The Constitution of Phenomenal Consciousness: Toward a science and theory

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You're using an out-of-date version of Internet Explorer. By using our site, you agree to our collection of information through the use of cookies. To learn more, view our Privacy Policy. Log In Sign Up. The philosophy of phenomenal consciousness: an introduction S. Miller ed. Zoe Drayson. The philosophy of phenomenal consciousness: an introduction.

Toward a science and theory.

Edited by Steven M. John Benjamins Publishing Company his electronic ile may not be altered in any way. For any other use of this material prior written permission should be obtained from the publishers or through the Copyright Clearance Center for USA: www. Please contact rights benjamins. Introduction Human consciousness remains largely mysterious to scientists and philosophers alike. Part of the problem comes down to technological and experimental constraints, and we can be conident that advances in brain-imaging and new experimental techniques will continue to yield more data.

But another part of the problem seems to lie in the phenomenon to be explained, and how we understand it. First, creatures can be considered con- scious or not conscious: we generally assume that humans are conscious creatures while bacteria are not. But conscious creatures can be in unconscious states, as when asleep or in a coma, for example. But even once the terminology is settled, providing explanations of consciousness seems to face challenges that do not arise for other scientiic problems.

Conscious experiences have phenomenal properties: they present themselves to us in a irst-person way, quite unlike the third-person data that are familiar to science.

Category:Consciousness studies

Not long ago, our only knowledge of the human brain came from experiments on animal brains or from dissected human brains at autopsies; now, we can harmlessly scan the brains of living human subjects to get information about both the structure of the brain and its functioning. As a result, there are new discoveries being made about our mental mechanisms on a daily basis. Consider, for example, how the eyes and brain build up our conscious visual expe- rience of the world.

When we visually experience the world, we can overtly focus our attention on diferent aspects of the visual scene. Cutting-edge technology in the form of eye-tracking equipment can measure the loca- tion and duration of ixation, and monitor the direction of the saccades. Using these measurements of attention-switching and scan-paths, psychologists can demonstrate how our visual system builds up the information made available to us in conscious experience. For a more detailed account of visual system anatomy and physiology, see chapter by Price, , in the companion volume.

Scientiic developments have also been made in the study of pain, a paradigm state of conscious experience. During a migraine, levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin drop signiicantly, which causes blood vessels to dilate, resulting in extreme pain. With this knowledge of how the pain is produced, doctors can intervene to change it: migraine suferers can be treated with drugs that optimize serotonin levels in the brain.

In addition to conscious sensations, human beings possess consciousness of themselves in the form of self-awareness. Experimenters mark an animal with an odorless dye on the front of their body, and then observe the creature in front of a mirror.

Toward a Science of Consciousness

Some animals, such as chimpanzees, poke at the marking or move to get a better view of the marking in the mirror, suggesting that they recognize the relection as themselves. We can verbally report our pains, for example, we can use our perceptions of the world to update our beliefs, and we can relect on our self-awareness. See Block, , for fur- ther discussion of the distinction between these two aspects of consciousness. What should we conclude from this? In order to understand such a claim, it is necessary to irst say more about the phenomenal properties of conscious experience. It is this aspect of consciousness that has proved particularly fascinating to philosophers: the phenomenal character of conscious experience.

Phenomenal consciousness has a number of interesting features: it is subjective, it is seemingly private, and we have some form of special access to our phenomenally conscious states. We may call this the subjective character of experience. Nagel, , p. What about non-human animals? But not all mammals have visual and auditory systems like our own: consider the bat, which uses echolocation instead of vision to build up information about the world: [B]at sonar, though clearly a form of perception, is not similar in its operation to any sense that we possess, and there is no reason to suppose that it is subjectively like anything we can experience or imagine.

Instead, it measures the amount of oxygen in the blood across diferent regions of the brain, which can be used as evidence of cognitive activity only ater interpretation. Technological advances, however, are being made. Human and animal behav- ioral, electrophysiological and brain-imaging studies of visual consciousness during binocular rivalry are summarized by Miller this volume , and described in detail in the companion volume Miller, But even if still further technological and experimental advances occur, will we be able to identify and measure conscious expe- riences?

Science deals in data that are public in the sense of being share- able and measurable by others; the privacy of conscious experiences seems to prevent them fulilling these criteria. Our ability to discriminate between diferent colors can be measured, for example, as in color-blindness tests. And when someone is undergoing a migraine headache, the chemical composition of their neurotransmitters can be measured. Given that psychology and neuroscience can measure the neural and behavio- ral markers associated with phenomenal consciousness, it might seem tempting to simply treat the conscious experience as nothing more than its measurable markers.

While this would make phenomenal consciousness a less mysterious subject of scientiic study, there are good reasons to resist this move. All of these count as evidence for the doctor that I am in pain. I am simply directly aware of my pain. Science deals with data that is objective, measurable, and knowable to diferent people via the same evidence; phenomenal consciousness seems not to meet these requirements.

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If we want to have a scientiic understanding of consciousness, it looks like we need an explanation of the irst-person nature of conscious experience in third-person terms. Is consciousness physical? Scientiic research helps us achieve an understanding of the physical world of particles, charges, enzymes, cells, organisms, and so on.

