The book is an extended study of the problem of consciousness. After setting up the problem, I argue that reductive explanation of consciousness is impossible , and that if one takes consciousness seriously, one has to go beyond a strict materialist framework. In the second half of the book, I move toward a positive theory of consciousness with fundamental laws linking the physical and the experiential in a systematic way. Finally, I use the ideas and arguments (...) developed earlier to defend a form of strong artificial intelligence and to analyze some problems in the foundations of quantum mechanics. (shrink)
Integration information theories posit that the integration of information is necessary and/or sufficient for consciousness. In this paper, we focus on three of the most prominent information integration theories: Information Integration Theory, Global Workspace Theory, and Attended Intermediate-Level Theory. We begin by explicating each theory and key concepts they utilize. We then argue that the current evidence indicates that the integration of information is neither necessary nor sufficient for consciousness. Unlike GWT and AIR, IIT maintains that conscious experience (...) is both necessary and sufficient for consciousness. We present empirical evidence indicating that simple features are experienced in the absence of feature integration and argue that it challenges IIT’s necessity claim. In addition, we challenge IIT’s sufficiency claim by presenting evidence from hemineglect cases and amodal completion indicating that contents may be integrated and yet fail to give rise to subjective experience. Moreover, we present empirical evidence from subjects with frontal lesions who are unable to carry out simple instructions and argue that they are irreconcilable with GWT. Lastly, we argue that empirical evidence indicating that patients with visual agnosia fail to identify objects they report being conscious of present a challenge to AIR’s necessity claim. (shrink)
Consciousness and Mind presents David Rosenthal's influential work on the nature of consciousness. Central to that work is Rosenthal's higher-order-thought theory of consciousness, according to which a sensation, thought, or other mental state is conscious if one has a higher-order thought that one is in that state. The first four essays develop various aspects of that theory. The next three essays present Rosenthal's homomorphism theory of mental qualities and qualitative consciousness, and show how that theory fits (...) with and helps sustain the HOT theory. A crucial feature of homomorphism theory is that it individuates and taxonomizes mental qualities independently of the way we're conscious of them, and indeed independently of our being conscious of them at all. So the theory accommodates the qualitative character not only of conscious sensations and perceptions, but also of those which fall outside our stream of consciousness. Rosenthal argues that, because this account of mental qualities makes no appeal to consciousness, it enables us to dispel such traditional quandaries as the alleged conceivability of undetectable quality inversion, and to disarm various apparent obstacles to explaining qualitative consciousness and understanding its nature. Six further essays build on the HOT theory to explain various important features of consciousness, among them the complex connections that hold in humans between consciousness and speech, the self-interpretative aspect of consciousness, and the compelling sense we have that consciousness is unified. Two of the essays, one an extended treatment of homomorphism theory, appear here for the first time. There is also a substantive introduction, which draws out the connections between the essays and highlights their implications. (shrink)
The first half of this book argues that physicalism cannot account for consciousness, and hence cannot be true. The second half explores and defends Russellian monism, a radical alternative to both physicalism and dualism. The view that emerges combines panpsychism with the view that the universe as a whole is fundamental.
