New Horizons in the Neuroscience of Consciousness by Elaine K. Perry, Daniel Collerton, Fiona E.N. LeBeau, and Heather Ashton (Advances in Consciousness Research: John Benjamins Publishing Company) A fascinating cornucopia of new ideas, based on fundamentals of neurobiology, psychology, psychiatry and therapy, this book extends boundaries of current concepts of consciousness. Its eclectic mix will simulate and challenge not only neuroscientists and psychologists but entice others interested in exploring consciousness. Contributions from top researchers in consciousness and related fields project diverse ideas, focused mainly on conscious nonconscious interactions:
This is a unique book on consciousness. It is a fascinating cornucopia of new ideas on the subject, based on the fundamentals of neurobiology, psychology, psychiatry and therapy that extends the boundaries of current concepts of consciousness. Readers, not only neuroscientists and psychologists but also professionals from other quarters of the academic world with a general interest in exploring consciousness, should find this eclectic mix as stimulating and challenging as we do.
When the Editor of this prestigious series, Maxim Stamenov, suggested a new edition of the volume published in 2002, 'The Neurochemistry of Consciousness, we found ourselves confronted with a challenge. The 1990s, and turn of the century, saw a plethora of texts on the neuroscience of consciousness following Christof Koch and Francis Crick's seminal notion that pursuing neural correlates of consciousness would unravel novel mechanisms and theories. These new books, based on brain mechanisms like neurotransmission, psychological functions like attention, and methodologies such as brain imaging, relevant as they are, have not (as might be expected) taken us nearer the central issue - how consciousness can be explained in terms of brain activities. Neither have they led to widely accepted radical paradigm shifts, such as have occurred in other areas of science like quantum physics. With time, even some die hard mechanistic neuroscientists have come to acknowledge that there may be an impasse - a gap between top-down subjective awareness and bottom up brain mechanisms as we currently understand them; the so called ' hard' problem of `qualia', - that is not apparently bridged in current approaches.
The subject nevertheless continues to intrigue scientists and philosophers. Neuroscience, we believe, continues to play a central role in providing information on the brain that will inform thinking on the subject. Enlisting two new Editors and after much debate we decided to encourage some thinking 'outside the box'. We extended a wide net by approaching experts in the area of the neuroscience of consciousness, seeking new concepts and approaches. We were greatly encouraged to elicit positive and enthusiastic responses to our plea for short, sharp contributions from a number of top researchers either working directly in the field of consciousness or in related areas. Although we initially suggested a focus on conscious - non-conscious interactions, many contributions have gone beyond this boundary and demonstrated the diversity of ideas that the term 'consciousness' can elicit.
There were various ways we could have grouped the contributions: as we had done in the previous edition into normal states (controlled or otherwise) and disease or drug induced states; bottom up - how consciousness is related to and affected by molecular/neuronal/systems, versus top down - how consciousness itself affects these brain mechanisms; academic approaches relating to theories of consciousness versus those with more pragmatic implications.
More than most books on consciousness, this volume has been structured by the ideas of individual contributors rather than any preconceived editorial plan. As ideas and concepts accumulated it seemed to us that the most logical and meaningful categorization was fourfold grouping chapters which:
These divisions are not absolute and one of the book's strengths is that each chapter stands alone and can, therefore be read in any order, over any period of time.
Below each Editor has highlighted what they consider to be the main points of interest for each of the contributions in the book. We hope this overview will guide the reader to chapters related to their particular field of interests, but also that it will entice readers into areas outside their fields of expertise. This has certainly been our journey as Editors and we hope that it is one that readers will also undertake and enjoy as much as we have done.
Slow cortical potential hypothesis of consciousness. Biyu He and Marcus Raichle postulate that the slow cortical potential recorded from the surface of the brain is a key neural substrate that could facilitate integration across wide cortical areas - a prerequisite for conscious awareness. In view of the link between the slow cortical potential and the fMRI signal, their hypothesis can be tested empirically.
Distinct characteristics of conscious experience met by large scale neuronal synchronization. Lucia Melloni and Wolf Singer propose that synchronization of distributed neuronal activity patterns meets most requirements for the neuronal mechanisms supporting consciousness. The challenge of identifying neuronal correlates of consciousness is distinguishing between the processes that lead to conscious experience and those that follow once contents have become conscious. Criteria for this distinction are outlined, separating the contribution of each subsystem and characterizing how they interact; providing a real alternative to the `ever lurking homunculus.
Cellular components of gamma oscillations. Fiona LeBeau explores the role of key neuronal elements in the generation of cortical gamma frequency oscillations. She discusses how new techniques for labelling and activating in isolation specific sub-classes of neurons (optogenetics) can be used to explore the cellular components that underlie the generation of a brain activity that may be specifically linked to aspects of consciousness.
Dopaminergic decision making. Anthony Grace discusses how changes in dopamine levels in the limbic system (prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and nucleus accumbens) guide behavioural responses and modulate decision-making. He proposes that dopamine can serve to focus conscious attention to a particular task and can flexibly alter behaviour to achieve goals.
Endocannannabinoid system and undercurrents of consciousness. Heather Ashton stresses that unconscious processes set the 'tone' for all conscious moods, thoughts and feelings. These unconscious processes are mediated by modulatory neurotransmitter systems, of which the endocannabinoid system is one of the most powerful. This system modulates almost all vital functions including those clearly involved in consciousness (cognition, mood and others) and many that do not normally reach consciousness (motor control, endocrine activity and others).
Disconnecting consciousness in general anaesthesia. George
colleagues explore molecular and cognitive mechanisms of general anaesthesia and their relevance to the science of consciousness. They suggest that general anaesthetics serve as an important but still relatively under used tool to explore transitions from conscious to unconscious processing, as these drugs rapidly induce a complete and reversible cessation of consciousness. With vast numbers (over four million patients each year in North America alone) undergoing general anaesthesia, the highly controlled and monitored setting of the operating room could become the ultimate consciousness laboratory.
Neural mechanisms of mental time travel underpin the continuity of consciousness across time. Michael Hasselmo uses the term neural time travel to describe the processes of drawing on distributed cortical perceptual processes for detecting the state of the self along multiple dimensions. These include spatial location, head direction, speed, temporal duration, and egocentric relationships to items. He provides evidence that one particular set of cerebral circuitry, mediated by cholinergic muscarinic receptor mechanisms, activates neuronal properties involved in seemless internal representation of self that is based on memory.
Explicit and implicit memory share underlying processes. Signy Sheldon and Morris Moscovitch remind us of the commonly held assumption that consciousness is a defining feature that distinguishes explicit memory (with conscious awareness) from implicit memory (without conscious awareness). Although early studies support this notion, recent evidence suggests that conscious and non-conscious memory systems may share crucial underlying processes. They propose that one locus of interaction between some types of explicit and implicit memory may be the non-conscious processes associated with recollection or detailed remembering, that are mediated by the hippocampus.
More than one type of non-conscious processing. Stan Franklin and Bernard Baars suggest that unconscious processes come in two varieties - the preconscious, whose contents may become conscious, and the never-conscious, whose contents may not. They enlist their Global Workspace Theory and a related model to catalogue never-conscious and preconscious processes. They suggest that the functional distinction between never-conscious and preconscious processes derives from one of the major purposes of the consciousness mechanism - to select the most salient portion of the current situation to which to attend and to broadcast this globally, in order to choose the best next action.
Gambling as a measure of awareness. Colin Clifford and colleagues remind us that most of the processing of incoming sensory information is not accessible to consciousness. These authors are concerned with methodological issues in exploring the limits of unconscious processing and evaluate the intriguing tool of post-decision wagering as a candidate method for measuring awareness.
Magical methodology. Gustav Kuhn shows us how magicians have developed powerful techniques to manipulate our perception and awareness. Many of these techniques share similarities with phenomena typically investigated by psychologists and neuroscientists. His novel approach to the study of consciousness is to utilize the magician's expertise to complement more traditional experimental laboratory based research. This approach offers new and exciting insights into wide areas of consciousness, such as attention, visual awareness and how top-down processes modulate perception.
The advantage of a noisy brain. Edmund Rolls focuses on decision making and the advantages of noise caused by randomness in the spiking times of neurons in the brain. Noise results in the brain operating effectively as a non-deterministic system, which has implications for free will. It also results in decisions being taken probabilistically between the reasoning system and the implicit reward system. If free will describes the operation of the reasoning system, consciousness is then a property of a reasoning system that must use higher order syntactic thoughts to correct its first order thoughts. Decision making in an implicit system potentially involves confabulating a reason for the decision with the feeling of being free an illusion.
Social consciousness as a key function of the default network. Kai Vogeley describes the neural correlates of the reciprocal nature of social interaction using fMRI. Self-consciousness, as awareness of ones own mental states, and social consciousness, as knowledge of the mind of others, overlap with the default mode of brain function. A key biological function of this default network, irrespective of task, may be social consciousness. Humans thus have a built in disposition for social cognition that is reflected in this neural default mode.
Linguistic processing at two levels. Mike Sharwood Smith and John Truscott point out that knowledge, use and acquisition of language is largely an unconscious process for a child acquiring its first language. However, it leaves conscious footprints in the form of a 'voice in the head. Learning a second language in later years, the mature learner can and often does develop a conscious understanding of what is being acquired. This understanding springs from a knowledge that is separate from the unconscious and inaccessible system developed within the language module. It is an open question how much that separate knowledge and the voice in the head that it engenders actually enhances or hinders development and on-line performance.
Dreaming as key to understanding consciousness. Antti Revonsuo and Katja Valli suggest that dreaming as a state of subjective awareness, essentially independent of input and output, best lends itself to the challenge of bridging the top-down / bottom-up divide. They go so far as to indicate that if the internally generated state of dreaming is not accounted for by any neuroscientific theory of consciousness that theory is lacking.
Lucid dreaming and the bimodality of consciousness. Allan Hobson and Ursula Voss argue that, in the context of the widely accepted division between primary and secondary or reflective consciousness, dreaming is dominated by the primary type. Intriguingly, lucid dreaming, during which rational thought and volition emerge in a state of sleep dominated by primary consciousness, provides a new investigative tool. Exploring dreaming is proposed as a cornerstone of higher level consciousness research.
Psychopathologies and therapies
Why depression feels bad. Mark Solms and Jaak Panksepp highlight the urgent need to restore conscious experience to psychiatric practice. They provide evidence for the failure of bottom-up antidepressant drugs or theories of serotonin deficits to deal with the problem of depression. Their idea of depression as a kind of bereavement based on loss of self connectedness and separation is, they suggest, a pathological extension of a natural survival mechanism. Accordingly continuing to ignore such conscious experience is, they suggest, likely to be perilous in clinical practice.
Consciousness abhors a vacuum. Daniel Collerton considers the question of what kind of consciousness is experienced by people with dementia and suggests they have not diminished, but different conscious awareness. Resulting from brain pathologies which impair perception and other aspects of cognition, gaps in normal conscious awareness are not left unoccupied but are 'filled in' resulting in, for example, hallucinations or delusions. This view encourages empathy in those interacting with people with dementia that could impact on care strategies.
Consciousness as the spin-off and schizophrenia as the price paid for language in man. Tim Crow puts forward a novel and thought provoking theory of schizophrenia based on the asymmetry (torque) of the human brain as the foundation of the faculty of language. Focusing on the symptoms of hearing voices, the experience of thoughts as not one's own, and incoherent speech as core symptoms of schizophrenia, he follows three new lines of argument. First, this torque is the feature that defines the human brain as four chambered by comparison with the two chambers of the generalized mammalian brain. Secondly, by separating thought from speech production in the frontal lobes, and meaning from speech perception in occipito-parieto-temporal association cortex, torque confers on our species the capacity for language. Thirdly, the phenomena of psychosis can be seen as 'leakage' from one to another of the four quadrants of association cortex.
Hippocampal seat of consciousness and hallucinations in schizophrenia. Ralf-Peter Behrendt argues that a hippocampal auto-association network (CA3) pinpoints a spatiotemporal and emotional context for the purpose of event memory formation. Representing a continuous flow of complex symbols, conscious experience may be irrelevant to the workings of the brain, although neural activity underlying event memory formation influences behaviour (via output to medial prefrontal cortex, ventral striatum and lateral septum). Excessive pyramidal cell activity in the CA3 area, due to deficient inhibition (by GABAergic basket inter-neurons), leading to event memory formation unrestrained by input from areas such as entorhinal, may be a mechanism for the generation of altered consciousness such as hallucinations in schizophrenia.
Perspectives from the Charles Bonnet Syndrome. Dominic ffytche examines evidence derived from visual hallucinations in the context of eye disease - the Charles Bonnet Syndrome - to examine the nature of the visual unconscious. Forcing us to reconsider the nature of the unconscious, this hidden system of processing underlies our apparently seamless conscious experience of the world, with many of its complex functions yet to be recognised by visual science.
Believing is hearing is believing: the reciprocal nature of consciousness. Will Sedley provides an analysis of the neural correlates of auditory hallucinations including tinnitus, musical and verbal hallucinations, misperceptions and imagery. All types of auditory consciousness involve auditory cortex activation which can often be measured as synchronised gamma band oscillations, but disruptions in connectivity, such as cochlear damage, can lead to positive feedback cycles that cause and enhance hallucinations.
Dreaming as a model of psychosis. Armando D'Agostino, Ivan Limosani and Silvio Scarone investigate the long neglected dream state of consciousness in psychiatry. They argue that the similarity between normal dreaming and states of psychosis provides a novel fertile area for psychopathology and consciousness research. In particular, they suggest that lucid dreaming, whereby there is awareness of the dream state during sleep, whether induced by psychological or pharmacological means, could be a new tool for investigation and therapy in psychiatry.
If only drug users were aware of why they choose to use. Andrew Parrrott presents new evidence based on reports by users of ecstasy/MDMA that their choices are governed by largely non-conscious optimistic beliefs focused on desired aims rather than actual consequences, with low levels of or little attention to, conscious awareness of all the issues. He describes how users become aware of the adverse effects of MDMA and make the conscious decision to use less frequently and quit permanently.
Brain body interactions in placebo responses. Fabrizio Benedetti presents a host of fascinating data on how placebo responses, involving a range of cues, depend on both conscious and non conscious processes, and how these can mimic therapeutic drug effects even inducing cellular and molecular changes in the patient's brain (e.g. receptor function or neuronal circuitry). He argues that this evidence provides the basis for the efficacy of cognitive and other psychological therapies in terms of neurobiological mechanisms. This raises the intriguing question of how we might deliberately self modify our mindset at both conscious and non conscious levels to promote healing processes.
