Consciousness, or its lack, is often invoked in debates in applied and normative ethics. Conscious beings are typically held to be significantly more morally valuable than non-consious, so that establishing whether a being is conscious becomes of critical importance. In this paper, I argue that the supposition that phenomenal consciousness explains the value of our experiences or our lives, and the moral value of beings who are conscious, is less well-grounded than is commonly thought. A great deal of what matters to us and about us can be explained by functional and representational properties that may not be sufficient for phenomenal consciousness. I conclude with some reflections on how these claims might affect debates in ethics.
How is mind related to matter? This ancient question inphilosophy is rapidly becoming a core problem in science, perhaps themost important of all because it probes the essential nature of manhimself. The origin of the problem is a conflict between the mechanicalconception of human beings that arises from the precepts of classicalphysical theory and the very different idea that arises from ourintuition: the former reduces each of us to an automaton, while thelatter allows our thoughts to guide our actions. The dominantcontemporary approaches to the problem attempt to resolve this conflictby clinging to the classical concepts, and trying to explain away ourmisleading intuition. But a detailed argument given here shows why, in ascientific approach to this problem, it is necessary to use the morebasic principles of quantum physics, which bring the observer into thedynamics, rather than to accept classical precepts that are profoundlyincorrect precisely at the crucial point of the role of humanconsciousness in the dynamics of human brains. Adherence to the quantumprinciples yields a dynamical theory of the mind/brain/body system thatis in close accord with our intuitive idea of what we are. In particular,the need for a self-observing quantum system to pose certain questionscreates a causal opening that allowsmind/brain dynamics to have threedistinguishable but interlocked causal processes, one micro-local, onestochastic, and the third experiential. Passing to the classical limit inwhich the critical difference between zero and the finite actual value ofPlanck's constant is ignored not only eliminates the chemical processesthat are absolutely crucial to the functioning of actual brains, itsimultaneously blinds the resulting theoretical construct to the physicalfine structure wherein the effect of mind on matter lies: the use of thislimit in this context is totally unjustified from a physicsperspective.
By means of an intriguing physical example, magnetic surface swimmers, that can be described in terms of Dennett's intentional stance, I reconstruct a hierarchy of necessary and sufficient conditions for the applicability of the intentional strategy. It turns out that the different levels of the intentional hierarchy are contextually emergent from their respective subjacent levels by imposing stability constraints upon them. At the lowest level of the hierarchy, phenomenal physical laws emerge for the coarse-grained description of open, nonlinear, and dissipative non-equilibrium systems in critical states. One level higher, dynamic patterns, such as, for example, magnetic surface swimmers, are contextually emergent as they are invariant under certain symmetry operations. Again one level up, these patterns behave apparently rationally by selecting optimal pathways for the dissipation of energy that is delivered by external gradients. This is in accordance with the restated Second Law of thermodynamics as a stability criterion. At the highest level, true believers are intentional systems that are stable under exchanging their observation conditions.
The technological singularity refers to a hypothetical scenario in which
technological advances virtually explode. The most popular scenario is the
creation of super-intelligent algorithms that recursively create ever higher
intelligences. It took many decades for these ideas to spread from science
fiction to popular science magazines and finally to attract the attention of
serious philosophers. David Chalmers' (JCS 2010) article is the first
comprehensive philosophical analysis of the singularity in a respected
philosophy journal. The motivation of my article is to augment Chalmers' and to
discuss some issues not addressed by him, in particular what it could mean for
intelligence to explode. In this course, I will (have to) provide a more
careful treatment of what intelligence actually is, separate speed from
intelligence explosion, compare what super-intelligent participants and
classical human observers might experience and do, discuss immediate
implications for the diversity and value of life, consider possible bounds on
intelligence, and contemplate intelligences right at the singularity.
Quantum theory is applicable, in principle, to both the microscopic and macroscopic realms. It is therefore worthwhile to investigate whether it is possible to evolve a quantum-compatible view of the properties and states of macroscopic objects in everyday thinking. It will allow a realistic interpretation of quantum theory in a manner directly consistent with the observations. The construction of such a view will provide a solution to what I term the observation problem. Toward solving the observation problem, I identify a category of new objective properties called 'relational properties' that are (so to speak) in-between primary and secondary properties. We regularly associate such properties with everyday objects, and I discuss how in fact these are quantum-compatible. If this relational-property viewpoint could be worked into quantum theory, it would altogether avoid the measurement problem, which is an artifact of our current inconsistent (albeit pragmatically successful) strategy of retaining a classical view of the macroscopic world while applying quantum theory to the microscopic world. Some implications of the relational property viewpoint to neurobiological issues underlying cognition are touched upon.
