Selfhood and Consciousness: A Non-Philosopher's Guide to Epistemology, Noemics, and Semiotics (and Other Important Things Besides) [Entries Beginning with "Consciousness"]

 

Copyright Notice: This material was written and published in Wales by Derek J. Smith (Chartered Engineer). It forms part of a multifile e-learning resource, and subject only to acknowledging Derek J. Smith's rights under international copyright law to be identified as author may be freely downloaded and printed off in single complete copies solely for the purposes of private study and/or review. Commercial exploitation rights are reserved. The remote hyperlinks have been selected for the academic appropriacy of their contents; they were free of offensive and litigious content when selected, and will be periodically checked to have remained so. Copyright © 2010, High Tower Consultants Limited.

 

First published online 13:00 GMT 28th February 2006, Copyright Derek J. Smith (Chartered Engineer). This version [HT.1 - transfer of copyright] dated 09:00 GMT 9th March 2011

 

BUT UNDER CONSTANT EXTENSION AND CORRECTION, SO CHECK AGAIN SOON

 

G.3 - The Glossary Proper (Entries C[onsciousness])

 

 

Consciousness: "The state or fact of being mentally conscious or aware of anything [.....] 'the recognition by the thinking subject of its own acts or affections' (Hamilton)" (O.E.D.) [compare Smart's (2004) remark about "awareness of awareness" in the entry for Central State Materialism]. Within mental philosophy, consciousness is one of the longest standing study topics of all, deriving initially from Alcmeon's view of aesthesis as a process wherein some mysterious central mechanism soaked up input from the senses. Similarly, for Plato it was a faculty of the soul [psuche], and perhaps even transmigratable, whilst for Aristotle it was more a faculty of the intellect [νους]. There was therefore little difficulty incorporating the Greek writings into the Roman Catholic conception of soul once the Greek manuscripts were rediscovered in the middle ages. St. Thomas Aquinas led the official process of approval, and distinguished three "levels" of "soul activity", namely "vegetative", "sense-awareness", and "intellectual" (Aquinas, 1269), and his description of the second of these is comparable with Alcmaeon's description of aesthesis. Hobbes ushers in the modern age by echoing Aquinas, starting with information which has been "begotten upon" the sensory organs, moving it onwards thanks to the "mediation of nerves", and culminating in "the fancy it begets in us" (Leviathan, pp3-4). Locke, too, identified consciousness with perception, describing it as "the perception of what passes in a man's own mind" (Locke, 1690, p68). Hume's Treatise, on the other hand, hardly mentions the subject, restricting its analysis to impressions, ideas, perception, and the like, but never really addressing the experiencing self. (which is left simply as something which the mind does). By the 19th century, the conventional wisdom was that consciousness was "the recognition by the mind or ego of its acts and affections; in other words, the self-affirmation that certain modifications are known by me, and these modifications are mine" (Sir William Hamilton, p.p. Mansell and Veitch, 1865, p193). Hamilton continues: "Consciousness may be compared to an internal light, by means of which, and which alone, what passes in the mind is rendered visible" (Op. cit., p183) [note that in this respect Hamilton was anticipating the "searchlight theory" of consciousness (see below) by more than a century]. Whenever we accept a consciousness of this sort, however, we give ourselves three distinct problems, namely (1) what is the nature of the recognizing ego-mind, (2) what is the nature of the internal light, and (3) what is the nature of the things of which we may then become conscious. Hamilton's triad is a first-cut attempt at the third of these problems., and concludes that "the notion of consciousness is so elementary that it cannot possible be resolved into others more simple. It cannot, therefore, [.....] be defined" (pp191-192). [See now the specific theories described below, noting how critical Dennett's theory is about the Homunctionist approach (in our opinion rightly so), and how Güzeldere (1995) profiles "higher order representation" theories. See then mind-brain problem and hard problem, and reflect generally upon Bieri's (1995) warning that the word "consciousness" is notoriously ambiguous: "Its use is plastic," he complains, "you have to know the context if you want to know what is meant" (p45).]

 

 

Consciousness, Aristotle's Theory of: [See firstly  category and universal.] Although Aristotle's surviving works cover perception and knowledge in some detail [Q.V.], consciousness itself is rarely directly addressed. Instead, the word aesthesis is used to mean sensation, perception, or the process as a whole, and steers clear "of the need to treat the problem of subjectivity within the general handling of the soul" (Lawson-Tancred, 1986, p84). However, Lawson-Tancred points out that Aristotle's aesthesis koine may be rendered as a "common awareness" (p81) of what our various separate senses are telling us about a perceptual scene, and that seems to come close to the notion of phenomenal awareness as well as indicating a sound theoretical appreciation of what we know today as the binding problem. Generally speaking, aesthesis is portrayed as the faculty by which the soul might know and perceive (p149), and consciousness as the "perceptive faculty" of the soul (Aristotle, De Anima, ¶415a; Lawson-Tancred translation, p163). When discussing the soul, Aristotle tends to prefer psuche to pneuma, and uses the idea of psyche to sweep together "cognition, perception, and belief states [as well as] appetite, wishing, and the desire-states in general" (¶411a, p152). Aristotle also fully recognizes that the notion of the soul as that-which-does-the-perceiving inevitably brings with it the risk of homunctionism. For example, he suggests that if the mind is to make sense of inputs from many different sense organs, it must be "to some single thing that they are manifest" (p195), and he fully recognizes the tendency towards "infinite regress" (p192) as the search for that some-single-thing cuts it way ever deeper into the cognitive system.

 

 

Consciousness, Baars' Theory of: Bernard Baars has recently combined mental philosophy with Baddeley and Hitch's (1974) Working Memory Theory to give us the vision of a "global workspace" mind, complete with a "theater of consciousness" (Baars, 1997) in which the mechanism of first person experience sits in the auditorium of the mind whilst the senses and memory between them entertain it with action on a mental stage. He credits this metaphor originally to the 19th century French historian, Hyppolite Taine, and presents its benefits under a number of headings, not least the fact that a theatrical stage "has limited capacity, but creates vast access" (p39). Models of mind, he points out, typically allow a small working memory, an "inner domain" in which we store momentary information, including our inner speech. Baars tests out the theater metaphor on a number of consciousness studies' thorniest problems, one of the most revealing of which is the subconscious aspects of problem solving. Many problems merely begin and end in consciousness, but dip down out of sight in between. Baars terms the resulting three stages "conscious assignment", "unconscious processing", and "conscious emergence" (p49). When the system is working to plan [and in this author's estimation, it does this far more often than not], the all-important unconscious processing remains exactly that, unconscious. Baars gives a lot of examples, including "What is the name of a herbivorous dinosaur?" and "What are three synonyms for talkative?" (both p49), and points out that the three-stage analysis renders you a passive consumer of the wit and wisdom of your own unconscious. And it all happens in "that little pause before the answer comes to mind" (Ibid.). Consciousness, then, is there to serve as "the gateway to the unconscious mind". Another promising application of the metaphor is to the long-standing problem of visual perception, again because much of what we know to be going on precedes phenomenal visual awareness. He then moves on to the question why conscious capacity is so limited: Evolution, he points out, seems to have given us one conscious system to supervise many subconscious ones. He therefore extends the theater metaphor to the binding problem, both within each modality (where the system needs to bind colour, shape, movement, say, into a single visual scene), and between them, thus (just) avoiding the possibility that the five main sensory modalities would require five separate stages within the broader theater, one for each modality. For Baars' more specific views on inner speech and self, see those entries. [See now homunculus fallacy (the theater metaphor being a good example thereof).]

 

 

Consciousness, Bergson's Theory of: [See firstly concept.] Henri Bergson's earliest contribution to mental philosophy came in an 1886 paper on unconscious stimulation in states of hypnosis (Bergson, 1886). This was followed by "Time and Free Will" (Bergson, 1889/1910), "Matter and Memory" (Bergson, 1896/1911), "Introduction to Metaphysics" (Bergson, 1903/1913), and "Creative Evolution" (1907/1911). Although his work remained relatively unknown in English until attention was drawn to it by Russell (1912), Bergson is today acknowledged as one of the founding fathers of the philosophical tradition known as "Phenomenology" [Husserl usually gets the credit here (despite the fact that he himself credits Bergson), with Deleuze (1991) rating Bergson's phenomenology as sufficiently different to Husserl's to warrant a separate title - "Bergsonism"]. His central insight was that reality was "given in immediate experience as a flux, a continuous process of becoming, to be grasped by intuition" (Pogson, 1910, x). The notion of intuition is the second of only two ways in which Bergson sees the mind acquiring knowledge. The first type of knowledge is "intelligently constructed" (1896/1911, p195) and serves the conceptual analysis of (and thus more successful behaviour within) the outside world. Intuition, on the other hand, is the "true memory" (Ibid.) - a memory which is "coextensive with consciousness", and which "retains and ranges alongside of each other all our states in the order in which they occur, leaving to each fact its place and consequently marking its date, truly moving in the past and not, like the first, in an ever renewed present" (Ibid.). Laird summarizes this rather obscure notion thus: "The man who grasps anything by intuition worms his way into the very being of that thing until it is incorporated into him and he into it. We know a thing by becoming it, and it is known by becoming us" (Laird, 1920, p10). Mental phenomena, in Bergson's analysis, were composed of parts [broadly concepts], each defining particular meanings of particular things. However, the resulting orderliness comes at a significant theoretical cost. Specifically, whilst the existence of parts greatly facilitates naming and other "practical purposes", the parts themselves "give us nothing of the life and movement of reality" (Ibid.). Bergson's analysis therefore tended to focus on such things as the appreciation of the qualities of magnitude, in an effort to determine "whether the most obvious states of the ego itself" could be "grasped directly" (Bergson, 1889/1910, p223). In this way, he hoped to profile the self "in its original purity", free of "the intrusion of the sensible world (p224). One line of investigation began by looking at our notion of number, and argued as follows: "Number may be defined in general as a collection of units, or, speaking more exactly, as the synthesis of the one and the many. Every number is one [.....] but the unity which attaches to it is that of a sum, it covers a multiplicity of parts which can be considered separately. [.....] It is not enough to say that number is a collection of units; we must add that these units are identical with one another, or at least that they are assumed to be identical when they are counted. No doubt we can count the sheep in a flock and say that there are fifty, although they are all different from one another [..... but] we agree in that case to neglect their individual differences and to take into account only what they have in common" (Bergson, 1889/1910, pp75-76). Bergson's conclusion was that unity, whenever it emerged, was "the unity of a simple act of the mind "faced with the need to simplify a "multiplicity" (p80) [compare Aristotle's notion of universals]. Many important things then follow, not least the obvious observation that the mere act of listing the sheep takes time, thus introducing "a fourth dimension of space" (p109), which we like to think of as time. This insight then shapes Bergson's fundamental position on the very purpose of consciousness. In short, you need a processing architecture - we call it consciousness - to turn the three-dimensional space into the four dimensional one. Here is the critical argument in Bergson's own words: "It follows from this analysis that space alone is homogenous, that objects in space form a discrete multiplicity, and that every discrete multiplicity is got by a process of unfolding in space. It also follows that there is neither duration nor even succession in space, if we give to these words the meaning in which consciousness takes them: each of the so-called successive states of the external world exists alone; their reality is real only for a consciousness that can first retain them and then set them side by side by externalising them in relation to one another. If it retains them, it is because these distinct states of the external world give rise to states of consciousness which permeate one another, imperceptibly organize themselves into a whole, and bind the past to the present by this process of connection" (1889/1910, p120). Nearly 20 years later, he added: "Throughout the whole extent of the Animal Kingdom, we have said, consciousness seems proportionate to the living being's power of choice. It lights up the zone of potentialities that surrounds the act. It fills the interval between what is done and what might be done" (Bergson, 1907/1911, p179; bold emphasis added). For Bergson's more particular views on the determinism-free will debate, the mind-brain debate, the cognitive series, and Associationism, see those entries.

 

 

Consciousness, Block's Theory of: New York University's Ned Block's approach to consciousness is that you have to distinguish "access consciousness" ("A-consciousness") from "phenomenal consciousness" ("P-consciousness") (Block, 1995). His point is that A-consciousness is a resource, rather than an experience. It has business to do, and may profitably be regarded as supporting ongoing cognition. It is a problem solving space of sorts, in which procedures are loaded, paramaterised, allocated working memory capacity as necessary, and then executed.

 

ASIDE: We have deliberately used a little "frontal" language, to make the point that modern cognitive theory regularly implicates the frontal lobes in problem solving of this sort. Interested readers may find some value in the review of this area in Sections 8 to 12 of our e-paper on "From Frontal Lobe Syndrome to Dysexecutive Syndrome".

 

[For an alternative explanation, see Silby (1998/2007 online).]

 

 

Consciousness, Brentano's Theory of: Franz Brentano's "Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt" (Brentano 1874/1995) dates from the era in which psychology was first establishing its status as a science. The work's general approach was therefore to elevate mental phenomena to the same status as the physical phenomena studied by the physical sciences (Simons, 1995). We begin with a preview of the terminology used [items in bold italic have individual entries, q.v.] .....

 

BRENTANO'S CORE VOCABULARY: Akt; Bedeutung; Beobachtung; Dasein; Erfahrung; Erlebnisse; Noematische Sinn;

Sache; Sachverhältnis; Vorstellung; Wahrnehmung

 

For Brentano, psychology's basic problem was how to carry out the necessary systematic observation when the object of the observation was the observing mechanism itself, and the secret of acquiring this sort of knowledge was the "inner perception of our own phenomena" (Brentano, 1874/1995, pp29-30). Now although the notion of inner perception was not, at first sight, all that novel, Brentano then scrupulously distinguished between "inner perception" [= Wahrnehmung] and "introspection" or "inner observation" [= Beobachtung], thus: "One of the characteristics of inner perception is that it can never become inner observation. We can observe objects which, as they say, are perceived externally. In observation, we direct our full attention to a phenomenon in order to apprehend it accurately. But with objects of inner perception this is absolutely impossible." (Brentano, 1874/1995, pp29-30). As to what perception in the broad was all about, Brentano saw the mind busily at work classifying the momentary contents of perceptions and intentions into one or other of three fundamental classes of phenomena, namely (1) Ideating (e.g., seeing, hearing, etc.), (2) Judging (e.g., agreeing, rejecting, etc.), and (3) Loving-Hating (e.g., feeling, wishing, intending, etc.) (Titchener, 1921). His key concept was that of Vorstellung, usually translated as "presentation" [for the problems translating Vorstellung, see the footnote to the entry for concept], and he defined soul as "the substantial bearer" of these presentations" (p5). It was in further analyzing the interplay of these three classes of phenomena that Brentano then made the distinction between the act and content of presentation which was to make him famous. What was important in perception, he argued, was not the idea [in the sense that philosophers through the ages had considered the momentary content of the mind], but rather the process(es) of ideation, thus: "By presentation I do not mean that which is presented, but rather the act of presentation [nicht das, was Vorstellung wird, sondern den Akt des Vorstellens]. [.....] Furthermore, every judgment, every recollection, every expectation, every inference, every conviction or opinion, every doubt, is a mental phenomenon" (Brentano, 1874/1995, pp79) Note the now-famous usage of the word Akt, as Brentano lays the groundwork for Meinong's (1902) more explicit distinction between the "act" and the "content" of consciousness. As for consciousness qua consciousness, Brentano proposes that views are perhaps best expressed when he emphasises that Wahrnehmung is "immediately evident" (p91) and that the most characteristic feature of mental phenomena is their "intentional in-existence" (p97), that is to say, their "reference to something as an object" (p97). Here Brentano is trying to capture a philosophical notion which is as complex as it is obscure by creating a specific new usage for the existing word "intentionality". McIntyre and Smith (1989) explain it this way .....

 

"Brentano is most famous for a very strong doctrine about intentionality. He claimed that intentionality is the defining characteristic of the mental, i.e., that all mental phenomena are intentional and only mental phenomena are intentional. This claim has come to be known as 'Brentano's Thesis'" (McIntyre and Smith, 1989, p148).

 

Although Gorner (2001 online) adds .....

 

"But Husserl's most important criticism of Brentano [.....] is that Brentano's way of describing intentionality suggests that the object toward which an intentional experience is directed is in all cases something inner, something mental. When Brentano talks about the intentional or mental inexistence (Inexistenz) of an object inexistence does not mean non-existence but existence in. The object of an intentional experience is a mental entity which exists in consciousness" (Gorner, op. cit., pp5-6; emphasis added).

 

[For additional background, see under intentionality. See also act vs content debate, consciousness, Husserl's theory of, consciousness, Meinong's theory of, and unconscious consciousness.]

 

 

Consciousness, Cassirer's Theory of: Ernst Cassirer's particular take on consciousness derives from his interest in the role played by symbols in human cognition. In his Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (Cassirer, 1923/1953, 1925/1955, 1929/1957, 1995; four volumes, one posthumously), Cassirer set out to demonstrate that language, thought, and mythical belief were deeply interwoven in the depths of the psyche. Consider .....

 

"Characteristic of the philosophy of symbolic forms is a concern for the more 'primitive' forms of world-presentation underlying the 'higher' and more sophisticated cultural forms - a concern for the ordinary perceptual awareness of the world expressed primarily in natural language, and, above all, for the mythical view of the world lying at the most primitive level of all. For Cassirer, these more primitive manifestations of 'symbolic meaning' now have an independent status and foundational role that is quite incompatible with both Marburg neo-Kantianism and Kant's original philosophical conception" (Friedman, 2004 online)

 

The central theme of much of Cassirer's writing is that you have to understand representation if you wish to understand being. This, for example, is from Symbolic Forms (III) .....

