Suppose that a team of neurosurgeons and bioengineers were able to remove your brain from your body, suspend it in a life-sustaining vat of liquid nutrients, and connect its neurons and nerve terminals by wires to a supercomputer that would stimulate it with electrical impulses exactly like those it normally receives when embodied. According to this brain-in-a-vat thought experiment, your envatted brain and your embodied brain would have subjectively indistinguishable mental lives. For all you know—so one argument goes—you could be (...) such a brain in a vat right now.1 Daniel Dennett calls this sort of philosophical thought experiment an “intuition pump” (Dennett 1995). An intuition pump is designed to elicit certain intuitive convictions, but is not itself a proper argument: “intuition pumps are fine if they’re used correctly, but they can also be misused. They’re not arguments, they’re stories. Instead of having a conclusion, they pump an intuition. They get you to say ‘Aha! Oh, I get it!’ (Dennett 1995, p. 182). Philosophers have used the brain-in-a-vat story mainly to raise the problem of radical skepticism and to elicit various intuitions about meaning and knowledge (Putnam 1981). The basic intuition the story tries to pump is that the envatted brain, though fully conscious, has systematically false beliefs about the world, including itself. Some philosophers reject this intuition. They propose that the envatted brain’s beliefs are really about its artificial environment or that it.. (shrink)
We argue that the minimal biological requirements for consciousness include a living body, not just neuronal processes in the skull. Our argument proceeds by reconsidering the brain-in-a-vat thought experiment. Careful examination of this thought experiment indicates that the null hypothesis is that any adequately functional “vat” would be a surrogate body, that is, that the so-called vat would be no vat at all, but rather an embodied agent in the world. Thus, what the thought experiment actually shows is that the (...) brain and body are so deeply entangled, structurally and dynamically, that they are explanatorily inseparable. Such entanglement implies that we cannot understand consciousness by considering only the activity of neurons apart from the body, and hence we have good explanatory grounds for supposing that the minimal realizing system for consciousness includes the body and not just the brain. In this way, we put the brain-in-a-vat thought experiment to a new use, one that supports the “enactive” view that consciousness is a life-regulation process of the whole organism interacting with its environment. (shrink)
• An adequate conceptual framework is still needed to account for phenomena that (i) have a first-person, subjective-experiential or phenomenal character; (ii) are (usually) reportable and describable (in humans); and (iii) are neurobiologically realized.2 • The conscious subject plays an unavoidable epistemological role in characterizing the explanadum of consciousness through first-person descriptive reports. The experimentalist is then able to link first-person data and third-person data. Yet the generation of first-person data raises difficult epistemological issues about the relation of second-order awareness (...) or meta-awareness to first-order experience (e.g. (shrink)
cal basis of consciousness. We continue by discussing the relation between spatiotem- One of the outstanding problems in the cog- poral patterns of brain activity and con- nitive sciences is to understand how ongo- sciousness, with particular attention to pro- ing conscious experience is related to the cesses in the gamma frequency band. We workings of the brain and nervous system. then adopt a critical perspective and high-.
Imagine a scenario where you are cooking and suddenly, the contents of the pot start to come out, and the oven bell rings. You would have to stop what you are doing and start responding to the changing demands, switching between different objects, operations and mental sets. This ability is known as cognitive flexibility. Now, add to this scenario a strong emotional atmosphere that invades you as you spontaneously recall a difficult situation you had that morning. How would you behave? (...) Recent studies suggest that emotional states do modulate cognitive flexibility, but these findings are still controversial. Moreover, there is a lack of evidence regarding the underlying brain processes. The purpose of the present study was, therefore, to examine such interaction while monitoring changes in ongoing cortical activity using EEG. In order to answer this question, we used two musical stimuli to induce emotional states (positive/high arousal/open stance and negative/high arousal/closed stance). Twenty-nine participants performed two blocks of the Madrid Card Sorting Task (MCST) in a neutral silence condition and then four blocks while listening to the counterbalanced musical stimuli. To explore this interaction, we used a combination of first-person (micro-phenomenological interview) and third-person (behavior and EEG) approaches. Our results show that compared to the positive stimuli and silence condition, negative stimuli decrease reaction times (RTs) for the shift signal. Our data show that the valance of the first emotional block is determinant in the RTs of the subsequent blocks. Additionally, the analysis of the micro-phenomenological interview and the integration of first- and third-person data show that the emotional disposition generated by the music could facilitate task performance for some participants or hamper it for others, independently of its emotional valence. When the emotional disposition hampered task execution, RTs were slower, and the P300 potential showed a reduced amplitude compared to the facilitated condition. These findings show that the interaction between emotion and cognitive flexibility is more complex than previously thought and points to a new way of understanding the underlying mechanisms by incorporating an in-depth analysis of individual subjective experience. (shrink)
Binocular rivalry provides a useful situation for studying the relation between the temporal flow of conscious experience and the temporal dynamics of neural activity. After proposing a phenomenological framework for understanding temporal aspects of consciousness, we review experimental research on multistable perception and binocular rivalry, singling out various methodological, theoretical, and empirical aspects of this research relevant to studying the flow of experience. We then review an experimental study from our group explicitly concerned with relating the temporal dynamics of rivalrous (...) experience to the temporal dynamics of cortical activity. Drawing attention to the importance of dealing with ongoing activity and its inherent changing nature at both phenomenological and neurodynamical levels, we argue that the notions of recurrence and variability are pertinent to understanding rivalry in particular and the flow of experience in general. (shrink)
The general framework of this paper relies on the observation that the practice of science as an experimental research program involves a social network of subjects working together, both as co-researchers and as co-subjects of experiments. We want to take this basic observation seriously in order to explore how the objectivity of scientific results obtained thereby is highly affected and dependent on multifarious ‘intersubjective regulations.’ By intersubjective regulations we mean the different ways in which each subject/ researcher is able to (...) account for his or her experience and share it with other subjects/researchers to the point of giving way to a re-styled objectivity founded on such ruled inter-individual practices : More specifically, ‘third-person’ protocols are not neutral, that is, true independently of the very situatedness of each subject in its own individuated space and time, but must take into consideration ‘first-person’ accounts and furthermore are inherently dependent on specific ‘second-person’ validations. (shrink)
Understanding evolution beyond a gene-centered vision is a fertile ground for new questions and approaches. However, in this systemic perspective, we take issue with the necessity of the concept of information. Through the example of brain and language evolution, we propose the autonomous systems theory as a more biologically relevant framework for the evolutionary perspective offered by Jablonka & Lamb (J&L).