Some mental events are conscious, some are unconscious. What is the difference between the two? Uriah Kriegel offers an answer. His aim is a comprehensive theory of the features that all and only conscious mental events have. The key idea is that consciousness arises when self-awareness and world-awareness are integrated in the right way. Conscious mental events differ from unconscious ones in that, whatever else they may represent, they always also represent themselves, and do so in a very specific (...) way. Subjective Consciousness is a fascinating new move forward towards a full understanding of the mind. (shrink)
The paper discusses the utility of the notion of consciousness for the behavioural and brain sciences. It describes four distinctively different senses of 'conscious', and argues that to cope with the heterogeneous phenomena loosely indicated thereby, these sciences not only do not but should not discuss them in terms of 'consciousness'. It is thus suggested that 'the problem' allegedly posed to scientists by consciousness is unreal; one need neither adopt a realist stance with respect to it, nor (...) include the term and its cognates in the sciences' conceptual apparatus. The paper briefly examines Nagel's  article, since this presents the strongest counter to the thesis proposed. (shrink)
In this important book, Susan Hurley sheds new light on consciousness by examining its relationships to action from various angles. She assesses the role of agency in the unity of a conscious perspective, and argues that perception and action are more deeply interdependent than we usually assume. A standard view conceives perception as input from world to mind and action as output from mind to world, with the serious business of thought in between. Hurley criticizes this picture, and considers (...) how the interdependence of perceptual experience and agency at the personal level (of mental contents and norms) may emerge from the subpersonal level (of underlying causal processes and complex dynamic feedback systems). Her two-level view has wide implications, for topics that include self-consciousness, the modularity of mind, and the relations of mind to world. The self no longer lurks hidden somewhere between perceptual input and behavioral output, but reappears out in the open, embodied and embedded in its environment. Hurley traces these themes from Kantian and Wittgensteinian arguments through to intriguing recent work in neuropsychology and in dynamic systems approaches to the mind, providing a bridge from mainstream philosophy to work in other disciplines. Consciousness in Action is unique in the range of philosophical and scientific work it draws on, and in the deep criticism it offers of centuries-old habits of thought. (shrink)
How can we disentangle the neural basis of phenomenal consciousness from the neural machinery of the cognitive access that underlies reports of phenomenal consciousness? We can see the problem in stark form if we ask how we could tell whether representations inside a Fodorian module are phenomenally conscious. The methodology would seem straightforward: find the neural natural kinds that are the basis of phenomenal consciousness in clear cases when subjects are completely confident and we have no reason (...) to doubt their authority, and look to see whether those neural natural kinds exist within Fodorian modules. But a puzzle arises: do we include the machinery underlying reportability within the neural natural kinds of the clear cases? If the answer is ‘Yes’, then there can be no phenomenally conscious representations in Fodorian modules. But how can we know if the answer is ‘Yes’? The suggested methodology requires an answer to the question it was supposed to answer! The paper argues for an abstract solution to the problem and exhibits a source of empirical data that is relevant, data that show that in a certain sense phenomenal consciousness overflows cognitive accessibility. The paper argues that we can find a neural realizer of this overflow if assume that the neural basis of phenomenal consciousness does not include the neural basis of cognitive accessibility and that this assumption is justified by the explanations it allows. (shrink)
The significance of consciousness in modern science is discussed by leading authorities from a variety of disciplines. Presenting a wide-ranging survey of current thinking on this important topic, the contributors address such issues as the status of different aspects of consciousness; the criteria for using the concept of consciousness and identifying instances of it; the basis of consciousness in functional brain organization; the relationship between different levels of theoretical discourse; and the functions of consciousness.
Amidst the many brain events evoked by a visual stimulus, which are specifically associated with conscious perception, and which merely reflect non-conscious processing? Several recent neuroimaging studies have contrasted conscious and non-conscious visual processing, but their results appear inconsistent. Some support a correlation of conscious perception with early occipital events, others with late parieto-frontal activity. Here we attempt to make sense of those dissenting results. On the basis of a minimal neuro-computational model, the global neuronal workspace hypothesis, we propose a (...) taxonomy which distinguishes between vigilance and access to conscious report, as well as between subliminal, preconscious and conscious processing. We suggest that these distinctions map onto different neural mechanisms, and that conscious perception is systematically associated with a sudden surge of parieto-frontal activity causing top-down amplification. (shrink)
In Consciousness and Persons: Unity and Identity, Michael Tye takes on the thorny issue of the unity of consciousness and answers these important questions: What exactly is the unity of consciousness? Can a single person have a divided consciousness? What is a single person? Tye argues that unity is a fundamental part of human consciousness -- something so basic to everyday experience that it is easy to overlook. For example, when we hear the sound of (...) waves crashing on a beach and at the same time see a red warning flag, there is an overall unity to our experience; the sound and the red shape are presented together in our consciousness. Similarly, when we undergo a succession of thoughts as we think something through, there is an experience of succession that unifies the thoughts into a conscious whole. But, Tye shows, consciousness is not always unified. Split-brain subjects, whose corpus callosum has been severed, are usually taken to have a divided or disunified consciousness. Their behavior in certain situations implies that they have lost the unity normal human subjects take for granted; it is sometimes even supposed that a split-brain subject is really two persons.Tye begins his account by proposing an account of the unity of experience at a single time; this account is extended over the succeeding chapters to cover bodily sensations at a single time and perceptual experience, bodily sensations, conscious thoughts, and felt moods at a single time. Tye follows these chapters with a discussion of the unity of experience through time. Turning to the split-brain phenomenon, he proposes an account of the mental life of split-brain subjects and argues that certain facts about these subjects offer support for his theory of unity. Finally, addressing the topic of the nature of persons and personal identity, Tye finds the two great historical accounts -- the ego theory and the bundle theory -- lacking and he makes an alternative proposal. He includes an appendix on the general representational approach to consciousness and its many varieties, because of the relevance of representationalism to the theory of unity being adanced. (shrink)