 

"We find that all theoretical determination and all theoretical mastery of being require that thought, instead of turning directly to reality, must set up a system of signs and learn to make use of these signs as representatives of objects. Only to the degree to which this function of representation asserts itself, does being begin to become an ordered whole, a structure which can be clearly surveyed. The more fully we succeed in representing their content in this way, the more the particular reality and occurrence appear permeated by universal determinations. By following out these determinations and going on to represent each of them in turn symbolically, thought acquires an increasingly complete model of being and its general theoretical structure. Now there is no need, in order to be sure of this structure, to go back to the individual objects in their full concretion and sensuous reality. Instead of devoting itself to particular things and events, thought seeks and apprehends a totality of relations and connections; instead of material details, a world of laws opens up to it. Through the 'form' of signs, through the possibility of operating with them in a definite way and combining them in accordance with fixed and constant rules, the character of theoretical self-certainty opens up to thought. The retreat into the world of signs forms the preparation for that decisive breakthrough, by which thought conquers its own world, the world of the idea" (Cassirer, 1929/1957, p45).

 

In fact, Cassirer identifies three levels of symbolic function, namely (1) the "expressive function" [Ausdrucksfunktion], (2) the "representative symbolic function" [Darstellungsfunktion], and (3) the "significative function" [Bedeutungsfunktion]. Cassirer developed this explanatory scheme in the third volume of Symbolic Forms (Cassirer, 1929/1957). He also resurrected Kant's emphasis on the objective and the subjective as fundamentally different "directions of inquiry" within consciousness studies (op. cit., p49), and described consciousness as "the very Proteus of philosophy" (op. cit., p4) (and aptly so, because the legendary Proteus was capable of changing his shape at will to avoid being pinned down on an issue).

 

 

Consciousness, Cooley's "Looking Glass Self" Theory of: [See firstly consciousness, James' theory of.] [Click for external biography] In his "Human Nature and the Social Order" (Cooley, 1902, 1922), Cooley developed James' point about "I" and "me".  He observed not only that when "the 'I' speaks" it is the "me" that hears, but also that when we use the pronoun "I" in everyday speech, we have in mind at the same time the person or persons addressed, thus .....

 

"That the 'I' of common speech has a meaning which includes some sort of reference to other persons is involved in the very fact that the word and the ideas it stands for are phenomena of language and the communicative life. It is doubtful whether it is possible to use language at all without thinking more or less distinctly of some one else, and certainly the things to which we give names and which have a large place in reflective thought are almost always those which are impressed upon us by our contact with other people. Where there is no communication there can be no nomenclature and no developed thought. What we call "me," "mine," or "myself" is, then, not something separate from the general life, but the most interesting part of it, a part whose interest arises from the very fact that it is both general and individual. That is, we care for it just because it is that phase of the mind that is living and striving in the common life, trying to impress itself upon the minds of others. "I" is a militant social tendency, working to hold and enlarge its place in the general current of tendencies. So far as it can it waxes, as all life does. To think of it as apart from society is a palpable absurdity of which no one could be guilty who really saw it as a fact of life" (Cooley, 1902; 2006 online [extract only]).

 

The self therefore is in no small part its ability to model non-selves, thus .....

 

"The social self is simply any idea, or system of ideas, drawn from the communicative life, that the mind cherishes as its own"  (Cooley, 1902; 2006 online [extract only]).

 

"In a very large and interesting class of cases the social reference takes the form of a somewhat definite imagination of how one's self--that is any idea he appropriates--appears in a particular mind, and the kind of self-feeling one has is determined by the attitude toward this attributed to that other mind. A social self of this sort might be called the reflected or looking glass self: [.....] As we see our face, figure, and dress in the glass, and are interested in them because they are ours, and pleased or otherwise with them according as they do or do not answer to what we should like them to be; so in imagination we perceive in another's mind some thought of our appearance, manners, aims, deeds, character, friends, and so on, and are variously affected by it" (Cooley, 1902; 2006 online [extract only]).

 

 

Consciousness, Dennett's Theory of: [See firstly consciousness.] Dennett's mental philosophy is set out in "Content and Consciousness" (Dennett, 1969), "Brainstorms" (Dennett, 1978), "Consciousness Explained" (Dennett, 1991), "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" (Dennett, 1995), and "Kinds of Minds" (Dennett, 1996). In Dennett (1978), he sets out to fill the gap which had then only recently arisen between cognitive modelling and consciousness theory. To do this, he proposes a "cognitive theory of consciousness" (p149), in an attempt to explain the processes by which we access our personal consciousnesses. He identifies four main modular processes here, namely Perceptual Analysis, Control, "buffer memory", and PR [Dennett's term for the speech production hierarchy], and he explains how they interact by presenting them in an "A-shaped" hierarchical architecture, in the tradition of James' hemispheric loop line and the modern Norman-Shallice model.

 

ASIDE: In our submission, Dennett's diagram deserves to be regarded as historically significant because it is the earliest we have so far located within the hierarchical control model genre to include speech acts as one of the principal initiating information flows.

 

Now philosophers, Dennett likes to reminds us, earn their keep by finding better questions to ask; by breaking old habits of mind and worn out methods of analysis. He therefore takes his proposed functional architecture and submits it as a thought experiment to Nagel's What's it like to be? test. Here's how he explains what to do and what is at stake .....

 

"Suppose an entity were all wired up in some fashion so as to realise the flowchart [the one mentioned above]. What would it be like (if anything) to be such an entity? At first glance the answer seems to be: not like anything. The whole system has been designed to operate in the dark, as it were, with the various components accomplishing their tasks unperceived and unperceiving. In particular, we have not supposed any inner introspecting eye to be watching the perceptual analysis processes, the control decisions, the efforts of PR [defined above] to execute its orders. And yet to us on the outside, watching such an entity, engaging it in conversation, listening to its efforts to describe the effects on it of various perceptual environments, there will be at least the illusion that it is like something to be the entity. In fact it will tell us (or at least seem to be telling us) just what it is like [compare Vere Smyth's observation that the whole point of building a clever enough smart thing is that it will be able to pass Turing tests and zombie tests even if it lacks conscious experience]. But inside it is all darkness, a hoax. Or so it seems. Inside your skull it is also all darkness, and whatever processes occur in your grey matter occur unperceived and unperceiving" (Dennett, 1978, pp164-165; bold emphasis added).

 

In "Kinds of Minds" (Dennett, 1996), he borrows Brentano's notion of "intentionality", arguing that the key to understanding the self is to study the "intentional stance" of the system in question, that is to say, to adopt "the strategy of interpreting the behaviour of an entity (person, animal, artifact, whatever) by treating it as if it were a rational agent who governed its 'choice' of 'action' by a 'consideration' of its 'beliefs' and 'desires'" (Dennett, 1996, p35). Dennett argues that by treating entities as agents helps us to understand them as systems. It helps you explain what things are for, or up to. Granted, of course, that "a rock can't malfunction" (p43), but everything remotely systemic, from a macromolecule or an amoeba, certainly can. Indeed, it is as soon as simple organisms acquire the capacity to discriminate and respond accordingly - when they develop "some simple switches that turn ON in the presence of good and OFF in its absence" that "the birth of function" takes place (p43). The difficulty with taking an intentional stance (of setting out daring to explain how other systems work) is that it encourages our "underlying anthrpomorphism" (p43). Moving on to consciousness qua consciousness, Dennett (1996) suggests that the evolutionary shift "from sensitivity to sentience" (p75) must have been pivotal. The point of having a mind is that it is an "anticipator" and "expectation-generator" (p75). More recently (Dennett, 1999) he accuses most theories of consciousness of treating conscious events as somehow warranting a period of "fame" in the brain, that is to say, as managing to acquire influence of some sort with a king of some sort. This is the essence of the homunculus fallacy in general, and the thrust of the various Homunctionist explanations of consciousness [see, for example, Baars' theory immediately above]. Dennett's problem with this position is that he sees no king in the brain; he sees no little mind within the big mind to decide which thought gets the spotlight of attention and which does not. This, therefore, is the hard question of consciousness studies - having got as far as being attended to, what happens next? Where are you, in fact, and who is doing the attending? Dennett then claimed that whilst neuroscience has discovered many important neural mechanisms in its time, it has yet to crack the hard question. For example, how does knowing about neural discharge patterns really help? They are just wave forms - they are not subjective experience. Or to put the problem another way, as soon as you define consciousness as "what-is-it-like-ness", you have also the answer the question "What is it like to whom?". Considerations of recursiveness and episodic memory will also inform speculation about how animals think. If dogs have episodic memories, for example, they would have to be classed as being as conscious as we are, but they probably do not. There is probably no echo chamber in their minds, nor - given the way they live their lives - is there any need for one. Remembered consciousness, in short, should be seen as an unnecessary overhead in any species whose instincts can guarantee survival without it. For Dennett's more specific views on animism, imagery, the homunculus fallacy, qualia, and reflectiveness, see those entries, and for more on control hierarchies, see consciousness, "higher order" theories of.

 

 

Consciousness, Descartes' Theory of: [See firstly consciousness.] René Descartes' main philosophical writings appeared between 1637 and 1662 (published posthumously), and are predicated from the outset upon the belief that knowledge derives ultimately from the evidence of our senses. "The mind," he wrote, "has no need of innate ideas, or notions, or axioms, but of itself the faculty of thinking suffices for the accomplishment of its processes" (Descartes, 1647/1997, p340). As to the underlying physiological mechanism of association, Descartes drew our attention to the potential explanatory power of "tubules", "spirits" (in the sense of what we would today call hormones and neurotransmitters within those tubules), filaments, sensitization, and pores, and all of these notions, albeit couched now in modern jargon, still exist somewhere in neurophysiological theory. He even identified memory as belonging to "the internal part of the brain" (p87), and explained its mode of operation in terms of the flow of "spirits" along nervous tubes. Descartes' single most famous image comes from the series of diagrams in "Treatise of Man" (Descartes, 1662/2003), and depicts how the body might recruit its muscle power to respond to sudden noxious stimuli - specifically, a naked flame. Other diagrams are rudimentary precursors of what we would today call information flow diagrams. He is, of course, better known for his ideas (since dismissed by many as Descartes' myth) on the duality of the mental and physical worlds. This thesis is clearly set out in the following: "..... my essence consists solely in the fact that I am a thinking [.....]. And though [.....] I possess a body with which I am very intimately conjoined [.....] it is certain that this I [.....] is entirely and absolutely distinct from my body, and can exist without it" (Descartes, Meditations, ¶78; Haldane translation, p181) [for an alternative presentation of the same general idea, see under dualism]. In the Treatise, he assigns a central role in cognitive processing to "gland H" (seemingly the pineal gland). This he sees as being involved in perception, memory, and willed movement, working as follows: "And note that if we have an idea about moving a member, that idea - consisting of nothing but the way in which spirits flow from the gland - is the cause of the movement itself" (Descartes, 1662/2003, p92). He then has to suggest that the movement of these spirits takes place with greater or lesser force, and along this or that optional nerve pathway, giving different brain structures the ability to respond to different sensory organs or to move different muscles (p92). We also see the picture reflected in these random snippets .....

 

"The substance in which thought immediately resides, I call mind" (Descartes, Objections and Replies, ¶161; Haldane translation, p254; emphasis added).

 

"When the liquids which serve, as mentioned earlier, as a sort of aqua fortis in the stomach, and which enter ceaselessly from the whole mass of the blood through the extremities of the arteries, do not find there enough food to dissolve so as to employ their whole force, they turn against the stomach itself and, agitating the filaments of its nerves more strongly than is usual, they cause motion in the parts of the brain from which the filaments come. This will cause the soul, when united to this machine, to conceive the general idea of hunger" (Descartes, Treatise, pp68-69).

 

"Know first, then, that a great many filaments [.....] begin to separate one from another as soon as they arise at the internal surface of the brain (of the machine) and that proceeding to spread thence through the rest of its body they serve there as an organ of touch. [.....] And now I assert that when God will later join a rational soul to this machine [.....] He will place its chief seat in the brain and will make its nature such that, according to the different ways in which the entrances of the pores in the internal surface of this brain are opened through the intervention of the nerves, the soul will have different feelings" (Descartes, Treatise, pp35-37; round brackets square in original ).

 

"Similarly you may have observed in the grottoes and fountains in the gardens of our kings that the force that makes the water leap from its source is able of itself to move divers machines and even to make them play certain instruments or pronounce certain words according to the various arrangements of the tubes through which the water is conducted. And truly one can well compare the nerves of the machine that I am describing to the tubes of the mechanisms of these fountains, its muscles and tendons to divers other engines and springs which serve to move these mechanisms, its animal spirits to the water which drives them, of which the heart is the source and the brain's cavities the water main. [.....] And finally when there shall be a rational soul in this machine, it will have its chief seat in the brain and will reside there like the turncock [.....] to which all the tubes of these machines repair when he wishes to excite, prevent, or in some manner alter their movements" (Descartes, Treatise, pp21-22).

 

In terms of philosophical schools, Descartes is conventionally classed as a Rationalist, q.v. For Descartes' particular views on the mentality of subhuman animals, see abstraction, phylogenetic limits of.

 

 

Consciousness, Dissociation of: See firstly dissociation, before moving on to hysteria and borderline personality disorder.

 

  

Consciousness, Dretske's Theory of: [See firstly consciousness, "higher-order" theories of and hard problem, the.] Duke University's Fred Dretske [academic homepage] takes a distinctly thought-provoking position on consciousness, thanks to his specific belief "that mental states can be conscious without the subject being aware of those states" (Silby, 1998/2007 online). This assertion immediately (and quite deliberately) challenges our understanding of the terms "consciousness" and "awareness", which elsewhere in this Glossary are treated as being effectively synonymous. Silby continues .....

 

"For Dretske, what makes a mental state conscious is not the subject's awareness of the state, rather, it is the way in which the state makes the subject conscious of something in the world. When we look at an object, we are not conscious of our experience of looking at the object, we are conscious of the object itself" (p1).

 

Dretske himself illustrates what is at stake with the philosophical test case of the large orange pumpkin, thus .....

 

"The experience I have when I see (dream of, hallucinate) a large orange pumpkin is certainly inside me. Why else would it cease to exist when I close my eyes, awaken, or sober up? Yet nothing inside me - certainly nothing in my brain - has the properties I am aware of when I have this experience. There is nothing orange and pumpkin shaped in my head. How, then can I be aware of what my perceptual experiences are like [.....] if none of the properties I am aware of when I have these experiences are properties of the experience?" (Dretske, 1999/2007 online).

 

Dretske's solution to this dilemma was to propose three forms of awareness, as follows ....

 

"I will call these three forms of awareness o-awareness (for object-awareness), f-awareness (for fact-awareness), and p-awareness (property awareness). When the kind of awareness is clear from context [.....] I can, for instance, be f-aware that the wine is dry (someone told me it was or I read the label) without being aware of the wine or its dryness (I do not taste the wine for myself). One sees a fabric in normal light - thus experiencing (becoming p-aware of) its colour (blue, say) - without realising, without being f-aware, that it is blue" (ibid.).

 

He further proposed not only that the three forms of awareness do not consistently co-occur, but also that they can in many circumstances act virtually independently. He supports this point by citing the "waterfall phenomenon", where there is property-awareness (of movement), combined with a fact-awareness (of nothing moving) [try this experience out for yourself, courtesy of one Michael Bach]. The explanation for this dissociation of awareness, he suspects, lies in the modular organisation of the brain and its subsystems. Moreover, only fact-awareness requires an understanding of what one is aware of. Thus a young child confronted with a pentagon for the first time is o-aware of its presence and p-aware of its shape, but does not understand it for what it is, and so cannot be said to be f-aware of it. More importantly still, the same goes for being aware of our own selves: we can be p-aware and o-aware of them at an early age, but only f-aware of them when our minds have grown mature enough to conceptualise them appropriately, and that maturity comes typically at age four to five years.

  

 

Consciousness, Edelman and Tononi's Theory of: [A.k.a. Dynamic Core Theory.] This is Edelman and Tononi's (2000) contribution to the mind-brain debate, and it deserves the detailed attention we have given it here because it carries the weight of Nobel Laureate Gerald Edelman's world-leading efforts to close the explanatory gap. The authors begin by pointing out that there is something rather special about consciousness, namely that it cannot be "shared under direct observation" as scientists study other phenomena (Edelman and Tononi, 2000, xi). As a result, students of consciousness face the curious dilemmas (a) that their primary data are "not scientifically satisfactory" (ibid.), and (b) that the models produced to interpret that data are often intrinsically unfit for that purpose. Cognitive models are often surprisingly weak in this respect, thus .....

 

"Cognitive models usually have little to offer vis-à-vis the experiential, phenomenal side of conscious experience. Looked at from the perspective of these models, consciousness as a phenomenal experience (and often an emotional one) may as well not exist, as long as some of its presumed functions, such as control, coordination, and planning, can be carried out" (Edelman and Tononi, 2000, p7).

 

In an attempt to move the debate forward despite these acknowledged difficulties, the authors explicitly assume that one day a physical substrate to consciousness will be found, that is to say, that the eventual explanation of consciousness will require "no dualism" (p14). They also note the importance, when faced with the greatest problems, of simply asking the right questions, going so far as to suggest the following for starters .....

 

"[Why] is it that we are conscious of whether we are hot or cold, but we are not directly conscious of whether our blood pressure is high or low? [.....] More generally, why would a mere location in the brain or the possession of a particular anatomical or biochemical feature make the activity of certain neurons so privileged that it suddenly imbues the possessor of that brain with the flavour of subjective experience, with those elusive properties that philosophers call qualia?" (Edelman and Tononi, 2000, p17).

 

As to the nature of the phenomenon under investigation, the authors dwell firstly on what they call the "integration or unity" of conscious experience, that is to say, on the fact that it cannot be subdivided. Indeed, they see this unity as being actually quite remarkable, because it requires the brain to go "all out" [our phrase] for one particular conscious state out of a repertoire of "billions" of possible alternatives. This presents "the apparent paradox that unity embeds complexity - the brain must deal with plethora without losing its unity or coherence" (Edelman and Tononi, 2000, p20). This can only be the case, they argue, if something very powerful holds the selected state in place against the competition, and Edelman and Tononi call this special something "informativeness", as follows .....

