John Campbell investigates how consciousness of the world explains our ability to think about the world; how our ability to think about objects we can see depends on our capacity for conscious visual attention to those things. He illuminates classical problems about thought, reference, and experience by looking at the underlying psychological mechanisms on which conscious attention depends.
I propose an idealist ontology that makes sense of reality in a more parsimonious and empirically rigorous manner than mainstream physicalism, bottom-up panpsychism, and cosmopsychism. The proposed ontology also offers more explanatory power than these three alternatives, in that it does not fall prey to the hard problem of consciousness, the combination problem, or the decombination problem, respectively. It can be summarized as follows: there is only cosmic consciousness. We, as well as all other living organisms, are but (...) dissociated alters of cosmic consciousness, surrounded by its thoughts. The inanimate world we see around us is the extrinsic appearance of these thoughts. The living organisms we share the world with are the extrinsic appearances of other dissociated alters. (shrink)
Conscious experience is one of the most difficult and thorny problems in psychological science. Its study has been neglected for many years, either because it was thought to be too difficult, or because the relevant evidence was thought to be poor. Bernard Baars suggests a way to specify empirical constraints on a theory of consciousness by contrasting well-established conscious phenomena - such as stimulus representations known to be attended, perceptual, and informative - with closely comparable unconscious ones - such (...) as stimulus representations known to be preperceptual, unattended, or habituated. Adducing data to show that consciousness is associated with a kind of global workplace in the nervous system, and that several brain structures are known to behave in accordance with his theory, Baars helps to clarify many difficult problems. (shrink)
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.
Consciousness is a mongrel concept: there are a number of very different "consciousnesses." Phenomenal consciousness is experience; the phenomenally conscious aspect of a state is what it is like to be in that state. The mark of access-consciousness, by contrast, is availability for use in reasoning and rationally guiding speech and action. These concepts are often partly or totally conflated, with bad results. This target article uses as an example a form of reasoning about a function of (...) "consciousness" based on the phenomenon of blindsight. Some information about stimuli in the blind field is represented in the brains of blindsight patients, as shown by their correct "guesses," but they cannot harness this information in the service of action, and this is said to show that a function of phenomenal consciousness is somehow to enable information represented in the brain to guide action. But stimuli in the blind field are BOTH access-unconscious and phenomenally unconscious. The fallacy is: an obvious function of the machinery of access-consciousness is illicitly transferred to phenomenal consciousness. (shrink)
Discusses recent work on representationalism, including: the case for a representationalist theory of consciousness, which explains consciousness in terms of content; rivals such as neurobiological type-type identity theory (Papineau, McLaughlin) and naive realism (Allen, Campbell, Brewer); John Campbell and David Papineau's recent objections to representationalism; the problem of the "laws of appearance"; externalist vs internalist versions of representationalism; the relation between representationalism and the mind-body problem.