Paradox of creativity. Ashish Ranpura and Mark Lythgoe describe a neurobiological theory that explains the process of creativity - possibly the most impressive facet of secondary consciousness. The authors explore how three paradoxes of creativity, the paradox of ego, of focus, and of quality are defining features of this quintessentially human experience. The frontal lobes appear to play a critical role in creativity and the authors draw upon a Darwinian selection theory that allows conscious creativity to emerge from a series of unconscious mental activities.
How research on meditation contributes to the neuroscience of consciousness. Antoine Lutz examines initial findings of neuroscientific research on meditation and reveals how these identify new horizons of further inquiry in consciousness research. While such studies of contemplative practices are still in their infancy, early findings promise to contribute in three key areas. These include: neuroplasticity - physiological and psychological indices of short and long terms responses of the brain circuits that underlie complex mental functions associated with specific types of meditation techniques; mind body interactions - revealing mechanisms by which such training may exert beneficial effects on physical health; and subjectivity - well developed introspective skills of practitioners potentially shedding new light on the neural counterpart of subjectivity.
Exploring consciousness based on self induced altered stated techniques. Bangalore Gangadhar and Naren Rao provide a fascinating perspective on methods used to alter personal conscious experience using a variety of procedures commonly practised in India including meditation. Together with Eastern concepts of the nature (levels or states) of consciousness which diverge markedly from Western ideas, for example belief in a cosmic consciousness as a source of all conscious experience, he provides food for thought on potential paradigm shifts in theories of consciousness. At the same time, how physiological and brain imaging markers are affected as a result of meditation provides neuroscience with down to earth tools for investigating an area hitherto regarded by most neuroscientists as esoteric at best.
Models of conscious and non-conscious perception may need radical revision in unexpected ways. Dean Radin provides evidence from anecdotal to controlled scientific experimentation (published in refereed journals) that telepathy is a genuine phenomenon. He raises the question of how to account for such conscious interactions beyond the 'common senses and what kind of new neuroscientific theories might have to be generated. An intriguing theory of 'entanglement' based on principles of quantum physics is discussed as a possible explanation of such `non local' phenomena — food for thought for neuroscientists looking beyond continuing shortcomings of reductionism to explain conscious experience.
Plants of the gods and shamanic journeys. Elaine Perry and Valerie Laws suggest that knowledge and experience of shamanic practitioners may have more to offer consciousness studies than psychedelic plant chemicals. Among agents which alter the boundary between conscious and non-conscious cognition, the ritualistic use of plant species provides an example of long-standing empirical knowledge subsequently verified by scientific (chemical, pharmacological and psychological) evidence. Based on such an impressive 'track record' for obtaining validated information about consciousness, further investigation of shamanic experiences including reports of other 'dimensions' of consciousness are warranted. Evidence obtained in such areas, rooted firmly in scientific methodologies (though no doubt incorporating factors not normally part of scientific methodology such as mind training, belief, past experience and empathy), could potentially contribute material for radical new scientific theories of consciousness.
This book clearly reflects the individuality of its contributors more than most. In seeking novelty, it contains new 'streams of consciousness' on the subject of neuroscience and consciousness that we think provide new directions for future research.
We would hardly expect readers, any more than the Editors as it transpired, to agree with all the arguments raised within this book. A unitary definition of consciousness was neither sought nor provided. In originally setting an interface between conscious non conscious processes as a target focus, we may have been overly optimistic that agreement on any such division could be reached. Categorizing distinct levels of consciousness or considering continuity are clearly far from being resolved. Contributors have incorporated a range of definitions or states of consciousness in addition to or other than the conscious non conscious divide: Gerald Edelman's division between primary or first order and secondary or reflective consciousness; divisions within non conscious processing itself; self consciousness; dreaming as a neglected but core state for investigating consciousness; and Eastern concepts of multiple states that challenge the Western mind.
Drawing together what we consider the most stimulating and challenging ideas into emergent themes for neuroscience based consciousness research, key questions emerge:
Are boundaries between conscious and non conscious processing less obviously demarcated then previously considered, with multiple levels or states or perhaps a boundless continuum?
How much of cognitive or perceptual conscious awareness is based on illusion versus reality?
How many other non-conventional activities and investigative tools (like magic and gambling) might be incorporated into research into consciousness?
Is it time to reinstate dream research into brain research as a model for investigating the essence of conscious awareness in normal and pathological states?
Which if any, or all, of candidate electrophysiological measures is most likely to reflect the mechanisms which are specifically involved in conscious awareness?
Do individual signalling (e.g. neurotransmitter) systems govern specific aspects of consciousness and, if awareness is but a minute portions of pre/unconscious processing is any one system primarily in control of the transition?
Why is general anaesthesia not a mainstream tool in more basic consciousness studies?
Can psychiatric practice thrive or survive without attending to the state and nature of consciousness in individual patients?
Can pathologies associated with common disorders of the human mind be analysed more in relation to consciousness and so inform basic mechanisms of consciousness?
If the placebo effect is so robust and associated with the same mechanisitic changes in brain and body as those induced by drug treatment, why is it not the subject of more therapeutic research?
Is it time for neuroscientists to seriously consider scientific evidence for so called anomalous phenomena such as telepathy, and in this context contemplate paradigm shifts in theories of consciousness?
Should more attention be given to concepts of time honoured mystics about consciousness which could be relevant to neuroscientific enquiry?
In the process of gathering contributions for this book it became clear that a second volume could easily have been generated, as there are many topics we have not had sufficient space to cover in this volume. For example, consciousness in the vegetative state springs to mind as an omission that reminds us of the need for new tools to assess individual subjective states of conscious awareness. New neurophysiological findings of a novel type of high speed cohesion between distant groups of neurons remind us how exciting it is when a new and unexpected observation emerges at the level of observational science to inspire new thinking about neural network integration relevant to consciousness. Default mechanisms that include a kind of continual 'day dreaming' as a fall back position in the awake state remind us of the essentially and continuously creative nature of the conscious stream. And brain body interactions referred to in passing in some chapters may cause us to consider consciousness as a more global phenomenon.
Understanding Consciousness: Second Edition by Max Velmans (Routledge) provides a unique survey and evaluation of consciousness studies, along with an original analysis of consciousness that combines scientific findings, philosophy and common sense. Building on the widely praised first edition, this new edition adds fresh research, and deepens the original analysis in a way that reflects some of the fundamental changes in the understanding of consciousness that have taken place over the last 10 years.
The book is divided into three parts; Part one surveys current theories of consciousness, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. Part two reconstructs an understanding of consciousness from first principles, starting with its phenomenology, and leading to a closer examination of how conscious experience relates to the world described by physics and information processing in the brain. Finally, Part three deals with some of the fundamental issues such as what consciousness is and does, and how it fits into to the evolving universe. As the structure of the book moves from a basic overview of the field to a successively deeper analysis, it can be used both for those new to the subject and for more established researchers.
Understanding Consciousness tells a story with a beginning, middle and end in a way that integrates the philosophy of consciousness with the science. Overall, the book provides a unique perspective on how to address the problems of consciousness and as such, will be of great interest to psychologists, philosophers, neuroscientists and other professionals concerned with mind/body relationships, and all who are interested in this subject.
Excerpt: Consciousness is personal. Indeed it is so close to the core of our being that it has puzzled thinkers from the beginnings of recorded history. What is it? What does it do? How does it relate to the physical world and to the workings of our bodies and brains? At the dawn of the new millennium answers to these questions are beginning to emerge. However there is not one mind/body problem, but many. Some of the problems are empirical, some are conceptual, and some are both. This book deals with some of the deepest puzzles and paradoxes.'
In the nine years or so following the completion of the first edition of this book I have had the opportunity to debate and discuss the ideas presented here with many gifted scientists and philosophers, some sympathetic and some with competing views. Although I believe that my original analysis remains secure, these engagements have allowed me to clarify, deepen and update the argument at many points. To accommodate areas in which there has recently been considerable progress I have also added some new chapters and chapter sections, for example on the neural causes and correlates of consciousness, the potential (but disputed) relevance of quantum mechanics, the vexed problem of free will, and the rather mysterious fact that the phenomenal world seems to be out-there in space, when according to reductionist science it ought to be inside the brain. As before, this book charts a path through the mind/body labyrinth that incorporates these and many other seemingly disparate topics in what (I hope) is a simple, connected way.
A good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, so this book is arranged in three parts. The first part, 'Mind—body theories and their problems', summarises currently dominant thinking about the nature and function of consciousness. We start, as we must in Chapter 1, with some initial definitions, and then go on in Chapter 2 to look at mind/body dualism, an ancient way of viewing the relation of mind to body that persists in some modern interpretations of quantum mechanics. In the Western tradition, this dualist splitting of the universe has largely given way to efforts to understand the universe in a unified materialist way, either in terms of its physical structure or in terms of the ways that it functions. Chapter 3 deals mainly with attempts to demonstrate that mind and consciousness are nothing more than
states of the brain, a position variously known as 'central state identity theory', 'physicalism' or 'biological naturalism'. Chapter 4 turns to dominant traditions in psychological science that view mind or consciousness as activ-ities (rather than states) — a tradition that has its roots in a form of behaviour-ism that was subsequently transformed by the emergence of cognitive science into a view known as 'functionalism' or, more precisely, as `psychofunctionalism'. Chapter 5 broadens and completes this contemporary story, exploring the possibilities of mental functioning not just in brains but also in machines, with a careful look at 'computational functionalism', the view that mind and consciousness are nothing more than certain forms of functioning that might, in principle, be implemented in systems of many different kinds. While none of these positions is entirely satisfactory, all have rational grounds for their support. Rather than dismissing these commonly held views, the aim of Part I is to pinpoint both their strengths and weaknesses.
In spite of their depth of commitment to one or another theoretical position, many philosophers and scientists recognise that this classical dualist versus materialist debate leaves an uneasy tension. While dualism seems to be inconsistent with the findings of materialist science, materialist reductionism seems to be inconsistent with the evidence of ordinary experience. Our challenge is to understand consciousness in a way that does justice to both. With this in mind, Part II of this book, 'A new analysis: how to marry science with experience', goes back to first principles. Rather than seeking to defend any standard position, we start in Chapter 6 with a closer examination of experience itself This has a surprising consequence. If one does this with care the old boundaries that separate the 'contents of consciousness' from what we usually think of as the 'physical world' can be seen to be drawn in the wrong place! What we normally think of as the 'physical world' is actually a phenomenal world or world of appearances. This turns the mind/body problem round on its axis as it forces one to re-examine how the 'contents of consciousness' relate to what we normally think of as the 'physical world'. There are, however, a number of ways in which these altered relationships can be understood. Chapter 7 compares three major, current alternatives, 'direct-realist physicalism', 'biological naturalism' and 'reflexive monism' — and Chapter 8 provides a deeper analysis of how the contents of consciousness, in the form of a phenomenal world, relate to the world described by theoretical physics. This broadened understanding of consciousness also forces one to completely re-examine the interrelation of subjective, intersubjective and 'objective' knowledge, along with the nature of empirical science, the topic of Chapter 9. To complete this reanalysis we finally turn to how the contents of human consciousness relate to what is happening in the human brain. Chapter 10 presents a close examination of how phenomenal experiences relate to the details of human information processing, and Chapter 11 summarises what is known about the neural causal antecedents and correlates of such experiences —with some further surprising conclusions. At first glance, these intricate relationships of consciousness, mind, matter and knowledge seem to form an impenetrable 'world knot'. But, as far as I can tell, it is possible to unravel it, step by simple step, in a way that is consistent with the findings of science and with common sense.
Part III of this book on 'reflexive monism' provides a new synthesis. Chapters 12 and 13 suggest what consciousness is and what it does. Chapter 14 then places consciousness within nature, developing a form of reflexive monism that treats human consciousness as just one manifestation of a wider self-conscious universe. Although the route to this position is new, the position itself is ancient. I find this reassuring. Understanding consciousness requires us to move from understanding the things we are conscious of, to understanding our role as conscious observers, and then to consciousness itself — an act of self-reflection which requires an outward journey and a return. If the place of return does not seem familiar, it is probably the wrong place.
Our conscious lives are the sea in which we swim. So it is not surprising that consciousness is difficult to understand. We consciously experience many different things, and we can think about the things that we experience. But it is not so easy to experience or think about consciousness itself. Given this, it is common within philosophy and science to identify consciousness with some-thing smaller than itself, for example with some thing that we can observe, such as a state of the brain, or with some aspect of what we experience, such as 'thought' or 'language'. One of the themes of this book is that one can understand consciousness without reducing it in this way.
Our understanding of consciousness is also determined by our intellectual history. We are the inheritors of ancient debates. Is the universe composed of one thing (monism) or are there two (dualism)? Does the world have an observer-independent existence (realism) or does its existence depend in some way on the operations of our own minds (idealism)? Is knowledge of the world 'public' and 'objective', and knowledge of our own experience 'private' and 'subjective'? If so, how is it possible to establish the study of consciousness as a science? A second theme of this book is that we have to take stock of these ancient debates, but we do not have to be bound by the polarised choices that they offer.
Current Western philosophical and scientific thought is predominantly materialistic, inspired by the progress of natural science in understanding the material world. Yet, as Tarnas (1993) makes clear, the ultimate passion of the Western mind over 2,500 years has been to understand the ground of its own being. Being conscious is central to being human — and an understanding of consciousness has to be reflexive. From studying the things that we experience we progress to studying the experiencer and the experience. A third theme of this book is that it is possible to do so in a way that is consistent both with science and with 'common sense'.
What's the problem?
Traditionally, the puzzles surrounding consciousness have been known as the 'mind—body' problem. However, it is now clear that 'mind' is not quite the
same thing as 'consciousness', and that the aspect of body most closely involved with consciousness is the brain. It is also clear that there is not one consciousness—brain problem, but many, which we will examine in the course of this book. As a first approximation, these can be divided into five groups, each focused on a few, central questions:
Problem 1. What and where is consciousness?
Problem 2. How are we to understand the causal relationships between consciousness and matter and, in particular, the causal relationships between consciousness and the brain?
Problem 3. What is the function of consciousness? How, for example, does it relate to human information processing?
Problem 4. What forms of matter are associated with consciousness — in particular, what are the neural substrates of consciousness in the human brain?
Problem 5. What are the appropriate ways to examine consciousness, to discover its nature? Which features can we examine with first-person methods, which features require third-person methods, and how do first- and third-person findings relate to each other?
According to Thomas Nagel (1974), consciousness is 'what it is like to be something'. Without it, after all, it would not be like anything to exist. It is generally accepted in philosophy of mind that this does capture something of the essence of the term. At the same time, as George Miller (1962) pointed out, 'Consciousness is a word worn smooth by a million tongues.' The term means many different things to many different people, and no universally agreed 'core meaning' exists. This is odd, as we each have 'psychological data' about what it is like to be conscious or to have consciousness to serve as the basis for an agreed definition.