We have a much better understanding of physics than we do of consciousness. I consider ways in which intrinsically mental aspects of fundamental ontology might induce modifications of the known laws of physics, or whether they could be relevant to accounting for consciousness if no such modifications exist. I suggest that our current knowledge of physics should make us skeptical of hypothetical modifications of the known rules, and that without such modifications it’s hard to imagine how intrinsically mental (...) aspects could play a useful explanatory role. Draft version of a paper submitted to Journal of Consciousness Studies, special issue responding to Philip Goff’s Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness. (shrink)
We are material beings in a material world, but we are also beings who have experiences and feelings. How can these subjective states be just a matter of matter? To defend materialism, philosophical materialists have formulated what is sometimes called "the phenomenal-concept strategy," which holds that we possess a range of special concepts for classifying the subjective aspects of our experiences. In Consciousness Revisited, the philosopher Michael Tye, until now a proponent of the the phenomenal-concept strategy, argues that the (...) strategy is mistaken. A rejection of phenomenal concepts leaves the materialist with the task of finding some other strategy for defending materialism. Tye points to four major puzzles of consciousness that arise: How is it possible for Mary, in the famous thought experiment, to make a discovery when she leaves her black-and-white room? In what does the explanatory gap consist and how can it be bridged? How can the hard problem of consciousness be solved? How are zombies possible? Tye presents solutions to these puzzles -- solutions that relieve the pressure on the materialist created by the failure of the phenomenal-concept strategy. In doing so, he discusses and makes new proposals on a wide range of issues, including the nature of perceptual content, the conditions necessary for consciousness of a given object, the proper understanding of change blindness, the nature of phenomenal character and our awareness of it, whether we have privileged access to our own experiences, and, if we do, in what such access consists. (shrink)
How can phenomenal consciousness 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 phenomenal consciousness, 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)
Consciousness is arguably the most important area within contemporary philosophy of mind and perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the world. Despite an explosion of research from philosophers, psychologists, and scientists, attempts to explain consciousness in neurophysiological, or even cognitive, terms are often met with great resistance. In The Consciousness Paradox, Rocco Gennaro aims to solve an underlying paradox, namely, how it is possible to hold a number of seemingly inconsistent views, including higher-order thought (HOT) theory, conceptualism, (...) infant and animal consciousness, concept acquisition, and what he calls the HOT-brain thesis. He defends and further develops a metapsychological reductive representational theory of consciousness and applies it to several importantly related problems. Gennaro proposes a version of the HOT theory of consciousness that he calls the "wide intrinsicality view" and shows why it is superior to various alternatives, such as self-representationalism and first-order representationalism. HOT theory says that what makes a mental state conscious is that a suitable higher-order thought is directed at that mental state. -/- Thus Gennaro argues for an overall philosophical theory of consciousness while applying it to other significant issues not usually addressed in the philosophical literature on consciousness. Most cognitive science and empirical works on such topics as concepts and animal consciousness do not address central philosophical theories of consciousness. Gennaro’s integration of empirical and philosophical concerns will make his argument of interest to both philosophers and nonphilosophers. (shrink)
Does consciousness collapse the quantum wave function? This idea was taken seriously by John von Neumann and Eugene Wigner but is now widely dismissed. We develop the idea by combining a mathematical theory of consciousness (integrated information theory) with an account of quantum collapse dynamics (continuous spontaneous localization). Simple versions of the theory are falsified by the quantum Zeno effect, but more complex versions remain compatible with empirical evidence. In principle, versions of the theory can be tested by (...) experiments with quantum computers. The upshot is not that consciousness-collapse interpretations are clearly correct, but that there is a research program here worth exploring. (shrink)
This book presents a comprehensive theory of consciousness. The initial chapter distinguishes six main forms of consciousness and sketches an account of each one. Later chapters focus on phenomenal consciousness, consciousness of, and introspective consciousness. In discussing phenomenal consciousness, Hill develops the representational theory of mind in new directions, arguing that all awareness involves representations, even awareness of qualitative states like pain. He then uses this view to undercut dualistic accounts of qualitative states. Other (...) topics include visual awareness, visual appearances, emotional qualia, and meta-cognitive processing. This important work will interest a wide readership of students and scholars in philosophy of mind and cognitive science. (shrink)
Neil Levy presents a new theory of freedom and responsibility. He defends a particular account of consciousness--the global workspace view--and argues that consciousness plays an especially important role in action. There are good reasons to think that the naïve assumption, that consciousness is needed for moral responsibility, is in fact true.
