and identifying instances of it; the basis of consciousness in functional brain organization; the relationship between different levels of theoretical discourse; and the functions of consciousness.
Some mental events are conscious, some are unconscious. What is the difference between the two? Uriah Kriegel offers an answer. His aim is a comprehensive theory of the features that all and only conscious mental events have. The key idea is that consciousness arises when self-awareness and world-awareness are integrated in the right way. Conscious mental events differ from unconscious ones in that, whatever else they may represent, they always also represent themselves, and do so in a very specific (...) way. Subjective Consciousness is a fascinating new move forward towards a full understanding of the mind. (shrink)
How can we disentangle the neural basis of phenomenal consciousness from the neural machinery of the cognitive access that underlies reports of phenomenal consciousness? We can see the problem in stark form if we ask how we could tell whether representations inside a Fodorian module are phenomenally conscious. The methodology would seem straightforward: find the neural natural kinds that are the basis of phenomenal consciousness in clear cases when subjects are completely confident and we have no reason (...) to doubt their authority, and look to see whether those neural natural kinds exist within Fodorian modules. But a puzzle arises: do we include the machinery underlying reportability within the neural natural kinds of the clear cases? If the answer is ‘Yes’, then there can be no phenomenally conscious representations in Fodorian modules. But how can we know if the answer is ‘Yes’? The suggested methodology requires an answer to the question it was supposed to answer! The paper argues for an abstract solution to the problem and exhibits a source of empirical data that is relevant, data that show that in a certain sense phenomenal consciousness overflows cognitive accessibility. The paper argues that we can find a neural realizer of this overflow if assume that the neural basis of phenomenal consciousness does not include the neural basis of cognitive accessibility and that this assumption is justified by the explanations it allows. (shrink)
In Consciousness and Persons: Unity and Identity, Michael Tye takes on the thorny issue of the unity of consciousness and answers these important questions: What exactly is the unity of consciousness? Can a single person have a divided consciousness? What is a single person? Tye argues that unity is a fundamental part of human consciousness -- something so basic to everyday experience that it is easy to overlook. For example, when we hear the sound of (...) waves crashing on a beach and at the same time see a red warning flag, there is an overall unity to our experience; the sound and the red shape are presented together in our consciousness. Similarly, when we undergo a succession of thoughts as we think something through, there is an experience of succession that unifies the thoughts into a conscious whole. But, Tye shows, consciousness is not always unified. Split-brain subjects, whose corpus callosum has been severed, are usually taken to have a divided or disunified consciousness. Their behavior in certain situations implies that they have lost the unity normal human subjects take for granted; it is sometimes even supposed that a split-brain subject is really two persons.Tye begins his account by proposing an account of the unity of experience at a single time; this account is extended over the succeeding chapters to cover bodily sensations at a single time and perceptual experience, bodily sensations, conscious thoughts, and felt moods at a single time. Tye follows these chapters with a discussion of the unity of experience through time. Turning to the split-brain phenomenon, he proposes an account of the mental life of split-brain subjects and argues that certain facts about these subjects offer support for his theory of unity. Finally, addressing the topic of the nature of persons and personal identity, Tye finds the two great historical accounts -- the ego theory and the bundle theory -- lacking and he makes an alternative proposal. He includes an appendix on the general representational approach to consciousness and its many varieties, because of the relevance of representationalism to the theory of unity being adanced. (shrink)
This paper offers a phenomenological analysis of the relationship between regret and episodic memory, the temporal structure of ‘regretful memory’, the affective and evaluative dimension of regretful memory and the counterfactual dimension of regretful memory. Based on Husserl’s phenomenology, I offer an analysis of regret’s complex structures of intentionality and time-consciousness. Husserl held that episodic memory requires two temporal orientations on one’s own experience: the past now that one relives and the present now in which one does the reliving. (...) If memory generally entails two temporal perspectives, regretful memory brings in a third point of temporal reference: that now that could have been. Drawing on Hoerl and McCormack, I give an account of regret as a mnemic and counterfactual form of intentional consciousness that confronts an alternative past and attempts to negotiate between two essential yet conflicting features of its actual past: its contingency and its irreversibility. On this basis, I then draw on Bagnoli to offer a phenomenological theory of regretful memory as an emotional mode of valuing possibilities that belong to the past. (shrink)
