How can phenomenalconsciousness 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 phenomenalconsciousness, 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)
In this paper, I argue against the claim recently defended by Josh Weisberg that a certain version of the self-representational approach to phenomenalconsciousness cannot avoid a set of problems that have plagued higher-order approaches. These problems arise specifically for theories that allow for higher-order misrepresentation or—in the domain of self-representational theories—self-misrepresentation. In response to Weisberg, I articulate a self-representational theory of phenomenalconsciousness according to which it is contingently impossible for self-representations tokened in the context (...) of a conscious mental state to misrepresent their objects. This contingent infallibility allows the theory to both acknowledge the (logical) possibility of self-misrepresentation and avoid the problems of self-misrepresentation. Expanding further on Weisberg’s work, I consider and reveal the shortcomings of three other self-representational models—put forward by Kreigel, Van Gulick, and Gennaro—in order to show that each indicates the need for this sort of infallibility. I then argue that contingent infallibility is in principle acceptable on naturalistic grounds only if we attribute (1) a neo-Fregean kind of directly referring, indexical content to self-representational mental states and (2) a certain ontological structure to the complex conscious mental states of which these indexical self-representations are a part. In these sections I draw on ideas from the work of Perry and Kaplan to articulate the context-dependent semantic structure of inner-representational states. (shrink)
Are corporations and other complex groups ever morally responsible in ways that do not reduce to the moral responsibility of their members? Christian List, Phillip Pettit, Kendy Hess, and David Copp have recently defended the idea that they can be. For them, complex groups (sometimes called collectives) can be irreducibly morally responsible because they satisfy the conditions for morally responsible agency; and this view is made more plausible by the claim (made by Theiner) that collectives can have minds. In this (...) paper I give a new argument against the idea that collectives can be irreducibly morally responsible in the ways that individuals can be. Drawing on recent work in the philosophy of mind (what Uriah Kriegel calls "the phenomenal intentionality research program") and moral theory (David Shoemaker's tripartite theory of moral responsibility), I argue that for something to have a mind, it must be phenomenally conscious, and that the fact that collectives lack phenomenalconsciousness implies that they are incapable of accountability, an important form of moral responsibility. (shrink)
Phenomenalconsciousness can be conceptualized innocently enough that its existence should be accepted even by philosophers who wish to avoid dubious epistemic and metaphysical commitments such as dualism, infallibilism, privacy, inexplicability, or intrinsic simplicity. Definition by example allows us this innocence. Positive examples include sensory experiences, imagery experiences, vivid emotions, and dreams. Negative examples include growth hormone release, dispositional knowledge, standing intentions, and sensory reactivity to masked visual displays. Phenomenalconsciousness is the most folk-psychologically obvious thing (...) or feature that the positive examples possess and that the negative examples lack, and which preserves our ability to wonder, at least temporarily, about antecedently unclear issues such as consciousness without attention and consciousness in simpler animals. As long as this concept is not empty, or broken, or a hodgepodge, we can be phenomenal realists without committing to dubious philosophical positions. (shrink)
Given the recent interest in the subjective or phenomenal dimension of consciousness it is no wonder that many authors have once more started to speak of the need for pheno- menological considerations. Often however the term ‘phenomenology’ is being used simply as a synonym for ‘folk psychology', and in our article we argue that it would be far more fruitful to turn to the argumentation to be found within the continental tradition inaugurated by Husserl. In order to exemplify (...) this claim, we criticize Rosenthal's higher-order thought theory as well as Strawson's recent contribution in this journal, and argue that a phenomenological analysis of the nature of self-awareness can provide us with a more sophisticated and accurate model for understanding both phenomenalconsciousness and the notion of self. (shrink)
William S. Robinson has for many years written insightfully about the mind-body problem. In Understanding PhenomenalConsciousness he focuses on sensory experience and perception qualities such as colours, sounds and odours to present a dualistic view of the mind, called Qualitative Event Realism, that goes against the dominant materialist views. This theory is relevant to the development of a science of consciousness which is now being pursued not only by philosophers but by researchers in psychology and the (...) brain sciences. This provocative book will interest students and professionals who work in the philosophy of mind and will also have cross-disciplinary appeal in cognitive psychology and the brain sciences. (shrink)
The thesis that there is a troublesome explanatory gap between the phenomenal aspects of experiences and the underlying physical and functional states is given a number of different interpretations. It is shown that, on each of these interpretations, the thesis is false. In supposing otherwise, philosophers have fallen prey to a cognitive illusion, induced largely by a failure to recognize the special character of phenomenal concepts.