 

"What makes a conscious state informative is not how many 'chunks' of information it appears to contain, but rather that its occurrence discriminates among billions of different states of affairs, each of which might lead to different behavioural outputs" (Edelman and Tononi, 2000, p29).

 

The authors then turn to the known architectural features of the brain, and identify three important organising principles simultaneously at work. These are (a) a large three-dimensional "meshwork" (p42), (b) "parallel, unidirectional chains" (p45), and (c) "a large fan" (p46). As far as the meshwork is concerned, the authors see this as being distributed cortico-thalamically, and their basic theoretical construct here is the "neuronal group" .....

 

ASIDE: In many important respects, the neuronal group is our old friend the cell assembly under a new banner. Readers not familiar with Hebb's (1949) notion of the cell assembly should consult the separate entry (and as many of the onward links as necessary), before proceeding.

 

This is how Edelman and Tononi see neuronal groups operating [carefully note the introduction of the term "reentry", for we shall be hearing more about this in due course] .....

 

"Neurons within the same groups in a given location are tightly linked, so that many of them respond simultaneously when an appropriate stimulus is presented. Neuronal groups with different locations but similar specificities are preferentially connected to each other [..... and] cortical areas containing a large number of neuronal groups are themselves linked by reciprocal, convergent, and divergent connection paths [known as] projections. [.....] These areas are linked by more than 305 connection paths (some with millions of axonal fibres), over 80 percent of which have fibres running in both directions. In other words, the different functionally segregated areas are, for the most part, reciprocally connected. These reciprocal pathways are among the main means that allow for the integration of distributed brain functions. They provide a major structural basis for reentry" (Edelman and Tononi, 2000, p44).

 

The second important organising principle is that of "parallel unidirectional chains" (p45), that is to say, laterally diverging or converging but longitudinally sequential pathways, each involving a number of relatively discrete neuroanatomical structures.

 

ASIDE: This is the arrangement most commonly encountered in modular cognitive models. See, for example, the converging input pathways on the Ellis (1982) psycholinguistic model, or the general A-shaped layout of the three-layer control hierarchy diagrams from Kussmaul (1878) to Norman (1990).

 

The third important organising principle is that of "a large fan" (p46). This is based anatomically on structures in the brainstem and lower diencephalon [structures, note, which are dedicated to maintaining homeostatic stability in the body's postural, respiratory, circulatory, and hormonal systems], and serves to keep the higher systems informed as to how things are going survival-wise [our phrasing]. The basic theoretical construct here is the "value system", an architectural device whereby a few specialised status-sensing mechanisms communicate "goodness-badness" of some sort to the bulk of a far more complex control system.

 

ASIDE: Here's how we have ourselves previously explained the history of this concept: "Young [(1964) concluded that] there existed results indicator pathways in the CNS capable of tagging each engram with some sort of pleasure-pain evaluation. In fact, in Young's analysis at least five distinct types of neuron were needed for such a memory system to work effectively [diagram]. Young's team also tried to lay out its findings in circuit diagram form.  Young (1964) cites work by Maldonado (1963) which showed how an array of many "memory units" could be controlled by a single what-he-called "noci-hedono" receptor system.  This latter system served to tell all the others whether what they were doing was a good idea or not, that is to say, whether it was nasty and to be avoided, or nice and to be repeated.  And much the same idea has resurfaced recently in the work of Gerald Edelman, of the Neurosciences Institute, New York, who postulates (e.g., Edelman, 1994) what he calls a value system, the role of which he describes as follows: 'What the value system does is it sends a chemical signal to the rest of the brain such that those connections that were just being used to produce [an] action which was valuable will become strengthened' (Edelman, 1994, p11). Young's results indicators and Edelman's value system add considerable value to the Hebbian cell assembly concept" (Smith 1996, p66).

 

Here is how Edelman and Tononi start to bring their various key constructs together .....

 

"Finally, if we consider neural dynamics (the way patterns of activity in the brain change with time), the most striking feature of the brains of higher vertebrates is the occurrence of a process we have called reentry. [This] depends on the possibility of cycles of signaling in the thalamocortical meshwork and other networks mentioned earlier. It is the ongoing, recursive interchange of parallel signals between reciprocally connected areas of the brain, an interchange that continually coordinates the activities of these areas' maps to each other in space and time. This interchange, unlike feedback, involves many parallel paths and has no specific instructive error function associated with it [..... but rather provides for] the widespread synchronisation of the activity of different groups of active neurons. [.....] Indeed, if we were asked to go beyond what is merely special and name the unique feature of higher brains, we would say it is reentry. There is no other [system] so completely distinguished by reentrant circuitry as the human brain [including] human communication systems: Reentrant systems in the brain are massively parallel to a degree unheard of in our communication nets. In any event, communication nets are unlike brains, in that they deal with previously coded and, for the most part, unambiguous signals" (Edelman and Tononi, 2000, pp48-49; bold emphasis added).

 

ASIDE: We suspect that this last assertion is overly dismissive. Our own view is that the internals of communication systems actually contain a number of very important lessons for cognitive science. For a short explanation, see under OSI reference model in this glossary; for a longer one, see Section 3 of our e-paper on Shannonian Theory.

 

The authors now illustrate how they see reentry working, using the (very powerful) metaphor of a string quartet, thus .....

 

"[It] is not easy to provide a metaphor that captures all the properties of reentry. Try this: Imagine a peculiar (and even weird) string quartet, in which each player responds by improvisation to ideas and cues of his or her own, as well as to all kinds of sensory cues in the environment. Since there is no score, each player would provide his or her own characteristic tunes, but initially these various tunes would not be coordinated with those of the other players. Now imagine that the bodies of the players are connected to each other by myriad fine threads so that their actions and movements are rapidly conveyed back and forth through signals of changing thread tensions [.....]. Signals that instantaneously connect the four players would lead to a correlation of their sounds; thus, new, more cohesive, and more integrated sounds would emerge out of the otherwise independent efforts of each player. This correlative process would also alter the next action of each player, and by these means the process would be repeated but with new emergent tunes that were even more correlated. Although no conductor would instruct or coordinate the group and each player would still maintain his or her style and role, the players' overall productions would tend to be more integrated and more coordinated, and such integration would lead to a kind of mutually coherent music that each one acting alone could not produce" (Edelman and Tononi, 2000, p49).

 

Edelman and Tononi also promote what they call "selectionism" (p79), namely the [perfectly reasonable] belief that Darwinian natural selection applies to nervous systems as well to any other of the body's systems. At a microscopic level, therefore, the genetic coding which gives us our neuronal groups during neurogenesis must also be selected for its adaptive value. The authors call this process "neural Darwinism" (p79), and propose the "theory of neuronal group selection" (p83), or "TNGS" for short, to explain it. As to what reentry is, they warn very explicitly at this juncture that it is not feedback. Here is their reasoning .....

 

"Feedback occurs along a single fixed loop made of reciprocal connections using previous instructionally derived information for control and correction, such as an error signal. In contrast, reentry occurs in selectional systems across multiple parallel paths where information is not prespecified. [.....] Reentry carries out several major functions [examples] [and] by assuring the spatiotemporal correlation of neuronal firing, reentry is the main mechanism of neural integration" (Edelman and Tononi, 2000, pp85-86).

 

The authors then revisit the notion of value, describing it as follows .....

 

"Value is only a precondition for arriving at a perceptual or behavioural response. [.....] In general, although value shapes categorisation in accord with evolution, it cannot convey or preserve the details of a real-world event. For example, value may be necessary for orienting the eyes of a baby toward a light source, but may not be sufficient for the recognition of different objects" (Edelman and Tononi, 2000, p88).

 

It is possible to gain some idea of how powerful value systems can be as selector-guiders of behaviour by simulating their mode of operation in man-made mechanisms.

 

ASIDE: The authors mention here the Neurosciences Institute's Darwin IV, a mobile artifact (they very carefully do not call it a robot) capable of monitoring an artificial "value" (lightness or darkness), and basing its ongoing "behaviour" upon it [see press release].

 

In Chapter 8, the authors turn their attention to the role of the brain's memory systems, immediately challenging the "widespread assumption that what is stored is some kind of representation" (p93). They argue instead that a "nonrepresentational" approach would yield greater explanatory dividends. The argument here is worth noting in full, as follows .....

 

"Representation implies symbolic activity, an activity that is certainly at the centre of our semantic and syntactical language skills. [Nevertheless,] there is no precoded message in the signal, no structures capable of the high-precision storage of a code, no judge in nature to provide decisions on alternative patterns, and no homunculus in the head to read a message. For these reasons, memory in the brain cannot be representational in the same way as it is in our devices. [..... Instead,] memory results from the selective matching that occurs between ongoing, distributed neural activity and various signals coming from the world, the body, and the brain itself" (Edelman and Tononi, 2000, pp94-95).

 

In Chapter 9, the distinction is drawn between "primary consciousness" and "higher-order consciousness". Primary consciousness is defined as "the ability to generate a mental scene in which a large amount of diverse information is integrated for the purpose of directing present or immediate behaviour" (p103). Higher-order consciousness, by contrast, is defined as an accompanying "sense of self and the ability in the waking state explicitly to construct and connect past and future scenes" (p104). Yet again the authors detect a critical role for their reentry construct, seeing it as central to "the integration that is essential to the creation of a scene in primary consciousness" (p106). Which brings us, in Chapters 10 to 12, to the heart of what Edelman and Tononi are proposing, namely the "dynamic core hypothesis" of brain function (p111). They begin by describing the necessary integration as follows .....

 

"Thus, integration was achieved not in any place, but by a coherent process. This process was the result of reentrant interactions among neuronal groups distributed over many areas. Furthermore, integration occurred rapidly, within 100-250 msec after the presentation of the stimulus" (Edelman and Tononi, 2000, pp118-119).

 

The dynamic core hypothesis then runs as follows .....

 

"Taken together, these observations support the conclusion that at any given time, only a subset of the neuronal groups in the human brain - although not a small subset - contributes directly to conscious experience. [.....] Can we formulate a hypothesis that explicitly states what, if anything, is special about the subsets of neuronal groups that sustain conscious experience and how they can be identified? We believe that we are now in a position to do so, and indeed to do so concisely. The hypothesis states: 1. A group of neurons can contribute directly to conscious experience only if it is part of a distributed functional cluster that, through reentrant interactions in the thalamocortical system, achieves high integration in hundreds of milliseconds. 2. To sustain conscious experience, it is essential that this functional cluster be highly differentiated, as indicated by high values of complexity" (pp143-144).

 

Edelman and Tononi see this dynamic core as accounting for the key phenomena of consciousness, namely its integration, its privateness, its coherence, its differentiation, its informativeness, the globality of its access, its ability to respond to the unexpected, its limited capacity, the serial nature of its experience, and, finally, the fact that as a process it is "continuous but continually changing" (p152). Dynamic core theory receives honourable mention in Metzinger's writings (e.g., 2003, p122).

 

 

Consciousness, Empirical: [See firstly consciousness, Kant's theory of.] This is Kant's personal synonym for perception, as clearly set out in the following extract .....

 

"Perception is empirical consciousness, i.e., a consciousness in which there is sensation as well. Appearances, as objects of perception, are not pure (i.e., merely formal) intuitions, as space and time are (for these cannot be perceived at all). Hence appearances contain, in addition to [pure] intuition, the matter (through which something existent is presented in space or time) for some object as such" (Kant, Critique, p238).

 

 

Consciousness, Freud's Theory of: Freud's basic approach to the consciousness issue was that of neurologist-psychiatrist, these being his joint first specialisms. He graduated from medical school in Vienna in 1881, and spent the next decade acquiring experience of acquired aphasia and hysteria. In both these areas he wrote what would turn out to be pivotal historical works, namely Über Aphasien (Freud, 1891) and Studien über Hysterie (Freud and Breuer, 1895), and his views on the nature of consciousness are already clear by that time. In Freud and Breuer (1895), for example, he clearly describes how unsavoury memories are denied access to consciousness [for specific examples, see the entry for consciousness, iceberg metaphor of], whilst in "Letters to Wilhelm Fliess" (Freud 1896/1985) he presents a five-stage diagram of perception, in which both unconscious and preconscious levels are recognised [show me this diagram]. His later views may be gathered from the diagrams drawn in Freud (1923) [show me] and Freud (1933) [show me].

 

 

Consciousness, Gazzaniga's Theory of: [See firstly consciousness.] Dartmouth College's Michael Gazzaniga has drawn upon a lifetime's study of neuropsychological case-data to develop his own unique appreciation of consciousness. As a world-renowned authority on the effects of "callosotomy" - the surgical disconnection of the two cerebral hemispheres to create what is popularly known as a "split-brain patient" - he has had the opportunity to study the "bicameral" [literally "two-roomed"] mind. The picture which has gradually emerged is of a highly verbal, sometimes rather pedantic and strangely unemotional, left hemisphere (LH), sat alongside an almost non-verbal, all-comprehending but volitionally passive, right hemisphere (RH). When carefully tested, split-brain patients display a number of characteristic phenomena .....

 

(1) The Basic Syndrome: In everyday life, split-brain patients are to all intents and purposes no different to the rest of the population. Specifically, they display no perceptual, behavioural, emotional, or affective anomalies, have full access to their episodic, semantic, and procedural memories, and retain the full range of their motor skills. In fact, their "bicamerality" can usually only be detected when it is contrived to deliver inputs selectively to one or other of the hemispheres, not both, whereupon both overt volitional behaviour and conversational verbalisation are exposed as more or less exclusively LH faculties. The method of choice for assessing these differences is the retinally lateralized confrontational naming task, a naming task in which a stimulus object, image, or word is presented tachistoscopically to the left or the right of the point of fixated gaze. When cued for verbal identification, only objects presented to the right visual field are named, these being the only stimuli known to the verbalizing LH. When cued for identification by manual inspection, however, the left hand can identify what the RH saw and the right hand can identify what the LH saw. Van Kleeck and Kosslyn (1989) have also found that the right hemisphere is actually better than the LH at making figure-ground judgments from embedded figure stimuli, but only where "the parts correspond to structural units determined by Gestalt laws of organization, such as proximity and good continuation" (pp1185). Friedman and Polson (1981) have interpreted these differences as indicating that the hemispheres are "independent resource systems" in the "Norman-Bobrow" tradition. The possible role of information exchange via subcallosal (and therefore still intact after surgery) pathways has long been recognized (Gazzaniga et al, 1982; Sergent, 1986, 1987), although neither the precise pathway, nor, indeed, the nature of the information transferred, is known. Levy and Trevarthen (1976) call the act of one hemisphere taking command of the other metacontrol, and argue that it makes good biological sense for either hemisphere to be able to do this (even if only momentarily), should that hemisphere's particular skills and strengths suddenly become mission-critical. Philosophically speaking, the basic syndrome constitutes a major philosophical poser in its own right, for it means that we can no longer regard the undivided forebrain as the seat of our humanness.

 

(2) The Anarchic Hand: Although the great majority of split-brain patients display no outward manifestation of their condition, case reports gradually started to come in where the left half of the body could be seen acting independently of the right, that is to say, where the RH was displaying a greater-than-normal amount of motor volition. In such cases, it began to look as though there were two minds in competition within the same body (e.g., Della Sala, 2005). The phenomenon was first noted by Akelaitis (1944/1945), who described it as "diagonistic dyspraxia" [as in "diagonal"]. Here is part of Akelaitis' original case description: "Two patients in a series of 30 epileptics in whom the corpus callosum was sectioned by Dr. Van Wagenen [ref.] showed a remarkable type of behaviour [..... consisting] of an apparent conflict between the desired act and the actually performed act. [.....] For example [Patient FR] would be putting on her clothes with her right hand and pulling them off with her left hand, opening a door or drawer with her right hand and simultaneously pushing it shut with the left hand" (pp594-595).

 

(3) Semantics Without Language: There is also evidence that the RH plays a major role in semantic memory, although again it is easy not to notice its absence. Specifically, the RH seems to contribute to the "figurative" aspects of language, that is to say, to our everyday ability to allude, infer, use irony, and speak metaphorically. In fact, Myers and Mackisack (1990) warn of up to five types of "extralinguistic" role for the RH in the effective use of language, namely (1) thematics, the ability to distinguish relevant from irrelevant contextual theme, resulting in undue focus on irrelevancies, (2) topic maintenance, the ability to keep to the point in conversation, is also likely to suffer, (3) irony and metaphor, the interpretation of implied or intended meaning, (4) impulsivity, a tendency to give an instant incorrect answer to a probe question, rather than giving that question due consideration, and (5) emotionality, the ability to recognise the emotional significance of events. The RH in isolation may accordingly be characterized as extralinguistically capable but linguistically impaired, and the LH in isolation may be characterized as linguistically capable but extralinguisticallty impaired. Gazzaniga et al (1979) offer the example of patient PS, who, having been operated on in 1977 and having undergone a year in rehabilitation, developed a rudimentary ability "to speak about stimuli directed to his right hemisphere". In circumstances where words or pictures had only been seen by his RH he could (a) produce the naming word correctly in writing, (b) position his lips and tongue muscles ready to pronounce that naming word verbally, (c) spell correctly by selecting letter sequences with his left hand, and (d) correctly identify rhymes, synonyms and antonyms, and superordinate concepts of the given word. Gazzaniga et al suggest that PS is rather an exceptional case, however, because pre-operative LH damage had been quite extensive, requiring more RH involvement in language than in the normal population.