Carruthers offers a refreshing piece of “substantive philosophy.” Going beyond the limitations of pure analysis, he adopts a methodology which is one part analysis, one part empirical data, and a heavy dose of inference to the best explanation. The overarching goal is to advance the commonsense—yet unfashionable—thesis that natural language is the primary medium of thought, and to defend the related cognitive conception of NL. In particular, Carruthers argues that imaginative phonological representations of “inner speech” are constitutive of conscious thoughts, (...) and that thinking involves operations on such symbols. While there is still a role for mentalese cognition, such thinking is always unconscious, and probably of limited innate conceptual resources. The weak thesis is that, of natural necessity, all conscious propositional thought requires NL. The strong thesis is that, of natural necessity, distinctively human thoughts can only be tokened in natural language—hence even much of our unconscious thinking occurs in English. (shrink)
Definitions of consciousness need to be sufficiently broad to include all examples of conscious states and sufficiently narrow to exclude entities, events and processes that are not conscious. Unfortunately, deviations from these simple principles are common in modern consciousness studies, with consequent confusion and internal division in the field. The present paper gives example of ways in which definitions of consciousness can be either too broad or too narrow. It also discusses some of the main ways in (...) which pre-existing theoretical commitments (about the nature of consciousness, mind and world) have intruded into definitions. Similar problems can arise in the way a “conscious process” is defined, potentially obscuring the way that conscious phenomenology actually relates to its neural correlates and antecedent causes in the brain, body and external world. Once a definition of “consciousness” is firmly grounded in its phenomenology, investigations of its ontology and its relationships to entities, events and processes that are not conscious can begin, and this may in time transmute the meaning (or sense) of the term. As our scientific understanding of these relationships deepen, our understanding of what consciousness is will also deepen. A similar transmutation of meaning (with growth of knowledge) occurs with basic terms in physics such as "energy", and "time.". (shrink)
We are material beings in a material world, but we are also beings who have experiences and feelings. How can these subjective states be just a matter of matter? To defend materialism, philosophical materialists have formulated what is sometimes called "the phenomenal-concept strategy," which holds that we possess a range of special concepts for classifying the subjective aspects of our experiences. In Consciousness Revisited, the philosopher Michael Tye, until now a proponent of the the phenomenal-concept strategy, argues that the (...) strategy is mistaken. A rejection of phenomenal concepts leaves the materialist with the task of finding some other strategy for defending materialism. Tye points to four major puzzles of consciousness that arise: How is it possible for Mary, in the famous thought experiment, to make a discovery when she leaves her black-and-white room? In what does the explanatory gap consist and how can it be bridged? How can the hard problem of consciousness be solved? How are zombies possible? Tye presents solutions to these puzzles -- solutions that relieve the pressure on the materialist created by the failure of the phenomenal-concept strategy. In doing so, he discusses and makes new proposals on a wide range of issues, including the nature of perceptual content, the conditions necessary for consciousness of a given object, the proper understanding of change blindness, the nature of phenomenal character and our awareness of it, whether we have privileged access to our own experiences, and, if we do, in what such access consists. (shrink)
The highest principle of Kant’s theoretical philosophy is that all cognition must “be combined in one single self-consciousness”. Elsewhere I have tried to explain why he believed that all cognition must belong to a single self ; here I try to clarify the other half of the doctrine. What led him to the claim that all cognition involved self-consciousness? This question is pressing, because the thesis strikes many as obviously false.
In this lucid, deep, and entertaining book, John Perry supposes that type-identity physicalism is antecedently plausible, and that rejecting this thesis requires good reason. He aims to show that experience gap arguments, as given by Jackson, Kripke, and Chalmers, fail to provide such reason, and moreover that each failure stems from an overly restrictive conception of the content of thought.