Two debates loom large in current discussions on phenomenalconsciousness. One debate concerns the relation between phenomenal character and representational content. Representationalism affirms, whereas “content separatism” denies, that phenomenal character is exhausted by representational content. Another debate concerns the relation between phenomenalconsciousness and cognitive access. “Access separatism” affirms, whereas, e.g., the global workspace model denies, that there are phenomenally conscious states that are not cognitively accessed. I will argue that the two separatist views (...) are related. Access separatism supports content separatism by undermining the most prominent sort of arguments in favor of representationalism, namely ones that appeal to the phenomenology of perceptual experiences. (shrink)
We evaluate the role of embodiment in ordinary mental state ascriptions. Presented are five experiments on phenomenal state ascriptions to disembodied entities such as ghosts and spirits. Results suggest that biological embodiment is not a central principle of folk psychology guiding ascriptions of phenomenalconsciousness. By contrast, results continue to support the important role of functional considerations in theory of mind judgments.
This paper aims to uncover where the disagreement between illusionism and anti-illusionism about phenomenalconsciousness lies fundamentally. While illusionists claim that phenomenalconsciousness does not exist, many philosophers of mind regard illusionism as ridiculous, stating that the existence of phenomenalconsciousness cannot be reasonably doubted. The question is, why does such a radical disagreement occur? To address this question, I list various characterisations of the term “phenomenalconsciousness”: (1) the what-it-is-like locution, (2) (...) inner ostension, (3) thought experiments such as philosophical zombies, inverted qualia and Mary’s room, (4) scientific knowledge about secondary properties, (5) theoretical properties such as being ineffable and being intrinsic, and (6) appearance/reality collapse. Then I examine whether each characterization provides (i) a dubitable sense of phenomenalconsciousness in which the existence of phenomenalconsciousness can be reasonably doubted, (ii) an indubitable sense in which its existence cannot be reasonably doubted, or (iii) a gray sense in which it is controversial whether its existence can be reasonably doubted. By doing so, I show that there is no single sense of phenomenalconsciousness in which illusionists and anti-illusionists disagree whether the existence of phenomenalconsciousness can be reasonably doubted. I conclude that the disagreement between illusionists and anti-illusionists is fundamentally terminological: while illusionists adopt a dubitable sense of phenomenalconsciousness, anti-illusionists adopt an indubitable sense of phenomenalconsciousness. Because of the extreme vagueness and ambiguity of the term “phenomenalconsciousness”, illusionists and anti-illusionists fail to see that they talk about different senses of phenomenalconsciousness. (shrink)
The terminology surrounding the dispute between higher-order and first-order theories of consciousness is piled so high that it sometimes obscures the view. When the debris is cleared away, there is a real prospect.
