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Consciousness

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Our intuition tells us that we, our conscious selves, cause our own voluntary acts. Yet scientists have long questioned this; Thomas Huxley, for example, in 1874 compared mental events to a steam whistle that contributes nothing to the work of a locomotive. New experimental evidence (most notable, work by Benjamin Libet and Daniel Wegner) has brought the causal status of human behavior back to the forefront of intellectual discussion. This multidisciplinary collection advances the debate, approaching the question from a variety of perspectives.

The contributors begin by examining recent research in neuroscience that suggests that consciousness does not cause behavior, offering the outline of an empirically based model that shows how the brain causes behavior and where consciousness might fit in. Other contributors address the philosophical presuppositions that may have informed the empirical studies, raising questions about what can be legitimately concluded about the existence of free will from Libet's and Wegner's experimental results. Others examine the effect recent psychological and neuroscientific research could have on legal, social, and moral judgments of responsibility and blame—in situations including A Clockwork Orange-like scenario of behavior correction.

Contributors: William P. Banks, Timothy Bayne, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Suparna Choudhury, Walter J. Freeman, Shaun Gallagher, Susan Hurley, Marc Jeannerod, Leonard V. Kaplan, Hakwan Lau, Sabine Maasen, Bertram F. Malle, Alfred R. Mele, Elisabeth Pacherie, Richard Passingham, Susan Pockett, Wolfgang Prinz, Peter W. Ross

An Integrated Theory of Mind and Brain

In The Crucible of Consciousness, Zoltan Torey offers a theory of the mind and its central role in evolution. He traces the evolutionary breakthrough that rendered the brain accessible to itself and shows how the mind-boosted brain works. He identifies what it is that separates the human’s self-reflective consciousness from mere animal awareness, and he maps its neural and linguistic underpinnings. And he argues, controversially, that the neural technicalities of reflective awareness can be neither algorithmic nor spiritual--neither a computer nor a ghost in the machine.

The human mind is unique; it is not only the epicenter of our knowledge but also the outer limit of our intellectual reach. Not to solve the riddle of the self-aware mind, writes Torey, goes against the evolutionary thrust that created it. Torey proposes a model that brings into a single focus all the elements that make up the puzzle: how the brain works, its functional components and their interactions; how language evolved and how syntax evolved out of the semantic substrate by way of neural transactions; and why the mind-endowed brain deceives itself with entelechy-type impressions.

Torey first traces the language-linked emergence of the mind, the subsystem of the brain that enables it to be aware of itself. He then explores this system: how consciousness works, why it is not transparent to introspection, and what sense it makes in the context of evolution. 

The “consciousness revolution” and the integrative focus of neuroscience have made it possible to make concrete formerly mysterious ideas about the human mind. Torey’s model of the mind is the logical outcome of this, highlighting a coherent and meaningful role for a reflectively aware humanity.

Edited by Edmond Wright

Many philosophers and cognitive scientists dismiss the notion of qualia, sensory experiences that are internal to the brain. Leading opponents of qualia (and of Indirect Realism, the philosophical position that has qualia as a central tenet) include Michael Tye, Daniel Dennett, Paul and Patricia Churchland, and even Frank Jackson, a former supporter. Qualiaphiles apparently face the difficulty of establishing philosophical contact with the real when their access to it is seen by qualiaphobes to be second-hand and, worse, hidden behind a "veil of sensation"—a position that would slide easily into relativism and solipsism, presenting an ethical dilemma. In The Case for Qualia, proponents of qualia defend the Indirect Realist position and mount detailed counterarguments against opposing views.

The book first presents philosophical defenses, with arguments propounding, variously, a new argument from illusion, a sense-datum theory, dualism, "qualia realism," qualia as the "cement" of the experiential world, and "subjective physicalism." Three scientific defenses follow, discussing color, heat, and the link between the external object and the internal representation. Finally, specific criticisms of opposing views include discussions of the Churchlands' "neurophilosophy," answers to Frank Jackson's abandonment of qualia (one of which is titled, in a reference to Jackson’s famous thought experiment, "Why Frank Should Not Have Jilted Mary"), and refutations of Transparency Theory.