 

(4) Confabulated Post-Hoc Interpretations: This phenomenon was first noted in the very early split-brain patients, and proved to be one of their most fascinating behaviours. The phenomenon presents as an anomalous LH explanation of the LH's perception of a RH-initiated piece of behaviour. From the verbally communicating LH's point of view, it is thus a "now-why-did-I-do-that" explanation of something the LH had not itself initiated. On one occasion, for example, the researcher showed the LH a picture of a bird, and the RH a picture of a nude. The LH duly responded "bird", and the non-verbal RH produced an amused chuckle. The researcher then asked the patient (speaking, of course, to the his LH) why he had chuckled, and the LH - having felt the chuckle as feedback, but having itself seen something benign like a bird - explained the inconsistent behaviour away with an "it must have been ....." confabulation. Gazzaniga et al's (1979) patient PS is also interesting under this heading. "What is of particular interest," the authors write, "is the plain fact that PS behaves as if he has absolutely no insight that these story reconstructions [.....] are spurious. Through his verbal behaviour, however, he appears very intent on constructing a unity. With an instantaneous response, the left hemisphere moves to construct a theory for a behaviour emitted from the 'self'" (p813).

 

To cut a long story very short, the above accumulation of data has convinced Gazzaniga that there is no single totally coherent mind, rather one which "constructs" reality by integrating the activities of a number of separate systems. Whenever that integration is interfered with (as by the callosotomist's scalpel), holes in that constructed reality soon start to appear. For Gazzaniga, in short, one of consciousness's primary roles is to act as "narrative interpreter" of what all the non-conscious processes are telling it, "a left-brain mechanism that's constantly trying to find relationships between events that you encounter in the world, and constantly assessing where you stand in relation to others" (Science News, 24th February 1996). Interestingly enough, this process of interpretation happens no matter what, even when the collection of events in question actually make no real sense. It turns out that if right hemisphere speech does develop, so too does the status of the right hemisphere as an "assertive agent" (p424), raising significant problems for the hitherto uncontested left hemisphere. However, Gazzaniga holds back from asserting that the right hemisphere might reasonably be classed as conscious in its own right. It follows that most of the things we hold dear - not least the concepts of self and soul - are, to an extent, illusory. Although a popular neuropsychological approach, Ward (2001) points out that Gazzaniga's is actually a variant of an older philosophical position; strictly speaking, it is an homunctionism, because the prime duty of an homunculus is to interpret.

 

 

Consciousness, Hegel's Theory of: [See firstly consciousness, Kant's Theory of and Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich.] In the following portrayal of Hegel's theory of aesthesis, we have tried to separate out the mental philosophy from the (often intense) ethical and theological discussions in which Hegel had embedded it. Unfortunately, in this distilling of the murky from the positively obscure, we have been more than normally troubled by the philosophical German used, which begins by following that used by Kant, but which then includes a number of adventurous new meanings. Here is the essentially Hegelian vocabulary [items in bold italic have individual entries, q.v.]  .....

 

HEGEL'S CORE VOCABULARY: Anschauung; Aufheben/Aufgehoben; Begriff; Erfahrung; Fűrsichsein; Geist; Idee; Phänomenologie; Sache; Verhältniss; Wesen; Wissenschaft

 

Like many philosophers, Hegel began by taking a position in a pre-existing argument, namely the attack Kant had launched against the British Empiricists. In support of Kant, he delved deeper than the Empiricists into the secrets of aesthesis, and challenged our everyday understanding of the words "here" and "now" (Loewenberg, 1929). His complaint about the here and now of a particular event is that both these reference descriptions have such "elastic boundaries" (xxiii) that all attempts at precise definition are doomed. To put it bluntly, we therefore have to accept that "the immediate is ineffable", and that Empiricist descriptions of it never disclose what is "individual" about the objects apprehended (xxv).  He then gradually presented a detailed phenomenology, covering to a greater or lesser extent all eight of the building blocks of aesthesis outlined in G.2, and because all things hinge ultimately on the notion of substance (and how absolutely to know it), Hegel begins Phenomenology by considering how philosophy and science and individual knowledge interact: "To reach rational knowledge by our intelligence", he argues, "is the just demand of the mind when it comes to science" (Hegel, 1807/1929, p11; Baillie translation). But you cannot apprehend concrete substantiality other than in "the immediacy of knowledge itself" (Op. cit., p14). The critical moment comes if "thought combines with itself the being of substance" (p15), because then we have a system which can make substance the subject of that thought. Perhaps the most important process at this juncture is Hegel's application of Kant's notion of the Anschauung. He uses this to convey the all-important conception of "immediacy or intuition" (p15) which makes sense-knowledge what it is [on another occasion, he describes this as "a simple determination of direct intuition" (p44)]. It is a problem of the form corresponding to its essence, or, as he phrases it, its "per se" (p16). Here is how he summarizes his position: "Spirit is the only reality. It is the inner being of the world, that which essentially is, and is per se; it assumes objective, determinate form, and enters into relations with itself - it is externality (otherness), and exists for self; yet, in this determination, and in its otherness, it is still one with itself - it is self-contained and self-complete, in itself and for itself at once. This self-containedness, however, is first something known by us, it is implicit in its nature (an sich); it is Substance spiritual. It has to become self-contained for itself, on its own account; it must get knowledge of spirit, and must be conscious of itself as spirit." (Op. Cit., pp20-21). As for Hegel's views specifically on the phenomenon of consciousness, here are a number of indicative snippets .....

 

"Consciousness simultaneously distinguishes itself from something, and at the same time relates itself to it, or, as it is said, this something exists for consciousness; and the determinate aspect of this relating, or of the being of something for a consciousness, is knowing" (Hegel, 1807/1977, p52).

 

"Consciousness is in general the knowing of an object, whether external or internal, without regard to whether it presents itself without the help of the Mind, or whether it is produced through this. [..... It] is the definite relation of the Ego to an object.

 

"The simple sensuous consciousness is the immediate certitude of an external object. The expression for the immediateness of such an object is that 'it is', and moreover a 'This', a 'Now' according to time, and a 'Here' according to space, and different from all other objects and perfectly determined (definite) in itself" (Rosenkrantz, 1840/1927, pp69-71).

 

"In consciousness one thing exists for another, i.e., consciousness regularly contains the determinateness of the moment of knowledge" (p53).

 

Hegel also makes much of a certain feeling of "sense-certainty" (Hegel, 1807/1977, ¶90; Miller translation, p58), and argues that "pure being remains, therefore, as the essence of this sense-certainty" (p61). A thing, he argues, needs to be seen as a coming together of matter and form (Hegel, 1817-1830/1929; Wallace translation, p163), whilst a mind is an "individuality" which "knows its individuality as an absolutely free will" (p221), and the sense of individuality derives in turn from experience with the sense of "possession". "In his property", he argues, "a person is brought into union with himself" (p222). Findlay summarises Hegel's argument thus: "Sense-certainty never grasps definite particulars but always deludes itself into thinking that it does" (p509). This brings us to Hegel's specific views on how phenomenal consciousness might work, and the key notion here is that of the "sensuous This" (p66). The inescapable fact of aesthesis is that you end up making a judgment to the effect that "I, this particular I, am certain of this particular thing" (p58). And what you may already know about that thing - its qualities and what it may signify - does not at that moment matter, because "the thing is, and it is, merely because it is" (Ibid.). Moving on now to the theory of self-consciousness, you have to follow Hegel's argument very closely. In self-consciousness, the Ego "intuites itself" that "I am I", in a proposition "devoid of all content" (p73), and has three important aspects to it, namely (a) an appetitive aspect, (b) a "master and slave" aspect, and (c) an "intuition of itself, not as a special existence distinct from others, but an intuition of the self-existent universal self" (p78). The culmination of the Hegelian scheme is then reason, which he describes as "the highest union of consciousness and self consciousness, or of the knowing of an object and the knowing of itself" (p78; Harris translation). Turning finally to Hegel's notion of Wesen, we are firstly assured that "Essence is Being which has returned from its immediateness and its indifferent relation to others into a simple unity with itself" (p109), and as such that it manifests itself as relations in a number of fundamentally different forms of proposition. These include the propositions of "identity", "distinction" (subdividable into "difference" and "opposition"), and "ground" (that which is the reason for something). The ground, he goes on, is what defines an existence, and "the existing somewhat" is a "thing". The full detail of Hegel classificatory schema need not concern us here, but the emergence of the phenomenal does, and the solution lies with the Greek distinction between form and thing from two millennia earlier. The name given to this mutual relation is Verhältniss, the German word for "the behaviour of one side of a relation as conditioned by the other", and hence of "conduct" (p112, translator's footnote). He concludes: "Self-consciousness is, to begin with, simple being-for-self [.....]. For it, its essence and absolute object is 'I'; and in this immediacy [.....] it is an individual" (p113). For Hegel's more specific views on agency, the ego, and  thinking (and, indeed, on the ego as thinking), see those entries. For his views on how various Aristotelian notions fit into this scheme of things, see the entry for entelechy.

 

 

Consciousness, Heidegger's Theory of:

 

Sein (verb) = "be (there), exist, be alive" (C.G.D.); (noun) = "being, existence; entity, essence, true nature" (C.G.D.)

 

[See firstly entity, onta, and consciousness, Husserls' theory of.] The German philosopher Martin Heidegger's most famous work is "Being and Time" (Heidegger, 1927/1962), a work which followed the earlier traditions of Kant, Hegel, Brentano, and (especially) Husserl, and which was centred on the premise that to understand perceiving beings we must firstly solve one of philosophy's longest-standing problems, namely what "the expression, 'Being'" (p1) actually means. In addressing this problem, Heidegger introduced some specialist German vocabulary to expand upon the classical Greek .....

 

HEIDEGGER'S CORE VOCABULARY: "Being and Time" has been described as "highly resistant to translation" (Macquarrie and Robinson, 1962, p13), and is certainly not made any more accessible by the fact that much of its core vocabulary comes to us after a double translation, firstly from Greek into German (by Heidegger himself) and secondly from German into English (by Heidegger's translators). Here are Heidegger's most heavily worked terms .....

 

STANDARD GERMAN: Aufschliessen; Dasein (sometimes, emphatically, Da-sein); Erschliessen; Rede; Sachheit; Seiende; Sein

 

FORCED OR ARTIFICIAL GERMAN:  An-sich-sein [in their indexing of the 1927/1962 English translation, Macquarrie and Robinson footnote no less than 48 compounds beginning with Sein-, and 106 ending -Sein or -sein!]; Faktizität; In-der-Welt-Sein; In-sein; Sachheit [the German -heit suffix is a common way of generating abstract quality nouns out of more concrete adjectival constructions, and the addition of "-ness" or "-hood" usually suffices to translate such constructions into English (e.g., Sachheit gives "thinghood" and Vorhandenheit gives "readiness-to-hand")]; Vorhanden; Vorhandenheit; Was-sein; Zuhanden; Zuhandenheit; Zu-sein

 

GREEK: Aesthesis; Aletheia; Logos; Noesis; On; Pragmata; Zoon

 

Heidegger uses his extended vocabulary to piece together a highly distinctive ontology, in which he attempts to explain how entities [Seienden] become aware of themselves and other entities. Needless to say, this is a mighty task from the outset (for the simple reason that we lack reliable definitions of both entities and awareness), but what then sets Heidegger's ontological schema apart from the crowd is the fact that it proposes a further, more advanced, form of entity, which he introduces thus: "This entity which each of us is himself and which includes inquiring as one of the possibilities of its Being, we shall denote by the term 'Dasein'" (p27).

 

ASIDE: Pronounce the "s" of Dasein as a "z", and rhyme the word as a whole with "carbine". For the purposes of this Glossary, we shall - except in direct quotations - retain the italicisation, to indicate (a) that Dasein remains a German word, borrowed by, but not yet fully incorporated into, English, and (b) that there is as yet no recognised English equivalent. The term comes originally from Kant, who used it in his Critique in much the same way that we today use "entity".

 

Heidegger immediately relates his search for the ins and outs of Being to the classical position as follows .....

 

"The 'soul' [Seele] which makes up the Being of man [das Sein des Menschen] has aesthesis and noesis among its ways of Being, and in these it discovers all entities [Seienden], both in the fact that they are, and in their Being as they are - that is, always in their Being. Aristotle's principle [.....] is one which Thomas Aquinas has taken up in a characteristic discussion. Thomas is engaged in the task of deriving the 'transcendentia' - those characters of Being which lie beyond every possible way in which an entity may be classified as coming under some generic kind of subject-matter (every modus specialis entis), and which belong necessarily to anything, whatever it may be. Thomas has to demonstrate that the verum is such a transcendens. He does this by invoking an entity which, in accordance with its very manner of Being, is properly suited to 'come together with' entities of any sort whatever. This distinctive entity, the ens quod natum est convenire cum omni ente, is the soul (anima)" (p34; the words aesthesis and noesis appear in Cyrillic script in the original).

 

This is clearly heavy stuff, so to help us get properly to grips with what Heidegger is suggesting (and there are many who have used words such as "grandiose illusion", "abstruse", "obscure", "unscientific", etc., to describe his work, so we might be forgiven for not bothering), our first task must be to form an accurate first conceptualisation of Dasein. We shall unroll our definition in five progressively extended instalments, beginning as follows .....

 

Dasein - first temporary definition (incorporating only aesthesis): Dasein is a feeling entity. Following the classical model, this requires that it is a functional system somehow [we take no position yet in the mind-brain debate] supervenient upon a physical system and blessed with faculties of aesthesis [see G.2] and phenomenal awareness [see G.2] (and by the same token cursed with the explanatory problems which these faculties bring with them).

 

Dasein - second temporary definition (adding noesis): Dasein is a feeling and knowing entity. Following the classical model, this requires that it is a functional system somehow [we take no position yet in the mind-brain debate] supervenient upon a physical system and blessed with faculties of aesthesis [see G.2], phenomenal awareness [see G.2], and ideation [see G.2] (and by the same token cursed with the explanatory problems which these faculties bring with them).

 

Dasein - third temporary definition (incorporating active discovery): Dasein is a feeling, knowing, and enquiring entity. Following the classical model, this requires that it is a functional system somehow [we take no position yet in the mind-brain debate] supervenient upon a physical system and blessed with faculties of aesthesis [see G.2], phenomenal awareness [ditto], ideation [ditto], and directed attention (and by the same token cursed with the explanatory problems which these faculties bring with them).

 

Heidegger's next point is that Dasein's Being can understand its own Being (p32) [this is where his use of Dasein starts to diverge from Kant's]. The critical development here is that Being has somehow to be "disclosed" (p32) to it [as to what this involves, see the separate entry on disclosure]. This calls for yet another extension of our definition of Dasein, as follows .....

 

Dasein - fourth temporary definition (incorporating subjectivity): Dasein is a feeling, knowing, enquiring, and self-monitoring entity (much like the psuche of the ancients). Following the classical model, this requires that it is a functional system somehow [we take no position yet in the mind-brain debate] supervenient upon a physical system and blessed with faculties of aesthesis [see G.2], phenomenal awareness [ditto], ideation [ditto], directed attention, and some sort of ego [we take no position yet as to exactly which sort] (and by the same token cursed with the explanatory problems which these faculties bring with them).

 

Having introduced us to the problems of Being, Heidegger now moves on to the second component of his treatise, namely the problem of time. His fundamental assertion here is that time provides both the "standpoint" and the "horizon" when Dasein attempts to interpret Being. Here is how he summarises his argument .....

 

"The Fact remains that time, in the sense of 'being [sein] in time', functions as a criterion for distinguishing realms of Being. Hitherto no one has asked or troubled to investigate how time has come to have this distinctive ontological function, or with what right anything like time functions as such a criterion; nor has anyone asked whether the authentic ontological relevance which is possible for it gets expressed when 'time' is used in so naively ontological a manner" (p39).

 

Heidegger credits Kant with having awakened philosophical interest in "the dimension of Temporality" (p45), but as having failed to produce a workable account thereof. The reason for this failure was his want of a penetrating enough analytic of Being, thus .....

 

"There were two things that stood in his [= Kant's] way: in the first place, he altogether neglected the problem of Being; and, in connection with this, he failed to provide an ontology with Dasein as its theme [.....] the decisive connection between time and the 'I think' was shrouded in utter darkness; it did not even become a problem" (p45).

 

"In both ordinary and philosophical usage, Dasein, man's Being, is 'defined' as the zoon logon exion - as that living thing whose Being is essentially determined by the potentiality for discourse [Rede]" (p47). Descartes had attempted to resolve this "problematic" (p47) with his "I think therefore I am" analysis of personhood, but he, too, had failed to incorporate the question of Being. Our conceptualisation of Dasein thus needs to be significantly extended by the attribute of knowing and enquiring through just such a dialogue, thus .....

 

Dasein - fifth temporary definition (incorporating reflectivity): Dasein is a feeling, knowing, enquiring, self-monitoring, and self-mentoring entity (much like the psuche of the ancients). Following the classical model, this requires that it is a functional system somehow [we take no position yet in the mind-brain debate] supervenient upon a physical system and blessed with faculties of aesthesis [see G.2], phenomenal awareness [ditto], ideation [ditto], directed attention, some sort of ego [we take no position yet as to exactly which sort], and inner speech (and by the same token cursed with the explanatory problems which these faculties bring with them).

 

To help us understand the role of consciousness in this reflective Dasein, Heidegger asks us to consider the etymological roots of the word phenomenology. The essence of the phainomenon element is that it involves something being "put in the light" (p51), so that phenomena become "the totality of what lies in the light of day or can be brought to the light" (p51) [for more of this passage, see the entry for entity]. The essence of the logos element is that it involves "talking about" something (p56); it is a "letting-something-be-seen" (Ibid.) in order to determine the truth value [aletheia] of this or that proposition. Taken together, therefore, the emergent meaning of phenomen-ology is "to let that which shows itself be seen from itself in the very way in which it shows itself" (p58 [to see this extract re-written in modern database terminology, see G.4]). It is all a matter of getting down to "the 'thinghood' ["Sachheit"] of what is to be described" (p59), but subject at all times to the added complication that "we are ourselves the entities to be analysed" (p67). Thus .....