In the past two decades a number of arguments have been given in favor of the possibility of phenomenalconsciousness without attentional access, otherwise known as phenomenal overflow. This paper will show that the empirical data commonly cited in support of this thesis is, at best, ambiguous between two equally plausible interpretations, one of which does not posit phenomenology beyond attention. Next, after citing evidence for the feature-integration theory of attention, this paper will give an account of (...) the relationship between consciousness and attention that accounts for both the empirical data and our phenomenological intuitions without positing phenomenalconsciousness beyond attention. Having undercut the motivations for accepting phenomenal overflow along with having given reasons to think that phenomenal overflow does not occur, I end with the tentative conclusion that attention is a necessary condition for phenomenalconsciousness. -/- . (shrink)
This article re-examines Ned Block‘s ( 1997 , 2007 ) conceptual distinction between phenomenalconsciousness and access consciousness. His argument that we can have phenomenally conscious representations without being able to cognitively access them is criticized as not being supported by evidence. Instead, an alternative interpretation of the relevant empirical data is offered which leaves the link between phenomenology and accessibility intact. Moreover, it is shown that Block’s claim that phenomenology and accessibility have different neural substrates is (...) highly problematic in light of empirical evidence. Finally, his claim that there can be phenomenology without cognitive accessibility is at odds with his endorsement of the 'same-order-theory' of consciousness. (shrink)
How can one investigate phenomenalconsciousness? As in other areas of science, the investigation of consciousness aims for a more precise knowledge of its phenomena, and the discovery of general truths about their nature. This requires the development of appropriate first-person, second-person and third-person methods. This book introduces some of the creative ways in which these methods can be applied to different purposes, e.g. to understanding the relation of consciousness to brain, to examining or changing (...) class='Hi'>consciousness as such, and to understanding the way consciousness is influenced by social, clinical and therapeutic contexts. To clarify the strengths and weaknesses of different methods and to demonstrate the interplay of methodology and epistemology, the book also suggests a number of “maps” of the consciousness studies terrain that place different approaches to the study of consciousness into a broader, interdisciplinary context. (shrink)
How could neural processes be associated with phenomenalconsciousness? We present a way to answer this question by taking the counterintuitive stance that the sensory feel of an experience is not a thing that happens to us, but a thing we do: a skill we exercise. By additionally noting that sensory systems possess two important, objectively measurable properties, corporality and alerting capacity, we are able to explain why sensory experience possesses a sensory feel, but thinking and other mental (...) processes do not. We are additionally able to explain why different sensory feels differ in the way they do. (shrink)
One popular approach to theorizing about phenomenalconsciousness has been to connect it to representations of a certain kind. Representational theories of consciousness can be further sub-divided into first-order and higher-order theories. Higher-order theories are often interpreted as invoking a special relation between the first-order state and the higher-order state. However there is another way to interpret higher-order theories that rejects this relational requirement. On this alternative view phenomenalconsciousness consists in having suitable higher-order representations. (...) I call this ‘HOROR’ (‘Higher-Order Representation Of a Representation’) theory to distinguish it from relational versions of higher- order theory. In this paper I make the case that HOROR theory is a plausible account of the real nature of phenomenalconsciousness whatever one’s views are about whether it is physical/reducible or not. I first clarify HOROR theory and compare it to the more traditional same-order and higher-order thought theories. Afterwards I move to presenting some considerations in favor of HOROR theory. (shrink)
I argue that there can be no such thing as a borderline case of the predicate ‘phenomenally conscious’: for any given creature at any given time, it cannot be vague whether that creature is phenomenally conscious at that time. I first defend the Positive Characterization Thesis, which says that for any borderline case of any predicate there is a positive characterization of that case that can show any sufficiently competent speaker what makes it a borderline case. I then appeal to (...) the familiar claim that zombies are conceivable, and I argue that this claim entails that there can be no positive characterizations of borderline cases of ‘phenomenally conscious’. By the Positive Characterization Thesis, it follows that ‘phenomenally conscious’ can not have any borderline cases. (shrink)
It would be a mistake to deny commonsense intuitions a role in developing a theory of consciousness. However, philosophers have traditionally failed to probe commonsense in a way that allows these commonsense intuitions to make a robust contribution to a theory of consciousness. In this paper, I report the results of two experiments on purportedly phenomenal states and I argue that many disputes over the philosophical notion of ‘phenomenalconsciousness’ are misguided—they fail to capture the (...) interesting connection between commonsense ascriptions of pain and emotion. With this data in hand, I argue that our capacity to distinguish between ‘mere things’ and ‘subjects of moral concern’ rests, to a significant extent, on the sorts of mental states that we take a system to have. (shrink)