Consciousness is arguably the most important area within contemporary philosophy of mind and perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the world. Despite an explosion of research from philosophers, psychologists, and scientists, attempts to explain consciousness in neurophysiological, or even cognitive, terms are often met with great resistance. In The Consciousness Paradox, Rocco Gennaro aims to solve an underlying paradox, namely, how it is possible to hold a number of seemingly inconsistent views, including higher-order thought (HOT) theory, conceptualism, (...) infant and animal consciousness, concept acquisition, and what he calls the HOT-brain thesis. He defends and further develops a metapsychological reductive representational theory of consciousness and applies it to several importantly related problems. Gennaro proposes a version of the HOT theory of consciousness that he calls the "wide intrinsicality view" and shows why it is superior to various alternatives, such as self-representationalism and first-order representationalism. HOT theory says that what makes a mental state conscious is that a suitable higher-order thought is directed at that mental state. -/- Thus Gennaro argues for an overall philosophical theory of consciousness while applying it to other significant issues not usually addressed in the philosophical literature on consciousness. Most cognitive science and empirical works on such topics as concepts and animal consciousness do not address central philosophical theories of consciousness. Gennaro’s integration of empirical and philosophical concerns will make his argument of interest to both philosophers and nonphilosophers. (shrink)
This book presents a comprehensive theory of consciousness. The initial chapter distinguishes six main forms of consciousness and sketches an account of each one. Later chapters focus on phenomenal consciousness, consciousness of, and introspective consciousness. In discussing phenomenal consciousness, Hill develops the representational theory of mind in new directions, arguing that all awareness involves representations, even awareness of qualitative states like pain. He then uses this view to undercut dualistic accounts of qualitative states. Other (...) topics include visual awareness, visual appearances, emotional qualia, and meta-cognitive processing. This important work will interest a wide readership of students and scholars in philosophy of mind and cognitive science. (shrink)
Cognitive science typically postulates unconscious mental phenomena, computational or otherwise, to explain cognitive capacities. The mental phenomena in question are supposed to be inaccessible in principle to consciousness. I try to show that this is a mistake, because all unconscious intentionality must be accessible in principle to consciousness; we have no notion of intrinsic intentionality except in terms of its accessibility to consciousness. I call this claim the The argument for it proceeds in six steps. The essential (...) point is that intrinsic intentionality has aspectual shape: Our mental representations represent the world under specific aspects, and these aspectual features are essential to a mental state's being the state that it is. (shrink)
Stephens and Grahamset themselves an apparently modest task, to understand why people who experience alien voices and inserted thoughts do not believe that they themselves are the source of these experiences. However, it soon becomes clear that there are many connected issues here. In eight short chapters, they address the phenomenology and ontology of consciousness, the phenomenology of alien voices, inserted thoughts, obsessive-compulsive thoughts and feelings, and other cases of unusual experience often associated with psychopathology, including brief discussion of (...) multiple personality disorder. They survey some of the main empirical explanations of the phenomenology, set out the shortcomings of these theories, and end by proposing their own schematic account. (shrink)
How can phenomenal consciousness exist as an integral part of a physical universe? How can the technicolour phenomenology of our inner lives be created out of the complex neural activities of our brains? Many have despaired of finding answers to these questions; and many have claimed that human consciousness is inherently mysterious. Peter Carruthers argues, on the contrary, that the subjective feel of our experience is fully explicable in naturalistic terms. Drawing on a variety of interdisciplinary resources, he (...) develops and defends a novel account in terms of higher-order thought. He shows that this can explain away some of the more extravagant claims made about phenomenal consciousness, while substantively explaining the key subjectivity of our experience. Written with characteristic clarity and directness, and surveying a wide range of extant theories, this book is essential reading for all those within philosophy and psychology interested in the problem of consciousness. (shrink)
The word ?consciousness? is notoriously ambiguous. This is mainly because it is not a term of art, but a mundane word we all use quite frequently, for different purposes and in different everyday contexts. In this paper, I discuss consciousness in one specific sense of the word. To avoid the ambiguities, I introduce a term of art ? intransitive self-consciousness ? and suggest that this form of self-consciousness is an essential component of the folk notion of (...)consciousness. I then argue for a specific account of consciousness as intransitive self-consciousness. According to this account, a mental state is conscious iff it represents its own occurrence. The argument is a ?modernizing? modification of an older argument due to Aristotle and Brentano. (shrink)
This is my first publication of the distinction between phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness, though not using quite those terms. It ends with this: "The upshot is this: If Searle is using the access sense of "consciousness," his argument doesn't get to first base. If, as is more likely, he intends the what-it-is-like sense, his argument depends on assumptions about issues that the cognitivist is bound to regard as deeply unsettled empirical questions." Searle replies: "He refers to (...) what he calls an "access sense of consciousness." On my account there is no such sense.". (shrink)
Brian O'Shaughnessy puts forward a bold and original theory of consciousness, one of the most fascinating but puzzling aspects of human existence. He analyses consciousness into purely psychological constituents, according pre-eminence to its epistemological power; the result is an integrated picture of the conscious mind in its natural physical setting. Consciousness and the World is a rich and exciting book, a major contribution to our understanding of the mind.
