Seth suggests that the transformation of the international system from a system of states to a system of nation-states has had profound consequences for international relations, consequences not fully grasped in international relations theory.
_Europe’s Indians_ forces a rethinking of key assumptions regarding difference—particularly racial difference—and its centrality to contemporary social and political theory. Tracing shifts in European representations of two different colonial spaces, the New World and India, from the late fifteenth century through the late nineteenth, Vanita Seth demonstrates that the classification of humans into racial categories or binaries of self–other is a product of modernity. Part historical, part philosophical, and part a history of science, her account exposes the epistemic conditions (...) that enabled the _thinking_ of difference at distinct historical junctures. Seth’s examination of Renaissance, Classical Age, and nineteenth-century representations of difference reveals radically diverging forms of knowing, reasoning, organizing thought, and authorizing truth. It encompasses stories of monsters, new worlds, and ancient lands; the theories of individual agency expounded by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau; and the physiological sciences of the nineteenth century. European knowledge, Seth argues, does not reflect a singular history of Reason, but rather multiple traditions of reasoning, of historically bounded and contingent forms of knowledge. _Europe’s Indians_ shows that a history of colonialism and racism must also be an investigation into the historical production of subjectivity, agency, epistemology, and the body. (shrink)
We explore three methods for measuring the conscious status of knowledge using the artificial grammar learning paradigm. We show wagering is no more sensitive to conscious knowledge than simple verbal confidence reports but is affected by risk aversion. When people wager rather than give verbal confidence they are less ready to indicate high confidence. We introduce a “no-loss gambling” method which is insensitive to risk aversion. We show that when people are just as ready to bet on a genuine random (...) process as their own classification decisions, their classifications are still above baseline, indicating knowledge participants are not aware of having. Our results have methodological implications for any study investigating whether people are aware of knowing. (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)
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)
A recent report by Persaud et al. [Persaud, N., McLeod, P. & Cowey, A. . Post-decision wagering objectively measures awareness. Nature Neuroscience 10, 257–261] addresses a fundamental issue in consciousness science: the experimental measurement of conscious content. The authors propose a novel technique, ‘post-decision wagering’, in which subjects place bets on the correctness of decisions or discriminations. In this note, I critique the authors’ claim that their method “measures awareness directly”.
A recent theoretical emphasis on complex interactions within neural systems underlying consciousness has been accompanied by proposals for the quantitative characterization of these interactions. Here, we distinguish key aspects of consciousness that are amenable to quantitative measurement from those that are not. We carry out a formal analysis of the strengths and limitations of three quantitative measures of dynamical complexity in the neural systems underlying consciousness: neural complexity, information integration, and causal density. We find that no single measure fully captures (...) the multidimensional complexity of these systems and all have practical limitations. Our analysis suggests guidelines for the specification of alternative measures which, in combination, may improve the quantitative characterization of conscious neural systems. Given that some aspects of consciousness are likely to resist quantification altogether, we conclude that a satisfactory theory is likely to be one that combines both qualitative and quantitative elements. (shrink)
The Bayesian brain hypothesis provides an attractive unifying framework for perception, cognition, and action. We argue that the framework can also usefully integrate interoception, the sense of the internal physiological condition of the body. Our model of entails a new view of emotion as interoceptive inference and may account for a range of psychiatric disorders of selfhood.
Neural Darwinism (ND) is a large scale selectionist theory of brain development and function that has been hypothesized to relate to consciousness. According to ND, consciousness is entailed by reentrant interactions among neuronal populations in the thalamocortical system (the ‘dynamic core’). These interactions, which permit high-order discriminations among possible core states, confer selective advantages on organisms possessing them by linking current perceptual events to a past history of value-dependent learning. Here, we assess the consistency of ND with 16 widely recognized (...) properties of consciousness, both physiological (for example, consciousness is associated with widespread, relatively fast, low amplitude interactions in the thalamocortical system), and phenomenal (for example, consciousness involves the existence of a private flow of events available only to the experiencing subject). While no theory accounts fully for all of these properties at present, we find that ND and its recent extensions fare well. (shrink)
This paper argues that there is a relationship between understandings of anorexia nervosa (AN) and how the ethical issues associated with involuntary treatment for AN are identified, framed, and addressed. By positioning AN as a construct/discourse (hereinafter “AN: the diagnosis”) several ethical issues are revealed. Firstly, “AN: the diagnosis” influences how the autonomy and competence of persons diagnosed with AN are understood by decision-makers in the treatment environment. Secondly, “AN: the diagnosis” impacts on how treatment and treatment efficacy are defined (...) and the ethical justifiability of paternalism. Thirdly, “AN: the diagnosis” can limit the opportunity for persons with AN to construct an identity that casts them as a competent person. “AN: the diagnosis” can thus inherently affirm professional knowledge and values. Postmodern professional ethics can support professionals in managing these issues by highlighting the importance of taking responsibility for professional knowledge, values, and power and embracing moral uncertainty. (shrink)
Sandberg et al. show that the Perceptual Awareness Scale scale is sensitive compared to confidence ratings and wagering in detecting accurate perception. They go on to argue that the PAS scale is hence a sensitive measure of conscious perception compared to confidence ratings, a claim disputed here. The fact that some visual content is conscious does not entail that the visual content relevant to making a discrimination is conscious. For example, if one saw a square but was only aware of (...) seeing a flash of something, then one has not consciously seen a square. When PAS and confidence ratings come in conflict, we suggest that it is confidence ratings that more reliably indicate the conscious status of contents allowing discrimination. (shrink)
We analyse the electronic portfolio in higher education policy and practice.While evangelical accounts of the ePortfolio celebrate its power as a new eLearning technology,we argue that it allows the mutually-reinforcing couple of neoliberalism and the enterprising self to function in ways in which individual difference can be presented, cultured and grown, all the time within a standardised framework which relentlessly polices the limits of the acceptable and unacceptable. We point to the ePortfolio as a practice of government, arguing that grander (...) policy coalesces out of a halting, experimental set of technological instruments for thinking about how life should be lived. (shrink)
Overgaard, Timmermans, Sandberg, and Cleeremans ask if the conscious experience of people in implicit learning experiments can be explored more fully than just confidence ratings allow. We show that confidence ratings play a vital role in such experiments, but are indeed incomplete in themselves: in addition, use of structural knowledge attributions and ratings of fringe feelings like familiarity are important in characterizing the phenomenology of the application of implicit knowledge.
The metacognitive stance of Smith et al. risks ignoring sensory consciousness. Although Smith et al. rightly caution against the tendency to preserve the uniqueness of the human mind at all costs, their reasoned stance is undermined by a selective association of consciousness with high-level cognitive operations. Neurobiological evidence may offer a more general, and hence more inclusive, basis for the systematic study of animal consciousness.
This commentary considers Merker's mesodiencephalic proposal in relation to quantitative measures of neural dynamics suggested to be relevant to consciousness. I suggest that even if critical neural mechanisms turn out to be subcortical, the functional utility of consciousness will depend on the rich conscious contents generated by continuous interaction of such mechanisms with a thalamocortical envelope. (Published Online May 1 2007).