This paper examines the possibility of finding evidence that phenomenalconsciousness is independent of access. The suggestion reviewed is that we should look for isomorphisms between phenomenal and neural activation spaces. It is argued that the fact that phenomenal spaces are mapped via verbal report is no problem for this methodology. The fact that activation and phenomenal space are mapped via different means does not mean that they cannot be identified. The paper finishes by examining (...) how data addressing this theoretical question could be obtained. (shrink)
Dreaming can be explained as the product of an interaction among memory processes, elaborative processes, and phenomenal awareness. A feedback circuit is activated by this interaction according to the associative links and the requirements of the dream scene. Recently, it has been hypothesized that a partial similarity exists between dreaming and mind wandering and that these two processes may involve the same neural default network. This commentary discusses the differences and similarities between phenomenalconsciousness during dreaming and (...)phenomenalconsciousness during mind wandering from the perspective of the “continuity” of engagement of cognitive systems. The greatest difference consists in the lack of reality testing during dreaming. Dream imagery is hallucinatory by nature. Consequently, the simulated world in dreams makes dream imagery more akin to perception. In contrast, the imagery of mind wandering is more similar to imagination. The level of meta-awareness is preserved more frequ... (shrink)
This essay is a sustained attempt to bring new light to some of the perennial problems in philosophy of mind surrounding phenomenalconsciousness and introspection through developing an account of sensory and phenomenal concepts. Building on the information-theoretic framework of Dretske (1981), we present an informational psychosemantics as it applies to what we call sensory concepts, concepts that apply, roughly, to so-called secondary qualities of objects. We show that these concepts have a special informational character and semantic (...) structure that closely tie them to the brain states realizing conscious qualitative experiences. We then develop an account of introspection which exploits this special nature of sensory concepts. The result is a new class of concepts, which, following recent terminology, we call phenomenal concepts: these concepts refer to phenomenal experience itself and are the vehicles used in introspection. On our account, the connection between sensory and phenomenal concepts is very tight: it consists in different semantic uses of the same cognitive structures underlying the sensory concepts, such as the concept of red. Contrary to widespread opinion, we show that information theory contains all the resources to satisfy internalist intuitions about phenomenalconsciousness, while not offending externalist ones. A consequence of this account is that it explains and predicts the so-called conceivability arguments against physicalism on the basis of the special nature of sensory and phenomenal concepts. Thus we not only show why physicalism is not threatened by such arguments, but also demonstrate its strength in virtue of its ability to predict and explain away such arguments in a principled way. However, we take the main contribution of this work to be what it provides in addition to a response to those conceivability arguments, namely, a substantive account of the interface between sensory and conceptual systems and the mechanisms of introspection as based on the special nature of the information flow between them. (shrink)
Recent work in neuroimaging suggests that some patients diagnosed as being in the persistent vegetative state are actually conscious. In this paper, we critically examine this new evidence. We argue that though it remains open to alternative interpretations, it strongly suggests the presence of consciousness in some patients. However, we argue that its ethical significance is less than many people seem to think. There are several different kinds of consciousness, and though all kinds of consciousness have some (...) ethical significance, different kinds underwrite different kinds of moral value. Demonstrating that patients have phenomenalconsciousness — conscious states with some kind of qualitative feel to them — shows that they are moral patients, whose welfare must be taken into consideration. But only if they are subjects of a sophisticated kind of access consciousness — where access consciousness entails global availability of information to cognitive systems — are they persons, in the technical sense of the word employed by philosophers. In this sense, being a person is having the full moral status of ordinary human beings. We call for further research which might settle whether patients who manifest signs of consciousness possess the sophisticated kind of access consciousness required for personhood. (shrink)
One-level accounts of consciousness have become increasingly popular (Dretske 1995, Tye 1995, Siewert 1998, Thomasson 2000 and 2005, Lurz 2006, McGinn, this volume). By a ‘onelevel’ account I mean an account according to which consciousness is fundamentally a matter of awareness of a world —and does not require awareness of our own minds, mental states, or the phenomenal character of these. As Fred Dretske puts it “Experiences and beliefs are conscious, not because you are conscious of them, (...) but because, so to speak, you are conscious with them”. (shrink)
_The Significance of Consciousness_ . Princeton: Princeton University Press. $42.50 hbk. x + 374pp. ISBN: 0691027242. ABSTRACT: I discuss three issues about the relation of phenomenalconsciousness, in the sense Siewert isolates, to.