In this chapter, we discuss a selection of current views of the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC). We focus on the different predictions they make, in particular with respect to the role of prefrontal cortex (PFC) during visual experiences, which is an area of critical interest and some source of contention. Our discussion of these views focuses on the level of functional anatomy, rather than at the neuronal circuitry level. We take this approach because we currently understand more about (...) experimental evidence at this coarse level and because these results are appropriate for arbitrating between current theoretical frameworks. We discuss the Two-Visual-Systems Hypothesis (Milner & Goodale 1995; 2006), Local Recurrency (Lamme 2010; Lamme 2006), Higher Order (Lau 2008; Lau & Rosenthal 2011) and Global Workspace theories (Baars 1997; Baars 2005; Dehaene & Naccache 2001; Dehaene 2014). Despite the apparent stark differences between conscious and unconscious perceptual processing, available evidence suggests that their neural substrates must be largely shared. This indicates that the difference in neural activity between conscious and unconscious perceptual processing is likely to be subtle and highly specialized. We argue that current experimental evidence about the involvement of specific activity in prefrontal cortex supports the higher order neural theory of consciousness. In consequence, imaging techniques that focus only on marked differences between conscious and unconscious level of activity are likely to be insensitive to the relevant neural activity patterns that underlie conscious experiences. Finally, it follows from the evidence we discuss that the functional advantages of conscious over unconscious perceptual processing may be more limited than commonly thought. (shrink)
Neurological syndromes in which consciousness seems to malfunction, such as temporal lobe epilepsy, visual scotomas, Charles Bonnet syndrome, and synesthesia offer valuable clues about the normal functions of consciousness and ‘qualia’. An investigation into these syndromes reveals, we argue, that qualia are different from other brain states in that they possess three functional characteristics, which we state in the form of ‘three laws of qualia’. First, they are irrevocable: I cannot simply decide to start seeing the sunset as (...) green, or feel pain as if it were an itch; second, qualia do not always produce the same behaviour: given a set of qualia, we can choose from a potentially infinite set of possible behaviours to execute; and third, qualia endure in short-term memory, as opposed to non-conscious brain states involved in the on-line guidance of behaviour in real time. We suggest that qualia have evolved these and other attributes because of their role in facilitating non-automatic, decision-based action. We also suggest that the apparent epistemic barrier to knowing what qualia another person is experiencing can be overcome by using a ‘bridge’ of neurons; and we offer a hypothesis about the relation between qualia and one's sense of self. (shrink)
Many current neurophysiological, psychophysical, and psychological approaches to vision rest on the idea that when we see, the brain produces an internal representation of the world. The activation of this internal representation is assumed to give rise to the experience of seeing. The problem with this kind of approach is that it leaves unexplained how the existence of such a detailed internal representation might produce visual consciousness. An alternative proposal is made here. We propose that seeing is a way (...) of acting. It is a particular way of exploring the environment. Activity in internal representations does not generate the experience of seeing. The out- side world serves as its own, external, representation. The experience of seeing occurs when the organism masters what we call the gov- erning laws of sensorimotor contingency. The advantage of this approach is that it provides a natural and principled way of accounting for visual consciousness, and for the differences in the perceived quality of sensory experience in the different sensory modalities. Sev- eral lines of empirical evidence are brought forward in support of the theory, in particular: evidence from experiments in sensorimotor adaptation, visual “filling in,” visual stability despite eye movements, change blindness, sensory substitution, and color perception. (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)
What is consciousness? How does the subjective character of consciousness fit into an objective world? How can there be a science of consciousness? In this sequel to his groundbreaking and controversial The Conscious Mind, David Chalmers develops a unified framework that addresses these questions and many others. Starting with a statement of the "hard problem" of consciousness, Chalmers builds a positive framework for the science of consciousness and a nonreductive vision of the metaphysics of (...) class='Hi'>consciousness. He replies to many critics of The Conscious Mind, and then develops a positive theory in new directions. The book includes original accounts of how we think and know about consciousness, of the unity of consciousness, and of how consciousness relates to the external world. Along the way, Chalmers develops many provocative ideas: the " consciousness meter", the Garden of Eden as a model of perceptual experience, and The Matrix as a guide to the deepest philosophical problems about consciousness and the external world. This book will be required reading for anyone interested in the problems of mind, brain, consciousness, and reality. (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)
