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)
In daily life we take it for granted that our minds have conscious control of our actions, at least for most of the time. But many scientists and philosophers deny that this is really the case, because there is no generally accepted theory of how the mind interacts with the body. Max Velmans presents a non-reductive solution to the problem, in which ‘conscious mental control’ includes ‘voluntary’ operations of the preconscious mind. On this account, biological determinism is compatible with (...) experienced free will. Velmans’ theory is put to the test by nine critics: Ron Chrisley, Todd Feinberg, Jeffrey Gray, John Kihlstrom, Sam Rakover, Ramakrishna Rao, Aaron Sloman, Steve Torrance andRobert Van Gulick, followed by Velmans' reply. (shrink)
What we normally think of as the “physical world” is also the world as experienced, that is, a world of appearances. Given this, what is the reality behind the appearances, and what might its relation be to consciousness and to constructive processes in the mind? According to Kant, the thing itself that brings about and supports these appearances is unknowable and we can never gain any understanding of how it brings such appearances about. Reflexive monism argues the opposite: the thing (...) itself is knowable as are the processes that construct conscious appearances. Conscious appearances (empirical evidence) and the theories derived from them can represent what the world is really like, even though such empirical knowledge is partial, approximate and uncertain, and conscious appearances are species-specific constructions of the human mind. Drawing on the writings of Husserl, Hoche suggests that problems of knowledge, mind and consciousness are better understood in terms of a “pure noematic” phenomenology that avoids any reference to a “thing itself.” I argue that avoiding reference to a knowable reality (behind appearances) leads to more complex explanations with less explanatory value and counterintuitive conclusions—for example Hoche’s conclusion that consciousness is not part of nature. The critical realism adopted by reflexive monism appears to be more useful, as well as being consistent with science and common sense. Key words reflexive monism . thing itself . Kant . Husserl . Hoche . (shrink)
Following an on-line dialogue with Dennett (Velmans, 2001) this paper examines the similarities and differences between heterophenomenology (HP) and critical phenomenology (CP), two competing accounts of the way that conscious phenomenology should be, and normally is incorporated into psychology and related sciences. Dennett’s heterophenomenology includes subjective reports of conscious experiences, but according to Dennett, first person conscious phenomenena in the form of “qualia” such as hardness, redness, itchiness etc. have no real existence. Consequently, subjective reports about such qualia should (...) be understood as prescientific attempts to make sense of brain functioning that can be entirely understood in third person terms. I trace the history of this position in behaviourism (Watson, Skinner and Ryle) and early forms of physicalism and functionalism (Armstrong), and summarise some of the difficulties of this view. Critical phenomenology also includes a conventional, third person, scientific investigation of brain and behaviour that includes subjects’ reports of what they experience. CP is also cautious about the accuracy or completeness of subjective reports. However, unlike HP, CP does not assume that subjects are necessarily deluded about their experiences or doubt that these experiences can have real qualities that can, in principle, be described. Such experienced qualities cannot be exhaustively reduced to third-person accounts of brain and behaviour. CP is also reflexive, in it assumes experimenters to have first-person experiences that they can describe much as their subjects do. And crucially, experimenter’s third-person reports of others are based, in the first instance, on their own first-person experiences. CP is commonplace in psychological science, and given that it conforms both to scientific practice and common sense, I argue that there is little to recommend HP other than an attempt to shore up a counterintuitive, reductive philosophy of mind. (shrink)
This paper responds to continuing commentary on Velmans (2002a) “How could conscious experiences affect brains,” a target article for a special issue of JCS. I focus on the final question dealt with by the target article: how free will relates to preconscious and conscious mental processing, and I develop the case for preconscious free will. Although “preconscious free will” might appear to be a contradiction in terms, it is consistent with the scientific evidence and provides a parsimonious way to (...) reconcile the commonsense view that voluntary acts are freely chosen with the evidence that conscious wishes and decisions are determined by preconscious processing in the mind/brain. I consider alternative interpretations of how “conscious free will” might operate by Libet and by Mangan and respond to doubts about the extent to which the operations of mind are revealed in consciousness, raised by Claxton and Bouratinos. In reconciling commonsense attributions of freedom and responsibility with the findings of science, preconscious free will can be shown to have practical consequences for adjudications in law. (shrink)
This paper summarised the main arguments presented in "Consciousness, brain and the physical world" Philosophical Psychology (1990) to introduce a symposium on that paper. This was the first symposium on Velmans' Reflexive Model of Perception (the departure point for Reflexive Monism). This summary of the 1990 paper was followed by three critiques (by Robert Rentoul, Norman Wetherick, and Grant Gillett) followed by two replies. At the time of this upload (25 years later) many of the points in the 1991 (...) paper have become common currency, however some of the confusions about the implications of the reflexive model persist, so the discussion continues to have contemporary relevance. See academia.edu link for the entire symposium. (shrink)