Can we consciously see more items at once than can be held in visual working memory? This question has elud- ed resolution because the ultimate evidence is subjects’ reports in which phenomenal consciousness is filtered through working memory. However, a new technique makes use of the fact that unattended ‘ensemble prop- erties’ can be detected ‘for free’ without decreasing working memory capacity.
Consciousness is, perhaps, the aspect of our mental lives that is the most perplexing for both psychologists and philosophers. Daniel Dennett has described it as 'both the most obvious and the most mysterious feature of our minds' and attempts at definition often seem to move in circles. Thomas Nagel famously remarked that 'without consciousness the mind-body problem would be much less interesting. With consciousness it seems hopeless.'. These observations might suggest that consciousness - indefinable and mysterious (...) - falls outside the scope of rational enquiry, defying both scientific and philosophical investigation. In reality, however, the topic has been a focus of psychological investigation since William James and is increasingly vital in philosophical research. This book illustrates the various, interdisciplinary approaches to the problem, providing both pointers to a solution and a summary of the key positions. (shrink)
Consciousness seems to be an enigmatic phenomenon: it is difficult to imagine how our perceptions of the world and our inner thoughts, sensations and feelings could be related to the immensely complicated biological organ we call the brain. This volume presents the thoughts of some of the leading philosophers and cognitive scientists who have recently participated in the discussion of the status of consciousness in science. The focus of inquiry is the question: "Is it possible to incorporate (...) class='Hi'>consciousness into science?" Philosophers have suggested different alternatives -- some think that consciousness should be altogether eliminated from science because it is not a real phenomenon, others that consciousness is a real, higher-level physical or neurobiological phenomenon, and still others that consciousness is fundamentally mysterious and beyond the reach of science. At the same time, however, several models or theories of the role of conscious processing in the brain have been developed in the more empirical cognitive sciences. It has been suggested that non-conscious processes must be sharply separated from conscious ones, and that the necessity of this distinction is manifested in the curious behavior of certain brain-damaged patients. This book demonstrates the dialogue between philosophical and empirical points of view. The writers present alternative solutions to the brain-consciousness problem and they discuss how the unification of biological and psychological sciences could thus become feasible. Covering a large ground, this book shows how the philosophical and empirical problems are closely interconnected. From this interdisciplinary exploration emerges the conviction that consciousness can and should be a natural part of our scientific world view. (shrink)
Brian O'Shaughnessy puts forward a bold and original theory of consciousness, one of the most fascinating but puzzling aspects of human existence. He analyses consciousness into purely psychological constituents, according pre-eminence to its epistemological power; the result is an integrated picture of the conscious mind in its natural physical setting. Consciousness and the World is a rich and exciting book, a major contribution to our understanding of the mind.
