Minimal models of consciousness: Understanding consciousness in human and non-human systems

Abstract

Should models of consciousness be detailed _mechanistic_ models of particular types of systems, or should they be _minimal_ models that abstract away from the underlying mechanistic details and provide generalisations? Detailed mechanistic models may afford a complete and precise account of consciousness in human beings and other, physiologically similar mammals. But they do not provide a good model of consciousness in other animals, such as non-vertebrates, let alone artificial systems. Minimal models can be applicable to a wide range of different conscious systems. But do they provide genuine explanations that are autonomous from explanations by detailed mechanistic models? This paper provides a taxonomy of minimal models and measures of consciousness, clarifies their relation to detailed mechanistic models, and highlights benefits of different minimalist approaches to consciousness.

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