 

"The 'essence' (Wesen) of [Dasein] lies in its 'to be' (Zu-sein). Its Being-what-it-is (Was-sein) (essentia) must, so far as we can speak of it at all, be conceived in terms of its Being (existentia). But here our ontological task is to show that when we choose to designate the Being of this entity as 'existence' (Existenz), this term does not and cannot have the ontological signification of the traditional term 'existentia'; ontologically, existentia is tantamount to Being-present-at-hand, a kind of Being which is essentially inappropriate to entities of Dasein's character. To avoid getting bewildered, we shall always use the Interpretative expression 'presence-at-hand' [Vorhandenheit] for the term 'existentia', while the term 'existence', as a designation of Being, will be allotted solely to Dasein" (p67; original square brackets rounded, square brackets ours [to see this extract re-written in modern database terminology, see G.4]).

 

His next step is to introduce and explore the notion of Being-in-the-world [In-der-Welt-Sein]. He sees this as a holistic "state of Dasein" (p79), with three important characteristics, as follows (a long passage, heavily abridged) .....

 

"First, the 'in-the-world'. With regard to this there arises the task of inquiring into the ontological structure of the 'world' and defining the idea of worldhood as such. [.....] Second, that entity which in every case has Being-in-the-world as the way in which it is. [.....] Third, Being-in [In-sein] as such. We must set forth the ontological Constitution of inhood [Inheit] itself. [.....] What is meant by 'Being-in'? Our proximal reaction is to [.....] understand this Being-in as 'Being in something' [..... but this] is not of the character of Dasein. Being-in, on the other hand, is a state of Dasein's Being; it is an existentiale. So one cannot think of it as the Being-present-at-hand of some corporeal Thing [.....] 'in' an entity which is present-at-hand. [.....] In these analyses the issue is one of seeing a primordial structure of Dasein's Being - a structure in accordance with whose phenomenal content the concepts of Being must be articulated. [.....] An entity present-at-hand [vorhanden] within the world can be touched by another entity only if by its very nature the latter entity has Being-in as its own kind of Being - only if, with its Being-there (Da-sein), something like the world is already revealed to it, so that from out of that world another entity can manifest itself in touching, and thus become accessible to its Being-present-at-hand" (pp79-81 [to see this extract re-written in modern database terminology, see G.4]).

 

Dasein, in other words, possesses the important quality of "facticity" [faktizität] (p82). We could at this juncture offer yet another extended definition of Dasein, but suffice it to quote Heidegger's own summative .....

 

"Whenever Dasein is, it is as a Fact; and the factuality of such a Fact is what we shall call Dasein's 'facticity'. This is a definite way of Being [], and it has a complicated structure which cannot even be grasped as a problem until Dasein's basic existential states have been worked out. The concept of 'facticity' implies that an entity 'within-the-world' has Being-in-the-world in such a way that it can understand itself as bound up in its 'destiny' with the Being of those entities which it encounters within its own world" (p82 [to see this extract re-written in modern database terminology, see G.4]).

 

Heidegger's next critical point has to do with what it means "to know" something. His argument is that Dasein gets its "ontological understanding of itself [.....] from those entities which it itself is not but which it encounters 'within' its world, and from the Being which they possess" (p85). And this actually challenges our understanding of perception itself, thus .....

 

"Perception is consummated when one addresses oneself to something and discusses it as such. This amounts to interpretation in the broadest sense; and on the basis of such interpretation, perception becomes an act of making determinate. What is thus perceived and made determinate can be expressed in propositions, and can be retained and preserved as what has thus been asserted [and] this perceptive retention of an assertion about something is itself a way of Being-in-the-world. [.....] When Dasein directs itself towards something and grasps it [.....] its primary kind of Being is such that it is always 'outside' alongside entities which it encounters and which belong to a world already discovered" (p89).

 

So what is this Dasein really all about, how do all the -heits and -seins (all 106 of them!) help it to be what it is and do what it does, and what has it all got to do with consciousness? What is the difference between an entity and its Being, for example, that there should be any sense in regarding it as an entity with another entity - a special type of entity called Being - somehow attached to it? Well, on our first few (dozen) readings of Heidegger's arguments (and mindful of the many who regard Being and Time as unfathomable mysticism), we suspected that Heidegger was proposing nothing more complicated than an unnecessarily idiosyncratic rephrasing of the classical model of aesthesis [see G.2], a model in which aesthesis (the "pure" or "immanent" phenomenon) has traditionally been posited as a discrete stage within a more extensive process whose best descriptor is - perversely - also "aesthesis". We are, however, now increasingly impressed that Heidegger might well have been on to something, but that he lacked the vocabulary by which that something might have been better explained. Specifically, he is encouraging us to think about a number of critical micro-events during the moment of aesthesis. Even more specifically, he appears to us to have been going through the mental stages of writing a database traversal to navigate an entity-relationship diagram, some 30 years before databases and their supporting disciplines eventually came into existence [for more on this line of argument, see G.4]. As for the issue of phenomenal consciousness, we find that his particular take on the subject is heavily clouded by the obscurity of his detailed ontology, which ends up being more concerned with the meaning of Being than with either its architecture or its internal mechanism. [For a summary of the theoretical developments in Heidegger's later-life writings, see Sheehan (1984) in the entry for Ereignis. For more on the potential role for inner discourse in defining our Being, see the paragraph on Blachowicz (1997) in the entry for inner speech. For more on the practicum of database design, start with the entry for entity-relationship model and follow the onward links. See also Dasein, arttificial.]

 

 

Consciousness, Helmholtz's Theory of: TO FOLLOW

 

 

Consciousness, "Higher Order" Theories of: Due perhaps to the rising popularity of late of the Norman-Shallice genre of models of cognition, consciousness theory has recently started to re-acquaint itself with the notion of hierarchical control architectures .....

 

ASIDE: Readers unfamiliar with the control architecture genre of psychological theorising should check out the history of the tradition before proceeding. See, for example, William James' hemispheric loop-line and Lichtheim's "house", and note the fundamental implication that the mind's functional hierarchy - how it organises what it does - and its structural hierarchy - the chordate neuroanatomical inheritance with which it does it - ought intuitively to map precisely onto each other. Unfortunately, whilst the functions and the structures co-relate to a certain extent, the correspondence is far from perfect, and the all-important mechanisms of mental-to-neuroanatomical supervenience remain as obscure today as they ever have been [for more on which see under explanatory gap].

 

Now the point about hierarchical control architectures is that the nature of the processing carried out at the top of the hierarchy is qualitatively different from that carried out in the middle and lower reaches of the system. "Higher-order" theories of consciousness are thus those which accept this sort of qualitative cognitive layering as axiomatic. They recognise that higher functions are "higher" precisely because they are qualitatively more sophisticated in some still-under-discussion way, and they then try to work out what is so special about the "higher functions layer" that this should be so. As a result, the literature now increasingly offers us phrases such as "higher-order representation" (Lycan, 2001), "higher-order thought" (Rosenthal, 1986), "higher-order perception" (Lycan, 2004), and "higher-order experience" (Carruthers, 2000) to describe this special essence, and it has become accepted practice to abbreviate these theories to HOR, HOT, HOP, and HOE, respectively.

 

ASIDE: Readers unfamiliar with the notion of order of representation should familiarise themselves with the basic concepts before proceeding. Check out firstly the difference between "first order" representations and "second-order" representations, and then read up on the notions of mental verbs and theory of mind.

 

Here is a recent summary of the state of play in what is currently a very active area of debate .....

 

"The central virtue of higher-order theories of consciousness lies in their explanatory simplicity. Each of these theories accounts for the phenomena of consciousness exclusively in terms of familiar types of mental states: thoughts and perceptions. Higher-order mental states are also well-known from deliberate, self-conscious introspection. So, it seems reasonable to think that consciousness might be explained by a kind of higher-order process that is more automatic and lacks the attentive self-consciousness that accompanies more focused forms of reflection. Thus, higher-order theories avoid invoking mysterious processes or unknown structures to account for consciousness; there are no ‘ontological danglers.’ More complex states are explained in terms of less complex states and various relations, such as ‘aboutness.' As a result, consciousness is seen to be of a piece with other mental phenomena, which are in turn accountable in natural, physical terms. Consciousness is special, and in its own way mysterious, but it is amenable to explanation. As often happens, the primary disadvantage of higher-order theories follows from their primary advantage. The explanation seems too simple to account for the elusive difference between conscious and unconscious states, and so higher-order theory strikes many as implausible. The most often cited problem – known variously as the problem of absent qualia, the hard problem of consciousness (Chalmers 1996), and the explanatory gap (Levine 1983, 2001) – is that it seems higher-order states can perform their functions in the absence of any conscious feeling" (Droege, 2006 online, ¶6).

 

What the various HO-positions have in common, is an interest in metacognition, that is to say, cognition after, or about, or based in some way upon, prior cognition. Thus Güzeldere (1995) takes Locke to task for suggesting  that consciousness is "the perception of what passes in a man's own mind" (Locke, 1690, p68), because he dislikes Locke's presumption "that consciousness is, or consists in, some kind of higher-order representing of lower-level mental states" (p336). And the reason he dislikes it is that the "specifics of such representings" are (a) not always well addressed, and (b) will encounter as-yet-unresolved barriers even when they are well addressed. On balance, we suspect that going higher-order actually adds surprisingly little to the consciousness debate, for the positions you are forced into are just as messy as any of the more classical positions. Indeed, going higher-order encourages homunctionism of the sort many theorists dislike so much. [For more on the individual positions, see consciousness, Carruther's theory of, consciousness, Dretske's theory of, consciousness, Lycan's theory of, and consciousness, Rosenthal's theory of.]

 

 

Consciousness, Husserl's Theory of: [For the basic biography, see firstly Husserl, Edmund.] In both Logical Investigations and Ideas, Husserl develops the Kant-Hegel-Brentano tradition of the pursuit of a "pure phenomenology" [reine Phänomenologie], that is to say, of trying to devise an aesthetic - a satisfactory account of phenomenal awareness in isolation, undistracted by prior contextual association. We begin with a preview of the terminology used  .....

 

HUSSERL'S CORE VOCABULARY: Here are Husserl's most heavily worked terms .....

 

GERMAN: Anschauung; An-Sich-Sein; Bedeutung; Dasein; Erfahrung; Erfassen/ung; Erfassungsbereitschaft; Erlebnisse; Gewahren; Originär / Originarität; Sache; Sachverhältnis; Seienden; Sein; Wesen

 

GREEK: noema; noesis; tode ti

 

Husserl begins his analysis of phenomenal awareness in Logical Investigations, noting a "varied ambiguity" (p201) of the term "consciousness", and suggesting that we are faced with a three-faceted phenomenon, thus .....

 

"We shall, in what follows, discuss three concepts of consciousness, as having interest for our purposes: 1. Consciousness as the entire, real (reelle) phenomenological being of the empirical ego, as the interweaving of psychic experiences in the unified stream of consciousness. 2. Consciousness as the inner awareness of one's own psychic experiences. 3. Consciousness as a comprehensive designation for 'mental acts', or 'intentional experiences', of all sorts" (Logical Investigations, p201).

 

The general thrust of the ensuing argument is (a) that natural knowledge begins with experience, and (b) that some experiences at least are "primordial" [Originär]. "To have something real primordially given", Husserl proposes, "[is] to 'become aware' of it and 'perceive' it in simple intuition" (Ideas, p45). It follows that an effective phenomenology is one which can unpeel all the non-phenomenal aspects of the end-to-end process of aesthesis looking for the pivotal moment of pure awareness in the "region of pure consciousness". The critical notions are those of "intuition" and intentionality (neither of which means the same as it does in everyday English). Here is how Husserl introduces the first of these terms .....

 

"I am aware of a world, spread out in space endlessly, and in time becoming and become, without end. I am aware of it, that means, first of all, I discover it immediately, intuitively, I experience it. Through sight, touch, hearing, etc. [.....] corporeal things somehow spatially distributed are for me simply there, in verbal or figurative sense 'present', whether or not I pay them special attention by busying  myself with them [.....]. Animal beings also, perhaps men, are immediately there for me; I look up, I see them [.....]; speaking with them, I understand immediately what they are sensing or thinking [.....], what they wish or will. [.....] But it is not necessary that they and other objects likewise should be present precisely in my field of perception. For me real objects are there; definite, more or less familiar, agreeing with what is actually perceived without being themselves perceived or even intuitively present" (Ideas, p91).

 

It is worth noting that Husserl was here developing ideas first set down a quarter of a century earlier in a dissertation on the concept of "manyness" (Husserl, 1887). His main point had then been that if we are dealing with the representational whole of even a single-object scene, we in fact have a unity composed of lesser unities. He describes this as a "spatio-temporal fact-world" (Ideas, p96), which is "out there", but which needs - if it is to be seen truly clearly - to be separated from all previously acquired knowledge. He names this separating off process the "bracketing" (p99), or "phenomenological disconnection" (p102), of a subset of the world [and the point is, of course, that whatever the perceptual system decides are unities - and the decision is potentially made very early on in the overall process - cannot but dictate the units of conscious content as well (for more on which see figure-ground)].

 

ASIDE: Husserl talks of bracketing in the context of his broader notion of "the universal εποχη [epoche]" (p99). The argument here is far from straightforward, however, and will not be dwelt on. Suffice it to note that we can only ever study what is immanent in our consciousness, and that is restricted to that which remains after all the disconnections have been carried out. It is the "phenomenological residuum, as a region of Being", it is "in principle unique" (p102), and it "renders 'pure' consciousness accessible to us" (p103).

 

Now one of the reasons why we had to spend so much time with the ancient Greek in G.2 is that Husserl proceeds at this juncture to embed his 20th century theory in the classical νους concept-cluster, resurrecting the words noesis (and hence "noetic phase"), for "the specifications of 'Nous' (mind, spirit) in the widest sense of the term" (Ideas, p228), and noema for the more strictly defined "intentional experience" (p237), that is to say, for the consciousness of things, or the "perceived as such" (p238). He does this because the classical distinction between noesis and noema helps him explain the difference between the subjective and objective aspects of experience. He uses noesis to express the experiencing consciousness, and noema to express the experienced object of consciousness, and it is his success at dissecting experience in this way which allows him to take a genuinely innovative position on the mind-brain debate. However, there remains the specific difficulty that the noema may not fully reflect external reality, an issue which he makes vivid with four thought-experiments which have gone on to become widely quoted. In the first of these, he asks us to imagine seeing an apple tree in blossom .....

 

"Let us suppose that we are looking with pleasure in a garden at a blossoming apple-tree, at the fresh young green of the lawn, and so forth. The perception and the pleasure that accompanies it is obviously not that which at the same time is perceived and gives pleasure. From the natural standpoint the apple-tree is something that exists in the transcendent reality of space, and the perception as well as the pleasure a psychical state which we enjoy as real human beings. Between the one and the other real being (Realen), the real man or the real perception on the one hand, and the real apple-tree on the other, there subsist real relations. Now in such conditions of experience, and in certain cases, [this comma inserted to correct parsing - Ed.] it may be that the perception is a 'mere hallucination', and that the perceived, this apple-tree that stands before us, does not exist in the 'real' objective world. The objective relation which was previously thought of as really subsisting is now disturbed. Nothing remains but the perception; there is nothing real out there to which it relates" (Ideas, pp238-239).

 

..... in the second, he considers a three-dimensional shape from a number of different angles .....

 

"I see a thing, e.g. this box, but I do not see my sensations. I always see one and the same box, however it may be turned and tilted. I always have the same 'content of consciousness' - if I care to call the perceived object a content of consciousness. But each turn yields a new 'content of consciousness', if I call experienced contents 'contents of consciousness' in a more appropriate use of words. Very different contents are therefore experienced, though the same object is perceived. The experienced content, generally speaking, is not the perceived object" (Logical Investigations, p221; also, generally, Chapter 4 of Ideas)

 

..... in the third, he considers how we manage to become conscious of things which lack objective reality .....

 

"If I have an idea of the god Jupiter, this god is my presented object, he is 'immanently present' in my act, he has mental inexistence' [.....]. I have an idea of the god Jupiter: this means that I have a certain presentative experience, the presentation-of-the-god-Jupiter is realised in my consciousness. This intentional experience may be dismembered as one chooses [.....] but the god Jupiter naturally will not be found in it. The 'immanent', 'mental object' is not therefore part of the descriptive or real make-up [.....] of the experience, it is in truth not really immanent or mental. But it does not exist extramentally, it does not exist at all. This does not prevent our-idea-of-the-god-Jupiter from being actual [.....], such that he who experiences it may rightly say that the mythical king of the gods is present to him" (Logical Investigations, p216).

 

..... and in the fourth, he considers the problem of the unattended items in the background scene .....

 

"In perception properly so-called, as an explicit awareness (Gewahren), I am turned towards the object, to the paper, for instance. I apprehend it as being this here and now. The apprehension is a singling out, every perceived object having a background in experience. Around and about the paper lie books, pencils, ink-well, and so forth, and these in a certain sense are also 'perceived', perceptually there, in the 'field of intuition'; but whilst I was turned towards the paper there was no turning in their direction, nor any apprehending of them, not even in a secondary sense. They appeared and yet were not singled out [.....]. Every perception of a thing has such a zone of background intuitions [.....] and this also is a 'conscious experience'" (Ideas, pp105-106).

 

The subjective aspect of these experiences lies in our ability to enjoy our own psychical states, whilst the objective aspect lies in our ability to create those psychical states in the first place, as representations of the external reality. It remains to bring the process of noesis and the notion of intentionality together, so that we may finally understand the interaction between what we know and the laser spot [our metaphor] of current awareness, and Husserl does this by emphasising the "directedness" of the ego, thus (a long passage, heavily abridged and leaving all explanation of the word cogito to its separate entry) .....