In this article, I examine and criticize John Searle's account of the relation between mind and body. Searle rejects dualism and argues that the traditional mind-body problem has a 'simple solution': mental phenomena are both caused by biological processes in the brain and are themselves features of the brain. More precisely, mental states and events are macro-properties of neurons in much the same way that solidity and liquidity are macro-properties of molecules. However, Searle also maintains that the mental is 'ontologically (...) irreducible' to the physical, a view which follows from his understanding of the status and nature of consciousness. Consciousness is essential to the mind; subjectivity is essential to consciousness; and no purely objective, physical description of consciousness could ever capture or explain its essentially subjective character. None the less, Searle maintains that irreducibility is a 'trivial' result of our 'definitional practices' and is entirely compatible with his theory. I contend that this latter claim is based on an equivocation: Searle's conclusion only seems to follow because he alters and trivializes what philosophers ordinarily mean by 'reduction'. I also maintain that Searle's position is reductionist in the ordinary, nontrivial sense. For this reason, his theory fails to accommodate the subjective character of consciousness and fails to solve the traditional mind-body problem. Finally, I briefly discuss Searle's claim that he is not an epiphenomenalist, and argue that given the assumptions of his view there is no interesting causal role for consciousness in the physical world. (shrink)
Neil Levy presents a new theory of freedom and responsibility. He defends a particular account of consciousness--the global workspace view--and argues that consciousness plays an especially important role in action. There are good reasons to think that the naïve assumption, that consciousness is needed for moral responsibility, is in fact true.
Philosophers traditionally recognize two main features of mental states: intentionality and phenomenal consciousness. To a first approximation, intentionality is the aboutness of mental states, and phenomenal consciousness is the felt, experiential, qualitative, or "what it's like" aspect of mental states. In the past few decades, these features have been widely assumed to be distinct and independent. But several philosophers have recently challenged this assumption, arguing that intentionality and consciousness are importantly related. This article overviews the key views (...) on the relationship between consciousness and intentionality and describes our favored view, which is a version of the phenomenal intentionality theory, roughly the view that the most fundamental kind of intentionality arises from phenomenal consciousness. (shrink)
The position advanced in this paper is that the bedrock of emotional feelings is contained within the evolved emotional action apparatus of mammalian brains. This dual-aspect monism approach to brain–mind functions, which asserts that emotional feelings may reflect the neurodynamics of brain systems that generate instinctual emotional behaviors, saves us from various conceptual conundrums. In coarse form, primary process affective consciousness seems to be fundamentally an unconditional “gift of nature” rather than an acquired skill, even though those systems facilitate (...) skill acquisition via various felt reinforcements. Affective consciousness, being a comparatively intrinsic function of the brain, shared homologously by all mammalian species, should be the easiest variant of consciousness to study in animals. This is not to deny that some secondary processes cannot be evaluated in animals with sufficiently clever behavioral learning procedures, as with place-preference procedures and the analysis of changes in learned behaviors after one has induced re-valuation of incentives. Rather, the claim is that a direct neuroscientific study of primary process emotional/affective states is best achieved through the study of the intrinsic , albeit experientially refined, emotional action tendencies of other animals. In this view, core emotional feelings may reflect the neurodynamic attractor landscapes of a variety of extended trans-diencephalic, limbic emotional action systems—including SEEKING, FEAR, RAGE, LUST, CARE, PANIC, and PLAY. Through a study of these brain systems, the neural infrastructure of human and animal affective consciousness may be revealed. Emotional feelings are instantiated in large-scale neurodynamics that can be most effectively monitored via the ethological analysis of emotional action tendencies and the accompanying brain neurochemical/electrical changes. The intrinsic coherence of such emotional responses is demonstrated by the fact that they can be provoked by electrical and chemical stimulation of specific brain zones—effects that are affectively laden. For substantive progress in this emerging research arena, animal brain researchers need to discuss affective brain functions more openly. Secondary awareness processes, because of their more conditional, contextually situated nature, are more difficult to understand in any neuroscientific detail. In other words, the information-processing brain functions, critical for cognitive consciousness, are harder to study in other animals than the more homologous emotional/motivational affective state functions of the brain. (shrink)