Introduction Freeman: The article `The Science of Art' by William Hirstein and yourself (Ramachandran and Hirstein, 1999) has proved one of the most stimulating ever published in JCS. Criticisms of it abound, so to focus your response I will put to you questions that summarize the chief points made by our formal commentators [see Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6 (6--7), 1999, and 7 (8--9), 2000] and also pick up other questions that are frequently asked about it. But first I should like to know what motivated you to write the paper --- and did you anticipate the reaction it would provoke? Ramachandran: We mainly did it for fun. Also we hoped the essay would serve to generate a useful dialogue between artists, neuroscientists, perceptual psychologists and art historians --- to bridge C.P. Snow's two cultures. The article was intended to be whimsical, provocative and slightly tongue-in-ch
onic co-consciousness is necessarily transitive: if e1 and e2 are Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8, No. 3, 2001, pp. 79--92 Correspondence: Tim Bayne, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand, Email: email@example.com  Barry Dainton, Stream of Consciousness (Routledge: London and New York, 2000), xvi + 254pp., ISBN 0-415-22382-2 (hbk)  Most psychologists (and some philosophers) use `co-consciousness' to refer to the relation that two streams of consciousness have when they are co-instantiated in a single animal; this is a very different relation. co-conscious, and e2 and e3 are co-conscious, then e1 and e3 must also be co-conscious.) Dainton's third project involves an examination of the ways in which experiences might be holistically related to each other. Dainton's discussion here is rigo
kespearean meditation on the human condition, when she recalls the first time she dissected a human brain. But unlike the Prince of Denmark, who only had an empty skull to Journal of Consciousness Studies, 7, No. 10, 2000, pp. 75--82 Correspondence: Imprint Academic, PO Box 1, Thorverton EX5 5YX, UK  Review of Susan Greenfield, Brain Story (London: BBC Worldwide, 2000, 208 pp. 17.99, ISBN 0-563-5510-8. An abridged version of this review was first published in the Times Higher Education Supplement. contend with, Greenfield was intrigued whether a tiny sliver of cortex scraped under her fingernail (if she had not been wearing gloves) might contain a particular memory, fear or dream. The interweaving of such anecdotes with popular scientific material shows that this book is intended for a wide audience. Brain Story is delightfully written, lavishly illustrated, ca
To explain how stimuli cause consciousness, we have to explain causality. We can't trace linear causal chains from receptors after the first cortical synapse, so we use circular causality to explain neural pattern formation by self-organizing dynamics. But an aspect of intentional action is causality, which we extrapolate to material objects in the world. Thus causality is a property of mind, not matter. Summary 1 According to behavioral theories deriving from pragmatism, Gestalt psychology, existentialism, and ecopsychology, knowledge about the world is gained by intentional action followed by learning. In terms of the neurodynamics described here, if the intending of an act comes to awareness through reafference, it is perceived as a cause. If the consequences of an act come to awareness through proprioception and exteroception, they are perceived as an effect. A sequence of such states of awareness comprises consciousness, which can grow in complexity to include self-awareness. Intentional acts do not require awareness, whereas voluntary acts require selfawareness. Awareness of the action/perception cycle provides the cognitive metaphor of linear causality as an agency. Humans apply this metaphor to objects and events in the world to predict and control them, and to assign social responsibility. Thus linear causality is the bedrock of social contracts and technology.