Many of the arguments about how to address the hard versus the easy questions of consciousness put by Chalmers are similar to ones I have developed in Velmans . This includes the multiplicity of mind/body problems, the limits of functional explanation, the need for a nonreductionist approach, and the notion that consciousness may be related to neural/physical representation via a dual-aspect theory of information. But there are also differences. Unlike Chalmers I argue for the use of neutral information processing (...) language for functional accounts rather than the term "awareness." I do not agree that functional equivalence cannot be extricated from phenomenal equivalence, and suggest a hypothetical experiment for doing so - using a cortical implant for blindsight. I argue that not all information has phenomenal accompaniments, and introduce a different form of dual-aspect theory involving "psychological complementarity." I also suggest that the hard problem posed by "qualia" has its origin in a misdescription of everyday experience implicit in dualism. (shrink)
Lehar provides useful insights into spatially extended phenomenology that may have major consequences for neuroscience. However, Lehar's biological naturalism leads to counterintuitive conclusions, and he does not give an accurate account of preceding and competing work. This commentary compares Lehar's analysis with that of Velmans, which addresses similar issues but draws opposite conclusions. Lehar argues that the phenomenal world is in the brain and concludes that the physical skull is beyond the phenomenal world. Velmans argues that the brain (...) is in the phenomenal world and concludes that the physical skull is where it seems to be. (shrink)
A current, comprehensive summary of Velmans' theoretical work that updates and deepens the analysis given in Edition 1. Part 1 reviews the strengths and weaknesses of all currently dominant theories of consciousness in a form suitable for undergraduates, postgraduates and researchers focusing mainly on dualism, physicalism, functionalism and consciousness in machines. Part 2 gives a new analysis of consciousness, grounded in its everyday phenomenology, which undermines the basis of the dualism versus reductionist debate. It also examines the consequences for (...) realism versus idealism, subjectivity, intersubjectivity and objectivity, and the relation of consciousness to brain processing. Part 3 gives a new synthesis, with a novel approach to understanding what consciousness is and what consciousness does. It also introduces Reflexive Monism, an alternative to dualism and reductionism that is consistent with the findings of science and with common sense. (shrink)
Investigations of the function of consciousness in human information processing have focused mainly on two questions: (1) where does consciousness enter into the information processing sequence and (2) how does conscious processing differ from preconscious and unconscious processing. Input analysis is thought to be initially "preconscious," "pre-attentive," fast, involuntary, and automatic. This is followed by "conscious," "focal-attentive" analysis which is relatively slow, voluntary, and flexible. It is thought that simple, familiar stimuli can be identified preconsciously, but conscious processing is needed (...) to identify complex, novel stimuli. Conscious processing has also been thought to be necessary for choice, learning and memory, and the organization of complex, novel responses, particularly those requiring planning, reflection, or creativity. (shrink)
This paper replies to the first 36 commentaries on my target article on “Is human information processing conscious?” (Behavioral and Brain Sciences,1991, pp.651-669). The target article focused largely on experimental studies of how consciousness relates to human information processing, tracing their relation from input through to output, while discussion of the implications of the findings both for cognitive psychology and philosophy of mind was relatively brief. The commentaries reversed this emphasis, and so, correspondingly, did the reply. The sequence of topics (...) in the reply roughly follows that of the target article. The discussion begins with a reconsideration of the details of the empirical findings, whether they can be extrapolated to non-laboratory settings, and the extent to which one can rely on their use of subjective reports. This is followed by an in-depth discussion of what is meant by “conscious processing” and of how phenomenal consciousness relates to attentional processing. We then turn to broader philosophical and theoretical issues. I point out some of the reasons why I do not support epiphenomenalism, dualist-interactionism, or reductionism, and elaborate on how first- and third-person views of the mind can be regarded as complementary and mutually irreducible. I suggest how the relation of conscious experiences to their neural correlates can be understood in terms of a dual-aspect theory of information,and how this might be used to resolve some of the paradoxes surrounding the causal interactions of consciousness and brain. I also suggest that, viewed from a first-person perspective, consciousness gives purpose to existence, which allows a different way of viewing its role in evolution. (shrink)