Consciousness fits uneasily into our conception of the natural world. On the most common conception of nature, the natural world is the physical world. But on the most common conception of consciousness, it is not easy to see how it could be part of the physical world. So it seems that to find a place for consciousness within the natural order, we must either revise our conception of consciousness, or revise our conception of nature. In twentieth-century (...) philosophy, this dilemma is posed most acutely in C. D. Broad’s The Mind and its Place in Nature . The phenomena of mind, for Broad, are the phenomena of consciousness. The central problem is that of locating mind with respect to the physical world. Broad’s exhaustive discussion of the problem culminates in a taxonomy of seventeen different views of the mental-physical relation.1 On Broad’s taxonomy, a view might see the mental as nonexistent , as reducible, as emergent, or as a basic property of a substance . The physical might be seen in one of the same four ways. So a four-by-four matrix of views results. At the end, three views are left standing: those on which mentality is an emergent characteristic of either a physical substance or a neutral substance, where in the latter case, the physical might be either emergent or delusive. (shrink)
A broad range of evidence regarding the functional organization of the vertebrate brain – spanning from comparative neurology to experimental psychology and neurophysiology to clinical data – is reviewed for its bearing on conceptions of the neural organization of consciousness. A novel principle relating target selection, action selection, and motivation to one another, as a means to optimize integration for action in real time, is introduced. With its help, the principal macrosystems of the vertebrate brain can be seen to (...) form a centralized functional design in which an upper brain stem system organized for conscious function performs a penultimate step in action control. This upper brain stem system retained a key role throughout the evolutionary process by which an expanding forebrain – culminating in the cerebral cortex of mammals – came to serve as a medium for the elaboration of conscious contents. This highly conserved upper brainstem system, which extends from the roof of the midbrain to the basal diencephalon, integrates the massively parallel and distributed information capacity of the cerebral hemispheres into the limited-capacity, sequential mode of operation required for coherent behavior. It maintains special connective relations with cortical territories implicated in attentional and conscious functions, but is not rendered nonfunctional in the absence of cortical input. This helps explain the purposive, goal-directed behavior exhibited by mammals after experimental decortication, as well as the evidence that children born without a cortex are conscious. Taken together these circumstances suggest that brainstem mechanisms are integral to the constitution of the conscious state, and that an adequate account of neural mechanisms of conscious function cannot be confined to the thalamocortical complex alone. (Published Online May 1 2007) Key Words: action selection; anencephaly; central decision making; consciousness; control architectures; hydranencephaly; macrosystems; motivation; target selection; zona incerta. (shrink)
The mysteries of consciousness have gripped the human imagination for over 2,500 years. At the dawn of the new millennium, Understanding Consciousness provides new solutions to some of the deepest puzzles surrounding its nature and function. Drawing on recent scientific discoveries, Max Velmans challenges conventional reductionist thought, providing an understanding of how consciousness relates to the brain and physical world that is neither dualist, nor reductionist. Understanding Consciousness will be of great interest to psychologists, philosophers, neuroscientists (...) and other professionals concerned with mind/body relationships, and all who care deeply about this subject. (shrink)
The paper discusses the utility of the notion of consciousness for the behavioural and brain sciences. It describes four distinctively different senses of 'conscious', and argues that to cope with the heterogeneous phenomena loosely indicated thereby, these sciences not only do not but should not discuss them in terms of 'consciousness'. It is thus suggested that 'the problem' allegedly posed to scientists by consciousness is unreal; one need neither adopt a realist stance with respect to it, nor (...) include the term and its cognates in the sciences' conceptual apparatus. The paper briefly examines Nagel's  article, since this presents the strongest counter to the thesis proposed. (shrink)
In recent years, there has been much focus on the apparent heterogeneity of schizophrenic symptoms. By contrast, this article proposes a unifying account emphasizing basic abnormalities of consciousness that underlie and also antecede a disparate assortment of signs and symptoms. Schizophrenia, we argue, is fundamentally a self-disorder or ipseity disturbance that is characterized by complementary distortions of the act of awareness: hyperreflexivity and diminished self-affection. Hyperreflexivity refers to forms of exaggerated self-consciousness in which aspects of oneself are experienced (...) as akin to external objects. Diminished self-affection or self-presence refers to a weakened sense of existing as a vital and self-coinciding source of awareness and action. This article integrates recent psychiatric research and European phenomenological psychiatry with some current work in cognitive science and phenomenological philosophy. After introducing the phenomenological approach along with a theoretical account of normal consciousness and self-awareness, we turn to a variety of schizophrenic syndromes. We examine positive, then negative, and finally disorganization symptoms—attempting in each case to illuminate shared distortions of consciousness and the sense of self. We conclude by discussing the possible relevance of this approach for identifying early schizophrenic symptoms. (shrink)