This uncertainty about how to define consciousness is partly created by the way global theories about consciousness (or even the nature of the universe) have intruded into definitions. For example, 'substance dualists' such as Plato, Descartes and Eccles believe the universe to consist of two fundamental kinds of stuff, material stuff and the stuff of consciousness (a substance associated with soul or spirit). 'Property dualists' such as Sperry and Libet take consciousness to be a special kind of property that is itself nonphysical, but which emerges from physical systems such as the brain once they attain a certain level of complexity. By contrast, creductionists', such as Crick (1994) and Dennett (1991), believe consciousness to be nothing more than a state or function of the brain. Within cognitive psychology, there have been many proposals which identify consciousness with some aspect of human information processing, for example with working memory, focal attention, a central executive, and so on.
We will examine the arguments for and against consciousness being a sub-stance, property, state, or function of the brain in Chapters 2 to 5. The only point we need to note for now is that these definitions of consciousness start more from some theory about its nature than from the phenomenology of consciousness itself. This is to put the cart before the horse. We will proceed in the opposite direction, starting with the phenomenology and moving only gradually (in Parts II and III of this book) to a global theory. For this we need to go back to first principles.
Curious Emotions by Ralph D. Ellis (John Benjamins Pub Co) Emotion drives all cognitive processes, largely determining their qualitative feel, their structure, and in part even their content. Action-initiating centers deep in the emotional brain ground our understanding of the world by enabling us to imagine how we could act relative to it, based on endogenous motivations to engage certain levels of energy and complexity. Thus understanding personality, cognition, consciousness and action requires examining the workings of dynamical systems applied to emotional processes in living organisms. If an object's meaning depends on its action affordances, then understanding intentionality in emotion or cognition requires exploring why emotion is the bridge between action and representational processes such as thought or imagery; and this requires integrating phenomenology with neurophysiology. The resulting viewpoint, "enactivism," entails specific new predictions, and suggests that emotions are about the self-initiated actions of dynamical systems, not reactive "responses" to external events; consciousness is more about motivated anticipation than reaction to inputs.
"This is an important book, a major contribution to the embodiment/self-organization paradigm in psychology/psychiatry. Ellis follows in the tradition of a set of culturally diverse thinkers ranging from Merleau-Ponty to the original Gestalt theorists to humanist psychologists such as Maslow, Rogers, and Gendlin. This work will become an inspiration for transforming many of the prevalent diminutive social policies which are based implicitly on a restricted concept of human identity. -Raymond Russ, Editor, journal of Mind and Behavior
"The key to this book is the notion of the self-organizing system, already under serious development in biology, the cognitive and affective neurosciences, psychiatry, and psychology. Ellis juxtaposes experimental results from all these sciences alongside the deepest existential and humanist concerns, thereby reconciling reductionist and non-reductionist research. Recommended for scientists, philosophers, clinicians, and anyone else with interdisciplinary interests in the emotions, cognition, consciousness, and the ways that nature has interwoven them." -John Bickle, Professor of Neuroscience and Philosophy, University of Cincinnati
Excerpt: The main purpose of this book has been to sketch out an enactive account of the emotions that makes room for the "higher" and even the "existential" human emotions, and is not derivative by its very nature from a short list of consummatory-reduction needs. In fact, I have argued that higher emotions are just as likely to be unconditioned and hardwired as are the consummatory-reductive ones. The reason is that conscious beings must be self-organizational dynamical systems, geared toward maintaining certain levels of energy and complexity as well as toward homeostasis and boundary protection. This theory enables us to make a meaningful distinction between self-motivated action and mere reaction. A self-organizing system is one that actively appropriates and replaces the substratum components needed to keep the pattern going, rather than being the passive causal outcome of the interactions of the components. Of course, this is just what living organisms do (Monod 1971; Kauffman 1993).
If a dynamical systems account resolves the mental causation problem, it can also resolve the most intractable aspect of the mind-body problem, the "hard problem" (Chalmers 1995). Chalmers argues that if we can show that certain physico-chemical antecedents cause the raising of my hand, and that they operate according to the same physical and chemical principles as in non-conscious parts of nature, then giving a complete physical explanation of all such brain events would still leave out of account anything that would explain why there is consciousness. Dynamical systems theory can answer Chalmers' objections to physicalism by showing why only certain types of physical systems –complex dynamical ones that include emotional motivations (which of course can sometimes be unconscious) – can have consciousness. And this view seems consistent with a concept of the self as simultaneously available to reflection within any given state, and providing causal power and directionality within the state.
To be an actor rather than a mere reactor means to be a system that readjusts its own parts in order to maintain and enhance the continuity of the functioning of the whole, i.e., to be a higher order pattern. Parts of systems can re-act, but if the system as a whole is a self-maintaining Gestalt (what Merleau-Ponty 1942, calls a "psychophysical form"), then it can act rather than just react. Of course, to "act" just means to behave in a way that is determined by the tendency of the whole to readjust its parts rather than to be pushed in partes extra parts fashion. Thus consider even a fairly complex mechanical system, i.e., one in which everything that happens to any given part can be described exhaustively in terms of some specific other part's effect on it, without reference to a tendency of the whole to maintain its overall pattern: Such a mechanical system still cannot "act." The tendency toward self-organization is the form of inertia that counteracts the inertia that describes objects' tendency to seek a lower energy level or conserve energy; we might call it an inertia of "action" –a tendency for patterns to maintain themselves by appropriating and replacing the needed substratum elements to facilitate the continuation of the pattern.
How can there be such an "inertia of action"? Do all physical things not conform to laws describable in terms of conservation of energy? The inertia of action stems from the fact that patterns in nature show a greater or lesser tendency to maintain themselves over changes in their parts, and such systems control the background conditions under which this or that causal sequence can take place. When we have this kind of inertia on the part of a complex pattern, we say that we have "purposiveness" in nature, even where there is no consciousness involved – e.g., when the organism regulates its heartbeat and blood pressure. There is no violation of the principles of chemistry or physics in such systems. At the level of the substratum for the process, each event has sufficient causal antecedents within the substratum level. What makes self-maintaining and self-organizing systems (of which "living" organisms are examples) different from merely mechanical ones is that the self-maintaining system is organized in such a way that it controls some of the needed background conditions for certain mechanical-causal relations within the system, as when cells are transplanted from the embryo of one species and are appropriated by a completely different brain area of a completely different species, or as in stroke recovery. Systems that "act" in this sense can show purposiveness to the extent that they can maintain their organizational continuity over disruptions of their parts.
The enactive approach suggests that not just affective states, but in fact all conscious states are driven by emotion and motivation, because our interest in looking for potentially valenced environmental conditions is a precondition for attention and perception as well as thought. I sketched a theory of the way this priority of the efferent over the afferent takes place in the neurophysiology and phenomenology of conscious processes. The notion that we must first "respond" to a stimulus, in order to direct our attention toward it, before we can even see the stimulus is paradoxical only if we assume that the parietal lobe can be activated only as a result of prior occipital activity, which in turn results from prior optic stimulation originating from the environment. But I have reviewed evidence that this is not the case. Instead, what happens is that the parietal lobe is activated by frontal, limbic, and subcortical processes as a result of emotional-motivational activity triggered by thalamic arousal by the stimulus (which in turn arouses the amygdala much more quickly than perceptual processing can occur) only if the stimulus is generally felt as possibly emotionally important for the organism's purposes (LeDoux 1996; Luria 1980; Posner 1990; Posner & Rothbart 2000; Damasio 1994). The needs of the organism as a whole must first motivate the process of "looking for" the kinds of environmental stimuli that might be important for the organism's purposes, with the "kinds" categorized prior to perceptual processing in terms of rough and ready potential action affordances.
At this point (and prior to the completion of occipital processing), the frontal lobe becomes active in a number of ways, including the inhibition of these first rough-and-ready action commands, resulting in preconscious action imagery (Jeannerod 1997). Jeannerod's work shows that subjects form vivid mental imagery of the actions they intend to perform only when the action commands are inhibited by frontal activity. As the preconscious, sensorimotor sensing of these action affordances develops more and more precisely, with the help of the inhibitory role of the frontal lobe and also the increasingly refined thalamocortical loops, the parietal lobe then begins to entertain vague sensorimotor images, or pragmatic concepts, of the kinds of emotionally important objects that might be present in the environment. If and when this frontallimbic-parietal activity, once having been developed, finds itself resonating with patterns of activity in the occipital lobe (which reflects sensory stimulation) only then does perceptual consciousness of a visual image occur (Ellis 1995).
When the parietal 300P occurs, the parietal lobe is not activated in response to the occipital lobe's activity at all. Instead, the organism must purposely activate the frontal and parietal lobes to "look for" emotionally important categories of objects which the thalamus has already alerted the organism might be relevant, and this "looking for" activity has already begun the forming of visual or conceptual imagery (including proprioceptive and sensorimotor imagery associated with possible action affordances) prior to any occipital activity's having any effect on our perceptual consciousness (since at this point the impulse has not yet "traveled" from the occipital to the parietal lobe). Rather than the frontal-parietal system's being a response to an occipital stimulus, the frontal-parietal activation must already have taken place before perceptual consciousness is possible, and the frontal-parietal pattern is what determines whether any given perceptual input will even register in consciousness, i.e., will be attended to.
As always, we see that the organism must act on its environment in order to be conscious of it; consciousness cannot result from a mere passive reaction to incoming input. Rather than a stimulus' causing a response, it is the response which must occur first, and then act on the incoming afferent signals to produce a stimulus.
Correlatively, the intentional referent of an emotional feeling should not be automatically equated with the psychophysical cause of the feeling. The cause consists primarily of the physiological events occurring in the nervous system, which I am arguing function on a self-organizational basis and have self-organizational aims. The intentional object can be a real or imaginary environmental event that the organism can or cannot use for the purposes defined by those self-organizational causal processes. Every emotion thus in reality has an extensive and potentially infinite disjunction of possible objects. In many instances, the most immediate of these objects may afford use only as a convenient symbolizing vehicle for the intensification, exploration, and unfolding of an emotion. The organism selects its emotional intentional objects depending on its already ongoing purposes.
Both cognitivism and sensationalism in the theory of emotions tend to overemphasize the affective receiving of interoceptive/proprioceptive information from the body's viscera, and to de-emphasize the efferent action circuits through which emotions are expressed, and ultimately through which – in beings complex enough to be capable of consciousness – they are felt. Cognitivism views conscious emotion as evaluating sensation-like inputs (i.e., interoceptions and proprioceptions) that have already been received. And sensationalism, the view that emotions consist primarily of bodily feelings like sensations, to which we then externally attach causal stories, entails the same problem. Both cognitivism and sensationalism view emotions as resulting from proprioceptive/interoceptive inputs. What sensation and interoception have in common is that they are afferent, and we can therefore receive them in a way that in a sense is passive. Theorists influenced by the information-processing paradigm, or by the behaviorist stimulus-response paradigm, want to view emotion as the causal outcome of a stream of processed inputs. But the crucial problem with such views is that emotion, involving action and thus action imagery, is not passive, and does not merely passively result from the receiving of any input, either sensory or interoceptive.
The notion that the consciousness of emotion involves sensorimotor imagery, and not just sensory and interoceptive imagery, is a key point because emotions are guides to action. This fact more than anything else is what makes emotional feelings different from other forms of consciousness. Action imagery, studied by Jeannerod (1997), Newton (1982, 1996, 2001), and other recent workers, is an efferent process delivered to the cortex by the subcortical and limbic emotional brain areas. It is different from either sensation or interoception in this regard. Sensation and interoception are passive – we receive them from the environment, or from our own periphery, as input by means of afferent pathways. Action imagery is the only kind of imagery that by its very nature is efferent, and therefore directly connected with emotions.
The central aim of affective processes in complicated animals is not merely to consume needed materials and maintain homeostasis, but rather to act in such a way as to maintain the appropriate level of complexity and energy (extropy) while at the same time attending to homeostatic and boundary-protection needs. With such complexity characterizing the aims of emotions, there will seldom be only one possible response that can achieve the organism's ultimate objective. Thus it will tend to be the exception rather than the rule that we observe a one-to-one correspondence between stimulus and response. And on those occasions where such a one-to-one correspondence does appear to obtain, it may be only because the organism has not yet found alternative ways to achieve its objective, and thus, at that particular point in time, has habitually chosen one particular response. Many therapists have noted that inflexible one-to-one correspondence between specific stimuli and specific responses is one of the most universal earmarks of neurosis (for example, see Kohut 1985; Miller 1981; Muller 1991; Zachar 2000).
One of the serious drawbacks of trying to construe supposedly "higher" emotions as derivative from "basic" ones is that it can mislead us into assuming that, just because some particular response pattern has become habituated (for example, physically fighting when angry), this means that every element in that response pattern is instinctually hardwired, and that when an alternative response pattern is found to achieve the same ends (for example, using a relatively nonviolent set of tools, such as a legal system, to control the adversary's behavior), the alternative response is somehow less "natural," and depends on a continuing "repression" of the natural response. Indeed, certain martial arts such as judo illustrate that controlling an adversary need not involve inflicting much damage. In many contexts, a preoccupation with harming the opponent, as opposed to controlling him or destroying his own psychological composure, may more often impair than help in combat. But it is not necessary to suppress a natural instinct in order to take this perspective. Anger itself aims to remove the frustration or threat to one's freedom, prerogatives, territory, or con-specifics. This can be achieved by controlling or getting rid of the adversary in whatever way possible; harming him is only occasionally required. To be sure, an elevated level of general arousal is beneficial in certain combat situations, and anger can facilitate very rapid arousal: this is its primary purpose in terms of natural selection. But on the "derivativist" account of the human emotional life against which I have argued, even when nonviolent means are used to control the adversary, one still primarily wants to fight and harm or kill the adversary, and this natural instinct must be "tamed" and "repressed" by civilization. One of the many questionable assumptions here seems to be that lower animals and primitive humans inflict violent harm on (or even kill) members of their own species more frequently than do "civilized" beings, who have learned to repress this natural instinct. Of course, such an assumption is plainly at odds with statistical facts about violent crime and warfare (for example, see Pincus 2001). I have argued that the essential aim of anger is merely to remove an obstacle to the organism's already ongoing patterns of activity; the anger per se does not care what means are used to do so.
I have emphasized that we should be careful not to fall uncritically into what Husserl (1913) calls the "natural attitude." We normally direct our attention toward objects in the world. We observe that conjoined physical events cause effects in each other at a simple mechanical level. When we then notice a conjunction between a simple physical event and an emotional effect in ourselves, it is natural to apply the categories of everyday physical observation to ourselves, assuming that the simple environmental event that we have observed must be what has caused our emotional response. More often than not, however, this is simplistic and misleading, and most mature adults learn better. When someone insults me, the feeling that is present does not just inform me that something must be done about this particular insulting behavior. It also and more importantly tells me that I must come to terms with the fact that people in general can and do frequently insult me, that I am generally vulnerable in this respect, partly for contingent and partly for existential reasons. Contained in the felt sense of the moment are also a number of second order feelings about the fact that life is such that people can insult each other, the fact that people are vulnerable, the fact that I am finite and limited, and many other troubling issues. If there are contingent reasons why people often insult me, such as my own personality foibles, second order feelings about those are already contained in the initial response as well. If I am too meek or too arrogant, worries about these related problems will further intensify the instantaneous reaction to the insult. Moreover, the presence of such second-order but already contained sentiments can be detected through subsequent reflection on the felt sense that was instantaneously triggered.