What, in essence, characterizes the mind? According to Searle, the potential to be conscious provides the only definitive criterion. Thus, conscious states are unquestionably "mental"; "shallow unconscious" states are also "mental" by virtue of their capacity to be conscious (at least in principle); but there are no "deep unconscious mental states" - i.e. those rules and procedures without access to consciousness, inferred by cognitive science to characterize the operations of the unconscious mind are not mental at all. Indeed, according to (...) Searle, they have no ontological status - they are simply ways of describing some interesting facets of purely physiological phenomena. (shrink)
Dualist and Reductionist theories of mind disagree about whether or not consciousness can be reduced to a state of or function of the brain. They assume, however, that the contents of consciousness are separate from the external physical world as-perceived. According to the present paper this assumption has no foundation either in everyday experience or in science. Drawing on evidence for perceptual projection in both interoceptive and exteroceptive sense modalities, the case is made that the physical world as-perceived is a (...) construct of perceptual processing and, therefore, part of the contents of consciousness. A finding which requires a Reflexive rather than a Dualist or Reductionist model of how consciousness relates to the brain and the physical world. The physical world as-perceived may, in turn be thought of as a biologically useful model of the world as described by physics. Redrawing the boundaries of consciousness to include the physical world as-perceived undermines the conventional separation of the 'mental' from the physical', and with it the very foundation of the Dualist-Reductionist debate. The alternative Reflexive model departs radically from current conventions, with consequences for many aspects of consciousness theory and research. Some of the consequences which bear on the internal consistency and intuitive plausibility of the model are explored, e.g. the causal sequence in perception, representationalism, a suggested resolution of the Realism versus Idealism debate, and the way manifest differences between physical events as-perceived and other conscious events are to be construed. In the present paper I wish to challenge some of our most deeply-rooted assumptions about what consciousness is, by re-examining how consciousness, the human brain, and the surrounding physical world relate to each other. (shrink)
Of all the problems facing science none are more challenging yet fascinating than those posed by consciousness. In The Science of Consciousness leading researchers examine how consciousness is being investigated in the key areas of cognitive psychology, neuropsychology and clinical psychology. Within cognitive psychology, special focus is given to the function of consciousness, and to the relation of conscious processing to nonconscious processing in perception, learning, memory and information dissemination. Neuropsychology includes examination of the neural conditions for consciousness and the (...) effects of brain damage. Finally, mind/body interactions in clinical and experimental settings are considered, including the somatic effects of imagery, biofeedback and placebo effects. Every chapter is written by an expert in the field. They each provide a clear overview of existing research along with an exciting new synthesis of consciousness studies. The The Science of Consciousness will be invaluable for students, researchers and clinicians interested in the developments and directions of this rapidly growing field. (shrink)
In everyday life we take it for granted that we have conscious control of some of our actions and that the part of us that exercises control is the conscious mind. Psychosomatic medicine also assumes that the conscious mind can affect body states, and this is supported by evidence that the use of imagery, hypnosis, biofeedback and other ‘mental interventions’ can be therapeutic in a variety of medical conditions. However, there is no accepted theory of mind/body interaction and this has (...) had a detrimental effect on the acceptance of mental causation in science, philosophy and in many areas of clinical practice. Biomedical accounts typically translate the effects of mind into the effects of brain functioning, for example, explaining mind/body interactions in terms of the interconnections and reciprocal control of cortical, neuroendocrine, autonomic and immune systems. While such accounts are instructive, they are implicitly reductionist, and beg the question of how conscious experiences could have bodily effects. On the other hand, non-reductionist accounts have to cope with three problems: 1) The physical world appears causally closed, which would seem to leave no room for conscious intervention. 2) One is not conscious of one’s own brain/body processing, so how could there be conscious control of such processing? 3) Conscious experiences appear to come too late to causally affect the processes to which they most obviously relate. This paper suggests a way of understanding mental causation that resolves these problems. It also suggests that “conscious mental control” needs to be partly understood in terms of the voluntary operations of the preconscious mind, and that this allows an account of biological determinism that is compatible with experienced free will. (shrink)
