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Flashcards in Consciousness Deck (23):

What is consciousness?

Being attentive.
Self reflectiveness.
Free will.
Sleep/being awake - different levels.


Nagel - consciousness is "what it is like to be..."

Can try and understand other's mental states and perspectives but we never know what it's really like to be someone else.
- Explanatory gap.


Evolutionary advantages:

Social relationships.
Conscious decision making.


Three key terms:

1. Qualia
2. Mental states
3. Intentionality



= Elements of sensory awareness.
= Qualitative feelings - eg. red, pain, high pitched tones.
- Sensations that can't be broken down into sub-components.


Mental states

Versus brain states (physical states).
Often used by philosophers.
3 categories:
- Qualia - sensations - eg. seeing red.
- Thoughts, beliefs, propositional attitudes - eg. believing, thinking etc.
- Self awareness/introspection - some sort of internal scanning process.



= "meaning" or "aboutness" - mental states are about something.
Mental states refer to:
- Something about yourself.
- Something about the world outside you.
- Point to something, indicate/symbolise something.

Property of intentionality:
- How can the brain/action potential be about a specific colour, or belief about the PM?


Our own mind: What do we mean by that?

Natural intuition: our mind is different from our physical body.
Mind = immediate ongoing consciousness?
- What is on your mind? What are you thinking now? Thinking about the future? Planning?
- False memories? Imaginations?
What about during sleep/coma?
- What about memories that cannot be recalled (but are somewhere in the mind)?
Unconscious process - that might affect our behaviour, dreams etc) - are they part of our mind?


Knowledge of other mind

How do we know what other people are thinking?
what makes them behave the way they do?
Altered mental states (eg. coma, schizophrenia etc) are important in court - judges have to judge mental states.
Do animals/computers have their own mind? - AI.


Dissociation dualism

Dualism = mind and matter are qualitatively different.
- Substance dualis (Descartes).
- Property dualism (Searle).


Dualism: how could mind and matter interact?

Interactionalism: causal 2-way interaction between mind and physical world.
Epiphenomenalism: the mind is an epiphenomenon.
- Useless by product of brain. We imagine that we have causal control at the mental level but that is not the case. All causal effects happen unconsciously on the physical world level.
Parallelism: there is no cause-effect relationship between the mental and physical world.


Substance dualism

Descartes - mind and matter as two separate substances, like two fluids which never mix. Each with its own set of properties.
- Conscious selves are made of one substance, human bodies of another - immaterial souls,bodies and mundane matter.
- Interaction between mind and matter - the mind influences the physical world via the pinel gland.

Mental states: states of a mental substance.
Physical states: states of the physical world.

Popular dualism: linked to everyday feelings that tells us that we have a mind.
- There is something that is different from atoms, brains and other material things.
- Many variations of this popular dualism - eg. life-after-death, reincarnation, out-of-body experiences.


Property dualism = the mind is an emergent property of the brain.

There is a type of substance that can have physical and non-physical properties.
"Consciousness is a higher-level or emergent property of the brain" (Searle, 92).
- This property is not reducible to its part.
Emergent property is "a property of a system which is not possessed by any of its constituent parts in isolation".
- Similar to Gestalt theory -"Whole is greater than the sum of the parts".
Basic idea: no special mental substance but there are two kinds of material.
- One can generate consciousness (eg. rain, nerves).
- One cannot (eg. liver).


Arguments against dualism

All dualism theories: How do mind and matter interact?
- Eg. how does your mind become aware of the smell of coffee? How does an intention become an action?

Emergent property dualism - problem of down-stream causation.
- Hoe does the emergent property "mind" influence the activity of the parts of the system?


Monoism/monism = everything is a single kind of entity.

There is a single reality of which everything is composed.
Many versions:
- Global workspace theory (Baars).
- Eliminism (Dennett).
- Reductive materialism.
- Computational functionalism.


Monoism - Global workspace theory (Baars, 88).

Number of distinct cognitive info-processing systems in the human brain, including the various modes of perception, imagery, attention and language.
- These sub-systems of the brain each have their own tasks to perform and much of their processing takes place below the level of consciousness.


Monoims - Eliminism (version of GWT - Daniel Dennet, 91).

Qualia do not exist: "When we look objectively at the brain, we see nothing that would equate to conscious experience and so it must not exist".
Consciousness is an illusion: Caused by the complex way our brain deals with info. It is an output of a complex info processing system.

Cartesian Theatre, Epiphenomenon.
- Limited capacity for conscious processes -> competition.


GWT is closely related to...

the dynamic core theory and Neural Correlates of Consciousness.


Reductive materialism - Identity theory (Type-Type Theory)

Mental states can be defined and categorised into different types - eg. pain.
Each type of mental state is identical to a type of physical state - they are the same thing.


Reductive materialism: Problem 1 - Assumption of "narrow" intentionality/meaningfulness of a mental state.

- Narrow intentionality = mental state depends on the state of the physical brain - eg. if you look at someone's brain and can tell what they are thinking (explanatory gap).
- Broad intentionality = mental states depend on brain states and environment (outside world, context) - eg. context helps decide if mental states have a meaning.


Reductive materialism: Problem 2 - multiple realisations.

Many physical states can have the same function (Putan, 67; Fodor, 68) - eg. different looking clocks.
- Eg. pain perception.


Clinical picture

Actually - several physical states can be linked to the same mental state - eg. brain plasticity.
24 Yr old woman born without cerebellum (Science, 2014):
- motor symptoms only mild.
- findings suggest that extra-cerebella circuits took over the function of the cerebellum.


Computational functionalism - The token-token identity theory)

Physical and mental states do not need to match (both tokens).
One mental state several physical states.
Multiple realisation problem (Analogy: hardware - software logic):
- Mental states are independent of brain states (software program is independent of hardware).
- Mental states/psychology are constrained by hardware/brain states and functions (eg. certain software programs do not run on old computers).
Advantage: because the T-T apping is not identical it might be able to explain consciousness (and other mental states) in animals and intelligent aliens.