Contributors: Torin Alter, Michel Bitbol, Harold I. Brown, Mark Crooks, George Graham, C.L. Hardin, Terence E. Horgan, Robert J. Howell, Amy Kind, E.J. Lowe, Riccardo Manzotti, Barry Maund, Martine Nida-Rümelin, John O'Dea, Isabelle Peschard, Matjaž Potrc, Diana Raffman, Howard Robinson, William S. Robinson, John R. Smythies, Edmond Wright Edmond Wright is the editor of New Representationalisms: Essays in the Philosophy of Perception and the author of Narrative, Perception, Language, and Faith.

Collected Papers

This volume of Ned Block's writings collects his papers on consciousness, functionalism, and representationism. A number of these papers treat the significance of the multiple realizability of mental states for the mind-body problem—a theme that has concerned Block since the 1960s. One paper on this topic considers the upshot for the mind-body problem of the possibility of a robot that is functionally like us but physically different—as is Commander Data of Star Trek's second generation. The papers on consciousness treat such conceptual issues as phenomenal versus access consciousness, Dennett's theory of consciousness, and the function of consciousness, as well as such empirical matters as "How Not to Find the Neural Correlate of Consciousness," and (in an expanded version of a paper originally in Trends in Cognitive Sciences) an argument that there are distinct neural correlates for access consciousness and phenomenal consciousness. Turning to the mind-body problem, Block defends physicalism against Max Black's argument concerning phenomenal modes of presentation. The papers on representationism consider "mental paint" as well as the "Inverted Earth" thought experiment—a world in which colors are reversed but there is a compensating reversal in the words that are used to describe them.

Consciousness, Function, and Representation, bringing together papers that have appeared primarily in journals and conference proceedings, can be regarded as Block's most complete statement of his positions on consciousness.

Do we consciously cause our actions, or do they happen to us? Philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, theologians, and lawyers have long debated the existence of free will versus determinism. In this book Daniel Wegner offers a novel understanding of the issue. Like actions, he argues, the feeling of conscious will is created by the mind and brain. Yet if psychological and neural mechanisms are responsible for all human behavior, how could we have conscious will? The feeling of conscious will, Wegner shows, helps us to appreciate and remember our authorship of the things our minds and bodies do. Yes, we feel that we consciously will our actions, Wegner says, but at the same time, our actions happen to us. Although conscious will is an illusion, it serves as a guide to understanding ourselves and to developing a sense of responsibility and morality.

Approaching conscious will as a topic of psychological study, Wegner examines the issue from a variety of angles. He looks at illusions of the will—those cases where people feel that they are willing an act that they are not doing or, conversely, are not willing an act that they in fact are doing. He explores conscious will in hypnosis, Ouija board spelling, automatic writing, and facilitated communication, as well as in such phenomena as spirit possession, dissociative identity disorder, and trance channeling. The result is a book that sidesteps endless debates to focus, more fruitfully, on the impact on our lives of the illusion of conscious will.

Physicalism is the idea that if everything that goes on in the universe is physical, our consciousness and feelings must also be physical. Ever since Descartes formulated the mind-body problem, a long line of philosophers has found the physicalist view to be preposterous. According to John Perry, the history of the mind-body problem is, in part, the slow victory of physical monism over various forms of dualism. Each new version of dualism claims that surely something more is going on with us than the merely physical.

In this book Perry defends a view that he calls antecedent physicalism. He takes on each of three major arguments against physicalism, showing that they pose no threat to antecedent physicalism. These arguments are the zombie argument (that there is a possible world inhabited by beings that are physically indiscernible from us but not conscious), the knowledge argument (that we can know facts about our own feelings that are not just physical facts, thereby proving physicalism false), and the modal argument (that the identity of sensation and brain state is contingent, but since there is no such thing as contingent identity, sensations are not brain states).