Dualists believe that experiences have neither location nor extension, while reductive and ‘non-reductive’ physicalists (biological naturalists) believe that experiences are really in the brain, producing an apparent impasse in current theories of mind. Enactive and reflexive models of perception try to resolve this impasse with a form of “externalism” that challenges the assumption that experiences must either be nowhere or in the brain. However, they are externalist in very different ways. Insofar as they locate experiences anywhere, enactive models locate conscious (...) phenomenology in the dynamic interaction of organisms with the external world, and in some versions, they reduce conscious phenomenology to such interactions, in the hope that this will resolve the hard problem of consciousness. The reflexive model accepts that experiences of the world result from dynamic organism–environment interactions, but argues that such interactions are preconscious. While the resulting phenomenal world is a consequence of such interactions, it cannot be reduced to them. The reflexive model is externalist in its claim that this external phenomenal world, which we normally think of as the “physical world,” is literally outside the brain. Furthermore, there are no added conscious experiences of the external world inside the brain. In the present paper I present the case for the enactive and reflexive alternatives to more classical views and evaluate their consequences. I argue that, in closing the gap between the phenomenal world and what we normally think of as the physical world, the reflexive model resolves one facet of the hard problem of consciousness. Conversely, while enactive models have useful things to say about percept formation and representation, they fail to address the hard problem of consciousness. (shrink)
Reflexive monism is, in essence, an ancient view of how consciousness relates to the material world that has, in recent decades, been resurrected in modern form. In this paper I discuss how some of its basic features differ from both dualism and variants of physicalist and functionalist reductionism, focusing on those aspects of the theory that challenge deeply rooted presuppositions in current Western thought. I pay particular attention to the ontological status and seeming “out-thereness” of the phenomenal world and to (...) how the “phenomenal world” relates to the “physical world”, the “world itself”, and processing in the brain. In order to place the theory within the context of current thought and debate, I address questions that have been raised about reflexive monism in recent commentaries and also evaluate competing accounts of the same issues offered by “transparency theory” and by “biological naturalism”. I argue that, of the competing views on offer, reflexive monism most closely follows the contours of ordinary experience, the findings of science, and common sense. (shrink)
Theories about the evolution of consciousness relate in an intimate way to theories about the distribution of consciousness, which range from the view that only human beings are conscious to the view that all matter is in some sense conscious. Broadly speaking, such theories can be classified into discontinuity theories and continuity theories. Discontinuity theories propose that consciousness emerged only when material forms reached a given stage of evolution, but propose different criteria for the stage at which this occurred. Continuity (...) theories argue that in some primal form, consciousness always accompanies matter and as matter evolved in form and complexity consciousness co-evolved, for example into the forms that we now recognise in human beings. Given our limited knowledge of the necessary and sufficient conditions for the presence of human consciousness in human brains, all options remain open. On balance however continuity theory appears to be more elegant than discontinuity theory. (shrink)
ABSTRACT. The following is an email interchange that took place between Dan Dennett and myself in the period 14th to 28th June, 2001. The discussion tries to clarify some essential features of the "heterophenomenology" developed in his book Consciousness Explained (1996), and how this differs from a form of "critical phenomenology" implicit in my own book Understanding Consciousness (2000), and developed in my edited Investigating Phenomenal Consciousness: new methodologies and maps (2000). The departure point for the discussion is a paper (...) posted on Dan's website that summarises a related debate between Dan, David Chalmers and Alvin Goldman (Dennett, 2001). To make the discussion easier to follow, the multiple embeddings have been removed (restoring the sequence in which the comments were written). I have also corrected a few typos and grammatical errors. However, the text of the emails remains exactly the same. In Round 1, I suggest that scientific investigations of consciousness are better described as a form of "critical phenomenology" that accepts conscious experiences to be real rather than as a "heterophenomenology" which remains neutral about or denies their existence. Dan replies that I have misunderstood his position - he doesn't deny that conscious experiences exist. Conscious experiences just don't have the first-person phenomenal properties that they are commonly thought to have and, in his view, science remains neutral about the nature of such properties. In Round 2, I agree with Dan that science initially remains neutral about how to understand the nature of conscious experiences. Nevertheless, the phenomenology of consciousness provides the data that scientists are trying to understand. A better understanding of data does not, in general, make the data disappear. I also ask, "if you remove the phenomena from phenomenal consciousness, in what sense is whatever remains "consciousness"? And, if one removes all the phenomenal content from what one takes consciousness to be, doesn't this amount to a denial of the existence of "consciousness" in any ordinary sense of this term? Dan's reply likens beliefs in phenomenal properties to the belief in evil spirits causing disease. He has no doubts that diseases such as whooping cough and tuberculosis are real, but this doesn't require him to believe in evil spirits. And, what's left, once one removes phenomenal properties, is what a zombie and a so-called conscious person have in common: a given set of functional