The `hard problem' is hard because of the special epistemological status of consciousness, which does not, however, preclude its scientific investigation. Data from phenomenologically trained observers can be combined with neurological investigations to establish the relation between experience and neurodynamics. Although experience cannot be reduced to physical phenomena, parallel phenomenological and neurological analyses allow the structure of experience to be related to the structure of the brain. Such an analysis suggests a theoretical entity, an elementary unit of experience, the protophenomenon, which corresponds to an activity site (such as a synapse) in the brain. The structure of experience is determined by connections (e.g. dendrites) between these activity sites; the connections correspond to temporal patterns among the elementary units of experience, which can be expressed mathematically. This theoretical framework illuminates several issues, including degrees of conscious...
this paper, I first isolate the truly hard part of the problem, separating it from more tractable parts and giving an account of why it is so difficult to explain. I critique some recent work that uses reductive methods to address consciousness, and argue that such methods inevitably fail to come to grips with the hardest part of the problem. Once this failure is recognized, the door to further progress is opened. In the second half of the paper, I argue that if we move to a new kind of nonreductive explanation, a naturalistic account of consciousness can be given. I put forward my own candidate for such an account: a nonreductive theory based on principles of structural coherence and organizational invariance, and a double-aspect theory of information.
Because consciousness plays such a central role in the creation of human experience, and because the field of consciousness studies is growing more mature by the year, it only makes sense that we should learn what we can about the functioning of consciousness from the myriad disciplines that have deigned to place it under their scopes. It is time for religious studies to draw upon neuropsychology, cognitive neuroscience, artificial intelligence, artificial life, psychology, and other disciplines. It is time for religious studies to explore how consciousness functions and how it may play a role in the constitution of reality, in spiritual experience, in the generation of doctrine, and in ritual and meditative life.
Comments on an article by B. J. Baars (see record
2003-04969-001) which used social constructivist interpretation of ideological movements within the discipline. The author discusses Baars' thesis that psychologists and philosophers rejected consciousness in order to justify their claim to standing among the physical sciences. To achieve scientific respectability, behaviorists rejected (1) a nonmaterial ontology for consciousness and (2) free will in the sense of volitional action by the person that lies outside a deterministic order. On failure to distinguish these metaphysical statements from metatheoretical statements, they rejected theories of interrelations among conscious states, and theories of causal control by conscious intentions--theories which in themselves entail neither a nonmaterial consciousness nor free will in the sense of indeterminism. On these confusions, protective strategies developed: (1) redefinitions of psychological vocabulary such that it would refer to other than conscious states, (2) treatment of consciousness with focus upon grand claims for the action of unconscious processes, and (4) relaxation of methodological constraints to accommodate deeply held ideological and metatheoretical commitments. These strategies endure in cognitive science. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
This article arises from the remarkably multi-faceted book Brain and Being edited by Gordon Globus and others, hereafter referred to as B&B. It raises questions (though not unusually, few answers) about several related areas: the way in which quantum theory might endow the physical matter of the brain with surprising, though still essentially classical, properties; the possibility that quantum field theory might shed a wholly new light on aspects of consciousness, in both the subjective and neurological approaches; and, at the most speculative, the suggestion that the nature of being, as disclosed subjectively, can be understood in the light of one or other of the interpretations of quantum theory. I will consider these in turn
Galen Strawson's keynote paper (1997) offers us one way of modelling the self, one that starts from the phenomenology of the sense of self and derives from that metaphysical conclusions about the nature of the self. Strawson is surely correct to hold that phenomenological considerations cannot be ignored in thinking about the metaphysics of the self. I am not as convinced as he is, however, that phenomenology is the royal road to metaphysics. What I want to sketch out in this short paper is another approach to the metaphysics of the self, one that is driven by reductivist concerns. As far as I can see it is an open question whether there are any global points of disagreement between us (although there are certainly some local ones).
I have taken an experimental approach to this question. Freely voluntary acts are preceded by a specific electrical change in the brain (the readiness potential', RP) that begins 550 ms before the act. Human subjects became aware of intention to act 350-400 ms after RP starts, but 200 ms. before the motor act. The volitional process is therefore initiated unconsciously. But the conscious function could still control the outcome; it can veto the act. Free will is therefore not excluded. These findings put constraints on views of how free will may operate; it would not initiate a voluntary act but it could control performance of the act. The findings also affect views of guilt and responsibility. But the deeper question still remains: Are freely voluntary acts subject to macro-deterministic laws or can they appear without such constraints, non-determined by natural laws and truly free'? I shall present an experimentalist view about these fundamental philosophical opposites.
The International Union of Psychological Science ('Union') co-hosted, with the Chinese Psychological Society its 28th International Congress of Psychology ('Congress'). The first Congress was held with the World's Fair in Paris in 1889. In recent decades, they have been held every four years in different parts of the world. The Union has member organizations from 67 nations, representing one half million psychologists. Pretty scary stuff!