This murkiness in the intentionality of emotional responses
suggests that, as Ben Ze'ev (2002) has emphasized, we must guard
against oversimplifying accounts that do not respect the subtlety of
emotional meanings. I have argued that to respect this subtlety
entails crediting emotions with enactive and not simply reactive
meanings, thus opening the way to view the "higher" emotions as
occupying a central place in the most basic motivational structure
of human beings, and to understand these more complicated emotions
as basic and important aspects of the life of an active and complex
Emotion Explained by Edmund T. Rolls (Series in Affective Science: Oxford University Press) excerpt: What produces emotions? Why do we have emotions? How do we have emotions? Why do emotional states feel like something? This book seeks explanations of emotion by considering these questions.
One of the distinctive properties of this book is that it develops a conceptual and evolutionary approach (see for example Chapters 2 and 3) to emotion. This approach shows how cognitive states can produce and modulate emotion, and in turn how emotional states can influence cognition. Another distinctive property is that this book links these approaches to studies on the brain, at the level of neuronal neurophysiology, which provides much of the primary data about how the brain operates; but also to neuropsychological studies of patients with brain damage; to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) (and other neuroimaging) approaches; and to computational neuroscience approaches. The author performs research in all these areas, and this may help the approach to emotion described here to span many levels of investigation. The empirical evidence that is brought to bear is largely from non-human primates and from humans, because of the considerable similarity of their visual and emotional systems associated with the great development of the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes in primates, and because the overall aim is to understand how emotion is implemented in the human brain, and the disorders that arise after brain damage.
To understand how the brain works, including how it functions in emotion, it is necessary to combine different approaches, including neural computation. Neurophysiology at the single neuron level is needed because this is the level at which information is exchanged between the computing elements of the brain. Evidence from the effects of brain damage, including that available from neuropsychology, is needed to help understand what different parts of the system do, and indeed what each part is necessary for. Neuroimaging is useful to indicate where in the human brain different processes take place, and to show which functions can be dissociated from each other. Knowledge of the biophysical and synaptic properties of neurons is essential to understand how the computing elements of the brain work, and therefore what the building blocks of biologically realistic computational models should be. Knowledge of the anatomical and functional architecture of the cortex is needed to show what types of neuronal network actually perform the computation. And finally the approach of neural computation is needed, as this is required to link together all the empirical evidence to produce an understanding of how the system actually works. This book utilizes evidence from all these disciplines to develop an understanding of how emotion is implemented by processing in the brain.
The overall plan of the book is as follows. Chapter 1 outlines the ways in which this book approaches different types of explanation of emotion, and introduces some of the concepts. Chapter 2 then considers the nature of emotion, producing a theory of emotion, and comparing it to some other theories. Chapter 3 considers the functions of emotion, and leads to a Darwinian theory of the adaptive value of emotion, which helps to illuminate many aspects of brain design and behaviour. Chapter 4 takes the explanation of emotion to the level of how emotion is implemented in the brain. Chapters 5 and 6 extend and complement this by extending the approach to motivated behaviour in which affect is an important component. In Chapter 5 the motivated behaviour considered is hunger, and in Chapter 6 thirst. Chapter 7 extends the approach to reward and affect produced by brain stimulation, and Chapter 8 to the pharmacology of emotion and addiction. Chapter 9 extends the approach further, to sexual behaviour. Chapter 10 then considers the issue of emotional feelings, which is part of the much larger issue of consciousness. Chapter 11 then synthesizes some of the points made, including how decisions are made and are influenced by emotions. Appendix 1 describes some of the computational framework for understanding how systems in the brain in the form of neural networks perform emotion-related learning. Appendix 2 describes an example of a more detailed neural network approach to emotion-related learning in which the analysis extends from the level of the spiking activity of single neurons up through many levels of investigation to global properties of the system such as the signals measured in functional neuroimaging investigations, and the resulting behaviour. Appendix 3 provides a Glossary of some of the terms. The book thus seeks to explain emotions in terms of the following: What produces emotions? Why do we have emotions? How do we have emotions? Why do emotional states feel like something?
This book evolved from my earlier book The Brain and Emotion (Rolls 1999a) in some of the following ways:
Emotion Explained goes beyond brain mechanisms of emotion, in that it seeks to explain emotions in terms of the following: What produces emotions? (The general answer I propose is reinforcing stimuli, that is rewards and punishers, but with other factors too.) Why do we have emotions? (The overall answer I propose is that emotions are evolutionarily adaptive as they provide an efficient way for genes to influence our behaviour to increase their success.) How do we have emotions? (I answer this by describing what is known about the brain mechanisms of emotion.) Why do emotional states feel like something? This is part of the large problem of consciousness, which I address in Chapter 10. It is in this sense that a broad-ranging explanation of emotion going beyond the brain mechanisms of emotion is the theme of this book.
Emotion Explained goes beyond the brain mechanisms of emotion by developing my approach and theory of the nature of emotion, and comparing my approach to a range of different approaches to the nature of emotion, including the approaches of A.Damasio, J.LeDoux, J.Panksepp, and appraisal theorists such as K.Scherer.
Another way in which this book goes beyond brain mechanisms of emotion is to propose in Chapter 3 a Darwinian account of why animals (including humans) have emotions. The theory will I believe stand the test of time, in the same way as Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, and argues that emotions have the important evolutionary role of enabling genes to specify the goals (i.e. the rewards etc that produce emotions) for actions, rather than the actions themselves. The advantage of this Darwinian design is that although the genes specify the goals, the actual actions are not prespecified by the genes, so that there is great flexibility of the actions themselves. This provides a new approach to the nature vs nurture debate in animal behaviour, for it shows how genes can influence behaviour without specifying a fixed, instinctive, behavioural response. I hope that this will make the book of interest to a wide audience, including many interested in evolution and evolutionary biology.
Emotion Explained goes beyond the brain mechanisms of emotion with a treatment (in Chapter 4) of the many different learning processes that become engaged in relation to emotion. The book also includes a formal treatment (in Appendix 1) of reinforcement learning and temporal difference (TD) learning, which are increasingly being used to understand emotion-related learning, as well as its brain mechanisms.
Emotion Explained goes beyond the brain mechanisms of emotion with a treatment of the functions of affective states in motivated behaviour (including hunger, thirst, and sexual behaviour), and indeed proposes a fundamental and simple relation between emotion and motivation. The role of sexual selection in the evolution of affective behaviour is included in Chapter 9.
The book has an integrated section on decision-making (in Chapter 11), and includes links to the developing new field of neuroneconomics. At the same time, Emotion Explained does research on how emotion is considered implemented in the brain, including much new research in the areas of neurophysiology, and functional neuroimaging and clinical neuromechanisms of emotion is important not only for providing a basis for understanding disorders Psychology in humans. This treatment of the brain of emotion, but also turns out to be import emotions can influence our behaviour, because the different brain mechanisms themselves are ant in unravelling the many different ways in which being unravelled. The book includes a new theory of how the orbitofrontal cortex supports rapid reversals of emotional behaviour, by Using a short term memory network for the current rule which acts in a biased competition mode to influence neurons known to be present in the orbitofrontal cortex. This helps to provide a contrast between the functions of the orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala in emotion. A description of the theory is given in Chapter 4, and a formal treatment of how the system operates is given in Appendix 2.
Appendix 2 also shows how it is possible to model the processing involved in emotional learning from the synaptic and neuronal level up through the neuronal network level to predict fMRI neuroimaging signals and behaviour, and thus illustrates a foundation for linking the many different levels of investigation of the brain mechanisms of emotion into a consistent account of precisely how findings at these different levels of exploration are related to each other. This cross-disciplinary approach is a feature of this book. Appendix 1 includes a treatment of autoassociation attractor networks that can maintain stable activity in a brain region, and shows how interacting attractor networks help to provide a foundation for understanding the interactions between mood, and cognition and memory.
Emotion Explained links to research in psychiatry, with for example discussions of the impulsive behaviour that is a feature of borderline personality disorder, and to research in neurology, with for example assessment of the effects on emotion of damage produced by discrete lesions of the human brain.
Emotion Explained also goes beyond the brain mechanisms
involved in emotion, by addressing (in Chapter 10) emotional
feelings, part of the much larger problem of consciousness. One
issue developed here is the concept that there is a credit
assignment problem if a multiple step plan does not succeed, and
that higher order thoughts provide a solution to this problem. The
book also describes many recent functional neuroimaging
investigations in which it has been possible to show that the
activations of some brain regions are directly correlated with
subjective feelings of affective state.
Consciousness : Essays from a Higher-Order Perspective by Peter Carruthers (Oxford University Press) (Hardcover) Peter Carruthers's essays on consciousness and related issues have had a substantial impact on the field, and many of his best are now collected here in revised form. Together they develop, defend, and explore the implications of Carruthers's distinctive theory of experiential consciousness; they discuss the differences between conscious experiencing and conscious thinking; and, controversially, they consider what would follow, either for morality or for comparative psychology, if it should turn out that animals lack conscious experiences. This collection will be of great interest to anyone working in philosophy of mind or cognitive science.
The present book collects together and revises ten of my previously published essays on consciousness, preceded by a newly written introduction, and containing a newly written chapter on the explanatory advantages of my approach. Most of the essays are quite recent. Three, however, pre-date my 2000 book, Phenomenal Consciousness: A Naturalistic Theory. (These are Chapters 3, 7, and 9.) They are reproduced here, both for their intrinsic interest, and because there isn't really much overlap with the writing in that earlier book. Taken together, the essays in the present volume significantly extend, modify, elaborate, and discuss the implications of the theory of consciousness expounded in my 2000 book.
Since the essays in the present volume were originally intended to stand alone, and to be read independently, there is sometimes some overlap in content amongst them. (Many of them contain a couple-of-pages sketch of the dispositional higher-order thought theory that I espouse, for example.) I have made no attempt to eradicate these overlaps, since some readers may wish just to read a chapter here and there, rather than to work through the book from cover to cover. But readers who do adopt the latter strategy may want to do a little judicious skimming whenever it seems to them to be appropriate.
I shall now say just a few words about each of the chapters to come. I shall emphasize how the different chapters relate to one another, as well as to the main theory of phenomenal consciousness that I espouse (dual-content theory/dispositional higher-order thought theory).
Chapter 2, 'Reductive Explanation and the "Explanatory Gap" ', is about what it would take for phenomenal consciousness to be successfully reductively explained. 'Mysterian' philosophers like McGinn (1991), Chalmers (1996), and Levine (2000) have claimed that phenomenal consciousness cannot be explained, and that the existence of phenomenal consciousness in the natural world is, and must remain, a mystery. The chapter surveys a variety of models of reductive explanation in science generally, and points out that successful explanation can often include an element of explaining away. So we can admit that there are certain true judgments about phenomenal consciousness that cannot be directly explained (viz. those that involve purely recognitional judgements of experience, of the form, 'Here is one of those again'). But if at the same time we can explain many other true judgments about phenomenal consciousness, while also explaining why truths expressed using recognitional concepts don't admit of direct explanation, then in the end we can claim complete success. For we will have provided answers—direct or indirect—to all of the questions that puzzle us.
Chapter 3, 'Natural Theories of Consciousness', is the longest essay in the book, and the most heavily rewritten. It works its way through a variety of different accounts of phenomenal consciousness, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of each. At the heart of the chapter is an extended critical examination of first-order representational (FOR) theories, of the sort espoused by Dretske (1995) and Tye (1995, 2000), arguing that they are inferior to higher-order representational (HOR) accounts. The chapter acknowledges as a problem for HOR theories that they might withhold phenomenal consciousness from most other species of animal, but claims that this problem shouldn't be regarded as a serious obstacle to the acceptance of some such theory. (This issue is then treated extensively in Chapters 9 through ii.) Different versions of HOR theory are discussed, and my own account (dual-content theory, here called dispositional higher-order thought theory) is briefly elaborated and defended.
Chapter 4, 'HOP over FOR, HOT Theory', continues with some of the themes introduced in Chapter 3. It presents arguments against both first-order (FOR) theories and actualist higher-order thought (HOT) theory (of the sort espoused by Rosenthal, 1997), and argues for the superiority of higher-order perception (HOP) theories over each of them. But HOP theories come in two very different varieties. One is 'inner sense' theory (Armstrong, 1968; Lycan, 1996), according to which we have a set of inner sense-organs charged with scanning the outputs of our first-order senses to produce higher-order perceptions of our own experiential states. The other is my own dispositional form of HOT theory, according to which the availability of our first-order perceptions to a faculty of higher-order thought confers on those perceptual states a dual higher-order content (see section 3 above). I argue that this latter form of HOP theory is superior to inner-sense theory, and also defend it against the charge that it is vulnerable to the very same arguments that sink FOR theories and actualist HOT theory.
Chapter 5, 'Phenomenal Concepts and Higher-Order Experiences', again argues for the need to recognize higher-order perceptual experiences, and again briefly argues for the superiority of my own dispositional HOT version of higher-order perception (HOP) theory (now described as 'dual-content theory'). But this time the focus is different. There is an emerging consensus amongst naturalistically minded philosophers that the existence of purely recognitional concepts of experience (often called 'phenomenal concepts') is the key to blockingthe zombie-style arguments of both dualist mysterians like Chalmers (1996) and physicalist mysterians like McGinn (1991) and Levine (2000). But I argue in Chapter 5 that a successful account of the possibility of such concepts requires acceptance of one or another form of higher-order perception theory.
Chapter 6 is entitled, 'Dual-Content Theory: the Explanatory Advantages'. From the welter of different arguments given over the previous three chapters, and also in Carruthers (2000), this chapter presents and develops the main argument, both against the most plausible version of first-order theory, and in support of my own dual-content account. The primary goal of the chapter is, in effect, to lay out the case for saying that dual-content theory (but not first-order theory) provides us with a successful reductive explanation of the various puzzling features of phenomenal consciousness.
Chapter 7, 'Conscious Thinking: Language or Elimination ?', shifts the focus from conscious experience to conscious thought.' It develops a dilemma. Either the use of natural language sentences in 'inner speech' is constitutive of (certain kinds of) thinking, as opposed to being merely expressive of it. Or there may really be no such thing as conscious propositional thinking at all. While I make clear my preference for the first horn of this dilemma, and explain how such a claim could possibly be true, this isn't really defended in any depth, and the final choice is left to the reader. Nor does the chapter commit itself to any particular theory of conscious thinking, beyond defending the claim that, in order to count as conscious, a thought must give rise to the knowledge that we are entertaining it in a way that is neither inferential nor interpretative.