properties that enable them to carry out the tasks we normally think of as conscious. In Round 3, I summarise our similarities and differences. We agree that first-person reports are not incorrigible and that third-person information may throw light on how to interpret them. We also agree that first-person reports are reports of "something", although we disagree about the nature of that something. I suggest that Dan is sceptical about first-person reports rather than heterophenomenologically "neutral" (e.g. when he likens belief in phenomenal properties to belief in evil spirits). While we agree that science is likely to deepen our understanding of consciousness, I repeat that, unlike the replacement of old theories by better theories, a deeper understanding of phenomena does not in general replace the phenomena themselves. Rather than third-person data replacing first-person reports, the former are required to make sense of the latter, making their relationship complementary and mutually irreducible. In fact, there are many cases where science takes the reality of first-person phenomenology seriously, for example in the extensive literature on pain and its alleviation. If this can't be squeezed into an exclusively third-person view of science, then we will just have to adjust our view of science - something that a "critical phenomenology" achieves at little cost. At the time of this editing, Dan has not replied. . Reference. Dennett, D. (2001) The fantasy of first-person science. http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/pubpage.htm. (shrink)
This is a prepublication version of the final chapter from the Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. In it I re-examine the basic conditions required for a study of conscious experiences in the light of progress made in recent years in the field of consciousness studies. I argue that neither dualist nor reductionist assumptions about subjectivity versus objectivity and the privacy of experience versus the public nature of scientific observations allow an adequate understanding of how studies of consciousness actually proceed. The chapter (...) examines the sense in which the experimenter is also a subject, the sense in which all experienced phenomena are private and subjective, the different senses in which a phenomenon can nevertheless be public and observations of it objective, and the conditions for intra-subjective and intersubjective repeatability. The chapter goes on to re-examine the empirical method and how methods used in psychology differ from those used in physics. I argue that a reflexive understanding of these relationships supports a form of “critical phenomenology” that fits consciousness studies smoothly into science. (shrink)
The following extracts with connecting comments suggest a departure point for a definitions of consciousness that preserves its everyday phenomenology while allowing an understanding of what consciousness is to deepen as scientific investigation proceeds. I argue that current definitions are often theory-driven rather than following the contours of ordinary experience. Consequently they are sometimes too broad, sometimes too narrow, and sometimes not definitions of phenomenal consciousness at all. As an alternative, an ecologically valid, reflexive approach to consciousness is suggested that (...) is consistent with science and with common sense. (shrink)
This paper provides an initial, multidimensional map of the complex relationships among consciousness, mind, brain, and the external world in a way that both follows the contours of everyday experience and the findings of science. It then demonstrates how this reflexive monist map can be used to evaluate the utility and resolve some of the oppositions of the many other 'isms' that currently populate consciousness studies. While no conventional, one-dimensional 'ism' such as physicalism can do justice to this web of (...) relationships, physicalism, functionalism, dualism, neutral monism, and dual-aspect monism can all be seen to provide useful ways of understanding different aspects of the relationships among consciousness, mind, brain, and the external world when these are viewed in either a first- or a third-person way from within this web of relationships by sentient creatures such as ourselves. For example, physicalism and functionalism provide a useful understanding of consciousness, mind, brain, and the external world when viewed from a third-person perspective, while neutral monism provides a useful way of understanding first- versus third-person views of external phenomena. On the other hand, dual-aspect monism provides a useful way of understanding first- versus third-person views of mind, including eastern versus western views of mind. Dual-aspect monism also provides a useful understanding of the 'unconscious ground of being' that gives rise to, supports, and embeds all these observable phenomena. For an integrated understanding one needs to understand how these phenomena and relationships combine into an integrated whole. (shrink)