This book investigates the philosophical, empirical, and theoretical bases on which a cognitive neuroscience of consciousness can be founded. The research questions reviewed include: Does perception occur without awareness? Can the neural bases of perceptual awareness be visualized with brain-imaging methods? What do unilateral neglect and extinction tell us about conscious and unconscious processing? What is the contribution of brainstem nuclei to conscious states? How can we identify mental processes uniquely associated with consciousness? An introductory chapter proposes a theoretical framework for building a cognitive neuroscience of consciousness, and two concluding chapters evaluate the progress made so far.

In this book José Luis Bermúdez addresses two fundamental problems in the philosophy and psychology of self-consciousness: (1) Can we provide a noncircular account of full-fledged self-conscious thought and language in terms of more fundamental capacities? (2) Can we explain how full-fledged self-conscious thought and language can arise in the normal course of human development? Bermúdez argues that a paradox (the paradox of self-consciousness) arises from the apparent strict interdependence between self-conscious thought and linguistic self-reference. The paradox renders circular all theories that define self-consciousness in terms of linguistic mastery of the first-person pronoun. It seems to follow from the paradox of self-consciousness that no account or explanation of self-consciousness can be given.

Responding to the paradox, the author draws on recent work in empirical psychology and philosophy to cut the tie between self-conscious thought and linguistic self-reference. He argues that any explanation of full-fledged self-consciousness that answers these two questions requires attention to prelinguistic and preconceptual forms of self-consciousness.

The Third Tucson Discussions and Debates

Can there be a science of consciousness? This issue has been the focus of three landmark conferences sponsored by the University of Arizona in Tucson. The first two conferences and books have become touchstones for the field. This volume presents a selection of invited papers from the third conference. It showcases recent progress in this maturing field by researchers from philosophy, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, phenomenology, and physics. It is divided into nine sections: the explanatory gap, color, neural correlates of consciousness, vision, emotion, the evolution and function of consciousness, physical reality, the timing of conscious experience, and phenomenology. Each section is preceded by an overview and commentary by the editors.

Contributors:
Dick J. Bierman, Jeffrey Burgdorf, A. Graham Cairns-Smith, William H. Calvin, Christian de Quincey, Frank H. Durgin, Vittorio Gallese, Elizabeth L. Glisky, Melvyn A. Goodale, Richard L. Gregory, Scott Hagan, C. Larry Hardin, C. A. Heywood, Masayuki Hirafuji, Nicholas Humphrey, Harry T. Hunt, Piet Hut, Alfred W. Kaszniak, Robert W. Kentridge, Stanley A. Klein, Charles D. Laughlin, Joseph Levine, Lianggang Lou, Shimon Malin, A. David Milner, Steven Mithen, Martine Nida-Rumelin, Stephen Palmer, Jaak Panksepp, Dean Radin, Steven Z. Rapcsak, Sheryl L. Reminger, Antti Revonsuo, Gregg H. Rosenberg, Yves Rossetti, Jeffrey M. Schwartz, Jonathan Shear, Galen Strawson, Robert Van Gulick, Frances Vaughan, Franz X. Vollenweider, B. Alan Wallace, Douglas F. Watt, Larry Weiskrantz, Fred A. Wolf, Kunio Yasue, Arthur Zajonc.

The Hard Problem
Edited by Jonathan Shear

At the 1994 landmark conference "Toward a Scientific Basis for Consciousness," philosopher David Chalmers distinguished between the "easy" problems and the "hard" problem of consciousness research. According to Chalmers, the easy problems are to explain cognitive functions such as discrimination, integration, and the control of behavior; the hard problem is to explain why these functions should be associated with phenomenal experience. Why doesn't all this cognitive processing go on "in the dark," without any consciousness at all? In this book philosophers, physicists, psychologists, neurophysiologists, computer scientists, and others address this central topic in the growing discipline of consciousness studies. Some take issue with Chalmers's distinction, arguing that the hard problem is a nonproblem, or that the explanatory gap is too wide to be bridged. Others offer alternative suggestions as to how the problem might be solved, whether through cognitive science, fundamental physics, empirical phenomenology, or with theories that take consciousness as irreducible.

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