Chapter 8, 'Conscious Experience versus Conscious Thought', is also—but more directly—about conscious propositional thinking. It argues that the desiderata for theories of conscious experience and theories of conscious thought are distinct, and that conscious thoughts aren't intrinsically and necessarily phenomenal in the same way that conscious experiences are. The chapter shows how dispositional higher-order thought theory can be extended to account for conscious thinking. And like the previous chapter, it explores how natural language might be both constitutive of, and necessary to the existence of, conscious propositional thought-contents. But at the same time a form of eliminativism about thought modes (believing versus desiring versus supposing, etc.) is endorsed, on the grounds that self-knowledge of such modes is always interpretative, and never immediate.
Chapter 9, 'Sympathy and Subjectivity', is the first of four chapters to focus on the mental lives of non-human animals. It argues that even if the mental states of most non-human animals are lacking in phenomenal consciousness (as my dispositional HOT theory probably implies), they can still be appropriate objects of sympathy and moral concern. The chapter makes the case for this conclusion by arguing that the most fundamental form of harm (of a sort that might warrant sympathy) is the first-order (non-phenomenal) frustration of desire. In which case, provided that animals are capable of desire (see Chapter 12) and of sometimes believing, of the objects desired, that they haven't been achieved, then sympathy for their situation can be entirely appropriate.
Chapter 10, 'Suffering without Subjectivity', takes up the same topic again—the appropriateness of sympathy for non-human animals—but argues for a similar conclusion in a very different way. The focus of the chapter is on forms of suffering, such as pain, grief, and emotional disappointment. It argues that these phenomena can be made perfectly good sense of in purely first-order (and hence, for me, non-phenomenal) terms. And it argues that the primary forms of suffering in the human case are first-order also. So although our pains and disappointments are phenomenally conscious, it isn't (or isn't primarily) by virtue of being phenomenally conscious that they cause us to suffer, I claim.
Chapter 11, 'Why the Question of Animal Consciousness Might not Matter Very Much', picks up the latter point—dubbing it 'the in virtue of illusion'—and extends it more broadly. The chapter argues that the behavior that we share with non-human animals can, and should, be explained in terms of the first-order, non-phenomenal, contents of our experiences. So although we do have phenomenally conscious experiences when we act, most of the time it isn't by virtue of their being phenomenally conscious that they have their role in causing our actions. In consequence, the fact that my dispositional higher-order thought theory of phenomenal consciousness might withhold such consciousness from most non-human animals should have a minimal impact on comparative psychology. The explanations for the behaviors that we have in common with animals can remain shared also, despite the differences in phenomenally conscious status.
Finally, Chapter 12, 'On Being Simple-Minded', argues that
belief/desire psychology—and with it a form of first-order access
consciousness—are very widely distributed in the animal kingdom,
being shared even by navigating insects. Although the main topic of
this chapter (unlike the others) isn't mental-state consciousness
(of which phenomenal consciousness is one variety), it serves both
to underscore the argument of the previous chapter, and to emphasize
how wide is the phylogenetic distance separating mentality per se
from phenomenally conscious mentality. On some views, these things
are intimately connected. (Searle, 1992, for example, claims that
there is no mental life without the possibility of phenomenal
consciousness.) But on my view, they couldn't be further apart. We
share the basic forms of our mental lives even with bees and ants.
But we may be unique in the animal kingdom in possessing mental
states that are phenomenally conscious.
On Becoming Aware: A Pragmatics of Experiencing edited by
Natalie Depraz, Francisco J. Varela, & Pierre
Vermersch (Volume 43 in the Advances in Consciousness Research: John
Benjamins Publishing Company) searches for the sources and means for
a disciplined, practical approach to exploring human experience. The
spirit of the book is pragmatic and relies on a Husserlian
phenomenology primarily understood as a method of exploring our
experience. Depraz, Varela, & Vermersch do not aim at a neo-Kantian
a priori new theory of experience, but instead they describe a
concrete activity: how we examine what we live through, how we
become aware of our own mental life.
The range of experiences of which human beings can become aware is vast but this immanent ability is habitually ignored or at best practiced unsystematically, blindly. Exploring human experience amounts to developing and cultivating this basic ability through specific training.
On Becoming Aware is animated by a hands-on, non-dogmatic approach, and it raises many questions. Its purpose is not to form a theory, system, or unifying philosophy of experience and consciousness. Rather, the authors seek the explicit characterization of a very specific human ability: becoming aware as coming to know in the first person. They want to find the commonalities and isomorphisms between the practices found in different domains for different reasons. They are referring to the need for first-person data in the cognitive neurosciences, the need for reduction as a concrete and embodied praxis in phenomenology, the need for introspection in cognitive psychology, the need for various knowhows in a wide range of psychotherapies, and the needs of various spiritual practices which highlight the examination of consciousness and the practice of effortless effort. They take a long-range view of these various resources in working toward finding a common pattern.
The results in the book will stand or fall only in so far as they can provide the means for reaching, via a disciplined practice, the experience characteristic of all the domains mentioned above. In the contemporary context, given the way this book integrates the typically disjointed discourses of the cognitive sciences, applied psychology, philosophy, and spiritual traditions, it has no direct antecedents.
The authors present the following scenarios to help the reader decided whether he or she is a good fit to read On Becoming Aware:
Given the scope and ambition of
On Becoming Aware, no person could pull it off; therefore, the
book is a collective effort, and that poses many problems, including
finding a single voice. The authors own individual areas of work
motivated this pragmatic inquiry. Depraz is a philosopher who has
worked for many years in contemporary Husserlian phenomenology.
Varela is a cognitive neuroscientist who works both in the
laboratory and in theoretical biology. Vermersch is a research
psychologist interested in the development of methods of making
knowledge explicit. Beyond these professional backgrounds each one
of the authors has an interest in one or several spiritual
traditions dealing with human transformation.
On the whole, this book is the record of a discovery voyage
rather than a report of pre-established findings. This also means
that throughout all the writing stages the authors became immersed
in each others language, ideas and styles so that what they say in
the book they say with a collective voice and they equally shared
The core of
On Becoming Aware is Part I; there the authors set forth a
methodical and practical description, the dynamic of becoming aware.
They distinguish five principal steps.
Step 1: The movement of epoche as an initial suspension, repeated
at each step.
Step 2: The recognition of intuitive evidence as the criterion of truth internal to each act.
Step 3: The expression of the content of each act.
Step 4: The intersubjective validation of findings from Step 3.
Step 5: The becoming aware of the multi-layered temporality of each act.
According to the authors, the first two steps form the kernel of
each act of becoming aware (the Basic Cycle); the two following
steps inscribe the act in its communicability and objectification;
the final, transversal, step reveals the unique temporal dynamic of
each act. Their main contribution is the formulation of a research
program: A common ground for a multiplicity of approaches to
Part II presents their motivations for exploring experience and
as such, will be of interest to some, but not all readers of the
book. It provides a kind of statement of what led each of the
authors, to different degrees, to undertake the research project
outlined in Part I.
According to the authors,
On Becoming Aware is not a fully articulated book. It is more
like a Progress Report: sufficiently detailed to be communicated and
shared, but not yet mature enough to warrant a definitive
presentation. They say, The ability to become aware of experience
simply cannot remain unexamined and underdeveloped without seriously
compromising our ability to meet a major challenge today facing
several areas of research, practice, and indeed, human life.
On Becoming Aware is a project that reaches across and into a
surprisingly wide spectrum of practices, from teaching to
meditation, from psychoanalysis to empirical research, from writing
to interviewing. It presents a strategy that should appeal to
professionals, researchers, and practitioners in all fields that
involve inquiry into subjective experience.
The authors offer detailed descriptions that go step by step through the procedures of methodological first-person access to experience. This phenomenology is carefully worked out in a way that provides reasonable answers, on the one side, to scientific skepticism about the validity of introspection, and on the other side, to the poststructuralist critique of the philosophy of consciousness. Shaun Gallagher
The Nature of Consciousness by Mark Rowlands (Cambridge University Press) In The Nature of Consciousness, Rowlands develops an innovative and radical account of the nature of phenomenal consciousness, one that has significant consequences for attempts to find a place for it in the natural order. The most significant feature of consciousness is its dual nature: consciousness can be both the directing of awareness and that upon which awareness is directed. Rowlands offers a clear and philosophically insightful discussion of the main positions in this fast‑moving debate, and argues that the phenomenal aspects of conscious experience are aspects that exist only in the directing of experience towards non‑phenomenal objects, a theory that undermines reductive attempts to explain consciousness in terms of what is not conscious. His book will be of interest to a wide range of readers in the philosophy of mind and language, psychology, and cognitive science.
His arguments are brief and well positioned within the major arguments about what is knowable about consciousness. His arguments for the irreducibility of consciousness to object clarifies some of the more liegeman arguments of McGinn and Chalmers
Excerpt: The book to follow can, nominally, be thought of as divided into two parts. Part 1, which consists of chapters 2‑5, is concerned with vertical attempts to explain consciousness. Of these chapters, the first two examine the prospects of attempts to explain consciousness in physical terms. Or, more precisely, they examine two recent and (deservedly) influential attempts to show that these prospects are minimal or non‑existent. Chapter 2 focuses on Chalmers' attempt to show that consciousness cannot be reductively explained in physical terms. Chapter 3 examines McGinn's case for the claim that there exists an unbridgeable explanatory gap between consciousness and the physical world.
My attitude to both positions is somewhat equivocal. I believe that both McGinn and Chalmers might be right, but I am not convinced that they are. More specifically, I shall try to show that the arguments of both McGinn and Chalmers are far from conclusive. In so far as anything concrete emerges from chapters 2 and 3, then, it is simply that consciousness might be reductively explainable in physical terms.
Chapters 4 and 5, the remaining chapters of part 1, are concerned with attempts to explain phenomenal consciousness in terms of access‑, specifically monitoring, consciousness. Chapter 4 examines the higherorder experience account of consciousness. In chapter 5, the focus is on higher‑order thought models. I shall argue that both types of model fail as explanations of consciousness. They are not even adequate as models of introspective consciousness; and have no chance whatsoever of explaining phenomenal consciousness.
The nominal part 2 of this book comprises chapters 6‑10. In these chapters, I shall develop a case against the possibility of explaining phenomenal consciousness in terms of what is not conscious, a case that applies equally against both vertical and horizontal explanatory strategies. In particular, I shall argue that the real reason why phenomenal consciousness is so problematic, from an explanatory point of view, has not been understood. The real reason, I shall argue, is this. The phenomenal aspects ‑ the what it is like ‑ of experience are not themselves objects of conscious awareness. They are not items of which we are aware in the having of an experience. Rather, they are items that constitute the taking of distinct, and non‑phenomenal, items as the objects of experience. That is, the phenomenal aspects of experience are not items of which we are aware in the having of an experience, but (in a sense to be made clear) items in virtue of which, or with which, we are aware in the having of that experience. Alternatively, in a sense again to be made clear, phenomenal features are not empirical but transcendental features of experience. The bulk of the argument for these claims is to be found in chapters 6, 7 and 8.
This view of the phenomenal, it will be shown, has certain clear affinities with the representationist account of phenomenal character, in particular, the rejection of the view that phenomenal features are constituted purely by what is going on inside the head of an experiencing subject. However, in chapter 9, I shall draw attention to some of the important differences between this view and the representationist one. There, I shall argue that the transcendental status of phenomenal features of experience rules out the representationist attempt to explain the phenomenal in terms of the representational.
In chapter 10, the final chapter, I shall argue that the transcendental status of phenomenal properties or features is incompatible with any attempt to reductively explain the phenomenal in terms of the non-phenomenal.
The problem of phenomenal consciousness, the problem of explaining how phenomenal consciousness can come from what is not conscious, has no solution. We know consciousness is produced by what is not conscious, but we can never understand how. Chapter 10 also explores the wider question of the place of phenomenal consciousness in the natural order. It will be argued that the prospects for finding a place for consciousness in the natural order are not as bleak as the failure of reductive explanation might lead us to think.
The Taboo of Subjectivity: Towards a New Science of Consciousness by B. Alan Wallace (Oxford) makes the provocative claim that science has become, in many ways, a modern cult, which promotes certain ways of knowing and metaphysical beliefs to the exclusion of others. Subjectivity, an integral aspect of our experience, has been neglected to the point that its existence is in doubt.
Since the book is aimed at people familiar with the common view of scientific materialism, it focuses upon the weaknesses in the scientific materialist view, and how taking contemplative practice and experience seriously can allow us to see that this scientific view is lacking an awareness and understanding of subjectivity. This exclusion is related to assumptions that may have been necessary to get science off the ground (objectivism, monism, universalism, reductionism, the closure principle, and physicalism). However, these assumptions have become ensconced, and now play a role often attributed to religious doctrines: they go unquestioned, lead us to believe stories regarding our origins and nature which are not empirically grounded, and blind us to aspects of common, everyday experience. He traces the roots of these metaphysical beliefs to ancient Greek philosophy and to early and Medieval Christian theology to point out that these are beliefs, and are not empirically proven. The scientific materialist view has many weaknesses, among them: it gives a highly problematic account of the origin and nature of consciousness, and of the relation of mind and body, based more on faith and dogma than on scientific findings; it has no method for systematically exploring consciousness firsthand; scientific knowledge is inadequate for dealing with either global problems, such as environmental pollution (which it has helped to create), or personal problems, such as mental well-being. He points out that "from a contemplative perspective, scientific materialism arrests human development in a state of spiritual infancy; and when a society of such spiritual infants is put in control of the awesome powers of science and technology, global catastrophe seems virtually inevitable." Since "a thoroughly materialistic view of the universe based on science suggests a [certain] set of values and ideals, with profound implications for dealing with the personal, societal, and environmental problems that beset us today," it is imperative to examine this view in depth, and compare it with other world views, in the light of our current situation.
The two main arguments that have been leveled against the subjective from the scientific side are that: subjective influences taint experiments (of implicitly objective phenomena), and subjective phenomena are not scientifically analyzable, which has developed into the extreme position that such phenomena aren't real, but are merely epiphenomena.
Introspection has traditionally been used to investigate consciousness, but many scientists ignore introspection, claim that it cannot tell us anything important, or argue against the possibility of there even being such an activity. Wallace reviews these claims, showing that many of the objections to the use or possibility of introspection could be equally applied to scientific knowledge and techniques; and yet, science works. Therefore it seems that it is primarily the metaphysical beliefs of scientists that prevent them from admitting, and engaging in, ways of knowing such as those based on introspective, contemplative practice. Wallace supports a pragmatic approach to knowledge: "the only guide for methodology is the universal one, namely, to use anything that works."