It is well known that the nature of consciousness is elusive, and that attempts to understand it generate problems in metaphysics, philosophy of mind, psychology, and neuroscience. Less appreciated are the important – even if still elusive – connections between consciousness and issues in ethics. In this chapter we consider three such connections. First, we consider the relevance of consciousness for questions surrounding an entity’s moral status. Second, we consider the relevance of consciousness for questions surrounding (...) moral responsibility for action. Third, we consider the relevance of consciousness for the acquisition of moral knowledge. (shrink)
This chapter considers the sheer amount of literature associated with the exploration of consciousness in Indian philosophy. It focuses on a range of methodological and conceptual issues, drawing on three main sources: the naturalist theories of mind of Nyaya and Vaisesika, the mainly phenomenological accounts of mental activity and consciousness of Abhidharma and Yogacara Buddhism, and the subjective transcendental theory of consciousness of Advaita Vedanta. The contributions of Indian philosophers to the study of consciousness are examined (...) not simply as a contribution to intellectual history, but rather with a view to evaluating their relevance to contemporary issues, specifically to the mind-body problem. The presence of dualist positions with strong naturalist undercurrents in Indian philosophy, especially in the Nyaya and Samkhya traditions, rules out the possibility of treating the mind-body problem as an idiosyncratic feature of Cartesian metaphysics. (shrink)
This paper asks about the ways in which embodimentoriented cognitive science contributes to our understanding of phenomenal consciousness. It is first argued that central work in the field of embodied cognitive science does not solve the hard problem of consciousness head on. It is then argued that an embodied turn toward neurophenomenology makes no distinctive headway on the puzzle of consciousness; for neurophenomenology either concedes dualism in the face of the hard problem or represents only a slight (...) methodological variation on extant cognitive-scientific approaches to the easy problems of consciousness. The paper closes with the positive suggestion that embodied cognitive science supports a different approach to phenomenal consciousness, according to which the mind is massively representational, cognitive science has no use for the personal-level posits that tend to drive philosophical theorizing about consciousness and mind, and the hard problem is illusory. (shrink)
Newcomers to the philosophy of mind are sometimes resistant to the idea that pain is a mental state. If asked to defend their view, they might say something like this: pain is a physical state, it is a state of the body. A pain in one’s leg feels to be in the leg, not ‘in the mind’. After all, sometimes people distinguish pain which is ‘all in the mind’ from a genuine pain, sometimes because the second is ‘physical’ while the (...) first is not. And we also occasionally distinguish mental pain (which is normally understood as some kind of emotional distress) from the ‘physical pain’ one feels in one’s body. So what can be meant by saying that pain is a mental state? Of course, it only takes a little reflection shows that this naive view is mistaken. Pain is a state of consciousness, or an event in consciousness, and whether or not all states of mind are conscious, it is indisputable that only minds, or states of mind, are conscious.2 But does the naive view tell us anything about the concept of pain, or the concept of mind? I think it does. In this paper, I shall give reasons for thinking that consciousness is a form of intentionality, the mind’s ‘direction upon its objects’. I shall claim that the consciousness involved in bodily sensations like pain is constituted by the mind’s direction upon the part or region of the body where the sensation feels to be. Given this, it is less surprising that the naive view of pain says what it does: the apparent ‘physicality’ of pain is a consequence of confusing the object of the intentional state—the part of the body in which the pain is felt—with the state of being in pain. (shrink)
Artificial Intelligence is at a turning point, with a substantial increase in projects aiming to implement sophisticated forms of human intelligence in machines. This research attempts to model specific forms of intelligence through brute-force search heuristics and also reproduce features of human perception and cognition, including emotions. Such goals have implications for artificial consciousness, with some arguing that it will be achievable once we overcome short-term engineering challenges. We believe, however, that phenomenal consciousness cannot be implemented in machines. (...) This becomes clear when considering emotions and examining the dissociation between consciousness and attention in humans. While we may be able to program ethical behavior based on rules and machine learning, we will never be able to reproduce emotions or empathy by programming such control systems—these will be merely simulations. Arguments in favor of this claim include considerations about evolution, the neuropsychological aspects of emotions, and the dissociation between attention and consciousness found in humans. Ultimately, we are far from achieving artificial consciousness. (shrink)
The search for neural correlates of consciousness (or NCCs) is arguably the cornerstone in the recent resurgence of the science of consciousness. The search poses many difficult empirical problems, but it seems to be tractable in principle, and some ingenious studies in recent years have led to considerable progress. A number of proposals have been put forward concerning the nature and location of neural correlates of consciousness. A few of these include.