 

"If an intentional experience is actual, carried out, that is, after the manner of the cogito, the subject 'directs' itself within it towards the intentional object. To the cogito itself belongs an immanent 'glancing-towards' the object, a directedness which from another side springs forth from the 'Ego', which can therefore never be absent. This glancing of the Ego towards something is in harmony with the act involved, perceptive in perception, fanciful in fancy, approving in approval, volitional in will, and so forth [.....]. It should be noticed that [the] intentional object of a consciousness [.....] is by no means to be identified with [the] apprehended object. We are accustomed without further thought to include the being apprehended in the concept of the object [.....], since in so far as we think of it and say something about it, we have made it into an object in the sense of something apprehended. In the widest sense of the world, apprehending an object (Erfassen) coincides with mindfully heeding it (achten), and noting its nature (bemerken) [.....]. There are some complications, [but] in any case the following main propositions hold good: in every act some mode of heeding (Achtsamkeit) holds sway. [.....] A thing is necessarily given in mere 'modes of appearing', and the necessary factors in this case are a nucleus of what is 'really presented', an outlying zone of apprehension consisting of marginal 'co-data' of an accessory kind (uneigentlicher), and a more or less vague indeterminacy [which] points forward to possible patterns of perception, which continually [pass] off into one another [and] coalesce in the unity of a single perception in which the continuously enduring thing in ever new series of perspectives reveals ever again new 'aspects' ....." (pp109-125).

 

Finally, Husserl notes the role played by attentional processes in maintaining this directedness, and in helping to determine "the character of subjectivity" (p249), thus .....

 

"The attentional formations, in their modes of actuality, possess in a very special sense the character of subjectivity, and all the functions which are modalised through these modes [.....] win thereby this character also. The attending ray gives itself out as radiating from the Pure Ego and as terminating in the objective [.....]. The shaft of attention is not separate from the Ego, but itself is and remains personal. The 'object' is referred to [.....], but is not itself 'subjective'" (p249).

 

For more on Husserl's phenomenology in general, see Mohanty and McKenna (1989), for more on "bracketing" see the entry for phenomenological reduction. It is also worth noting the link, via one of Husserl's students, Adolf Reinach, to the theory of speech acts.

 

 

Consciousness, Huxley's Theory of: The 19th century scientific commentator Thomas Huxley was an early proponent of the view that consciousness was more a post-hoc rationaliser of behaviours already authorised than a true instrument of deliberate and dispassionate volition. Here is the story as told by Tallis (2002) [a strongly recommended read] .....

 

"In his article 'On the hypothesis that animals are automata', [Huxley] argued that all animals - including man - depend largely on automatic processes to function. Somewhat controversially, he insisted: 'The feeling we call volition is not the cause of the voluntary act, but simply the symbol in consciousness of the stage of the brain which is the immediate cause of the act. Like the steam whistle which signals but doesn't cause the starting of the locomotive'" (p32).

 

 

Consciousness, Iceberg Metaphor for: It is a well-established pop-psychological truism that "right-brain thought" is more visuospatial than "left-brain thought", and (used guardedly) this notion also has a lot to offer academic cognitive science. Specifically, it encourages us to see thought as a cleverly integrated accumulation of subprocesses and qualitatively different content. Fischbein's (1977) analysis of mathematical cognition provides a neat introductory illustration of what this arrangement might entail, in that it treats the totality of mathematical cognition as the outcome of mutually complementary pictorial and arithmetical processes. Chief amongst the pictorial contributions is the "number line", an imaginary [and in this author's case horizontal] line stretching from minus infinity to plus infinity, with zero in the middle. When our left hemispheres do sums, our right hemispheres keep score by moving imaginary counters up and down the number line. Now we must suspect that similar imaginary visuospatial organisers help us make sense of other cognitive tasks [for example, we ourselves have an A-shaped mental organiser (shaped just like Frank's 1963 Organogramm) to help us place the so-called "higher (cognitive) functions" in context], and we see many such devices in Draaisma's (2000) review of the metaphors which have been applied over the millennia to long-term memory. And one of these - depth - is relevant also to consciousness. Here is how Draaisma introduces its use .....

 

"As well as 'twilight' the unconscious appeared in psychology and in literature as 'depth' [..... for example,] the depths of the sea, as in Heine's Die Nordsee [(1915)]: 'I love this sea like my soul. Often I even feel as if the sea is really my soul itself; and just as in a sea hidden water plants grow [.....] so occasionally splendid images of flowers float up from the depths of my soul'" (Draaisma, 2000, p76).

 

The notion of depth is seen in Freud and Breuer 's (1895, 1925/1955) "Studies on Hysteria", although they are clearer in Breuer's chapters than in Freud's. Breuer, for example, was faced with the problem of distinguishing the conscious mind from the unconscious, thus .....

 

"We call those ideas conscious which we are aware of ..... but] at any given moment of time there are very few of them; and if others, apart from those, should be current at the time, we should have to call them unconscious ideas" (Breuer, 1955, p300).

 

However, he then immediately encodes that distinction on a "depth line" by using the word "subconscious" immediately afterwards, "sub-" being the standard Latin prefix for an inferior location. He repeats the metaphor in a different way moments afterwards in the phrase "whether the idea rises above the threshold of consciousness or remains beneath it" (p302) [note that thresholds, as doorways, would normally invite a horizontal allusion, and not a vertical one]. Freud, however, is a touch more cautious, as in the following extracts .....

 

"Experiences [with apparently repressed memories of hysterical patients] made me think that it would be possible for the pathogenic groups of ideas, that were after all certainly present, to be brought to light ....." (Freud, 1955, p352; not primarily a depth metaphor here).

 

"..... examples of ideas that were pathogenic, and had been forgotten and put out of consciousness" (p352; again no depth metaphor).

 

"The psychical trace of it was apparently lost to view" (p353; again no depth metaphor).

 

However, slightly later in the same book, Freud used a mixed metaphor of strata (vertically layered) and what we might look upon as the skins of a slice of onion - radial strata. Thus .....

 

"If we interfere with the patient in his reproduction of the ideas that pour in on him, we may 'bury' things that have to be freed later with a great deal of trouble. [..... So if] I wanted to give a diagrammatic picture of our mode of operation, I might perhaps say that we ourselves undertake the opening up of inner strata, advancing radially ....." (pp378-379; a depth metaphor, a prison metaphor, and a concentric circles metaphor here).

 

Nevertheless, the diagrams Freud drew in "The Ego and the Id" (Freud, 1923) [show me] and "New Introductory Lectures" (Freud, 1933) [show me] were both vertically aligned using the depth metaphor. As it happens, the depth metaphor has become topical of late, in the form of the "iceberg metaphor", an explanatory scheme in which consciousness is depicted as the part of the iceberg above the waterline, and the unconscious as the parts below the waterline. This metaphor has been adopted by commercial enterprises as a vivid way of conveying the message that there might be more to our conscious self than meets the eye, and, accordingly, that this or that system of mind expansion might be worth investing in [see, for example, the system proposed by Process Coaching Services of San Anselmo, CA].

 

 

Consciousness, James' Theory of: [See firstly consciousness and hemispheric loop line.] William James begins his Principles by contrasting the value of what he calls the "soul-theory" of consciousness with the value of the Associationist theories of consciousness. By soul-theory, he was referring to any psychology in which "a simple entity, the personal Soul" is capable of "manifesting" itself in a number of important ways - as memory, reasoning, appetite, wish, and so on (James, 1890, pI.1), and his initial point was that by reducing the mind to a collection of associated elements Associationism was in effect proposing "a psychology without a soul" (Ibid.). What made the situation particularly difficult was the sheer number of ways we like to use the word "consciousness", and he rightly insisted that each distinct meaning be analyzed in its turn. For example, in Chapter VI of his Principles he contrasts consciousness with lack of it, asking whether it is possible for states of mind to be unconscious and reviewing the mind-brain problem. In Chapter VII, he went on to discuss the limits of consciousness in reflecting upon its own nature. In Chapter IX, he introduced his famous "stream of thought" metaphor, arguing that "every thought tends to be part of a personal consciousness" (Op. cit., pI.225). In Chapter X, he considered how the stream of thought interacted with consciousness of self. Here he identifies an "empirical self", or "me", which consists of a person's corporeal body, plus their clothing, etc., and an "I" which does the knowing [this is accordingly one of the first discussions of subjectivity as mental philosophy shaded into experimental psychology]. In Chapter XI, he looks at the role played by attention in the "focalization" of consciousness (p404), and in so doing introduces the term "'span' of consciousness", that is to say, "the number of things we may attend to" (p405). He also makes the point that attention does not fix upon a single object, but rather upon "a succession of mutually related objects" (p421). It is this, indeed, which gives the stream of thought much of its forward flowing nature. In Chapter XII, he looks at the role played by "the sense of sameness" in thinking, describing it as "the very keel and backbone" thereof (p459). Without it, indeed, "sameness might rain down upon us [for] ever and we be none the wiser" (p460). Consciousness does this, moreover, as much for "the knowing subject" as it does for the "known object" (p459). [Compare sciousness.]

 

 

Consciousness, Johnson-Laird's Theory of: Philip Johnson-Laird is responsible for promoting the concept of the mental model within cognitive science (Johnson-Laird, 1981, 1983), and has cleverly applied "the theory of computability", originally expounded by the mathematicians Alonzo Church and Alan Turing, to consciousness studies (Johnson-Laird, 1987).

 

ASIDE: Church was the Princeton mathematician who in 1936 stimulated the "unsolvable problems" debate, and who contributed in the 1950s to the development of "recursive computing". Turing - whose story we have told elsewhere [early history; late history] - was Church's student at the time he wrote his Entscheidungsproblem paper (Turing, 1937), in which he put across the idea of the Turing Machine.

 

Johnson-Laird therefore brings to consciousness theory  a combination of state-of-the-art cognitive theory and a deep understanding of the nuts and bolts of computing. The following analysis of hierarchical processing shows how these two considerations can profitably converge .....

 

"A sensible design is to promote one processor to monitor the operations of others and to override them in the event of deadlocks and other pathological states of affairs. If this design feature is replicated on a large scale, the resulting architecture is an hierarchical system of parallel processors: a high-level processor that monitors lower level processors, which in turn monitor the processors at a still lower level, and so on down to the lowest level of processors governing sensory and motor interactions with the world. A hierarchical organisation of the nervous system has indeed been urged by neuroscientists from Hughlings Jackson to H.J. Jerison [citation], and Simon (1969) has argued independently that it is an essential feature of intelligent organisms" (Johnson-Laird, 1988, pp361-362).

 

Johnson-Laird has particularly strong views on how the parallel processing design feature might itself have a lot to offer theorists of nervous system architecture, thus .....

 

"An obvious solution [i.e., to the problem of allocating new skills to existing processors] is to promote one processor to monitor others and to override them if they become pathologically configured. Consciousness may owe its origin to the emergence of such a monitoring device from the web of parallel processors. The monitoring principle is likely, however, to pervade the entire nervous system, and accordingly to give rise to a hierarchical organisation of parallel processors. [.....] The parallel architecture that I have so far described is compatible with a number of psychological phenomena, and it helps us to resolve the problem of awareness. If awareness depends on the computations of one processor, or even on one sub-set of processors, then the internal operations of the remaining processors will be outside awareness. [..... I]nstances of dissociation between the parts can be observed in cases of self-deception, and particularly in their neurotic counterparts, the hysterias. [.....] The next step in the argument concerns the nature of the processor at the top of the parallel hierarchy. In real computers, the highest level of control consists of an operating system [.....]. The human operating system, however, is largely autonomous: it makes the decisions. This propensity depends on the mind's operating system - consciousness - having access to a model of its own high-level capabilities" (Johnson-Laird, 1987, pp254-255).

 

 

Consciousness, Kant's Theory of: [For the basic biography, see firstly Kant, Immanuel.] In his Critique of Pure Reason (Kant, 1781, 1787/1996), Kant attempts to penetrate "the darkness, confusion, and uselessness" (p7) which he felt plagued late-18th century theories of perception, epistemology, and reasoning, with a view to following "the secure path of a science" in the study of "the cognitions pertaining to reason's business" (p15). We begin with a preview of the terminology used  .....

 

KANT'S CORE VOCABULARY: Apprehension; Anschauung; Begriff; Bestehen; Dasein; Ding-an-Sich; Erfahrung; Erkenntnis; Geben; Gegenstand; Mannigfaltige; Objekt; Schema[te]; Schematismus; Sein; Transzendent; Vernunft; Verstand; Vorstellung; Wesen

 

Kant provides his own initial review of the necessary vocabulary (pp43-68), much of which focuses on the distinction between "a priori knowledge" and "a posteriori knowledge". He begins with a discussion of the relationship between experience and cognition, and the problem he identifies is that even though all cognition "starts with" experience, it need not all "arise from" it  (p44). It is possible, he explains, that "sense impressions" somehow "prompt" the perceptual system to seek additional input from what we already know from past experience, and only if a cognition is totally "independent of experience" can it be called an a priori cognition. This was the first shot in what was to develop into a sustained attack upon the British Empiricists, and the essence of Kant's position is that if we look hard and critically enough we shall find enough a priori cognitions to inform us what "pure" experience [one of the three basic problems of consciousness, remember] might involve. This brings him to "the general problem of pure reason" (p59), and the question of how synthetic judgments are possible a priori. Kant rates this as the central problem of all metaphysics, and his conclusion is to propose "the idea of a special science" (p63), namely "the critique of pure reason" [hence the chosen title of his work]. The first topic in the body of the work concerns what Kant calls the "transcendental aesthetic" ( p71).

 

ASIDE: An aesthetic is simply a theory of aesthesis, so a transcendental aesthetic is simply "a science of all principles of a priori sensibility" (p73). This is a neat, and wholly Kantian, paraphrasing of the classical problem of what happens at the moment of aesthesis. The problem of what the act of perceiving might actually involve remains (being implicit in the word "sensibility"), but the focus of the investigation moves across to what is not happening rather than what is, that is to say, to the null role played by past experience in the a priori.

 

Kant begins his analysis by strictly distinguishing intuition from conceptualisation, thus challenging the classical account of aesthesis described in G.2 in a way that neither the British Empiricists nor the Continental Rationalists had. Unfortunately, the proposed new relationship is often tortuous, as the following extract illustrates (a long passage, heavily abridged) .....

 

"The first condition is intuition [Anschauung]; through it the object [Gegenstand] is given [gegeben], though only as appearance. The second condition is the concept [Begriff]; through it an object is thought that corresponds to the intuition. Now it is evident from the above that the first condition [..... underlies] objects [Objekten] a priori in the mind. [.....] Now the question arises whether concepts do not also a priori precede (objects), as conditions under which alone something can be, if not intuited, yet thought as object as such. [.....] But all experience, besides containing the senses' intuition through which something is given, does also contain a concept of an object that is given in intuition, or that appears. Accordingly, concepts of objects as such presumably underlie all experiential cognition as its a priori conditions. [.....] Without that original reference of these concepts to possible experience wherein all objects of cognition occur, their reference to any object whatever would be quite incomprehensible" (pp147-148; square bracketing from the Project Gutenberg online German text).

 

ASIDE: Note how Objekt and Gegenstand co-occur not just at paragraph level but at sentence level in the above extract, and have both been rendered into English as "object", then see object (1) for further comment on this.

 

Kant then introduces "pure concepts of understanding" into the explanatory equation. He defines these as "expressing universally and sufficiently [a priori concepts that do not refer to experience]" (p151), and he finds this definition theoretically useful because he needs to allow for objects which are either "impossible" or else "possible but cannot be given in any experience" (Ibid.). He then pauses to summarise his arguments so far, thus .....

 

"There are three subjective sources of cognition on which rests the possibility of an experience as such and of cognition of its objects: sense, imagination, and apperception. Each of these can be considered as empirical, viz., in its application to given appearances. But all of them are also a priori elements or foundations [.....] sense presents appearances empirically in perception; imagination does so in association (and reproduction); apperception does so in the empirical consciousness of the identity of these reproductive presentations with the appearances through which they were given, and hence in recognition. [.....] If, now, we want to pursue the inner basis of this connection of presentations [.....], then we must start from pure apperception. All intuitions are nothing for us and are of no concern to us whatsoever if they cannot be taken up into consciousness, whether they impinge upon it directly or indirectly; and solely through consciousness is cognition possible. We are conscious a priori of the thoroughgoing identity of ourselves in regard to all presentations that can ever belong to our cognition [.....]. This principle holds a priori, and may be called the transcendental principle of the unity of whatever is manifold [more on "the unity of whatever is manifold" below - Ed.] in our presentations (and hence also in intuition)" (pp164-165).

 

Kant then moves to the "transcendental unity of apperception" (p166), that is to say, to the mind's ability to create a single transcendent cognition from a novel arrangement of lesser transcendental cognitions. Here is how he places this notion in his broader theory .....

 

"What is first given to us is appearance. When appearance is combined with consciousness, it is called perception. [.....] But because every appearance contains a manifold, so that different perceptions are in themselves encountered in the mind sporadically and individually, these perceptions need to be given a combination that in sense itself they cannot have. Hence there is in us an active power to synthesise this manifold. This power we call imagination; and the act that it performs directly on perceptions I call apprehension. For the imagination is to bring the manifold to intuition to an image; hence it must beforehand take the impressions up into its activity, i.e., apprehend them" (pp167-168).

 

ASIDE: The phrase "manifold of presentations" (e.g., p175) is usually shortened to "a/the manifold" (e.g., p167). The notion of the "unity of the manifold" is thus the same as Leibniz's "several perceptions at one [see consciousness, Leibniz's theory of], Husserl's "representational wholes" [see consciousness, Husserl's theory of], and Searle's "single unified conscious fields" [see consciousness, Searle's theory of].