But we cannot just tack another viewpoint, such as "the spiritual worldview", onto our accounts from science; there are real conflicts here, especially with respect to consciousness, and its origins and nature. For example, as he points out in another article, "Buddhist inquiry into the natural world proceeds from a radically different point of departure than western science, and its methods differ correspondingly.... Buddhism begins with the premise that the mind is the primary source of human joy and misery and is central to understanding the natural world as a whole." He reviews several kinds of divisions commonly made (subjective/objective, private/public, sacred/profane, fact/value) which might permit some kind of clean compartmentalization, and rejects them all. Instead, he calls for a dialogue between different ways of knowing. In order to open the way for a new science of consciousness, we must radically reevaluate the metaphysical stances of the scientific worldview, and of the relations between science and religion. For example, he argues that contemplative practice is in many ways in the spirit of science: it involves rigorous training to prepare the contemplative to inquire, through experience and reasoning, into the nature of things.
However, for people who are reluctant to admit that there can be nondelusional spiritual experiences, this contemplative perspective is going to seem like a belief, and probably won't shake whatever faith they have in the scientific worldview. This is one reason why Wallace constantly emphasizes that the claims of contemplatives are claims to be evaluated (both experientially and through reason), rather than established facts (which usually assumes some kind of general agreement within a community of which the reader and author are part). It is also probably why he emphasizes how contemplative practice could inform a new science of consciousness, rather than simply claiming that these practices have value on their own, as he does in some of his other books, aimed at different audiences.
Perhaps realizing the limitations of our current sciences of the
mind will open us to new methods and new views, to explore the
knowledge of other societies, and recover ways of knowing that may
have been lost within our own traditions. It is hard to know where a
truly open-minded, open-hearted dialogue between science and
religion could lead, but it is exciting that this seems to be a
genuine possibility today, probably more so than any time in the
past. Thus, the central question of book is: "does a way exist to
integrate the power of religion and of science for the physical,
mental, and spiritual well-being of humanity?"
Normally the word science conjures up images of the new technologies in communications, medicine and manufacturing that are the hallmark of modern life. But science's influence extends beyond matter to the mind. Its main impact there has been to question, if not invalidate, everything from religion to the commonplace components of our inner lives - our thoughts and emotions, values and ideals. Such subjective phenomena are not to be found on science's objective map.
The The Taboo of Subjectivity takes on both science and religion in an attempt not to reconcile the two, but to reveal their common connection in consciousness itself. To accomplish this, Alan Wallace, whose academic background includes both physics and religion, sets out to show that science and religion have each embraced "fundamentalist" attitudes that distort their essential natures.
Science, he suggests, has fallen under the spell of scientific materialism, a philosophical interpretation of science, based on Newton's mechanical model of the universe: if something can't be measured objectively, it doesn't exist. This view maintains a hold on both the public and many scientists despite its having been debunked over 100 years ago. The quantum physics pioneered by Max Planck reintroduced subjective human consciousness into nature, emphasizing the importance of the observer and questioning the existence of a universe made up of solid particles unconnected to human perception.
Religion, according to Wallace, has largely abandoned its roots in contemplation, which the author views as a science of consciousness. Religious fundamentalism denies direct human contact with the divine - the aim of contemplation - in favor of unquestioned belief. Science similarly denies validity to consciousness - the realm of free will, the soul, and the possibility of life after death - by reducing all mental phenomena to mere electro-chemical patterns in the brain. Thus there is double taboo against our subjective selves.
How effective are Wallace's arguments? Sound critiques of scientific materialism have already been crafted by philosophers of science, Paul Feyerabend and Bas C. van Fraassen among others. Contributions from the humanistic tradition have come from William James, Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, and, more recently, Ken Wilber. Wallace synthesizes these strands into a scathing, three-pronged attack claiming that: 1) Scientific materialism is antiquated in its refusal to accept the conclusions of quantum physics. 2) It inflates the conclusions of valid experimental science - especially where neuroscience reduces consciousness to brain processes, for which there is no compelling scientific evidence. 3) The requirement of scientific objectivity ignores the bias of science's own assumptions, which include mathematics and the enculturation process of scientific training.
But most fascinating and compelling are Wallace's chapters on the subjective exploration of the mind - contemplation. The author's contention is that the meditation practices of many Eastern religions are no less reliable and "objective" in their own sphere - the mind - than is experimental science in the realm of the material. It's not all voodoo and hocus-pocus.
Wallace, a religious studies professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has expertise in this area. He spent 14 years as a Buddhist monk, teaches meditation, and is a student of and translator for the Dalai Lama. A variety of approaches to contemplation are explained in some detail, showing that the techniques are extremely exacting. As with proofs in experimental science, similar outcomes can be obtained by the meditator using different practices. Results can be repeated and then confirmed by meditation experts.
These arguments cannot be shunted aside as easily as Ken Wilber's more poetic approach in The Marriage of Sense and Soul . Whereas Wilber speaks in general terms and relies on a grand theory all his own, Wallace is more specific, demonstrating a firm grasp of physics and the history of science. He cements his case with logical arguments that opponents may find challenging to refute.
A response is called for, especially from the neurosciences, because the implications of Wallace's book are sweeping. The incorporation of subjective, contemplative methods within a scientific framework for the exploration of the mind could lend credence to many subjective aspects of human mental life and effect a repositioning of science - as a brother discipline to the arts and humanities rather than as their unforgiving father.
Buddhism with an Attitude: The Tibetan Seven-Point Mind-Training by B. Alan Wallace, edited by Lynn Quirolo (Snow Lion) All of us have attitudes. Some of them accord with reality and serve us well throughout the course of our lives. Others are out of alignment with reality and cause us problems. Tibetan Buddhist practice isn't just sitting in silent meditation. It's developing fresh attitudes that align our minds with reality. Attitudes need adjusting, just like a spinal column that has been knocked out of alignment. In this book, B. Alan Wallace explains a fundamental type of mental training called lojong, which can literally be translated as attitudinal training. It is designed to shift our attitudes so that our minds become pure wellsprings of joy instead of murky pools of problems, anxieties, fleeting pleasures, hopes, and frustrations.
The Tibetan word lojong is made up of two parts: lo means attitude, mind, intelligence, and perspective; and jong means to train, purify, remedy, and clear away. So the word lojong could literally be translated as attitudinal training, but in this book it is called mind‑training.
The author draws on his thirty‑year training in Buddhism, physics, the cognitive sciences, and comparative religion to challenge readers to reappraise many of their assumptions about the nature of the mind and physical world. By explicitly addressing many practical and theoretical issues that uniquely face us in the modern world, Wallace brings this centuries‑old practice into the twenty-first century.Wallace shows us the way to develop attitudes that unveil our full capacity for spiritual awakening and discover in ourselves an unfleeting "truth-given joy."
There is a remarkable convergence in these teachings and the program in the classic Teach Only Love: The Twelve Principles of Attitudinal Healingby Gerald G. Jampolsky (Beyond Words). In 1975, Jerry Jampolsky cofounded the Center for Attitudinal Healing in Tiburon, California, where people with life-threatening illnesses practice peace of mind as an instrument of transformation. Based on the healing power of love and forgiveness, the 12 principles developed at the center, and explained in this book, embrace the idea that total giving and total acceptance are crucial to the healing process and that attitudinal healing can lead to harmony, joy, and life without fear.
The Physical Nature of Consciousness by Philip R. Van Loocke
(Advances in Consciousness Research, Series A, V. 29: John
Benjamins) discusses recent and new perspectives on the relation
between modem physics and consciousness.
Stuart Harneroff presents an updated exposition of the Penrose/HameroffOrch-OR model, addressing recent criticisms of quantum approaches to the brain. Evan Walker takes a new approach to the integration of quantum theory and relativity. Friedrich Beck elaborates on the Beck/Eccles quantum approach to consciousness. Karl Pribram puts the holographic view on consciousness in perspective of his life long work. Peter Marcerand Edgar Mitchell explain the relevance of quantum holography for consciousness. Gordon Globus discusses the relation between postmodern philosophical theories and quantum consciousness. Chris Clarke develops a theory in terms of a specific type of formal logic to reconcile the phenomenology of consciousness with the physical world. Ilya Prigogine summarizes his view on complexity, and on the future of quantum theory, which goes beyond the present formalism. Matti Pitkanen identifies the place for consciousness in a unifying topological geometro-dynamics theory. Colin McGinn argues against classical materialism. Dick Bierman gives an overview of anomalous phenomena, identifying a decline effect. Philip Van Loocke closes the volume with a discussion on how deep teleology in.cellular systems may relate to consciousness.
Biological feasibility of quantum approaches to consciousness The Penrose-Hameroff `Orch OR' model by Stuart Hameroff : Abstract: Quantum approaches have enormous explanatory power for understanding enigmatic features of consciousness. The Penrose-Hameroff `Orch OR' model involves quantum superposition/computation in microtubules within the brain's neurons. As technological quantum processes require extreme cold and isolation to avoid thermal decoherence, conventional wisdom holds against biological quantum processes in the apparently "warm, wet and noisy" brain. Methods which biological systems may have evolved to avoid decoherence are discussed.
The natural philosophy and physics of consciousness by Evan Harris Walker: Consciousness comes out of quantum mechanics - from the presence of tunneling in the brain, and from state vector collapse brought on by the brain's comparison loops. This fact is tied to the machinery of the MSE - the modified Schrodinger equation. This understanding of consciousness also lets us resolve problems in neurophysiology and even in physics - the resolution of the disparity that has long beset general relativity vis a vis quantum theory. We use this understanding of consciousness as a quantum process to resolve the measurement problem in quantum mechanics and to obtain quantities that allow us to test experimentally the viability of this theory.
Quantum Brain Dynamics and Consciousness by Friedrich Beck: The last decades of the 19th century have brought us tremendous progress in understanding complex biological structures. This has been achieved on one hand by refined microbiological experimental techniques, and on the other by an increased understanding of complexity on the basis of nonlinear dynamics. In brain research this has led to new insight into the brain's topological structure during specific activities like attention, volition, ideation, or neurochemical abnormalities. One of the most intensely studied areas is the visual cortex where pattern recognition techniques have revealed insight into the transformation of incoming nerve signals into coherent spatio-temporal patterns. These empirical studies have been accompanied by modelings of the neural net as noisy and dissipative open system, leading to characteristic self-organization processes. Following these lines it is tempting to regard brain activity solely as a complicated and highly involved input-output process, moderated by the brain's memorial history, and working on similar lines as complicated artificial intelligence programs. Many neuroscientists adopt this concept, as, e.g., expressed in the works of Crick & Koch and of Edelman. In their opinion consciousness, the special qualia of human responsive behavior, finds here its natural physical explanation, avoiding the socalled Cartesian dilemma.
Neuropsychological Investigations by Karl H. Pribram: It is conjectured that each organism, like a Leibnizian monad, re-presents the universe, and the universe reflects, in some manner, the organism that observes it. The perceptions of an organism cannot be understood without an understanding of the nature of the physical universe and the nature of the physical universe cannot be understood without an understanding of the perceptual process. The Leibnizian position gets significantly reinforced by quantum theory, but remarkably in a way in which the space-time and spectral perspectives get reconciled and appear to be no more divisive than the two faces of the same coin. This occurs via Planck's constant h, which opens up a bridge between space-time locatable concepts such as mass and undulatory concepts such as energy measured as frequency, wavelength, amplitude and phase. On the basis of such reasoning, the brain is seen to be the medium for transformations into and out of a potential distributed energetic and an experienced spacetime order.
What is consciousness? An essay on the relativistic quantum holographic model of the brain/mind, working by phase conjugate adaptive resonance by Peter Marcer and Edgar Mitchell: The quantum holographic model described provides mathematically founded specifications in terms of physical laws for the nature of information, knowledge, qualia, intelligence, the self and consciousness. It explains how a brain/mind, its neurons, dendrites, synapses, etc may be postulated to work, so as to explain the well known binding problem. It sheds fight on the fact that brains can be so much more versatile, competent, and efficient than their digital information processing counterparts, in relation to perception, cognition, language and intelligence. Further, it provides a methodology, by means of which to predict the information processing morphology and signal dynamics of such brains, i.e. their neuroinformatics on various scales, so as to be validatable against the experimental facts of neurophysiology, neuropsychology, etc. The paper begins with an explanation of general scientific principles and concepts associated with the model, and supporting evidence is described. It ends with a proposal by means of which it can be further experimentally validated. This proposal concerns predicting the existence and the properties of microtubules internal to the axon of the neuron. Such a prediction provides an independent confirmation of the long held, but still controversial hypothesis of Hameroff and Penrose, that such axonal microtubules are a quantum mechanism fundamental to consciousness in higher organisms, such as humans.
Thinking together quantum brain dynamics and postmodernism by Gordon Globus: I "think together" quantum brain dynamics (QBD) and postmodernism (appropriated to include Heidegger). In particular, the world thrownness of Heidegger, the sovereignty of Bataille and the differance of Derrida can be talked about in terms of QBD. This effects a rapprochement between the QBD revolution against classical neural network brain theory and the postmodem revolution against modernity and the metaphysical tradition. Such a grand millennial rapprochement brings together science in the guise of quantum neurophysics and postmodernism against their respective wills. Discussion of the problem of "consciousness" and brain has been so stalemated and seemingly interminable that if progress is to be made, a great conceptual wrenching is only to be expected. My formulation relinquishes consciousness and the quotidian world-in-common in favor of existence and parallel world-thrownnesses.
Consciousness and non-hierarchical physics by Chris Clarke: An example is presented of a model of consciousness based on a description of the world which integrates the material and psychological aspects from the start. An indication is given of work under way to test the model.
Time and the laws of nature by Ilya Prigogine: The first part of this paper gives a summary of the philosophy of nature and of the view on time that follows from recent fundamental theories on complex systems. This part is followed by an interview-style part on the implications of this view for consciousness.
Matter, Mind and the quantum A Topological Geometro-Dynamics perspective by Matti Pitkanen: Topological Geometro-Dynamics (TGD) is a unified theory of fundamental interactions. TGD involves a quite far-reaching generalization of the space-time concept and, apart from the notion of quantum jump, reduces quantum theory to infinite-dimensional geometry. General coordinate invariance forces the identification of the quantum states as quantum histories rather than time-constant snapshots of a single quantum history: this solves the basic detemunismlnon-determinism paradox of quantum measurement theory. The identification of the quantum jump as a moment of consciousness defines the microscopic theory of consciousness. p-Adic numbers is one of the basic new mathematical concepts necessary for the formulation of quantum TGD. The notion of the self as a subsystem remaining p-radically unentangled under the action of the "time evolution" operator U (S-matrix) associated with the sequential quantum jumps is central for the macroscopic theory of consciousness. Vanishing p-adic entanglement means subcritical real entanglement so that the self can be regarded as a critical phenomenon. The moments of consciousness which occurred after the last "wake-up" bind temporally to a single experience and give rise to immediate subjective memory. Each self represents a self-organizing system approaching a stable self-organization pattern selected by dissipation. A self can have sub-selves and experiences sub-selves as mental images which are averages about mental images of sub-sub-selves. An infinite hierarchy of selves giving rise to an abstraction hierarchy is predicted. The notion of the manysheeted spacetime and the classical non-determinism of the Kahler action defining configuration space geometry are crucial for understanding how psychological time and cognition emerge in the TGD-universe and a rather radical generalization of the views about the relationship of subjective and geometric time is forced.
