Personal Identity and Self-Consciousness (International Library of Philosophy)


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Shelley Weinberg

An organism, such as a bat, is conscious if it is able to experience the outer world through its echo-locatory senses. There is also something it is like to be a conscious creature whereas there is nothing it is like to be, for example, a table or tree. For example, philosophers sometimes refer to conscious states as phenomenal or qualitative states. There is significant disagreement over the nature, and even the existence, of qualia, but they are perhaps most frequently understood as the felt properties or qualities of conscious states.

The former is very much in line with the Nagelian notion described above. Access consciousness is therefore more of a functional notion; that is, concerned with what such states do. Block himself argues that neither sense of consciousness implies the other, while others urge that there is a more intimate connection between the two. Interest in the nature of conscious experience has no doubt been around for as long as there have been reflective humans.

It would be impossible here to survey the entire history, but a few highlights are in order. In the history of Western philosophy, which is the focus of this entry, important writings on human nature and the soul and mind go back to ancient philosophers, such as Plato. As we shall see, Descartes argued that the mind is a non-physical substance distinct from the body. He also did not believe in the existence of unconscious mental states, a view certainly not widely held today.

Our mental states are, according to Descartes, infallibly transparent to introspection. Perhaps the most important philosopher of the period explicitly to endorse the existence of unconscious mental states was G. He also importantly distinguished between perception and apperception, roughly the difference between outer-directed consciousness and self-consciousness see Gennaro for some discussion. The most important detailed theory of mind in the early modern period was developed by Immanuel Kant. Although he owes a great debt to his immediate predecessors, Kant is arguably the most important philosopher since Plato and Aristotle and is highly relevant today.

Kant basically thought that an adequate account of phenomenal consciousness involved far more than any of his predecessors had considered. Over the past one hundred years or so, however, research on consciousness has taken off in many important directions.

In psychology, with the notable exception of the virtual banishment of consciousness by behaviorist psychologists e. The writings of such figures as Wilhelm Wundt , William James and Alfred Titchener are good examples of this approach. The work of Sigmund Freud was very important, at minimum, in bringing about the near universal acceptance of the existence of unconscious mental states and processes.

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Consciousness in Locke’s Theory of Personal Identity

It must, however, be kept in mind that none of the above had very much scientific knowledge about the detailed workings of the brain. The relatively recent development of neurophysiology is, in part, also responsible for the unprecedented interdisciplinary research interest in consciousness, particularly since the s.

There are now several important journals devoted entirely to the study of consciousness: Consciousness and Cognition , Journal of Consciousness Studies , and Psyche. For a small sample of introductory texts and important anthologies, see Kim , Gennaro b, Block et.

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy concerned with the ultimate nature of reality. There are two broad traditional and competing metaphysical views concerning the nature of the mind and conscious mental states: dualism and materialism. While there are many versions of each, the former generally holds that the conscious mind or a conscious mental state is non-physical in some sense.

On the other hand, materialists hold that the mind is the brain, or, more accurately, that conscious mental activity is identical with neural activity. For something to be non-physical, it must literally be outside the realm of physics; that is, not in space at all and undetectable in principle by the instruments of physics. However, something might be physical but not material in this sense, such as an electromagnetic or energy field. Thus, to say that the mind is non-physical is to say something much stronger than that it is non-material.

Dualists, then, tend to believe that conscious mental states or minds are radically different from anything in the physical world at all. There are a number of reasons why some version of dualism has been held throughout the centuries. For one thing, especially from the introspective or first-person perspective, our conscious mental states just do not seem like physical things or processes. That is, when we reflect on our conscious perceptions, pains, and desires, they do not seem to be physical in any sense.

Consciousness seems to be a unique aspect of the world not to be understood in any physical way. Although materialists will urge that this completely ignores the more scientific third-person perspective on the nature of consciousness and mind, this idea continues to have force for many today. The metaphysical conclusion ultimately drawn is that consciousness cannot be identical with anything physical, partly because there is no essential conceptual connection between the mental and the physical. Arguments such as these go back to Descartes and continue to be used today in various ways Kripke , Chalmers , but it is highly controversial as to whether they succeed in showing that materialism is false.


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Materialists have replied in various ways to such arguments and the relevant literature has grown dramatically in recent years. Historically, there is also the clear link between dualism and a belief in immortality, and hence a more theistic perspective than one tends to find among materialists. Indeed, belief in dualism is often explicitly theologically motivated. If the conscious mind is not physical, it seems more plausible to believe in the possibility of life after bodily death. On the other hand, if conscious mental activity is identical with brain activity, then it would seem that when all brain activity ceases, so do all conscious experiences and thus no immortality.