This book maintains that our conception of consciousness and cognition begins with and depends upon a few fundamental errors. Thau elucidates these errors by discussing three important philosophical puzzles - Spectrum Inversion, Frege's Puzzle, and Black-and-White Mary - each of which concerns some aspect of either consciousness or cognition. He argues that it has gone unnoticed that each of these puzzles presents the very same problem and, in bringing this commonality to light, the errors in our natural conception (...) of consciousness and cognition are also reviewed. (shrink)
Consciousness fits uneasily into our conception of the natural world. On the most common conception of nature, the natural world is the physical world. But on the most common conception of consciousness, it is not easy to see how it could be part of the physical world. So it seems that to find a place for consciousness within the natural order, we must either revise our conception of consciousness, or revise our conception of nature. In twentieth-century (...) philosophy, this dilemma is posed most acutely in C. D. Broad’s The Mind and its Place in Nature . The phenomena of mind, for Broad, are the phenomena of consciousness. The central problem is that of locating mind with respect to the physical world. Broad’s exhaustive discussion of the problem culminates in a taxonomy of seventeen different views of the mental-physical relation.1 On Broad’s taxonomy, a view might see the mental as nonexistent , as reducible, as emergent, or as a basic property of a substance . The physical might be seen in one of the same four ways. So a four-by-four matrix of views results. At the end, three views are left standing: those on which mentality is an emergent characteristic of either a physical substance or a neutral substance, where in the latter case, the physical might be either emergent or delusive. (shrink)
This is my first publication of the distinction between phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness, though not using quite those terms. It ends with this: "The upshot is this: If Searle is using the access sense of "consciousness," his argument doesn't get to first base. If, as is more likely, he intends the what-it-is-like sense, his argument depends on assumptions about issues that the cognitivist is bound to regard as deeply unsettled empirical questions." Searle replies: "He refers to (...) what he calls an "access sense of consciousness." On my account there is no such sense.". (shrink)
Cognitive science typically postulates unconscious mental phenomena, computational or otherwise, to explain cognitive capacities. The mental phenomena in question are supposed to be inaccessible in principle to consciousness. I try to show that this is a mistake, because all unconscious intentionality must be accessible in principle to consciousness; we have no notion of intrinsic intentionality except in terms of its accessibility to consciousness. I call this claim the The argument for it proceeds in six steps. The essential (...) point is that intrinsic intentionality has aspectual shape: Our mental representations represent the world under specific aspects, and these aspectual features are essential to a mental state's being the state that it is. (shrink)
Philosophers traditionally recognize two main features of mental states: intentionality and phenomenal consciousness. To a first approximation, intentionality is the aboutness of mental states, and phenomenal consciousness is the felt, experiential, qualitative, or "what it's like" aspect of mental states. In the past few decades, these features have been widely assumed to be distinct and independent. But several philosophers have recently challenged this assumption, arguing that intentionality and consciousness are importantly related. This article overviews the key views (...) on the relationship between consciousness and intentionality and describes our favored view, which is a version of the phenomenal intentionality theory, roughly the view that the most fundamental kind of intentionality arises from phenomenal consciousness. (shrink)
The word ?consciousness? is notoriously ambiguous. This is mainly because it is not a term of art, but a mundane word we all use quite frequently, for different purposes and in different everyday contexts. In this paper, I discuss consciousness in one specific sense of the word. To avoid the ambiguities, I introduce a term of art ? intransitive self-consciousness ? and suggest that this form of self-consciousness is an essential component of the folk notion of (...)consciousness. I then argue for a specific account of consciousness as intransitive self-consciousness. According to this account, a mental state is conscious iff it represents its own occurrence. The argument is a ?modernizing? modification of an older argument due to Aristotle and Brentano. (shrink)