What is it not Like to be a Brain? By Colin Mc Ginn: The standard objection to materialism is inverted. It is argued that materialism fails to do justice to the nature of matter, it omits or distorts the distinctive character of physical phenomena The symmetry of identity plays a crucial role in the argument
On the nature of anamalous phenomena Another reality between the world of subjective consciousness and the objective world of physics? By Dick J. Bierman: Cumulating evidence suggests that anomalous correlations occur between mental (conscious and non-conscious) states and apparently unrelated physical or mental phenomena at a distance in space and time. In spite of the fact that the evidence is very strong, these correlations are difficult to replicate. Several examples are given of `failures' to empirically replicate original anomalies. It is speculated that this failure to replicate, rather than indicating that the original findings are due to statistical flukes or errors, suggests that when consciousness interacts with matter, an underlying reality arises. This reality is somewhere in between the purely objective shareable reality and the purely subjective reality of one's individual consciousness. Efforts to `push' anomalous phenomena observed in this intermediate reality into the objective one apparently destroy the phenomena. Possible explanations within a physical and within a system theoretical model are discussed. The physical model is based upon an analysis of the role of I-consciousness in the so-called `Measurement Problem' in Quantum Physics. Based upon these discussions a new systematic experimental approach for the study of anomalous phenomena is suggested.The philosophy of consciousness, `deep' teleology and objective selection by Philip Van Loocke: We consider systems in which forces and selection (or `reduction') procedures cooperate to determine present states. Forces work on the immediate past of a system and determine a set of possible states. Selection works in the immediate future and selects one of these states as the actual state of the system. Selection can be constrained in terms of a criterion not reducible to the forces operating on the system. It is shown that the performance of different types of procedures increases when this type of teleology is inserted. This is illustrated with an example from the cognitive domain and with examples that belong to the context of generative art. More fundamentally, it is conjectured that, given the complexity of our universe, selection can operate systematically without leading to replicable violation of physical laws. The relation between selection and the philosophy of consciousness is discussed.
THE RADIANCE OF BEING: Complexity, Chaos and the Evolution of Consciousness by Allan Combs ($18.95, paperback, 350 pages, Paragon House; ISBN: 1557787557)
For over a century, the scientific establishment has ignored challenges to the theory of evolution. But in the last decade such complacency about its scientific and philosophical foundations has been shaken. As cracks in the Darwinian edifice have begun to appear, many are asking whether a defensible alternative exists. There is a new interest in the nature of consciousness in the scientific and scholarly communities, an interest vitally needed in our times among scholars exploring the possibility of intelligent design as values. Too often, though, this interest is too specialized, too narrow. At the cellular level there appears to be a high level of irreducible complexity that suggests design possibilities not accounted for by evolutionary theories of consciousness and complexity. It is refreshing to find an explanatory theory in scientific descriptions of the universe. In an era when consciousness studies have finally begun to receive the attention they deserve, offers an inter-disciplinary perspective that is creative, unique, and comprehensive.
Trained in mathematics, mechanical engineering, and philosophy, Combs attempts to present in THE RADIANCE OF BEING a the full theory of human consciousness, and deal with it competently and creatively.This book will be required reading for any serious student of the mystery of what we are. and are to become.
THE USER ILLUSION: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size by Tor Norretranders ($29.95, hardcover, 480 pages, Viking Books; ISBN: 0670875791)
European popular science writer Norretranders’ makes his American debut by providing an original argument about the meaning and nature of consciousness. He draws on apparently divergent threads of 20th century scientific thought to integrate key concepts to show the limits of consciousness. In contrast to common belief, consciousness is not in control of most of what we do, think, feel and experience; on the contrary, it is lagging behind and often informed after the event. This simple yet rather startling notion is at the center Norretranders’s ambitious and provocative new book, THE USER ILLUSION.
Norretranders attempts to unify perspectives from several widely separated scientific disciplines, including thermodynamics, computer science, neurophysiology, the psychology of perception, and chaos theory. In the process, he presents an elegantly argued book about the limits of consciousness and the information-rich, non-conscious performance involved in many human activities.
Both a work of science and a work of philosophy, THE USER ILLUSION starts with a very basic notion that we sense far more than we are conscious of, whether we want to or not. In any given second, we consciously process only 16 of the 11 million bits of information our senses pass on to our brains. According to Norretranders, meaning or understanding arises from this information that has been discarded; he coins the word "exformation" to describe such information thrown away before communication. He goes on to say that we do not actually experience raw sensory data, but a simulation of them. Consciousness for Norretranders is thus a fraud, an illusion, a peculiar phenomenon that is riddled with deceit and self-deception.
Throughout THE USER ILLUSION, Norretranders keeps returning to what he sees as the two basic states or phases of the universe: order or chaos, solid or liquid, linear or nonlinear; "I" (the conscious aspect of the person) or "Me" (the non-conscious and dominant aspect). For him, "it is on the edge of chaos, on the boundary between order and chaos, that the really interesting things happen." This line of thought leads Norretranders to an attempt to understand and critique modern civilization. Finding the appropriate balance between the linear and the nonlinear is a major challenge for civilization, and is closely related to the challenge of finding the proper balance between the conscious and the nonconscious. Civilization is about linearity, about making life predictable, about reducing the amount of information relevant to daily life. Information, on the other hand, "is a measure of unpredictability, disorder, mess, chaos, amazement, indescribability, surprises, otherness." Thus, ironically, in our so-called "Information Society" we are deprived of information because of our overemphasis on conscious control. We are reduced as a result of discarding most of the unpredictable otherness that imbues the world outside us.
Norretranders closes his book by advocating that we should "have the courage to believe that life is greater than we know," that "man is much more than his consciousness." When we embrace the world like this, we attain a sense of total unity with what we are doing, "a spontaneous, direct feeling that the energy is flowing, that the force is with us." As he writes, "life is really more fun when you are not conscious of it." For him, the insight that consciousness plays a smaller role in human life than many people think "may be the only insight capable of transforming culture."
In the final analysis, THE USER ILLUSION provides us with a scientifically based antidote to our contemporary anomie, helping us to put consciousness in perspective and context and to embrace the richness of human life. Prepublication reviews and endorsements have praised the enormous range of this outstanding book, which, in combining accessible popular science with highly original thinking, takes a difficult subject and makes it tangibly applicable to daily life.
About the author: Born in 1955 in Copenhagen, Tor Norretranders is the leading science writer and correspondent in Denmark. He is the author of ten previous books covering such topics as the environment, science policy, sexuality, quantum mechanics, cosmology and the sociology of science. He has hosted and produced the popular science show "Hvaelv" on Danish national television, which received top ratings despite its coverage of esoteric subjects like superstrings, fractals, and molecular biology. He has organized a major effort to establish international collaboration between scientists and artists and has recently written a book on the sociology and future of the Internet. THE USER ILLUSION, which was a major bestseller in Denmark, is his first book to be published in America, and is a selection of The Book-of-the-Month Club.
IN THE THEATER OF CONSCIOUSNESS: The Workplace of the Mind by Bernard J. Baars ($25.00, hardcover, 193 pages, selected references, index, Oxford University Press, 0-19-510265-7)
Understanding consciousness is perhaps the most difficult puzzle facing the sciences today, but in the last ten years remarkable strides have been made, reflecting important technological breakthroughs and the enormous efforts of researchers in disciplines as varied as neuroscience, cognitive science, and philosophy. In fact, debates over theories and between these disciplines have at times been so intense, the arguments have become known as the consciousness wars. Now, eminent psychologist Bernard J. Baars brings us to the front lines of the debate in his recent book, IN THE THEATER OF CONSCIOUSNESS, which takes the general reader on a fascinating tour of how top scientists currently understand the process underlying conscious experience. As an introduction to consciousness studies this volume has wide appeal.
The only book in recent years written by a psychologist, IN THE THEATER OF CONSCIOUSNESS brilliantly weaves together the various theories that have emerged as scientists continue their quest to uncover the profound mysteries of the mind - and of human nature itself. Baars takes us to the top laboratories around the world, where we witness some of the field’s most exciting breakthroughs and discoveries which he illustrates with numerous and often highly amusing on-the-spot demonstrations.
The sciences are often accused of mechanistic reductionism, of trying to reduce human beings to dead mechanisms. That criticism could apply to the period of behaviorism, when psychology and brain science abandoned the quest for human consciousness. Remarkably, we are now in the midst of unprecedented scientific developments that are making conscious experience the very center of scientific discussion. The argument made by Baars is that improved understanding of conscious experiences tends to be humanizing. For example, we can now see people silently talking to themselves, as we all do, by means of real-time images of the living brain. At a time when negative aspects of science are so widely discussed, we can all imagine some possible risks of the emerging consciousness science. Yet the ability to share aspects of private experience in a public way may also profoundly alter our scientific epistemology. When we in science begin to think through the implications of brain scans of conscious experiences, very possibly the private aspect of psychological reality will assume once again the central role that it had for William James. The new discoveries may help to humanize our scientific point of view in a dramatic fashion. IN THE THEATER OF CONSCIOUSNESS is likely to endure as a useful introduction to the study of consciousness.
CONSCIOUSNESS LOST AND FOUND: A Neuropsychological Exploration by Lawrence Weiskrantz ($25.00, cloth, 294 pages, references, indexes, Oxford University Press, 0-19-852301-7)
The phenomenon of "consciousness" is intrinsically related to one’s awareness of one’s self, of time, and of the physical world. But what if something should happen to impair one’s awareness? What do we make of "consciousness" in those people who have suffered brain damage, such as amnesia?
Contrary to the perception that many have about brain-damaged patients, it has been discovered that many of these individuals retain intact capacities of which they are unaware, in what is known as ‘covert’ processing. A blind patient, then, may actually be able to "see, " without having knowledge of such success, while an amnesiac patient can be shown to learn and retain information that he or she does not realize is memory, nor can be made to realize. In fact, in every major class of defect in which patients lose cognitive ability--from perception, to meaning, to memory, to language--examples of preserved capacities can be found of which the patient is unaware. Weiskrantz probes deeply into this phenomenon known to neuropsychologists but unfamiliar to many lay readers, and uses it as a springboard toward a philosophical argument which, combined with the latest brain imaging studies, points the way to specific brain structures which may be involved in conscious awareness. Weiskrantz takes his argument further, too, asking whether animals who share much the same brain anatomy as humans share awareness--and how that impacts our assumptions about evolution as well as our moral and ethical decision making.
Written in an engaging and accessible style, CONSCIOUSNESS LOST AND FOUND provides a unique perspective on one of the most challenging issues in science today. But it appeal is more one of hindsight, explaining why earlier theories did not pan out than of foresight offering fruitful hypotheses to be tried out tomorrow.
About the Author… One of the century’s most distinguished neuropsychologists, Lawrence Weiskrantz was a Professor for 26 years in the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE SOUL Revised Edition by Richard Swinburne ($32.00, paper, 360 pages, notes, index, Oxford University Press ISBN: 0198236980)
Human beings have evolved from animals, and animals from inanimate matter; but what has evolved is qualitatively different from the inanimate matter from which it began. Both humans and the higher animals have a mental life of sensation, thought, purpose, desire, and belief. Although these mental states in part cause, and are caused by, brain states, they are distinct from them. Richard Swinburne argues that we can only make sense of this interaction by supposing that mental states are states of a soul, a mental substance in interaction with the body. Although both have a rich mental life, human souls, unlike animal souls, are capable of logical thought, have moral beliefs, have free will, and have an internal structure (so that their beliefs and desires are formed largely by other beliefs and desires inhering in the soul). Professor Swinburne concludes that there is no full scientific explanation available for the evolution of the soul, and almost certainly there never will be. For this revised edition Professor Swinburne has taken the opportunity to strengthen and expand his book to take account of developments in this area of philosophy since the first edition. He adds a prolegomenon and seven new appendixes, in addition to minor revisions of the main text.
Richard Swinburne has been Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Oriel College, since 1985. He is a Fellow of the British Academy.
The first edition of THE EVOLUTION OF THE SOUL was published in 1986. It argued in Part I that (pure) mental events (e.g. me being in pain) are distinct from physical events (e.g. C-fibres in my brain firing); the occurrence of one does not entail the occurrence of the other or vice versa, although one may cause the other. It went on to argue in Part II that humans (and the higher animals) consist of two separate parts—soul and body—and that (pure) mental events are goings-on in the soul, while physical events are goings-on in the body. Soul and body interact. Finally in Part III it proceeded to describe in detail what the human soul is like, what its capacities are. It claimed that these include freedom of will—to choose between alternatives without our choices being predetermined by prior states of affairs. The central theme of the book was the theme of substance dualism—that humans consist of two separate substances, body and soul. Plato thought this, and so did Descartes, and so did so many other thinkers of the last three millennia. But in 1997, as in 1986, few philosophical positions are as unfashionable as is substance dualism. These days one gets a far more sympathetic hearing for arguments to the existence of God than for arguments to the existence of the soul. Yet to my mind the arguments for the latter are ones of immense strength; and so in the revised edition of The Evolution of the Soul I seek again to persuade my philosophical colleagues and more generally the scientific world and the wider educated public, of the immense strength of those arguments.
This new edition includes a few minor alterations to the main text (of which perhaps the most important is to my account of event identity on pp. 52-3), and a number of new appendices in which I amplify the main text and comment on relevant recent work in philosophy and science. Although the past decade has seen an enormous number of philosophical books and articles on the mind-body problem, an impartial observer would inevitably receive the impression that the recent philosophical debate has generated more heat than light and not advanced our understanding very much. Some of my additional appendices seek to justify this harsh judgment. There has also been a lot of interesting work in neurophysiology and psychology, but I do not think that any results in this field affect in any way the main arguments of this book. I seek to justify this latter statement, when I discuss in Appendix B recent theories of brain architecture, and when I discuss in Appendix F some work on the brain correlates of some human acts of choosing. To my mind by far the most interesting scientific work relevant to our topic has been the work, not of neurophysicists, but of physicists considering how Quantum Theory might be held to provide an explanation of mind-brain interaction—and give rise to free choice. I discuss Roger Penrose’s two fascinating books in Appendix E. While I do not think that they yet establish very much, they do point in the direction of the view which I advocated in Chapter 13 that Quantum Theory allows room for human free choice.