We can only have a scientiic under- standing of consciousness, therefore, if conscious experiences are part of the physical world.

Closing in on the constitution of consciousness

And there is good reason to think that consciousness is closely connected to the physical brain: we know that changes to the brain, such as those caused by head injury or by toxins in the bloodstream, can result in changes to conscious experiences; and brain scans performed on meditating subjects show their altered conscious states correlating with diferences in their neural activity.

Such systematic and reproducible efects persuade many of the truth of physicalism, the view that consciousness is part of the physical world. But there are reasons to doubt physicalism. If conscious experi- ences are just brain states, then why have they proved so elusive to scientiic explana- tion? If we had a complete description of our world in physical terms, physicalism and non-physicalism would disagree about what follows from this description. According to physicalism, once the physical facts are ixed then the facts about conscious experience are also ixed: from a complete physical description of the world, facts about conscious- ness would follow. Non-physicalism claims that even once the full physical description of the world is ixed, facts about conscious experience are further facts which are not directly entailed by the physical facts.

One obvious way is to claim that each type of conscious experience is identical with a certain type of brain event: to experience the smell of fresh cofee, for example, is just to have a particular pattern of neural iring in a certain brain area. Notice that identifying a type of conscious experience with a type of neural event entails that anyone lacking that type of neural event also lacks the relevant type of conscious experience.

According to type- physicalism, that creature cannot be in pain, no matter what behavioral evidence we have to the contrary. While token-physicalism allows us to retain the claim that conscious experi- ences are physical things, it lacks the scientiic usefulness of type-physicalism.

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Type- physicalism, if true, would allow us to make predictions and generalizations: if a type of experience is identical with a type of neural event, we know that other creatures with that kind of neural event have the same kind of experience, and vice versa. Token-physicalism, however, leaves us seeking explanations. In virtue of what, for example, do two distinct kinds of neural event realize the same kind of experience? Philosophers have tried to remedy this situation by inding generalizations at a more abstract level, for instance by claiming that two types of neural event realize the same type of conscious experience in virtue of playing the same functional role.

Although the neural events them- selves are of diferent neural types, they are both realizers of the same functional type: pain. Functionalism works reasonably well as a theory of mental states like beliefs and desires, but is less convincing when it comes to capturing the qualitative character of conscious experiences. To see why, notice that the functionalist claims that any system with the same functional organization as you will have all the same mental states as you.

We provide each of the billion people in China I chose China because it has a billion inhabitants with a spe- cially designed two-way radio that connects them in the appropriate way to other persons and to [an] artiicial body […] It is not at all obvious that the China-body system is physically impossible. It could be functionally equivalent to you for a short time, say an hour. Block, , p. Minimal physicalism about consciousness requires only that conscious experience supervenes on the physi- cal world.

Lewis, , p. By analogy, if consciousness supervenes on the physical, then there is nothing more to it than the underlying physical arrangement of the world: no two identical physical worlds could difer with regard to consciousness. Approaching consciousness in terms of supervenience gives us a minimal form of physicalism, but one which is without explanatory power.

To say the dot-matrix patterns supervene on the dots does not tell us why those particular patterns exist, or how we should get clearer on the relationship between the dots and the patterns. Despite its minimalist nature, however, super- venience physicalism is still open to objections from the non-physicalist. Jackson asks us to imagine that Mary has been brought up from birth in an entirely black- and-white room. Mary has grown up reading black-and-white books and watching black-and-white television, and has developed a vast scientiic knowledge as a result.

Theories of Consciousness as Reflexivity

In particular, she has learned how color vision works in humans: she knows everything that science can tell her about light wavelengths, for example, and visual circuitry in the brain. Suppose that ater many years of study in her black-and-white room, Mary has come to know all the physical facts about human color vision. What will happen when Mary leaves the black-and-white room and enters the world of color for the irst time?

The material constitution of phenomenal consciousness by Pereboom, Derk ; Material constitution, the neuroscience of consciousness, and the temporality of experience by Curtis, Benjamin L. The structure of phenomenal consciousness by Opie, Jonathan P. Du kanske gillar. Inbunden Engelska, Spara som favorit. Skickas inom vardagar. Philosophers of mind have been arguing for decades about the nature of phenomenal consciousness and the relation between brain and mind. More recently, neuroscientists and philosophers of science have entered the discussion. Which neural activities in the brain constitute phenomenal consciousness, and how could science distinguish the neural correlates of consciousness from its neural constitution?

At what level of neural activity is consciousness constituted in the brain and what might be learned from well-studied phenomena like binocular rivalry, attention, memory, affect, pain, dreams and coma? What should the science of consciousness want to know and what should explanation look like in this field? Finally, we discuss necessity and sufficiency of report and memory for phenomenal consciousness. AB - In this chapter, we discuss possible confounds that need to be carefully controlled for when the neural constitution of phenomenal conscious perception is studied. De-confounding the neural constitution of phenomenal consciousness from attention, report and memory Jeroen J.

Abstract In this chapter, we discuss possible confounds that need to be carefully controlled for when the neural constitution of phenomenal conscious perception is studied. Fingerprint Constitution and Bylaws.