In “Radical Interpretation” (1974), David Lewis asked: by what constraints, and to what extent, do the non-intentional, physical facts about Karl determine the intentional facts about him? There are two popular approaches: the reductive externalist program and the phenomenal intentionality program. I argue against both approaches. Then I sketch an alternative multistage account incorporating ideas from both camps. If we start with Karl's conscious experiences, we can appeal to Lewisian ideas to explain his other intentional states. This account develops the (...) multistage Lewisian approach presented at the end of my earlier "Does Phenomenology Ground Mental Content?" (2013). (shrink)
In America today, the problem of achieving racial justice--whether through "color-blind" policies or through affirmative action--provokes more noisy name-calling than fruitful deliberation. In Color Conscious, K. Anthony Appiah and Amy Gutmann, two eminent moral and political philosophers, seek to clear the ground for a discussion of the place of race in politics and in our moral lives. Provocative and insightful, their essays tackle different aspects of the question of racial justice; together they provide a compelling response to our nation's most (...) vexing problem.Appiah begins by establishing the problematic nature of the idea of race. He draws on the scholarly consensus that "race" has no legitimate biological basis, exploring the history of its invention as a social category and showing how the concept has been used to explain differences among groups of people by mistakenly attributing various "essences" to them. Appiah argues that, while people of color may still need to gather together, in the face of racism, under the banner of race, they need also to balance carefully the calls of race against the many other dimensions of individual identity; and he suggests, finally, what this might mean for our political life.Gutmann examines alternative political responses to racial injustice. She argues that American politics cannot be fair to all citizens by being color blind because American society is not color blind. Fairness, not color blindness, is a fundamental principle of justice. Whether policies should be color-conscious, class conscious, or both in particular situations, depends on an open-minded assessment of their fairness. Exploring timely issues of university admissions, corporate hiring, and political representation, Gutmann develops a moral perspective that supports a commitment to constitutional democracy.Appiah and Gutmann write candidly and carefully, presenting many-faceted interpretations of a host of controversial issues. Rather than supplying simple answers to complex questions, they offer to citizens of every color principled starting points for the ongoing national discussions about race. (shrink)
Block () highlights two experimental studies of neglect patients which, he contends, provide ‘dramatic evidence’ for unconscious seeing. In Block's hands this is the highly non-trivial thesis that seeing of the same fundamental kind as ordinary conscious seeing can occur outside of phenomenal consciousness. Block's case for it provides an excellent opportunity to consider a large body of research on clinical syndromes widely held to evidence unconscious perception. I begin by considering in detail the two studies of neglect to (...) which Block appeals. I show why their interpretation as evidence of unconscious seeing faces a series of local difficulties. I then explain how, even bracketing these issues, a long-standing but overlooked problem concerning our criterion for consciousness problematizes the appeal to both studies. I explain why this problem is especially pressing for Block given his view that phenomenal consciousness overflows access consciousness. I further show that it is epidemic—not only affecting all report-based studies of unconscious seeing in neglect, but also analogous studies of the condition most often alleged to show unconscious seeing, namely blindsight. (shrink)
Is consciousness intrinsically valuable? Some theorists favor the positive view, according to which consciousness itself accrues intrinsic value, independent of the particular kind of experience instantiated. In contrast, I favor the neutral view, according to which consciousness is neither intrinsically valuable nor disvaluable. The primary purpose of this paper is to clarify what is at stake when we ask whether consciousness is intrinsically valuable, to carve out the theoretical space, and to evaluate the question rigorously. Along (...) the way, I also show why the neutral view is attractive and why certain arguments for the positive view do not work. (shrink)
I argue that perceptual consciousness is constituted by a mental activity. The mental activity in question is the activity of employing perceptual capacities, such as discriminatory, selective capacities. This is a radical view, but I hope to make it plausible. In arguing for this mental activist view, I reject orthodox views on which perceptual consciousness is analyzed in terms of peculiar entities, such as, phenomenal properties, external mind-independent properties, propositions, sense-data, qualia, or intentional objects.