This Target paper is about the hard problem of phenomenal consciousness (i.e., how is subjective experience possible given the scientific presumption that everything from molecules to minerals to minds is wholly physical?). I first argue that one of the most valuable tools in the scientific arsenal (metaphor) cannot be recruited to address the hard problem due to the inability to forge connections between the stubborn fact of subjective experience and physically grounded models of scientific explanation. I then argue that (...) adherence to the physicalist tenets of contemporary science has a limiting effect on a full appreciation of the phenomenon under discussion. (shrink)
In “The Meta-Problem of Consciousness”, David Chalmers briefly raises a problem about how the connection between consciousness and our verbal and other behavior appears “lucky”. I raise a counterexample to Chalmers’s formulation of the problem. Then I develop an alternative formulation. Finally, I consider some responses, including illusionism about consciousness.
It is generally agreed that consciousness is a somewhat slippery term. However, more narrowly defined as 'phenomenal consciousness' it captures at least three essential features or aspects: subjective experience (the notion that what we are primarily conscious of are experiences), subjective knowledge (that feature of our awareness that gives consciousness its distinctive reflexive character), and phenomenal contrast (the phenomenality of awareness, absence of which makes consciousness intractable) (cf. Siewert 1998). If Buddhist accounts of consciousness are (...) built, as it is claimed, on phenomenological (thus descriptive) rather than metaphysical grounds, the obvious question arises: is there such a place or locus for conscious experience? And if there is, does it have the sort of character that is amenable to phenomenological analysis? A positive answer would suggest that conscious experience is such that at a minimum, the 'sense of self' must be an ineliminable structural feature of cognitive awareness. This paper pursues the question of precisely what conception of self-consciousness can be supported on experiential grounds given the Buddhist no-self view, and whether such conception is sufficient to account for the ineliminable features of phenomenal consciousness. (shrink)
In the past decade, the notion of a neural correlate of consciousness (or NCC) has become a focal point for scientific research on consciousness (Metzinger, 2000a). A growing number of investigators believe that the first step toward a science of consciousness is to discover the neural correlates of consciousness. Indeed, Francis Crick has gone so far as to proclaim that ‘we … need to discover the neural correlates of consciousness.… For this task the primate visual (...) system seems especially attractive.… No longer need one spend time attempting … to endure the tedium of philosophers perpetually disagreeing with each other. Con- sciousness is now largely a scientific problem’ (Crick, 1996, p. 486).2 Yet the question of what it means to be a neural correlate of consciousness is actually far from straightforward, for it involves fundamental empirical, methodological, and _philosophical _issues about the nature of consciousness and its relationship to the brain. Even if one assumes, as we do, that states of consciousness causally depend on states of the brain, one can nevertheless wonder in what sense there is, or could be, such a thing as a neural correlate of consciousness. (shrink)
According to commonsense psychology, one is conscious of everything that one pays attention to, but one does not pay attention to all the things that one is conscious of. Recent lines of research purport to show that commonsense is mistaken on both of these points: Mack and Rock (1998) tell us that attention is necessary for consciousness, while Kentridge and Heywood (2001) claim that consciousness is not necessary for attention. If these lines of research were successful they would (...) have important implications regarding the prospects of using attention research to inform us about consciousness. The present essay shows that these lines of research are not successful, and that the commonsense picture of the relationship between attention and consciousness can be. (shrink)
Does consciousness exist? In “The Meta-Problem of Consciousness” (MPC) David Chalmers sketches an argument for illusionism, i.e., the view that it does not. The key premise is that it would be a coincidence if our beliefs about consciousness were true, given that the explanation of those beliefs is independent of their truth. In this article, I clarify and assess this argument. I argue that our beliefs about consciousness are peculiarly invulnerable to undermining, whether or not their (...) contents are indubitable or even obvious. However, the reason that they are peculiarly invulnerable to undermining points to a fundamental flaw in modal arguments for dualism. (shrink)