The thread which runs through the first two parts of my book is this: a correct scientific account of the world must seek to describe all the kinds of happenings there are, and if a happening of one kind does not entail the occurrence of a happening of some other kind (i.e. if the latter is not part of the former, but an additional feature of the world) then there are happenings of two kinds to be described. Hence, I argue, as well as happenings in the brain, there are pains, thoughts, afterimages and so on—maybe the former often cause the latter, but they are separate from them. This distinctness is drawn to our attention by the fact that sometimes we have no idea and no possible way of discovering to any significant degree of probability exactly which mental events are caused by certain brain events. However much we know about a bat’s brain, we can get from it very little understanding of how (if at all) the bat perceives (i.e. has a sensory picture of and beliefs about) its surroundings.
Likewise, I argue, my continuing to have a conscious life after a brain operation is a different phenomenon from someone-or-other having a conscious life connected to my body after the operation. So science needs a word for what is essential to me, the survival of which entails my survival—and the word ‘soul’ serves that function. A full description of the world should tell us not merely what happened to my body and its constituent atoms but also what happened to my soul. Because normally mental events of certain types go with brain events of certain types and my soul’s existence goes with that of my body, the materialist suggests that we do not need to talk of pains and thoughts and souls, only of brain events and bodies. But in so doing he is commending to us a ‘Newspeak’ .(The rulers in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four imposed on their subjects the language ‘Newspeak’, which provided no vocabulary for describing certain features of the world, and so prevented the subjects from being aware of those features of the world.) For even if there were very tight correlations between the mental and the physical (and I shall be arguing that the correlations are not totally tight), this would be something very important about our world—which science should draw to our attention—and that involves acknowledging that these are separate things, however closely they are tied together. It is for this reason that detailed scientific discoveries of recent centuries about the nature of the physical world in general, or the operation of the brain in particular, are simply irrelevant to the main dualist contentions. The dualist is not claiming merely to provide a theory which explains very well the physical phenomena—in the way that the atomic theory of chemistry explains very well the phenomena of chemical interactions observable with the naked eye. If that were all that the dualist aimed to do, some scientific discoveries might prove difficult for dualism to explain but much easier for some other theory to explain. No, the dualist claims that dualism is involved in the phenomena, the experienced data, themselves— we have pains as well as brain states, and we continue to be conscious as well as our bodies continuing to function. That there are continuing subjects of experience who are conscious is a datum, itself in need of explanation. Detailed scientific discoveries are relevant only to showing more about what souls are like—e.g. that they have free will—not for showing that there are such things at all.
Some critics of the first edition of my book commented that I had not dealt with what seemed to them to be one of the strongest arguments against dualism—that the dualist has never been able to provide an explanation of how mind (i.e. soul) and body interact— how brain-events cause pains, images, and beliefs. I had indeed not discussed this, for the simple reason that it seems no good argument against the existence of a causal connection which can be
repeated endlessly at will, that we cannot explain how it works. That bodily events cause brain events and that these cause pains, images, and beliefs (where their subjects have privileged access to the latter and not the former), is one of the most obvious phenomena of human experience. If we cannot explain how that occurs, we should not try to pretend that it does not occur. We should just acknowledge that human beings are not omniscient, and cannot understand everything.
One writer of recent years who has emphasized this point very clearly is Colin McGinn. In a number of works, but especially in The Problem of Consciousness,’ he has argued that humans very probably do not have the kind of intelligence which would enable them to understand the mechanism of mind-body interaction. He is however convinced not merely that there is such interaction, but that there is some deep noumenal feature of the world in consequence of which consciousness depends necessarily on the brain. One might well ask how it is that if McGinn does not know the mechanism of interaction, he is so convinced that it must be of a certain kind (i.e. a ‘hidden noumenal structure’ such that beings with brains of certain kinds must be conscious). His conviction seems to arise from the fact that ‘it is either eliminativism [i.e. there are no conscious events] or miracles [i.e. the action of God to connect body and soul] or hidden structure. Absolute noumenalism is preferable to denying the undeniable or wallowing in the supernatural.’ I gave arguments in Chapter 10 as to why there is most unlikely to be a ‘hidden structure’ of McGinn’s kind, and I share his wish not to deny the undeniable. If that leaves us with God as the agent who sustains the mind/body connection in humans, so be it. That is not something for which I have argued in this book—except briefly in the short appendix to Chapter 10. But I have argued elsewhere that mind-body interaction forms part of a strong cumulative case for the existence of God. My concern in this book is simply to describe the phenomena, and the limits to our ability to provide any fundamental explanation of them.
McGinn is not entirely alone in acknowledging that the fact of mind-body interaction is something far beyond the capacity of contemporary science to explain. But the relatively few other writers on the philosophy of mind who do acknowledge this, tend to refer to it in passing. And even most of those who do recognize that there is a very deep problem about how brain events interact with mental events, do not also recognize that there is a very deep problem indeed about what ensures that the same subject of experience (in my terminology, same soul) normally interacts with the same body. There is however one firm defence of the substantial and immaterial nature of the human person in John Foster’s’ The Immaterial Self.
In The View from Nowhere, Thomas Nagel has claimed that ‘the main objection to dualism is that it postulates an additional nonphysical substance without explaining how it can support subjective mental states whereas the brain can’t’ .But again it is no objection to a theory that it cannot answer all questions. A person continues to exist if that person has mental states; but, I argue in Part II, the mere continued existence of the person’s body is neither necessary nor sufficient for the continued existence of the person. Yet the continuing existence of a person is the continuing existence of a substance, in the sense of a thing capable of causal interactions. So mental states must pertain to an immaterial substance. There is nothing self-contradictory in this supposition, and if in some sense it is a mystery how it can be; then we should be humble and accept that there just are some things we cannot understand—while that fact gives no reason for supposing that they do not occur. It would be very surprising indeed if humans could understand with respect to everything that they knew to occur, how and why it occurred.
Most of the enormous amount of writing by philosophers, psychologists, and physicists over the past twelve years on the mind-body problem, has been very materialist in its general stance. Some of it has been of an ‘eliminativist’ nature, arguing that really there are no such things as beliefs or pains; there are simply brain states. I reject this highly implausible view for the reasons given in my Part I. The majority of philosophers perhaps accept that there are mental events in some sense distinct from brain events. Mental events are not identical with brain events— ‘identity theory’ is rejected; but in the current jargon mental events ‘supervene’ on brain events, or are ‘realized’ in them, or are ‘composed’ of them. I argue in New Appendix A that such views have to come clean—either they claim that for each mental event, there is some brain event the occurrence of which entails the occurrence of the former—of logical necessity; or they allow that the connection between brain events and mental events is merely contingent. I claim that the former view is open to all the old objections against identity theory; the latter view is that which I espouse in Part I.
My ‘modal argument’ for substance dualism has been the subject of a certain amount of discussion in philosophical journals, and I defend it against objections in New Appendix C. One criticism of substance dualism is that the dualist cannot say what souls are; he has to say that a soul is just ‘something he knows not what’ .In New Appendix D I do give an account of the kind of thing souls are, but claim that it is no good objection that I cannot say what makes the difference between one soul and another. In the end some things just are different from each other. In the first edition of The Evolution of the Soul I had no treatment of one argument in favour of human free will—the argument from Godel’s Theorem, given currency by J. R. Lucas. In the end this is not an argument which I can endorse, but it was a deficiency of the first edition that it contained no discussion of the argument. In New Appendix F I say why I am not persuaded by it.
Prolegomenon to the Revised Edition
3. Sensations and Brain-Events
8. Body and Soul
9. The Evidence of Personal Identity
10. The Origin and Life of the Soul
11. Language, Rationality, and Choice
12. Moral Awareness
13. The Freedom of the Will
14. The Structure of the Soul
15. The Future of the Soul
New App. A. Supervenience, Constitution, and Realization
New App. B. Language of Thought, Connectionism, and Folk Psychology
New App. C. The Modal Argument for Substance Dualism
New App. D. The Nature of Souls; Their Thisness
New App. E. More on Quantum Theory and the Brain
New App. F. Godel's Theorem and Free Will
New App. G. Libet's Experiments
Writing in a careful, thought-provoking style, the
author tours through the philosophical ramifications of
consciousness studies and the theories that spawn them. Chalmers
credibly demonstrates that contemporary cognitive science and
neuroscience do not begin to explain how subjective experience
emerges from neural processes in the brain. He then, propounds that
conscious experience must instead be understood in a new light-as an
irreducible entity (like such physical properties as time, mass, and
space) that exists at a fundamental level and cannot be understood
as the sum of simpler physical parts. In the second half of the
book, he sets out on a quest for a "fundamental theory." That is a
theory of the basic laws governing the structure and character of
conscious experience. He shows how this reconception of the mind can
lead us to a new science of consciousness. Throughout the book,
Chalmers offers a series of appealing thought experiments that
graphically represent his ideas. For example, in exploring the
possibility that consciousness could be experienced by machines as
well as humans, Chalmers asks us to imagine a thinking brain in
which neurons are slowly replaced by silicon chips - as the neurons
are replaced, will consciousness gradually fade away? The book also
features thoughtful discussions of how the author's ideas might be
applied to subjects as diverse as artificial intelligence and the
interpretation of quantum mechanics. All of us have pondered the
mysteries of consciousness. Engaging and penetrating, The Conscious
Mind adds a fresh new perspective that will spark debate about our
understanding of the mind for years to come.
This generalist's guide to the new science of mind
offers an interdisciplinary tour of the recasting of the mind-body
problem as recently envisaged by AI (Artificial Intelligence),
artificial life, cognitive science, computer science, connectionist
theory, ethnology, evolutionary biology, mathematics, physics,
neurophysiology, robotics, engineering, and philosophy. Franklin has
written his work in an attempt to show lines of general convergence
toward a new paradigm of mind. The book is an original work of
scientific synthesis written with enough precision as to be
interesting to working scientists and with enough flare as to be
accessible to the general reader without an inordinate technical
Thinking Computers and Virtual Persons
How do symbols have meaning for us? Foundations of
Understanding argues that this is the key question to ask about
intentionality, or meaningful thought. It thus offers an
alternative to currently popular linguistic models of
intentionality, the inadequacies of which are examined. The goal
should be to explain, not how symbols, mental or otherwise, can
refer to or 'mean' states of affairs in the external world, but how
they can mean something to us, the users. This turn around from the
objectivism of linguistic analysis back to an introspective
appreciation of how meaning comes to be through the somaticism of
the body is the cutting edge of this study.
The essence of intentionality is shown to be conscious understanding, the roots of which lie in experiences of embodiment and goal-directed action.
A developmental path is traced from a foundation of conscious understanding in the ability to perform basic actions, through the understanding of the concept of an objective, external world, to the understanding of language and abstract symbols.
The work is interdisciplinary. Data from the neurosciences, cognitive psychology, and the perspectives of phenomenologists such as Merleau-Ponty, are integrated with traditional philosophical analysis.
The book includes a chapter on the nature of conscious qualitative experience and its neural correlates. These suggestions of how the four qualities of conscious experience as externality, unity, reflexivity, and awareness itself are shown to be founded on a neurological base of memory, sensory input, the unity of the process as reflexive and as self referential sets the base to remove the subject-object dichotomies that have haunted explanations of how consciousness and neurology are compatible. This work continues the work quickly reaching a crescendo attempting to solve the riddle of consciousness.
The Metamorphosis of the Given
Toward an Ecology of Consciousness
by Friedmann Schwarzkopf
Series: Revisioning Philosophy 20
hardcover, 210 pages, bibliography, index
The Metamorphosis of the Given leads us to
experience reality as a product of what is given and not-given.
Given are the perceptual world and all organizing systems of the
mind. Not-given is the act of the human spirit of giving attention
and new meanings. These are not given because only the human being
can give them. The conversation of humanity reflects this
interaction between the human spirit and the world. In this process
the feeling of reality changes and gives birth to possibilities for
a new emerging shared paradigm. This skillful adaptation of
consciousness theory to the central insights of anthroposophist,
is an agreeable and precious work, by a mature thinker who has a
clear grasp of the key issues in the philosophic debate about the
utility of consciousness. After an uncommonly exact explanation of
the parameters of thinking, He proceeds to a series of appreciative
thoughts about the major philosophers' ideas about. Using the
conflicts among them as occasions to think farther the work then
lies open, with surprising lucidity, what has been demonstrated
throughout a way of inquiring into things meditatively, a way that
lifts the inquires into partnership with creation.
This learned and penetrating essay in epistemology shows that the renewal of culture, particularly in this time of unprecedented danger and despair, depends upon the re-enlivening of thinking itself.
Friedmann-Eckart Schwarzkopf, Ph. D. (philosophy), born 1947 in Germany, trained attorney, writer and lecturer, teaches philosophy and theory of natural science at Rudolf Steiner College, Sacramento (Fair Oaks), California His emphasis is to observe the light of human awareness and how it molds our shared reality. He is known as translator and editor of several books and many articles by the Hungarian scientist and philosopher, George Kublewind.
Merrell-Wolff's Experience and Philosophy
A Personal Record of Transformation and a Discussion of Transcendental Consciousness: Containing his Philosophy of Consciousness Without an Object and his Pathways Through to Space
by Franklin Merrell-Wolff
State University of New York Press
Transformations in Consciousness
The Metaphysics and Epistemology: Containing his Introceptualism
by Franklin Merrell-Wolff
State University of New York Press
$19.95, paper; 384 pages
The experience of enlightenment, or of an unitive awareness beyond subject-object dualisms has often been basic for mysticisms in all traditions. It has also been vigorously debated by philosophers with a general consensus reached during the Enlightenment that reason or logic was the unique quality of consciousness. Even today reductionisms attempt to limit consciousness to some energetic metaphor. Merrell-Wolff's experience is all the more important for he comes out of a rigorous mathematical and philosophical background. When confronted with this nondualistic consciousness and its transformative effects, Merrell-Wolff was hard put to explain it. Taking on Kant's mirror dependencies of consciousness, being contingent upon perception and conception, Merrell-Wolff formulated important accounts all based experientially upon his own illuminate nondual consciousness. His most important work, and least known is Introceptualism where he sets out a formal epistemology and metaphysics for this basic transcendent consciousness. He also modifies some of his earlier statements, attempting to clarify his account of mysticism as well as placing his idealism into juxtaposition to modernist naturalism, realism, idealism and pragmatism. These books reflect a life time effort to formulate an adequate philosophy that can include such radical nondual consciousness as a present reality and possibility. Somewhat reclusive during his long life, he refused to guide or instruct others in what he felt was a natural condition of human consciousness when left to its own nature. In many ways these books provide a place where critical philosophy is strictly mystical. Highly recommended.
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