Every two years René Stettler, director of the Neue Galerie of Lucerne, organizes a symposium at the Lucerne Theatre for scientists, philosophers, and artists to present and discuss their approaches on a special topic of interest to the general public. These events give space and time to interdisciplinary discussion, and the New Gallery sees itself as inducing series of experiments, creating as it were a series of 'laboratory situations', with varying mixtures of ideas and theories, for a public of between four and five hundred people. This year's laboratory was labelled 'Space, Time and Beyond' and led deep into the realms of the Beyond.
This article provides a critical review of recent work at the intersection of phenomenology and cognitive science. What is and what ought to be the relationship between these two approaches to the study of consciousness? This review explores problems involved with expressing subjective experience in an objective fashion, and issues involved in the use of principles of isomorphism to explain how brain and consciousness are interrelated. It suggests that strict lines cannot be drawn between third-person theory and phenomenological description, that the division of labour between phenomenology and cognitive science is not very strict, and that the best model for understanding the relation between these two approaches is one that emphasizes an externalist viewpoint.
This paper suggests that certain traditional ways of analysing the self start off in situations that are abstract or detached from normal experience, and that the conclusions reached in such approaches are, as a result, inexact or mistaken. The paper raises the question of whether there are more contextualized forms of self-consciousness than those usually appealed to in philosophical or psychological analyses, and whether they can be the basis for a more adequate theoretical approach to the self. First, we develop a distinction between abstract and contextualized actions and intentions by drawing on evidence from studies of rehabilitation after brain damage, and we introduce the notion of intentional attitude. Second, we discuss several interesting conclusions drawn from theoretically and experimentally abstract approaches. These conclusions raise some important issues about both the nature of the self and reflexive consciousness. At the same time they indicate the serious limitations concerning what we can claim about self and self-consciousness within such abstract frameworks. Such limitations motivate the question of whether it is possible to capture a sense of self that is more embedded in contextualized actions. Specifically, our concern is to focus on first-person approaches. We identify two forms of self-consciousness, ecological self-awareness and embedded reflection, that (1) function within the kinds of contextualized activity we have indicated, and (2) can be the basis for a theoretical account of the self. Both forms of self-consciousness are closely tied to action and promise to provide a less abstract basis for developing a theoretical approach to the self.
The Mount Sinai School of Medicine is an imposing monument to the wealth and power of scientific medicine. Set on its own block in upper Manhattan, its rhetorical centre is the Stern Auditorium. Here, just over a year after 9/11, a group of gurus and self-seekers assembled to confer on the nature of the self. I was there too, looking for help in constructing a grand unified theory of soul and brain.
I have long concluded that psychologists seek 'facts' but don't care about 'truth'; while philosophers seek 'truth' but don't care about 'facts'. After attending Tucson-2002, I would create a third reckless stereotype: eastern philosophy (and perhaps western humanities) seek 'enlightenment' but don't care about 'facts' or 'truth'. To avoid this seeming to be the equal-opportunity put-down that it really is, let me amend that to: scientists seek inductive 'facts' about consciousness, western philosophers seek deductive 'truth' about consciousness, and eastern philosophers seek transcendent 'enlightenment' - to grow, transcend, or lose my/our own consciousness. To make it even more complicated, there are - obliquely bridging the facts, truth, and enlightenment camps - brain-probing anaesthesiologists and others advocating an intriguing package of quantum mechanics, microtubules, pan-psychism and causation-running-backwards-in- time. H-E-L-P! With the echoes of the conference still in my mental ears, I dedicate this report to Mountcastle, Maharishi, and Monty Python.
It would seem reasonable to expect any comprehensive account of consciousness to accommodate two of its most fundamental attributes: that we have a self- centred sense of experience and that this sense is somehow linked to the condition of our physiology. Yet those conversant with post-Cartesian philosophy will know that time and again significant doubts have been raised about any apparently obvious link between mind and body. So of all the questions implicated in the scientific study of consciousness perhaps the most pressing is to what extent, if at all, does our mental life correlate with biochemical activity at the neuronal level? Until this is resolved we will be unable to reconcile the data gathered from phenomenological analysis of introspective experience with that derived from neuroscientific analysis of brain behaviour. The infamous gap will persist.