 

The transcendental unity of apperception is an important concept in Kantian theory. This is because it is the key to all judgments of truth, and thus the key, in turn, to propositional reasoning itself. Yet the critical moment remains that at which apprehension becomes apperception, because that is the point at which the understander starts to do its understanding. Kant then cleverly integrates self-consciousness into his aesthetic. Here are three relevant extracts, the first two in reverse order for better explanatory effect .....

 

"The transcendental unity of apperception is the unity whereby everything manifold given in an intuition is united in a concept of the object. Hence this unity is called objective, and must be distinguished from subjective unity of consciousness, which is a determination of inner sense whereby that manifold of intuition for such [objective] combination is given empirically. [.....] It is subject to that unity solely through the necessary reference of the manifold of intuition to the one [self], i.e. to the I think [Ich denke]" (pp182-183).

 

"The I think [Ich denke] must be capable of accompanying all my presentations. For otherwise something would be presented to me that could not be thought at all [.....]. Presentation that can be given prior to all thought is called intuition. Hence everything manifold in intuition has a necessary reference to the I think in the same subject in whom this manifold is found. But this presentation [i.e., the I think] is an act of spontaneity; i.e., it cannot be regarded as belonging to sensibility. I call it pure apperception, in order to distinguish it from empirical apperception. Or, again, I call it original apperception, for it is the self-consciousness which, because it produces the presentation I think that must be capable of accompanying all other presentations [.....]. I also call the unity of this apperception the transcendental unity of self-consciousness, in order to indicate that a priori cognition can be obtained from it" (pp177-178).

 

"But how [.....] can the I who thinks be distinct from the I that intuits itself, and yet be the same as it by being the same subject? And hence how can I say: I, as intelligence and thinking subject, cognize myself as an object that is thought? (pp193-194).

 

Kant's answer to this long-standing problem is to propose a special "kind of intution" capable of handling manifolds relating to the self (p195). Consider .....

 

"Accordingly I have no cognition of myself as I am but merely cognition of how I appear to myself. Hence consciousness of oneself is far from being a cognition of oneself, regardless of all the categories, which make up the thought of an object as such through the combination of the manifold in one apperception" (p196).

 

Kant then devotes the whole of Section III (roughly a hundred pages) to a series of principles and proofs, which space prevents us addressing here. The next critical notion is that of "noumena" (p303). Now noumena [singular noumenon] are the building blocks of our world of understanding in just the same way that phenomena are the building blocks of our world of sense. He introduces the debate thus .....

 

"The concept of a noumenon, i.e., of a thing that is not to be thought at all as an object of the senses but is to be thought [.....] as a thing in itself, is not at all contradictory; for we cannot, after all, assert of sensibility that it is the only possible kind of intuition. Moreover, the concept of noumenon is necessary in order not to extend sensible intuition even over things in themselves, and hence in order to limit the objective validity of sensible cognition" (pp318-319).

 

We close this entry by considering Kant's views on Descartes' ego cogito. The problem is summarised in the following (a long passage, heavily abridged) .....

 

"It is obvious that if one wants to have a presentation of a thinking being then one must put oneself in that being's place, and hence must substitute one's own self as subject for the object that one wanted to consider (which is not the case in any other kind of investigation); and it is obvious that we require, in order to have any thought, the absolute unity of the subject only because otherwise we could not say I think (the manifold [being held together] in one presentation). For although the whole of the thought could be divided and distributed among many subjects, still the subjective I cannot be divided and distributed [.....]. Hence here [.....] the formal proposition of apperception I think remains the whole basis on which rational psychology ventures to expand its cognitions. But this proposition is, of course, not an experience, but is the form of apperception. [.....] Moreover, the simplicity of myself (as soul) is not actually inferred from the proposition I think; rather, the former proposition, I am simple [der erstere], already lies in every thought itself [..... and] means nothing more than that this presentation I does not comprise the least manifoldness, and that it is [thus] absolute (although merely logical) unity. Hence the so famous psychological proof is based solely on the indivisible unity of a presentation [I] that governs only the verb think with regard to a person. Plainly, however, the I attached to this thought designates the subject  [.....] only transcendentally; and through this I we do not indicate in this subject the least property, nor are we acquainted with or know anything about this subject at all. [.....] This much is certain: that through the I I always think of an absolute but logical unity (simplicity) of the subject; but not that I cognize through it the actual simplicity of myself as subject" (pp391-393).

 

[For Kant's use of the words Schema and Schematismus, see those entries.]

 

 

Consciousness, Laird's Theory of: [See firstly consciousness, consciousness, Reid's theory of, and perception, direct.] John Laird was a Queen's University Belfast logician-philosopher, whose "A Study in Realism" (Laird, 1920) is an early modern contribution to the idealism-realism debate. Prompted by the account of perception given in Reid's Inquiry (Reid, 1764) (which he presents as "a most vicious fallacy" - p3), Laird sets out to produce a better account. The core question to be answered, he argued, was "What, then, is this knowledge for which so much is claimed?" (p10). Is it "intuition" as Bergson would have it, or simply what is now (or has been in the past) "represented" to the experiencing mind. His suggested answer was that "knowledge is a kind of discovery in which things are directly revealed or given to the mind" (p14), and that "perception is the apprehension of the fact on which [judgments of perception] rest, and that is the simplest way of describing it" (p15) (that is to say, it is neither memory, nor expectation, nor sensation). Laird then introduces the notion of the "continuant" (p27). He means by this those elements of a sensory scene which are relatively stable over time, and he sees these as important because they help integrate the contents of consciousness over time so as to form a thematically coherent expectation of the role (if any) they are currently playing. We rate this as an important notion because it is similar to Husserl's notion of the Sachverhältnis, that is to say, of a momentary configuration of the players on the perceptual stage. As for consciousness qua consciousness, Laird is largely lost for a definition. We are aware of it in ourselves, he notes, and we can recognize signs of it in others, but beyond that it is difficult for two theorists to agree on what is important about it, let alone how it might work. He seeks some hint from the mechanisms by which bodily reflexes are integrated, and in this respect he comes close to William James hemispheric loop line approach, that is to say, he sees the cerebral hemispheres as "the highest level of the integrating process" (p156).

 

 

Consciousness, Leibniz's Theory of: [For the basic biography, see firstly Leibniz, Gottfried.] Although remembered primarily as a philosopher, Leibniz lived in the first stirrings of the Industrial Revolution, seems to have been fascinated by machines, and was himself an accomplished engineer, having invented one of the first mechanical calculators in 1674 .....

 

ASIDE: Cranked and Mechanical Calculation: Although the counting table and the abacus had been used to "automate" calculation since around 3000 BCE, they lacked an internal drive train, and the story of machine calculation proper does not begin until 1640. This was when the French mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) began work on his Arithmetic Machine (a.k.a. the Pascaline), a device which could record a running total to eight places, using geared counter wheels with a "tens carry" system. A number was inserted by rotating the appropriate "column" wheel (units, tens, hundreds, etc.) with a stylus, and then added to by onward rotation by aligned column from right to left. The inbuilt carry system would take care of turning as many as necessary of the dials to the left of the one being moved manually. Leibniz did much the same in the period 1673 to 1685, but added a hand-crank and improved the gearing logic to allow for multiplication and division, and the British inventor Charles Babbage (1791-1871) took the approach to the limits of practicality with his Difference Engine in 1832.

 

Leibniz is accordingly as well qualified as any of the classical philosophers to comment on the possibility of the mind-soul being essentially in some way mechanical, so we need to listen twice as hard when he consistently rejects that notion. Now it also so happened that this was the age in which automata were being rediscovered and because automata, like calculating machines, relied on complex internal clockwork, Leibniz saw them as the ideal explanatory metaphor for the mind-brain debate. Consider .....

 

"Bodies do not know what takes place in the soul, and the soul makes no physical impression on the body. [.....] There is nothing strange in this when once we bear in mind that as great a craftsman as God can make an automaton which resembles a valet and is capable of performing his function, and of carrying out at a specified place whatever it was ordered to do over a long period of time. The body is an automaton of this kind in regard to the mind" (New System; Morris translation, pp128-129).

 

The issue then is whether the mind/soul is as automaton-like as the body in which it resides, and Leibniz doubts that it is .....

 

"We also get an explanation of the great mystery of the union of the soul and the body, that is to say, how it comes about that the passive and active states of the one are accompanied by active and passive states, or by suitable phenomena, in the other. For in no way is it conceivable that the one has an influence over the other [.....]. Here, then, is the true explanation of it: we have said that everything which happens to the soul and to each substance is a consequence of its notion. Therefore, the mere idea or essence of the soul specifies that all its appearances or perceptions must arise spontaneously from its own nature, and in just such a way that they correspond of themselves to what happens in the whole universe, but also more particularly and more perfectly to what happens in the body which is assigned to it" (Discourse on Metaphysics, 1686; Woolhouse and Francks translation, p85; bold emphasis added).

 

This line of argument culminated in two powerful thought experiments, namely Leibniz's "Mill" and Leibniz's Two Clocks.

 

ASIDE: See the separate entries on the value of thought experiments in general, and of Leibniz's "Mill" in particular, within mental philosophy.

 

Unfortunately, by dismissing the possibility of mechanical mind so totally, Leibniz forced himself into a rather quaint definition of the soul. He presents his analysis in a number of writings, and then followed them up in correspondence with a number of critical peers, one such semi-public debate being with the encyclopaedist, Pierre Bayle, over various critical entries in the latter's "Dictionary" (Bayle, 1695-1697, 1702). Leibniz is also to be thanked for focusing attention on the need for consistency of formal explanation in mental philosophy. He recognised that scientific explanation meant applying to an area of enquiry a system of explanatory propositions appropriate to that area (you cannot, for example, explain the phenomenon of gravity using the laws of chemistry). So it followed that it would be indicative how many sets of explanatory principles were needed to explain mind and brain, and in his judgment it was two, one set of laws for the bodily mechanisms, and another for the resident mind and soul. This is how he phrases his conclusion .....

 

"Thus minds have special laws which raise them above the mechanical operations of matter" (New System, 1695; Woolhouse and Francks translation, p146).

 

"Furthermore, the organised mass in which the point of view of the soul lies is more immediately expressed by it, and is in turn ready, just when the soul desires it, to act of itself according to the laws of the bodily mechanism, without either one interfering with the laws of the other, the animal spirits and the blood having exactly at the right moment the motions which correspond to the passions and perceptions of the soul. It is this mutual relationship, arranged in advance in each substance in the universe, which produces what we call their communication, and which alone constitutes the union of soul and body" (New System; Woolhouse and Francks translation, p150)

 

"We must also remember that the soul, simple though it is, has always a sensation which is composed of several perceptions at once; and this serves the purpose for my theory as much as if it were composed of parts like a machine. For each preceding perception has some influence on those which follow [..... and] we must not be surprised at the infinite variety of what must result from them in the course of time. All this is but a consequence of the representative nature of the soul [.....]. It would perhaps have been enough to say that since God has made corporeal automata, He could easily likewise have made immaterial ones to represent them" (New System; Morris translation, p125).

 

ASIDE: Note the similarity between Leibniz's "several perceptions at once" and Kant's "unity of whatever is manifold".

 

 

Consciousness, Mach's theory of: The mid-19th century witnessed a flurry of academic interest in the quantification of sensory ability [see the entry for psychophysics], with physiologists, and other "hard" scientists turning their laboratory skills to the psychology of sensation. One of those who wandered into psychology in this way was the physicist Ernst Mach, already well known for his work on optics and acoustics. Motivated by the desire to establish "a common basis for the object of psychology and the object of physics" (Cassirer, 1929/1957, p29), Mach chose as his topic the psychophysics of visual perception and illusions, and we can see the relevance of this work to consciousness studies by experiencing for ourselves one of the illusions he discovered .....

 

ASIDE: To see the "Mach band" visual illusion for yourself, courtesy of York University, Toronto, click here.

 

Now the point about the Mach band illusion (as with the host of other illusions which have been documented since) is that you continue to perceive wrongly even after you know the nature of your error. The two Mach bands are "there" phenomenally, even though you know they are "not there" actually. Mach published his research in Erkenntnis und Irrtum ("Knowledge and Error") (Mach, 1905-1926/1976), but to less than universal acclaim, since "in the field of psychology Mach did not practise the same sharp critique [.....] as he demanded in the field of physics" (Cassirer, 1929/1957, p26).

 

 

Consciousness, Meinong's Theory of: [For the basic biography, see firstly Meinong, Alexius.]  Meinong's most significant work of philosophical psychology is his "On Assumptions" (Meinong, 1902/1983), a work which follows the general traditions of the Graz School, but which extends its teachings with some adventurous new concepts and vocabulary .....

 

MEINONG'S CORE VOCABULARY: Akt; Annahmen; Annehmen; Bedeutung; Begehren; Bestehen; Desiderative; Dignitative; Erlebnis; Gedanken; Gegenstand; Inhalt; Objekte; Objektive; Satz (pl. Sätze); Sein; Sosein; Vorstellung; Zeichen

 

Meinong began On Assumptions by discussing representation, conventionally accepting that this is the "prerequisite of anything that occurs in the realm of thought" (p9), and distinguishing it at a fundamental level from "judgment", that is to say, from assessments of the truth of something. However, he then identifies an important new area - the assumption [Annahmen] - where the two notions start to interact, and which he introduces by asking his reader (a) "to believe something that he knows only too well to be false" (p11), and (b) to note that it remains possible to do this despite the strongest "contrary conviction".

 

ASIDE: Meinong chooses the word Annahmen, "to accept, assume", because the essence of this new type of cognition is that we accept something "for the sake of argument" because our mind's central processor can do more useful things with that than it could with the component representations and judgments in isolation.

 

Because false beliefs can be assumed on demand in this way, Meinong sees in them a "receptivity to volitional influence, a feature that is as a rule conspicuously absent in judgments" (p13). He then argues that assumptions of this sort are heavily involved in our use of language, especially "where what the sign-giver intends to communicate is his wish, perhaps even his will - or in general a conation [ein Begehren], and the conation can be inferred from the sign" (p23).

 

ASIDE: Meinong's Chapter 2 (entitled "On the Question of the Characteristic Functions of the Sentence", and beginning with a section entitled "On the Sign and its Signification") is nowadays regarded as an early example (from 1902) of what we now know today as "pragmatics" (in its modern psycholinguistic-philological usage).

 

Pursuing this line of argument, Meinong notes that verbal communication at sentence level takes our thought processes to new levels of complexity. Specifically, it allows objects to be handled beyond their simple presentation, beyond what associations that presentation might generate, and beyond their ability to be couched as propositions and subjected to yes-no truth judgments. Sentences, as he puts it, are "judgment-expressions" (p28). He then considers how to name the object of the judgment in question .....

 

"Therefore let us consider a quite ordinary case of negative knowing, so as to appreciate the peculiarity of a fact to which I would like to call attention. If someone says, e.g., in regard to a parliamentary election that was preceded by intense public excitement, that no disturbance of the peace took place, then in the first place no one will deny that 'something' is known by means of the judgment in question [.....]. Yet one might at the outset suppose that this 'something' is nothing but the object thought of [namely] the object 'disturbance of the peace' [when in fact] no such disturbance has occurred. [.....] Thus there arises the need to extend the sense of the term 'object of judgment' [and] to give these latter objects a special name, in order to distinguish them from what was formerly looked on as the sole object of judgment, i.e., [.....] the representational object. It seemed most appropriate for me to use the name "objectives" [Objektive] for the new class of judgmental objects characterised by the above remarks" (pp37-38).

 

He illustrates the difference between objects and objectives with the following example .....

 

"If I look at the snow-covered street and say, 'There is snow outside,' then 'snow' is the representational object, the objectum of this instance of knowing. But also 'that there is snow' is its objective" (pp38-39).

 

Having put forward his analysis of objects [we say more on this in the entry for Gegenstandstheorie, if interested] Meinong is then in a position to consider how the mind becomes conscious of them, and again he looks to linguistics for insight. His particular interest is with sentences containing main and relative clauses, that is to say, sentences of the form "I affirm that A is" (p110) .....

 

ASIDE: Readers not familiar with the notion of mental verbs should check the subject out in our Psycholinguistics Glossary before proceeding. Note then that we have only to extend Meinong's example by three words as follows - "I affirm that B doubts that A is" - to find ourselves instantly in the middle of the Theory of Mind debate!

 

His substantive point is then that it takes a particular type of experience - a "judgment-experience" (p103) - to interpret what such sentences are proposing, and the essence of this seems to be the ability to reflect upon the content of the existing judgment-expressions and generate further objectives in turn.

 

ASIDE: Meinong mentions the subject of "inward perception" at this point (p103), but does not elaborate on what might be involved or how the cognitive system would have to be organised to deliver that facility. Suffice it to say that there are a number of apparent similarities between the reflective elaboration being proposed here and the notion of inner speech put forward by many other authors. On balance, therefore, we find that Meinong's detailed account of the minutiae of cognitive processing still contains that critical moment when an apprehending-something apprehends something set before it, but when we freeze that critical moment in time, and look at what is going on around it, we cannot see what that apprehending-something consists of.

 

 

Consciousness, Metzinger's Theory of: For Metzinger, consciousness is nothing less than "the last great puzzle and the greatest theoretical challenge of our time" (Metzinger, 1995, p3), and his position is that to make progress understanding it you have to address both the phenomenology and the underlying systems. Metzinger's papers accordingly attack phenomenal experience head on, and work outwards from there in search of specific points of issue (which, of course, are never long in coming). The following glossary entry has been collated from two recent works, namely Being No One (Metzinger, 2003 [subsequently key-pointed in Metzinger (2005a)]) and Metzinger (2005b). Being No One brings together a number of earlier writings and packages them as a "Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity" (SMT), "a detailed story about precisely what properties representations in a given information-processing system must possess in order to become phenomenal representations, ones the content of which is at the same time a content of consciousness" (Metzinger, 2005, ¶1.1), and the opening point is as clear as it is immediately challenging .....

