Experienced Wholeness

Experienced Wholeness

Integrating Insights from Gestalt Theory, Cognitive Neuroscience, and Predictive Processing

By Wanja Wiese

An interdisciplinary account of phenomenal unity, investigating how experiential wholes can be characterized and how such characterizations can be analyzed computationally.

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Summary

An interdisciplinary account of phenomenal unity, investigating how experiential wholes can be characterized and how such characterizations can be analyzed computationally.

How can we account for phenomenal unity? That is, how can we characterize and explain our experience of objects and groups of objects, bodily experiences, successions of events, and the attentional structure of consciousness as wholes? In this book, Wanja Wiese develops an interdisciplinary account of phenomenal unity, investigating how experiential wholes can be characterized and how such characterization can be analyzed conceptually as well as computationally.

Wiese first addresses how the unity of consciousness can be characterized phenomenologically, discussing what it is like to experience wholes and what is the experiential contribution of phenomenal unity. Considering the associated conceptual and empirical issues, he draws connections to phenomenological accounts and research on Gestalt theory. The results show how the attentional structure of experience, the experience of temporal flow, and different types of experiential wholes contribute to our sense of phenomenal unity. Moreover, characterizing phenomenal unity in terms of the existence of a single global phenomenal state is neither necessary nor sufficient to adequately address the problem of phenomenal unity. Wiese then suggests that the concepts and ideas of predictive processing can be used to analyze phenomenal unity computationally. The result is both a conceptual framework and an interdisciplinary account: the regularity account of phenomenal unity. According to this account, experienced wholes correspond to a hierarchy of connecting regularities. The brain tracks these regularities by hierarchical prediction error minimization, which approximates hierarchical Bayesian inference.

Hardcover

$50.00 S ISBN: 9780262036993 368 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 21 figures

Endorsements

  • Over the past years, a small group of talented scientists has spearheaded a paradigm shift in neurophilosophy, via a synthesis of philosophy and the neuroscience of the predictive brain. This book is written by a rising star within this group. He offers a feast of arguments that will appeal to philosophers and theoretical neurobiologists alike. The book concludes that the attentional structuring of conscious experience captures the fundamental 'I can' and 'I am' properties of mental agency. To understand why this is such a powerful argument, let Wanja unpack the ideas for you: there are lots of them—and he puts them together beautifully.

    Karl Friston

    FRS, Wellcome Principal Research Fellow and Scientific Director

  • In Experienced Wholeness, Wanja Wiese offers a profound, sophisticated, and comprehensive treatment of one of the most puzzling aspects of the way we perceive the world, the unity of experience. Wiese expertly combines philosophical analysis with cutting-edge empirical science and computational theory. He charts a novel course through extremely difficult philosophical discussions and then uses that as a springboard for a compelling theory of unity, based on the brain's capacity to represent the causal structure of the world. This book is certain to be a crucial landmark, of interest to several fields of research, in our understanding of how the brain constructs our inner world.

    Jakob Hohwy

    Cognition & Philosophy Lab, Monash University; author of The Predictive Mind