My target article (henceforth referred to as TA) presents evidence for causal interactions between consciousness and brain and some standard ways of accounting for this evidence in clinical practice and neuropsychological theory. I also point out some of the problems of understanding such causal interactions that are not addressed by standard explanations. Most of the residual problems have to do with how to cross the “explanatory gap” from consciousness to brain. I then list some of the reasons why the route (...) across this gap suggested by physicalism won't work, in spite of its current popularity in consciousness studies. My own suggested route across the explanatory gap is more subterranean, where consciousness and brain can be seen to be dual aspects of a unifying, psychophysical mind. Some of the steps on this deeper route still have to be filled in by empirical research. But (as far as I can judge) there are no gaps that cannot be filled—just a different way of understanding consciousness, mind, brain and their causal interaction, with some interesting consequences for our understanding of free will. The commentaries on TA examined many aspects of my thesis viewed from both Western and Eastern perspectives. This reply focuses on how dual-aspect monism compares with currently popular alternatives such as “nonreductive physicalism”, clarifies my own approach, and reconsiders how well this addresses the “hard” problems of consciousness. We re-examine how conscious experiences relate to their physical/functional correlates and whether useful analogies can be drawn with other, physical relationships that appear to have dual-aspects. We also examine some fundamental differences between Western and Eastern thought about whether the existence of the physical world or the existence of consciousness can be taken for granted (with consequential differences about which of these is “hard” to understand). I then suggest a form of dual-aspect Reflexive Monism that might provide a path between these ancient intellectual traditions that is consistent with science and with common sense. (shrink)
Wegner’s analysis of the illusion of conscious will is close to my own account of how conscious experiences relate to brain processes. But our analyses differ somewhat on how conscious will is not an illusion. Wegner argues that once conscious will arises it enters causally into subsequent mental processing. I argue that while his causal story is accurate, it remains a first-person story. Conscious free will is not an illusion in the sense that this first-person story is compatible with and (...) complementary to a third-person account of voluntary processing in the mind/brain. (shrink)
This commentary elaborates on Gray's conclusion that his neurophysiological model of consciousness might explain how consciousness arises from the brain, but does not address how consciousness evolved, affects behaviour or confers survival value. The commentary argues that such limitations apply to all neurophysiological or other third-person perspective models. To approach such questions the first-person nature of consciousness needs to be taken seriously in combination with third-person models of the brain.
Physicalists commonly argue that conscious experiences are nothing more than states of the brain, and that conscious qualia are observer-independent, physical properties of the external world. Although this assumes the 'mantle of science,' it routinely ignores the findings of science, for example in sensory physiology, perception, psychophysics, neuropsychology and comparative psychology. Consequently, although physicalism aims to naturalise consciousness, it gives an unnatural account of it. It is possible, however, to develop a natural, nonreductive, reflexive model of how consciousness relates to (...) the brain and the physical world. This paper introduces such a model and how it construes the nature of conscious experience. Within this model the physical world as perceived is viewed as part of conscious experience not apart from it. While in everyday life we treat this phenomenal world as if it is the "physical world", it is really just one biologically useful representation of what the world is like that may differ in many respects from the world described by physics. How the world as perceived relates to the world as described by physics can be investigated by normal science . This model of consciousness appears to be consistent with both third-person evidence of how the brain works and with first-person evidence of what it is like to have a given experience. According to the reflexive model, conscious experiences are really how they seem. (shrink)
The study of consciousness in modern science is hampered by deeply ingrained, dualist presuppositions about the nature of consciousness. In particular, conscious experiences are thought to be private and subjective, contrasting with physical phenomena which are public and objective. In the present article, I argue that all observed phenomena are, in a sense, private to a given observer, although there are some events to which there is public access. Phenomena can be objective in the sense of intersubjective, investigators can be (...) objective in the sense of truthful or dispassionate, and procedures can be objective in being well-specified, but observed phenomena cannot be objective in the sense of being observer-free. Phenomena are only repeatable in the sense that they are judged by a community of observers to be tokens of the same type. Stripped of its dualist trappings the empirical method becomes if you carry out these procedures you will observe or experience these results - which applies as much to a science of consciousness as it does to physics. (shrink)
Viewed from a first-person perspective consciousness appears to be necessary for complex, novel human activity - but viewed from a third-person perspective consciousness appears to play no role in the activity of brains, producing a "causal paradox". To resolve this paradox one needs to distinguish consciousness of processing from consciousness accompanying processing or causing processing. Accounts of consciousness/brain causal interactions switch between first- and third-person perspectives. However, epistemically, the differences between first- and third-person access are fundamental. First- and third-person accounts (...) are complementary and mutually irreducible. (shrink)