 

"This is a book about consciousness, the phenomenal self, and the first-person perspective. Its main thesis is that no such things as selves exist in the world: nobody ever was or had a self. All that has ever existed were conscious self-models that could not be recognized as models. The phenomenal self is not a thing, but a process - and the subjective experience of being someone emerges if a conscious information-processing system operates under a transparent self-model. You are such a system right now, as you read these sentences. Because you cannot recognise your self-model as a model, it is transparent: you look right through it. You don't see it. But you see with it [compare Husserl's complaint that he sees the thing but not the sensations which produce it - Ed.]. [.....] This is not your fault. Evolution has made you this way. On the contrary. Arguably, until now, the conscious self-model of human beings is the best invention Mother Nature has made. It is a wonderfully efficient two-way window that allows an organism to conceive of itself as a whole, and thereby to causally interact with its inner and outer environment in an entirely new, integrated, and intelligent manner" (Being No One, p1).

 

Having thus well and truly captured our attention, Metzinger then explores the problem of relating the "internality" of representation to the personal reality of conscious experience. The following two extracts demonstrate how he sees the link being made, and introduces some of the vocabulary which is going to be needed .....

 

"Mental representation is a process by which some biosystems generate an internal depiction of parts of reality. The states generated in the course of this process are internal representations, because their content is only - if at all - accessible in a very special way to the respective system, by means of a process, which, today, we call 'phenomenal experience'. Possibly this process itself is another representational process, a higher-order process [see consciousness, "higher-order" theories of - Ed.], which only operates on internal properties of the system. However, it is important for us, right from the beginning, to clearly separate three levels of conceptual analysis: internality can be described as a phenomenal, a functional, or as a physical property of certain system states. Particularly from a phenomenological perspective, internality is a highly salient, global feature of the contents of conscious self-awareness. These contents are continuously accompanied by the phenomenal quality of internality in a 'pre-reflexive' manner, that is, permanently and independently of all cognitive operations" (Being No One, p15).

 

"The concept of 'mental representation' can be analysed as a three-place relationship between representanda and representata with regard to an individual system: Representation is a process which achieves the internal depiction of a representandum by generating an internal state, which functions as a representatum (Herrmann, 1988). The representandum is the object of representation. The representatum is the concrete internal state carrying information related to this object. Representation is the process by which the system as a whole generates this state. Because of the representatum, the vehicle of representation, being a physical part of the respective system, this system continuously changes itself in the course of the process of internal representation; it generates new physical properties within itself in order to track or grasp properties of the world, attempting to 'contain' these properties in Brentano's original sense" (Being No One, p20).

 

What we are faced with, therefore, is a "content-vehicle" problem, that is to say, the task of relating the representata of an event - the contents of our consciousness - to the underlying physical processes - the representing system. Consider .....

 

"If you now look at the book in your hands, you are not aware of the highly complex neural process in your visual cortex, but of the content of a phenomenal mental model [.....], which is first of all generated by this process within you. If, at the same time, you introspectively observe the mental states invoked in you by reading this [.....] then the contents of your consciousness are mental representata and not the neural process of construction itself. There is a content-vehicle distinction. [.....] The first level of representation is constituted by linguistic reference to phenomenal states. The second level of representation is constituted by phenomenal experience itself. [.....] My thesis is that there is an intimate connection between those two levels of representation and that philosophy of mind should not confine itself to an investigation of the first level of representation alone. Why? [Because] phenomenality is a property of a certain class of mental representata." (p22).

 

Metzinger loosely adopts a teleofunctionalist orientation here [see separate entry], and illustrates what is at stake by drawing an important distinction between artificial and biological systems of representations, thus .....

 

"Artificial systems [.....] do not possess any interests. Their internal states do not fulfil a function for the system itself, but only for the larger unit of the man-machine system. this is why those states do not represent anything in the sense that is here intended" (Being No One, p27)

 

By now, Metzinger has a powerful analytic system in place - an end-to-end, biologically grounded, model of cognition in its every aspect, and nowhere does this analytic bear greater fruit than in helping to cast some long-awaited light on the problem of introspection. He sets the scene as follows .....

 

"Mental states are all those states which can in principle become available for introspection. All states that are available, and particularly those that are actually being introspected, are phenomenal states. This means that they can become objects of a voluntarily initiated and goal-directed process of internal attention" (Being No One, p32).

 

Given this scheme of things, introspection can address either external or internal intentional content, and either the attentional or the cognitive aspects of a target mental state. This produces no less than four types of introspection, which Metzinger then profiles as follows .....

 

Introspection1 - External Attention: This is "subsymbolic metarepresentation operating on a pre-existing, coherent, world-model" (p36), which he further illustrates as "a phenomenal process of attentionally representing certain aspects of an internal system state, the intentional content of which is constituted by a part of the world depicted as external" (Ibid.).

 

Introspection2 - Consciously Experienced Cognitive Reference: This is "a conceptual (or quasi-conceptual) form of metarepresentation, operating on a pre-existing, coherent model of the world" (p36), which he further illustrates as "a process of phenomenally representing cognitive reference to certain aspects of an internal system state, the intentional content of which is constituted by a part of the world depicted as external" (Ibid.).

 

Introspection3 - Inward Attention and Perception: This is "a subsymbolic metarepresentation operating on a pre-existing, coherent self-model" (p36), which he further illustrates as the result of "processes of phenomenal representation, which direct attention toward certain aspects of an internal system state, the intentional content of which is being constituted by a part of the world depicted as internal" (Ibid.).

 

Introspection4 - Consciously Experienced Cognitive Self-Reference: This is "a conceptual (or quasi-conceptual) kind of metarepresentation, again operating on a pre-existing, coherent self-model" (p36), which he further illustrates as "[generating] conceptual forms of self-knowledge, by directing cognitive processes toward certain aspects of internal system states, the intentional content of which is being constituted by a part of the world depicted as internal" (Ibid.).

 

This brings Metzinger, more precisely focussed than any philosopher since Kant and more widely informed than any ever, to the basic problem of subjectivity. Here is how he sees that problem .....

 

"What does it mean to say that conscious experience is subjective experience? [.....] First, there is a rather trivial understanding of subjectivity, amounting to the fact that information has been integrated into an exclusively internal model of reality, active within an individual system and, therefore, giving this particular system a kind of privileged introspective access to this information in terms of uniquely direct causal links between this information and higher-order attentional or cognitive processes operating on it. Call this 'functional subjectivity'. A much more relevant notion is 'phenomenal subjectivity'. "Phenomenally subjective information has the property of being integrated into the system's current conscious self-representation; therefore it contributes to the content of its self-consciousness. [It is also] available to a whole range of processes, not only for attention but also for motor control or autobiographical memory. In any case, Introspection3 and Introspection4 are those representational processes making information phenomenally subjective" (Being No One, p37).

 

Metzinger (2005b) has recently revisited the "first person perspective" problem, treating it under three sub-headings, namely the problems of "mine-ness", "selfhood", and "perspectivalness" [see separate entries], and as part of his ongoing search for what a system might need "to think it is someone", and interprets these phenomena in the light of his "phenomenal self model". As to what makes a neural representation a phenomenal representation, Metzinger suggests that it is whatever is "globally available for deliberately guided attention, cognitive reference, and control of action" (p118) at the time in question. He even hazards a guess that the neural correlates of global availability involve the sort of "large-scale integration" of neuronal processing currently under investigation by neurophysiology laboratories across the world, giving specific mention to Edelman and Tononi's (1998) "Dynamic Core Theory". [For Metzinger's more specific views on subjectivity and volition, see those entries.]

 

 

Consciousness, Nagel's Theory of: The nature of Thomas Nagel's theory of consciousness can be gathered together from his contributions to the individual entries for consciousness, experience, phenomenal consciousness, subjectivity, and the what's it like to be test.

 

 

Consciousness, Neisser's Theory of: Neisser is one of the founding fathers of cognitive psychology [his "Cognitive Psychology"(Neisser, 1967) helped popularise the very words]. He was therefore a very valuable recruit to cognitive science when, in the late 1980s, he turned his cognitivist's gaze onto the more traditional problem of "the self". He argued (Neisser, 1988, 1991) that what psychology has traditionally referred to as "the self" is not, in fact, a single entity.  "Self knowledge," he says, "is based on several different forms of information, so distinct that each one essentially establishes a different 'self'" (1988, p35).  In fact, he identifies no less than five major types of self, as follows: (1) the ecological self, (2) the interpersonal self, (3) the extended self, (4) the private self, and (5) the conceptual self [see the separate entries for the details]. As to how these five selves interact, Neisser explains .....

 

"These several 'selves' are not generally experienced as separate and distinct, because there is stimulus information to specify their cohesion.  (For example I can usually see that it is I, here, who am engaging in a particular social interaction.)  In cases where such information is less salient, the unity of the self is correspondingly weakened.  But unified or not, all five 'selves' are of fundamental importance.  They all begin early in life [.....].  They all exhibit some degree of continuity over time [.....].  They are all experienced, though perhaps not all with the same quality of consciousness.  And they are all valued:  people go to great lengths not only to save their lives but to preserve the personal relationships that establish their identities, to defend their interpretations of the past and their plans for the future, to keep inviolate the secret places of their minds, and to maintain the integrity of the culturally-defined self that they have adopted"  (1988, p36).

 

 

Consciousness, O'Keefe's Theory of: [See firstly consciousness.] O'Keefe (1985) proposed that the "core" of any theory of consciousness "must consist of a psychological model which describes the creation, manipulation, and storage of mental representations of the physical world, as well as of the self in a social world [..... This] psychological model would consist of a set of subsystems each performing a different function and would describe the information flow within and amongst those subsystems" (O'Keefe, 1985, p60). As such he is treating consciousness as "both the process of awareness and the contents of that awareness" (p62). More recently, he has described the purpose of consciousness as being to allow the diffuse storage of "the life narrative", and has looked at the relationship between consciousness and the biological skill of knowing the layout of one's environment, a skill he refers to as "mapping" (O'Keefe, 1999). Mapping, he argues, has been a vital survival skill for much of evolutionary history, so much so that the entire cognitive series may be regarded as a series of progressive enhancements to the mapping systems of the brain. In fact, he proposed a nine-step evolutionary ladder, beginning on rung #1 with a cognitive map, and then adding, in turn, (#2) objects, (#3) time (and hence episodic memory), (#4) mental imagery, (#5) body image, (#6) the ability to classify objects as animate or inanimate, (#7) the faculty of agency, (#8) the recognition of self as agent, and (#9) language. The point is, of course, that there are exemplar species at every one of these stages, and it is safest to regard them all as having consciousness. Consciousness may be graded, in other words, according to the complexity of its owner's cognitive processes, and in its highest form (in humans) it is the ability to exercise and apply all these factors at once. A rat can be every bit as conscious as a human, but it is with a different, less sophisticated, type of consciousness.

 

 

Consciousness, Reid's Theory of: TO FOLLOW.

 

 

Consciousness, Rosenthal's Theory of: Like many, Rosenthal (1993) divides consciousness into "three distinct phenomena" (p355), which he defines and names as follows .....

 

"The most general phenomenon we call consciousness is a property of creatures. Being conscious in this sense is, roughly, the opposite of being asleep or knocked out; we describe a person or other animal as being conscious if it is awake and if at least some of its sensory systems are receptive in the way normal for a waking state. Otherwise we say it is unconscious. For convenience we may call this property creature consciousness. There is a second phenomenon [.....] which we describe in terms that are ostensibly relational. When a creature senses something or thinks about some object, we say that the creature is conscious of that thing. A full description of a creature's being conscious of something always involves mentioning the thing the creature is conscious of. So it is natural to call this property transitive consciousness. The third property [.....] is unlike the first in that it is not a property of creatures, and unlike the second in that we do not describe it in terms of some distinct object or property of which we are conscious. It is common to distinguish between mental states that are conscious and those which are not. In everyday contexts, most of the mental states we talk about are conscious mental states. But it is commonly recognised that we are also in mental states that are not conscious states. And the property of being conscious that some mental states have and others lack is a distinct property from both creature consciousness and transitive consciousness [..... and so] it is useful to call it state consciousness" (p355).

 

 

Consciousness, Russell's Theory of: TO FOLLOW.

 

 

Consciousness, Ryle's Theory of: Gilbert Ryle's "The Concept of Mind" (Ryle, 1949) is a pivotal work in the history of consciousness, coming as it did in the very years that an influential body of wartime ergonomists [not least George A. Miller and Donald Broadbent] and computing pioneers [not least Alan Turing and John Von Neumann] were turning their skills to peacetime applications, and in so doing lighting the first fires of what eventually became known as "the Cognitive Revolution". In epistemology, for example, it introduced the now axiomatic distinction between "knowing how and knowing that" (Title, Chapter 2). Ryle's work is historically significant in other areas of mental philosophy, although in these it achieves what it achieves by trenchant criticism of an established or conventional view. To start with, it set out to debunk all notion of "the ghost in the machine" (that is to say, any theory which focuses on separate laws of mind and brain, and which thereby perpetuated Descartes' myth), whilst in ethics it does a similar hatchet job on the notion of free will. As far as phenomenal consciousness is concerned, he recognized that "at least some" of the episodes of sensory encounters with the world involve "direct and unchallengable cognizance" (p14). By this he means that the experiencing self "is directly and authentically apprised of the present states and opinions of his mind" (Ibid.). He then describes the nature of this consciousness as follows:" Mental states and processes are (or are normally) conscious states and processes, and the consciousness which irradiates them [.....] leaves the door open for no doubts. A person's present thinkings, feelings, and willings, his perceivings, rememberings, and imaginings are intrinsically 'phosphorescent'; their existence and their nature are inevitably betrayed to their owner. The inner life is a stream of consciousness of such a sort that it would be absurd to suggest that the mind whose life is that stream might be unaware of what is passing down it" (p15). Ryle then characterizes previous accounts of perception - the "official theory" (p16) as he calls them - as commonly supposing that perception and "inner perception", or introspection" (Ibid.) are two substantially different processes (inner perception, for example, is supposedly immune to hallucination and illusion). This position This he assesses as an "absurdity" (p17), and as a "category mistake" rooted in Descartes' myth (Ibid.). He also (Chapter 7) dismisses the long Kant-through-to-Heidegger tradition of "Phenomenalism" (p223) on the grounds that it relies on "ulterior [.....] solemnities" like "things in themselves" [see Ding-an-Sich] (Ibid.). Far better, in Ryle's analysis, to regard both individual aesthesis and scientific enquiry alike as attempts at "a mistake-proof brand of observation" (p226). On balance, Ryle proposes more criticisms than replacement schemes, so, his epistemology aside, he helps us understand what consciousness is not, rather than what it is. For Ryle's specific views on subjectivity and volition, see those entries, and the concept clusters thereby introduced.

 

 

Consciousness, "Searchlight Theory" of: [See firstly consciousness.] This is Crick's (1984) version of the spotlight theory of consciousness (see next). Crick (1984) likens the thalamic reticular nuclei to an "internal attentional searchlight", constantly deciding which cortical areas need to be activated next, and thus largely controlling access to consciousness.

 

 

Consciousness: Searle's Theory of: [See firstly consciousness.] John Searle is joint founder of the theory of speech acts, and author of such books as "Intentionality" (1985), "Rediscovery of Mind" (1992), and "Construction of Social Reality" (1997). In Searle (1999), he pointed out that the three most obvious aspects of consciousness - its qualia, its subjectivity, and its unity (i.e. its binding) - are fundamentally interrelated. For an input to have quality (e.g., the red of redness) there has to be a subject to experience that quality, but the "first person" experience which that experience produces will naturally incorporate many simultaneous qualities as well. Consciousness is "bound together" in some way, and therefore irreducible. This is why efforts to isolate its neural correlates (the famous "NCCs" - the neural correlates of consciousness) have traditionally met with so little success. In fact, Searle specifically criticized such "building block" explanations of consciousness because they encourage you to be too reductionist: you lose sight of the wood (the conscious experience) for concentrating on the trees (what the individual neurons are doing). Far safer, in his view, to think in terms of a "basal consciousness" - the sort of state you would be in if you awoke one day to find yourself in total silence and darkness - supplemented by a set of sensory responses locked together into what he termed a "single unified conscious field". This would be a better subject of enquiry than individual NCCs, because it would avoid the binding problem, the problem of how parallel responses within the brain to (say) an object's colour, size, shape, speed, smell, taste, texture, etc., are bound together to produce a subjectively single perception of that object. Being irreducible does not mean, however, that we can get by with a single explanatory vocabulary. Far from it, in fact, for consciousness demands a number of levels of explanation, each capable of "causally real" explanation at its own level, and each demanding its own vocabulary. For Searle's more specific views on the homunculus fallacy, see that entry.

 

 

Consciousness, "Spotlight Theory" of: [See firstly consciousness.] This is the name given to the entirely conventional view that the function of attention is to select what is most important for consciousness to be conscious of. This notion originates in the chapter on attention in William James' Principles, thus: "Attention only fixes and retains what the ordinary laws of association bring 'before the footlights' of consciousness" (James, 1890, pI.450). This approach has been resurrected by Bernard Baars Theater of Consciousness metaphor (see above). "In theater terms, the implicit self seems to [.....] work behind the scenes of the theater, pulling invisible strings to control the spotlight" (Baars, 1997, p145; bold emphasis added).

 

 

Consciousness, Tye's Theory of: TO FOLLOW.

 

 

See the Master References List

 

[Up]

 

[Home]