The standard behavioral index for human consciousness is the ability to report events with accuracy. While this method is routinely used for scientific and medical applications in humans, it is not easy to generalize to other species. Brain evidence may lend itself more easily to comparative testing. Human consciousness involves widespread, relatively fast low-amplitude interactions in the thalamocortical core of the brain, driven by current tasks and conditions. These features have also been found in other mammals, which suggests (...) that consciousness is a major biological adaptation in mammals. We suggest more than a dozen additional properties of human consciousness that may be used to test comparative predictions. Such homologies are necessarily more remote in non-mammals, which do not share the thalamocortical complex. However, as we learn more we may be able to make “deeper” predictions that apply to some birds, reptiles, large-brained invertebrates, and perhaps other species. (shrink)
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)
Can we make progress exploring consciousness? Or is it forever beyond human reach? In science we never know the ultimate outcome of the journey. We can only take whatever steps our current knowledge affords. This paper explores today's evidence from the viewpoint of Global Workspace theory. First, we ask what kind of evidence has the most direct bearing on the question. The answer given here is ‘contrastive analysis’ -- a set of paired comparisons between similar conscious and unconscious processes. (...) This body of evidence is already quite large, and constrains any possible theory . Because it involves both conscious and unconscious events, it deals directly with our own subjective experience, as anyone can tell by trying the demonstrations in this article. (shrink)
This article makes five main points. Individual human consciousness is formed in the dynamic interrelation of self and other, and therefore is inherently intersubjective. The concrete encounter of self and other fundamentally involves empathy, under- stood as a unique and irreducible kind of intentionality. Empathy is the precondi- tion of the science of consciousness. Human empathy.
The human brain consists of approximately 100 billion electrically active neurones that generate an endogenous electromagnetic field, whose role in neuronal computing has not been fully examined. The source, magnitude and likely influence of the brain's endogenous em field are here considered. An estimate of the strength and magnitude of the brain's em field is gained from theoretical considerations, brain scanning and microelectrode data. An estimate of the likely influence of the brain's em field is gained from theoretical principles and (...) considerations of the experimental effects of external em fields on neurone firing both in vitro and in vivo. Synchronous firing of distributed neurones phase-locks induced em field fluctuations to increase their magnitude and influence. Synchronous firing has previously been demonstrated to correlate with awareness and perception, indicating that perturbations to the brain's em field also correlate with awareness. The brain's em field represents an integrated electromagnetic field representation of distributed neuronal information and has dynamics that closely map to those expected for a correlate of consciousness. I propose that the brain's em information field is the physical substrate of conscious awareness - the cemi field - and make a number of predictions that follow from this proposal. Experimental evidence pertinent to these predictions is examined and shown to be entirely consistent with the cemi field theory. This theory provides solutions to many of the intractable problems of consciousness - such as the binding problem - and provides new insights into the role of consciousness, the meaning of free will and the nature of qualia. It thus places consciousness within a secure physical framework and provides a route towards constructing an artificial consciousness. (shrink)
Abstract: Nietzsche’s famously wrote that “consciousness is a surface” (EH, Why I am so clever, 9: 97). The aim of this paper is to make sense of this quite puzzling contention—Superficiality, for short. In doing this, I shall focus on two further claims—both to be found in Gay Science 354—which I take to substantiate Nietzsche’s endorsement of Superficiality. The first claim is that consciousness is superfluous—which I call the “superfluousness claim” (SC). The second claim is that consciousness (...) is the source of some deep falsification—which I call the “falsification claim” (FC). I shall start by considering Nietzsche’s notion of consciousness. Here, I shall argue that the kind of consciousness he is concerned with is in fact self-consciousness and that he put forward a higher-order theory of it. Then, I shall address the two claims. Regarding (FC), my proposal will be that, according to Nietzsche, the content of (self-)conscious mental states is falsified in virtue of its being articulated propositionally. Regarding (SC), I shall claim that it is best read as a weak version of epiphenomenalism about conscious causation. In addressing both points, I shall discuss in particular the influential reading of Nietzsche’s theory of consciousness offered by Katsafanas (2005). (shrink)