Modern consciousness studies are in a healthy state, with many progressive empirical programmes in cognitive science, neuroscience and related sciences, using relatively conventional third-person research methods. However not all the problems of consciousness can be resolved in this way. These problems may be grouped into problems that require empirical advance, those that require theoretical advance, and those that require a re-examination of some of our pre-theoretical assumptions. I give examples of these, and focus on two problems—what consciousness is, and what (...) consciousness does—that require all three. In this, careful attention to conscious phenomenology and finding an appropriate way to relate first-person evidence to third-person evidence appears to be central to progress. But we may also need to re-examine what we take to be “natural facts” about the world, and how we can know them. The same appears to be true for a trans-cultural understanding of consciousness that combines classical Indian phenomenological methods with the third-person methods of Western science. (shrink)
To understand consciousness we must first describe what we experience accurately. But oddly, current dualist vs reductionist debates characterise experience in ways which do not correspond to ordinary experience. Indeed, there is no other area of enquiry where the phenomenon to be studied has been so systematically misdescribed. Given this, it is hardly surprising that progress towards understanding the nature of consciousness has been limited. This chapter argues that dualist vs. reductionist debates adopt an implicit description of consciousness that does (...) not resemble ordinary experience. If one adopts an accurate description of conscious phenomenology along with an understanding of the fundamental differences between correlation, causation and ontological identity, reductionism cannot succeed. However the alternative is not a dualism that places consciousness beyond science. Rather, it is a nonreductionist science of consciousness. (shrink)
There are two quite distinct ways in which events that we normally think of as “physical” relate in an intimate way to events that we normally think of as “psychological”. One intimate relation occurs in exteroception at the point where events in the world become events as-perceived. The other intimate relationship occurs at the interface of conscious experience with its neural correlates in the brain. The chapter examines each of these relationships and positions them within a dual-aspect, reflexive model of (...) how consciousness relates to the brain and external world. The chapter goes on to provide grounds for viewing mind and nature as fundamentally psychophysical, and examines similar views as well as differences in previously unpublished writings of Wolfgang Pauli, one of the founders of quantum mechanics. (shrink)
The study of preconscious versus conscious processing has an extensive history in cognitive psychology, dating back to the writings of William James. Much of the experimental work on this issue has focused on perception, conceived of as input analysis, and on the relation of consciousness to attentional processing. The present paper examines when input analysis becomes conscious from the perspectives of cognitive modelling, methodology, and a more detailed understanding of what is meant by "conscious processing." Current evidence suggests that perception (...) becomes conscious at a late-arising stage of focal-attentive processing concerned with information integration and dissemination. Reliable criteria for determining when perception becomes conscious combine the evidence of "first-person," phenomenological reports with "third-person" functional dissociations between preconscious and conscious processing. There are three, distinct senses in which a process may be said to be "conscious." It might be "conscious" (a) in the sense that one is conscious of the process, (b) in the sense that the operation of the process is accompanied by consciousness (of its results) and (c) in the sense that consciousness enters into or causally influences the process. Consciousness of familiar stimuli, rather than entering into input analysis, appears to follow it, in human information processing. Processes closely associated with the appearance of consciousness such as information integration and dissemination appear to operate unconsciously. Consequently, perception appears to be "conscious" only in sense (b). (shrink)
This chapter examines the similarities and differences between physical, psychological and virtual realities, and challenges some conventional, implicitly dualist assumptions about how these relate to each other. Virtual realities are not easily understood in either dualist or materialist reductive terms, as they exemplify the reflexive nature of perception. The chapter summarises some of the evidence for this “reflexive model”—and examines some of its consequences for the “hard” problem of consciousness. The chapter then goes on to consider how these realities might (...) relate to some grounding reality or thing-itself, and considers some of the personal and social consequences of becoming increasingly immersed in virtual realities. Although this chapter was published in 1998 and develops work published in 1990, it presents a form of “radical externalism” that anticipates many themes in current (2006) internalism versus externalism debates about the nature of mind. It is also relevant to an understanding of virtual reality “presence.”. (shrink)
In the visual system, the represented features of individual objects (shape, colour, movement, and so on) are distributed both in space and time within the brain. Representations of inner and outer event sequences arrive through different sense organs at different times, and are likewise distributed. Objects are nevertheless perceived as integrated wholes - and event sequences are experienced to form a coherent "consciousness stream." In their thoughtful article, Dennett & Kinsbourne ask how this is achieved.