This commentary offers two criticisms of Block's account of phenomenalconsciousness and a brief sketch of a rival account. The negative points are that monitoring consciousness also involves the possession of certain states and that phenomenalconsciousness inevitably involves some sort of monitoring. My positive suggestion is that “phenomenalconsciousness” may refer to our ability to monitor the rich but preconceptual states that retain perceptual information for complex processing.
In Schwitzgebel I argued that the United States, considered as a concrete entity with people as some or all of its parts, meets plausible materialistic criteria for consciousness. Kammerer defends materialism against this seemingly unintuitive conclusion by means of an “anti-nesting principle” according to which group entities cannot be literally phenomenally conscious if they contain phenomenally conscious subparts who stand in a certain type of functional relation to the group as a whole. I raise three concerns about Kammerer’s view. (...) First, it’s not clear that it excludes the literal phenomenalconsciousness of actually existing groups of people, as one might hope such a principle would do. Second, Kammerer’s principle appears to make the literal phenomenalconsciousness of a group depend in an unintuitive way on internal structural details of individuals within the group. Third, the principle appears to be ad hoc. (shrink)
I propose and defend the Allocentric-Egocentric Interface Theory of Con- sciousness. Mental processes form a hierarchy of mental representations with maxi- mally egocentric (self-centered) representations at the bottom and maximally allocentric (other-centered) representations at the top. Phenomenally conscious states are states that are relatively intermediate in this hierarchy. More speci.
In God and PhenomenalConsciousness, Yujin Nagasawa bridges debates in two distinct areas of philosophy: the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of religion. First, he introduces some of the most powerful arguments against the existence of God and provides objections to them. He then presents a parallel structure between these arguments and influential arguments offered by Thomas Nagel and Frank Jackson against the physicalist approach to phenomenalconsciousness. By appealing to this structure, Nagasawa constructs novel (...) objections to Jackson's and Nagel's arguments. Finally, he derives, from the failure of these arguments, a unique metaphysical thesis, which he calls 'non-theoretical physicalism'. Through this thesis, he shows that although this world is entirely physical, there are physical facts that cannot be captured even by complete theories of the physical sciences. (shrink)
Evidence for unconscious semantic representation suggests that a cognitive unconscious exists. Phenomenalconsciousness cannot easily be shown to deal with complex cognitive operations such as those involved in language translation and creativity. A self-organising phenomenalconsciousness that controls brain functions also runs into mind/body problems (well recognised in the consciousness studies literature) that Perruchet & Vinter must address.