One of the most compelling questions still unanswered in neuroscience is how consciousness arises. In this article, we examine visual processing, the parietal lobe, and contralateral neglect syndrome as a window into consciousness and how the brain functions as the mind and we introduce a mechanism for the processing of visual information and its role in consciousness. We propose that consciousness arises from integration of information from throughout the body and brain by the thalamus and that (...) the thalamus reimages visual and other sensory information from throughout the cortex in a default three-dimensional space in the mind. We further suggest that the thalamus generates a dynamic default three-dimensional space by integrating processed information from corticothalamic feedback loops, creating an infrastructure that may form the basis of our consciousness. Further experimental evidence is needed to examine and support this hypothesis, the role of the thalamus, and to further elucidate the mechanism of consciousness. (shrink)
The centerpiece of the scientific study of consciousness is the search for the neural correlates of consciousness. Yet science is typically interested not only in discovering correlations, but also – and more deeply – in explaining them. When faced with a correlation between two phenomena in nature, we typically want to know why they correlate. The purpose of this chapter is twofold. The first half attempts to lay out the various possible explanations of the correlation between consciousness (...) and its neural correlate – to provide a sort of “menu” of options from which we probably would ultimately have to choose. The second half raises considerations suggesting that, under certain reasonable assumptions, the choice among these various options may be in principle underdetermined by the relevant scientific evidence. (shrink)
Introspection stands at the interface between two major currents in philosophy and related areas of science: on the one hand, there are metaphysical and scientific questions about the nature of consciousness; and on the other hand, there are normative and epistemological questions about the nature of self-knowledge. Introspection seems tied up with consciousness, to the point that some writers define consciousness in terms of introspection; and it is also tied up with self-knowledge, since introspection is the distinctive (...) way in which we come to know about ourselves and, in particular, about our own conscious mental states, processes and events. Each of these topics – consciousness and self-knowledge – has generated an extensive philosophical literature in its own right. But despite some notable exceptions, the relationship between consciousness and self-knowledge has been curiously neglected and remains poorly understood. Indeed, until quite recently, the sub-fields of philosophy of mind and epistemology were pursued largely in isolation from one another. Recent philosophy of mind has been dominated by metaphysical questions about the nature of consciousness and its place in the physical world, while much less attention has been devoted to questions about the epistemic role of consciousness as a source of knowledge and justified belief. Similarly, recent epistemology has been organized around questions about the nature of knowledge and justified belief, but much of this discussion has developed independently of recent work in philosophy of mind about the nature of consciousness. The impetus behind this volume is to bring together these two lines of research by exploring the nature of introspection, which lies at the intersection between consciousness and self-knowledge. This volume collects fourteen new essays and one reprinted essay in which the interplay between concerns in epistemology and the philosophy of mind is a major focus. (shrink)
According to what we will call subjectivity theories of consciousness, there is a constitutive connection between phenomenal consciousness and subjectivity: there is something it is like for a subject to have mental state M only if M is characterized by a certain mine-ness or for-me-ness. Such theories appear to face certain psychopathological counterexamples: patients appear to report conscious experiences that lack this subjective element. A subsidiary goal of this chapter is to articulate with greater precision both subjectivity theories (...) and the psychopathological challenge they face. The chapter’s central goal is to present two new approaches to defending subjectivity theories in the face of this challenge. What distinguishes these two approaches is that they go to great lengths to interpret patients’ reports at face value – greater length, at any rate, than more widespread approaches in the extant literature. (shrink)