Evidence for unconscious semantic representation suggests that a cognitive unconscious exists. Phenomenal consciousness cannot easily be shown to deal with complex cognitive operations such as those involved in language translation and creativity. A self-organising phenomenal consciousness that controls brain functions also runs into mind/body problems (well recognised in the consciousness studies literature) that Perruchet & Vinter must address.
Theorien über die Bewusstseinsevolution stehen in engem Zusammenhang mit Theorien über die Präsenz von Bewusstsein. Entsprechende Auffassungen bewegen sich zwischen dem Standpunkt, dass nur menschliche Wesen ein Bewusstsein haben, und der These, dass jegliche Materie in gewisser Weise über ein Bewusstsein verfügt. Allgemein formuliert, können diese Theorien in Diskontinuitäts- und Kontinuitätstheorien eingeteilt werden. Gemäß den Diskontinuitätstheorien ist das Bewusstsein erst dann in Erscheinung getreten, nachdem die Formen der Materie den gegebenen Evolutionsstand erreicht hatten, doch werden verschiedene Kriterien zur Bestimmung ebendieses (...) Evolutionsstandes vorgeschlagen. Die Kontinuitätstheorien vertreten die Ansicht, dass im Falle primärer Lebensformen die Materie stets von Bewusstsein begleitet sei; mit der Weiterentwicklung von Form und Komplexität der Materie habe jedoch auch das Bewusstsein einen Koevolutionsprozess durchlaufen und so beispielsweise Formen erlangt, die wir heute in menschlichen Wesen erkennen. In Anbetracht unseres beschränkten Wissens über die erforderlichen Voraussetzungen für das Vorhandensein von Bewusstsein im Gehirn des Menschen bleiben alle Möglichkeiten offen. Alles in allem jedoch zeichnet sich die Kontinuitätstheorie durch größere Eleganz als die Diskontinuitätstheorie aus. (shrink)
This brief note corrects some basic errors in Meijsing's JCS paper on 'The Whereabouts of Pictorial Space', concerning the status of phenomenal objects in the reflexive model of perception. In particular I clarify the precise sense in which a phenomenal object relates to the object itself in visual perception.
10.1093/mind/fzl659p. 688, line 10:for So if is a theorem of M read So if ϕ is a theorem of Mp. 688, line 13:for where ϕ* is the result of indexing the terms of ϕ* to Mread where ϕ* is the result of indexing the terms of ϕ to M.
Classical ways of viewing the relation of consciousness to the brain and physical world make it difficult to see how consciousness can be a subject of scientific study. In contrast to physical events, it seems to be private, subjective, and viewable only from a subject's first-person perspective. But much of psychology does investigate human experience, which suggests that classical ways of viewing these relations must be wrong. An alternative, Reflexive model is outlined along with it's consequences for methodology. Within this (...) model the external phenomenal world is viewed as part-of consciousness, rather than apart-from it. Observed events are only "public" in the sense of "private experience shared." Scientific observations are only "objective" in the sense of "intersubjective." Observed phenomena are only "repeatable" in the sense that they are sufficiently similar to be taken for "tokens" of the same event "type." This closes the gap between physical and psychological phenomena. Indeed, events out-there in the world can often be regarded as either physical or psychological depending on the network of relationships under consideration. (shrink)