The target article appeals to recent empirical data to support the idea that there is more to phenomenality than is available to access consciousness. However, this claim is based on an unwarranted assumption, namely, that some kind of cortical processing must be phenomenal. The article also considerably weakens Block's original distinction between a truly nonfunctional phenomenalconsciousness and a functional access consciousness. The new form of phenomenalconsciousness seems to be a poor-man's cognitive (...) access. (shrink)
How can the fine-grained phenomenology of conscious experience arise from neural processes in the brain? How does a set of action potentials (nerve impulses) become like the feeling of pain in one's experience? Contemporary neuroscience is teaching us that our mental states correlate with neural processes in the brain. However, although we know that experience arises from a physical basis, we don't have a good explanation of why and how it so arises. The problem of how physical processes give rise (...) to experience is called the 'hard problem' of consciousness and it is the contemporary manifestation of the mind-body problem. This book explains the key concepts that surround the issue as well as the nature of the hard problem and the several approaches to it. It gives a comprehensive treatment of the phenomenon incorporating its main metaphysical and epistemic aspects, as well as recent empirical findings, such as the phenomenon of blindsight, change blindness, visual-form agnosia and optic ataraxia, mirror recognition in other primates, split-brain cases and synaesthesia. (shrink)
Charles Siewert's _The Significance of Consciousness_ contends that most philosophers and psychologists who have written about "consciousness" have neglected a crucial type or aspect that Siewert calls "phenomenalconsciousness" and tries carefully to define. The present article argues that some philosophers, at least, have not neglected phenomenalconsciousness and have offered tenable theories of it.
The main aim of this paper is to show that we can extract an elaborate account of phe- nomenal consciousness from Leibniz’s (1646-1716) writings. Against a prevalent view, which attributes a higher-order reflection account of phenomenalconsciousness to Leibniz, it is argued that we should understand Leibniz as holding a first-order concep- tion of it. In this conception, the consciousness aspect of phenomenalconsciousness is explained in terms of a specific type of attention. This (...) type of attention, in turn, is accounted for in terms of cognitive appetites aiming at knowledge about a repre- sented object by means of initiating cognitive operations on representational content. Furthermore, against the view that Leibniz holds a reifying account, it is argued that Leibniz accepts an epistemic account of phenomenal character. According to this view, the phenomenal character of phenomenally conscious states rests on the con- fusing effect of imperfect acts of attention directed towards representational contents. Holding this view, Leibniz finds fruitful middle ground between contemporary stan- dard positions like higher-order theories, representationalist conceptions, and qualia accounts of phenomenalconsciousness. His position possesses resources to meet sev- eral objections these standard accounts are confronted with. (shrink)
"Consciousness" is a multiply ambiguous word, and if our goal is to explain perceptual consciousness we had better be clear about which of the many senses of the word we are endorsing when we sign on to the project. I describe some of the relatively standard distinctions made in the philosophical literature about different meanings of the word "conscious". Then I consider some of the arguments of David Chalmers and of Ned Block that states of "phenomenal (...) class='Hi'>consciousness" pose special and intractable problems for the scientific understanding of perception. I argue that many of these problems are introduced by obscurities in the term itself, and propose a distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic senses of the term "phenomenalconsciousness". That distinction helps explain why phenomenalconsciousness seems so mysterious to so many people. States of "phenomenalconsciousness" are not states of one, elemental kind; they are a ragtag lot, of differing levels of complexity, corralled under one heading by a regrettable ambiguity in our terminology. (shrink)
Block tries to show that the results of the Sperling experiment lend support to the view that phenomenology outstrips cognitive accessibility. I argue that Block fails to make a compelling case for this general claim on the basis of the Sperling data.