What are the folk-conceptual connections between free will and consciousness? In this paper I present results which indicate that consciousness plays central roles in folk conceptions of free will. When conscious states cause behavior, people tend to judge that the agent acted freely. And when unconscious states cause behavior, people tend to judge that the agent did not act freely. Further, these studies contribute to recent experimental work on folk philosophical affiliation, which analyzes folk responses to determine whether (...) folk views are consistent with the view that free will and determinism are incompatible (incompatibilism) or with the opposite view (compatibilism). Conscious causation of behavior tends to elicit pro-free will judgments, even when the causation takes place deterministically. Thus, when controlling for consciousness, many folk seem to be compatibilists. However, participants who disagree with the deterministic or cognitive scientific descriptions given of human behavior tend to give incompatibilist responses. (shrink)
Subjectivity theories of consciousness take self-reference, somehow construed, as essential to having conscious experience. These theories differ with respect to how many levels they posit and to whether self-reference is conscious or not. But all treat self-referencing as a process that transpires at the personal level, rather than at the subpersonal level, the level of mechanism. -/- Working with conceptual resources afforded by pre-existing theories of consciousness that take self-reference to be essential, several attempts have been made to (...) explain seemingly anomalous cases, especially instances of alien experience. These experiences are distinctive precisely because self-referencing is explicitly denied by the only person able to report them: those who experience them deny that certain actions, mental states, or body parts belong to self. The relevant actions, mental states, or body parts are sometimes attributed to someone or something other than self, and sometimes they are just described as not belonging to self. But all are referred away from self. -/- The cases under discussion here include somatoparaphrenia, schizophrenia, depersonalization, anarchic hand syndrome, and utilization behavior; the theories employed, Higher-Order Thought, Wide Intrinsicality, and Self-Representational. Below I argue that each of these attempts at explaining or explaining away the anomalies fails. Along the way, since each of these theories seeks at least compatibility with science, I sketch experimental approaches that could be used to adduce support for my position, or indeed for the positions of theorists with whom I disagree. -/- In a concluding section I first identify two presuppositions shared by all of the theorists considered here, and argue that both are either erroneous or misleading. Second, I call attention to divergent paths adopted when attempting to explain alienation experiences: some theorists choose to add a mental ingredient, while others prefer to subtract one. I argue that alienation from experience, action, or body parts could result from either addition or subtraction, and that the two can be incorporated within a comprehensive explanatory framework. Finally, I suggest that this comprehensive framework would require self-referencing of a sort, but self-referencing that occurs solely on the level of mechanism, or the subpersonal level. In adumbrating some features of this “subpersonal self,” I suggest that there might be one respect in which it is prior to conscious experience. (shrink)
Solving the meta-problem of consciousness requires, among other things, explaining why we are so reluctant to endorse various forms of illusionism about the phenomenal. I will try to tackle this task in two steps. The first consists in clarifying how the concept of consciousness precludes the possibility of any distinction between 'appearance' and 'reality'. The second consists in spelling out our reasons for recognizing the existence of something that satisfies that concept.
Most early studies of consciousness have focused on human subjects. This is understandable, given that humans are capable of reporting accurately the events they experience through language or by way of other kinds of voluntary response. As researchers turn their attention to other animals, “accurate report” methodologies become increasingly difficult to apply. Alternative strategies for amassing evidence for consciousness in non-human species include searching for evolutionary homologies in anatomical substrates and measurement of physiological correlates of conscious states. In (...) addition, creative means must be developed for eliciting behaviors consistent with consciousness. In this paper, we explore whether necessary conditions for consciousness can be established for species as disparate as birds and cephalopods. We conclude that a strong case can be made for avian species and that the case for cephalopods remains open. Nonetheless, a consistent effort should yield new means for interpreting animal behavior. (shrink)
The most promising approaches to understanding phenomenal consciousness are what I’ll call cognitive approaches, the most notable exemplars of which are the theories of consciousness articulated by David Rosenthal and Daniel Dennett. The aim of the present contribution is to review the core similarities and differences of these exemplars, as well as to outline the main strengths and remaining challenges to this general sort of approach.