A broad range of evidence regarding the functional organization of the vertebrate brain – spanning from comparative neurology to experimental psychology and neurophysiology to clinical data – is reviewed for its bearing on conceptions of the neural organization of consciousness. A novel principle relating target selection, action selection, and motivation to one another, as a means to optimize integration for action in real time, is introduced. With its help, the principal macrosystems of the vertebrate brain can be seen to (...) form a centralized functional design in which an upper brain stem system organized for conscious function performs a penultimate step in action control. This upper brain stem system retained a key role throughout the evolutionary process by which an expanding forebrain – culminating in the cerebral cortex of mammals – came to serve as a medium for the elaboration of conscious contents. This highly conserved upper brainstem system, which extends from the roof of the midbrain to the basal diencephalon, integrates the massively parallel and distributed information capacity of the cerebral hemispheres into the limited-capacity, sequential mode of operation required for coherent behavior. It maintains special connective relations with cortical territories implicated in attentional and conscious functions, but is not rendered nonfunctional in the absence of cortical input. This helps explain the purposive, goal-directed behavior exhibited by mammals after experimental decortication, as well as the evidence that children born without a cortex are conscious. Taken together these circumstances suggest that brainstem mechanisms are integral to the constitution of the conscious state, and that an adequate account of neural mechanisms of conscious function cannot be confined to the thalamocortical complex alone. (Published Online May 1 2007) Key Words: action selection; anencephaly; central decision making; consciousness; control architectures; hydranencephaly; macrosystems; motivation; target selection; zona incerta. (shrink)
In this paper I develop the thesis that dreams are essential to an understanding of waking consciousness. In the first part I argue in opposition to the philosophers Malcolm and Dennett that empirical evidence now shows dreams to be real conscious experiences. In the second part, three questions concerning consciousness research are addressed. (1) How do we isolate the system to be explained (consciousness) from other systems? (2) How do we describe the system thus isolated? (3) How (...) do we reveal the mechanisms on which this system is based? I suggest that empirical dream research combined with other empirical approaches can help us to sketch answers to all of these questions. I argue that the subjective form of dreams reveals the subjective, macro-level form of consciousness in general and that both dreams and the everyday phenomenal world may be thought of as constructed “virtual realities”. A major task for empirical consciousness research is to find out the mechanisms which bind this experienced world into a coherent whole. (shrink)
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)
The position advanced in this paper is that the bedrock of emotional feelings is contained within the evolved emotional action apparatus of mammalian brains. This dual-aspect monism approach to brain–mind functions, which asserts that emotional feelings may reflect the neurodynamics of brain systems that generate instinctual emotional behaviors, saves us from various conceptual conundrums. In coarse form, primary process affective consciousness seems to be fundamentally an unconditional “gift of nature” rather than an acquired skill, even though those systems facilitate (...) skill acquisition via various felt reinforcements. Affective consciousness, being a comparatively intrinsic function of the brain, shared homologously by all mammalian species, should be the easiest variant of consciousness to study in animals. This is not to deny that some secondary processes cannot be evaluated in animals with sufficiently clever behavioral learning procedures, as with place-preference procedures and the analysis of changes in learned behaviors after one has induced re-valuation of incentives. Rather, the claim is that a direct neuroscientific study of primary process emotional/affective states is best achieved through the study of the intrinsic , albeit experientially refined, emotional action tendencies of other animals. In this view, core emotional feelings may reflect the neurodynamic attractor landscapes of a variety of extended trans-diencephalic, limbic emotional action systems—including SEEKING, FEAR, RAGE, LUST, CARE, PANIC, and PLAY. Through a study of these brain systems, the neural infrastructure of human and animal affective consciousness may be revealed. Emotional feelings are instantiated in large-scale neurodynamics that can be most effectively monitored via the ethological analysis of emotional action tendencies and the accompanying brain neurochemical/electrical changes. The intrinsic coherence of such emotional responses is demonstrated by the fact that they can be provoked by electrical and chemical stimulation of specific brain zones—effects that are affectively laden. For substantive progress in this emerging research arena, animal brain researchers need to discuss affective brain functions more openly. Secondary awareness processes, because of their more conditional, contextually situated nature, are more difficult to understand in any neuroscientific detail. In other words, the information-processing brain functions, critical for cognitive consciousness, are harder to study in other animals than the more homologous emotional/motivational affective state functions of the brain. (shrink)
The extensive involvement of nonconscious processes in human behaviour has led some to suggest that consciousness is much less important for the control of action than we might think. In this article I push against this trend, developing an understanding of conscious control that is sensitive to our best models of overt action control. Further, I assess the cogency of various zombie challenges—challenges that seek to demote the importance of conscious control for human agency. I argue that though nonconscious (...) contributions to action control are evidently robust, these challenges are overblown. (shrink)