Arguments about the evolutionary function of phenomenalconsciousness are beset by the problem of epiphenomenalism. For if it is not clear whether phenomenalconsciousness has a causal role, then it is difficult to begin an argument for the evolutionary role of phenomenalconsciousness. We argue that complexity arguments offer a way around this problem. According to evolutionary biology, the structural complexity of a given organ can provide evidence that the organ is an adaptation, even (...) if nothing is known about the causal role of the organ. Evidence from cognitive neuropsychology suggests that phenomenalconsciousness is structurally complex in the relevant way, and this provides prima facie evidence that phenomenalconsciousness is an adaptation. Furthermore, we argue that the complexity of phenomenalconsciousness might also provide clues about the causal role of phenomenalconsciousness. (shrink)
In studying folk psychology, cognitive and developmental psychologists have mainly focused on how people conceive of non-experiential states such as beliefs and desires. As a result, we know very little about how non-philosophers (or the folk) understand the mental states that philosophers typically classify as being phenomenally conscious. In particular, it is not known whether the folk even tend to classify mental states in terms of their being or not being phenomenally conscious in the first place. Things have changed dramatically (...) in the last few years, however, with a flurry of ground-breaking research by psychologists and experimental philosophers. In this article I will review this work, carefully distinguishing between two questions: First, are the ascriptions that the folk make with regard to the mental states that philosophers classify as phenomenally conscious related to their decisions about whether morally right or wrong action has been done to an entity? Second, do the folk tend to classify mental states in the way that philosophers do, distinguishing between mental states that are phenomenally conscious and mental states that are not phenomenally conscious? (shrink)
Siewert identifies a special kind of conscious experience, phenomenalconsciousness, that is the sort of consciousness missing in a variety of cases of blindsight. He then argues that phenomenalconsciousness has been neglected by students of consciousness when it should not be. According to Siewert, the neglect is based at least in part on two false assumptions: phenomenal features are not intentional and phenomenal character is restricted to sensory experience. By identifying an (...) essential tension in Siewert's characterization of phenomenalconsciousness, I argue that his case for denying and is at best incomplete. (shrink)
commentary on Dainton, B. (2000). Stream of Consciousness: Unity and Continuity in Conscious Experience. London: Routledge. ABSTRACT: Stream of Consciousness is a detailed and insightful analysis of the nature of phenomenalconsciousness, especially its unity at a time and continuity over stretches of time. I find Dainton's approach to phenomenalconsciousness in many ways sound but I also point out one major source of disgreement between us. Dainton believes that to explain phenomenal unity (...) and continuity, no reference to anything outside experience is required. Thus, he postulates a fundamental experiential relation called co-consciousness which is supposed to do all the explanatory work. On the contrary, I hold that to truly explain features of consciousness such as phenomenal unity and continuity, reference to mechanisms outside the phenomenal realm are necessary. (shrink)
Phenomenalconsciousness or the subjective experience of feeling sensory stimuli is fundamental to human existence. Because of the ubiquity of their subjective experiences, humans seem to readily accept the anthropomorphic extension of these mental states to other animals. Humans will typically extrapolate feelings of pain to animals if they respond physiologically and behaviourally to noxious stimuli. The alternative view that fish instead respond to noxious stimuli reflexly and with a limited behavioural repertoire is defended within the context of (...) our current understanding of the neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of mental states. Consequently, a set of fundamental properties of neural tissue necessary for feeling pain or experiencing affective states in vertebrates is proposed. While mammals and birds possess the prerequisite neural architecture for phenomenalconsciousness, it is concluded that fish lack these essential characteristics and hence do not feel pain. (shrink)
Any physical explanation of consciousness seems to leave unresolved the ‘explanatory gap': Isn't it conceivable that all the elements in that explanation could occur, with the same information processing outcomes as in a conscious process, but in the absence of consciousness? E.g. any digital computational process could occur in the absence of consciousness. To resolve this dilemma, we propose a biological-process-oriented physiological- phenomenological characterization of consciousness that addresses three ‘paradoxical’ qualities seemingly incompatible with the empirical realm: (...) The dual location of phenomenal properties ‘out there’ yet ‘in here’ in consciousness; the mysterious ‘thickness’ of the specious present; the feeling of ‘free agency', that we can voluntarily direct our actions, including the act of conscious attention, while at the same time attention and the emotions that direct it seem responsive to physiological substrates with physical causes. These paradoxes are then resolved by relating three elements of consciousness: organismically interested anticipation; sensory and proprioceptive imagery generated by the interested anticipation rather than by sensory input; resonating of these activities with activity stimulated by sensory data, where the interested anticipation precedes the processing of the input. Each of these elements is bridged to physiological processes such that, if they occur in a certain relation to each other, we can understand why they would inevitably be accompanied by the corresponding elements of conscious experience. (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 phenomenalconsciousness 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. (shrink)
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