Non-sensory experiences represent almost all context information in consciousness. They condition most aspects of conscious cognition including voluntary retrieval, perception, monitoring, problem solving, emotion, evaluation, meaning recognition. Many peculiar aspects of non-sensory qualia (e.g., they resist being 'grasped' by an act of attention) are explained as adaptations shaped by the cognitive functions they serve. The most important nonsensory experience is coherence or "rightness." Rightness represents degrees of context fit among contents in consciousness, and between conscious and non-conscious processes. (...) Rightness (not familiarity) is the feeling-of-knowing in implicit cognition. The experience of rightness suggests that neural mechanisms "compute" signals indicating the global dynamics of network integration. (shrink)
We address the thesis recently proposed by Andy Clark, that skill-mediated access to modality implies phenomenal feel. We agree that a skill theory of perception does indeed offer the possibility of a satisfactory account of the feel of perception, but we claim that this is not only through explanation of access to modality but also because skill actually provides access to perceptual property in general. We illustrate and substantiate our claims by reference to the recently proposed 'sensorimotor contingency' theory of (...) visual awareness. We discuss why this theory offers a distinctively attractive access-based approach to perceptual consciousness because it 'dereifies' experience and permits otherwise problematic aspects of phenomenal perceptual consciousness to be explained. We suggest our approach thus offers the prospect of 'naturalizing phenomenology'. (shrink)
Having laid the groundwork in his critically acclaimed books Neural Darwinism (Basic Books, 1987) and Topobiology (Basic Books, 1988), Nobel laureate Gerald M. Edelman now proposes a comprehensive theory of consciousness in The Remembered ...
ABSTRCT: In this commentary, I criticize Metzinger's interdisciplinary approach to fixing the explanandum of a theory of consciousness and I offer a commonsense alternative in its place. I then re-evaluate Metzinger's multi-faceted working concept of consciousness, and argue for a shift away from the notion of "global availability" and towards the notio ns of "perspectivalness" and "transparency." This serves to highlight the role of Metzinger's "phenomenal model of the intentionality relation" (PMIR) in explaining consciousness, and it helps (...) to locate Metzinger's theory in relation to other naturalistic theories of. (shrink)
Intuitively, moral responsibility requires conscious awareness of what one is doing, and why one is doing it, but what kind of awareness is at issue? Neil Levy argues that phenomenal consciousness—the qualitative feel of conscious sensations—is entirely unnecessary for moral responsibility. He claims that only access consciousness—the state in which information (e.g., from perception or memory) is available to an array of mental systems (e.g., such that an agent can deliberate and act upon that information)—is relevant to moral (...) responsibility. I argue that numerous ethical, epistemic, and neuroscientific considerations entail that the capacity for phenomenal consciousness is necessary for moral responsibility. I focus in particular on considerations inspired by P. F. Strawson, who puts a range of qualitative moral emotions—the reactive attitudes—front and center in the analysis of moral responsibility. (shrink)
The issue of the biological origin of consciousness is linked to that of its function. One source of evidence in this regard is the contrast between the types of information that are and are not included within its compass. Consciousness presents us with a stable arena for our actions—the world—but excludes awareness of the multiple sensory and sensorimotor transformations through which the image of that world is extracted from the confounding influence of self-produced motion of multiple receptor arrays (...) mounted on multijointed and swivelling body parts. Likewise excluded are the complex orchestrations of thousands of muscle movements routinely involved in the pursuit of our goals. This suggests that consciousness arose as a solution to problems in the logistics of decision making in mobile animals with centralized brains, and has correspondingly ancient roots. (shrink)
No mental phenomenon is more central than consciousness to an adequate understanding of the mind. Nor does any mental phenomenon seem more stubbornly to resist theoretical treatment. Consciousness is so basic to the way we think about the mind that it can be tempting to suppose that no mental states exist that are not conscious states. Indeed, it may even seem mysterious what sort of thing a mental state might be if it is not a conscious state. On (...) this way of looking at things, if any mental states do lack consciousness, they are exceptional cases that call for special explanation or qualification. Perhaps dispositional or cognitive states exist that are not conscious, but nonetheless count as mental states. (shrink)