After all, what do many people believe continues after bodily death? There is perhaps a similar historical connection to a belief in free will, which is of course a major topic in its own right. Although materialism may not logically rule out immortality or free will, materialists will likely often reply that such traditional, perhaps even outdated or pre-scientific beliefs simply ought to be rejected to the extent that they conflict with materialism. After all, if the weight of the evidence points toward materialism and away from dualism, then so much the worse for those related views.

Somewhat related to the issue of immortality, the existence of near death experiences is also used as some evidence for dualism and immortality. In response, materialists will point out that such experiences can be artificially induced in various experimental situations, and that starving the brain of oxygen is known to cause hallucinations. Various paranormal and psychic phenomena, such as clairvoyance, faith healing, and mind-reading, are sometimes also cited as evidence for dualism. However, materialists and even many dualists will first likely wish to be skeptical of the alleged phenomena themselves for numerous reasons.

There are many modern day charlatans who should make us seriously question whether there really are such phenomena or mental abilities in the first place. Second, it is not quite clear just how dualism follows from such phenomena even if they are genuine. A materialist, or physicalist at least, might insist that though such phenomena are puzzling and perhaps currently difficult to explain in physical terms, they are nonetheless ultimately physical in nature; for example, having to do with very unusual transfers of energy in the physical world.

The dualist advantage is perhaps not as obvious as one might think, and we need not jump to supernatural conclusions so quickly. For example, my desire to drink something cold causes my body to move to the refrigerator and get something to drink and, conversely, kicking me in the shin will cause me to feel a pain and get angry.

But a modern day interactionist would certainly wish to treat various areas of the brain as the location of such interactions. Three serious objections are briefly worth noting here. The first is simply the issue of just how does or could such radically different substances causally interact. How something non-physical causally interacts with something physical, such as the brain? No such explanation is forthcoming or is perhaps even possible, according to materialists.

Consciousness | Philosophy Talk

Moreover, if causation involves a transfer of energy from cause to effect, then how is that possible if the mind is really non-physical? So any loss of energy in the cause must be passed along as a corresponding gain of energy in the effect, as in standard billiard ball examples. But if interactionism is true, then when mental events cause physical events, energy would literally come into the physical word. On the other hand, when bodily events cause mental events, energy would literally go out of the physical world.

At the least, there is a very peculiar and unique notion of energy involved, unless one wished, even more radically, to deny the conservation principle itself. Third, some materialists might also use the well-known fact that brain damage even to very specific areas of the brain causes mental defects as a serious objection to interactionism and thus as support for materialism. This has of course been known for many centuries, but the level of detailed knowledge has increased dramatically in recent years.

Now a dualist might reply that such phenomena do not absolutely refute her metaphysical position since it could be replied that damage to the brain simply causes corresponding damage to the mind. However, this raises a host of other questions: Why not opt for the simpler explanation, i. Will the severe amnesic at the end of life on Earth retain such a deficit in the afterlife? If proper mental functioning still depends on proper brain functioning, then is dualism really in no better position to offer hope for immortality?

It should be noted that there is also another less popular form of substance dualism called parallelism, which denies the causal interaction between the non-physical mental and physical bodily realms. It seems fair to say that it encounters even more serious objections than interactionism. While a detailed survey of all varieties of dualism is beyond the scope of this entry, it is at least important to note here that the main and most popular form of dualism today is called property dualism.

Substance dualism has largely fallen out of favor at least in most philosophical circles, though there are important exceptions e. Property dualism, on the other hand, is a more modest version of dualism and it holds that there are mental properties that is, characteristics or aspects of things that are neither identical with nor reducible to physical properties. There are actually several different kinds of property dualism, but what they have in common is the idea that conscious properties, such as the color qualia involved in a conscious experience of a visual perception, cannot be explained in purely physical terms and, thus, are not themselves to be identified with any brain state or process.

Two other views worth mentioning are epiphenomenalism and panpsychism. The latter is the somewhat eccentric view that all things in physical reality, even down to micro-particles, have some mental properties. All substances have a mental aspect, though it is not always clear exactly how to characterize or test such a claim. Finally, although not a form of dualism, idealism holds that there are only immaterial mental substances, a view more common in the Eastern tradition. The most prominent Western proponent of idealism was 18th century empiricist George Berkeley.

The idealist agrees with the substance dualist, however, that minds are non-physical, but then denies the existence of mind-independent physical substances altogether.

2. Kinds of Memory

Such a view faces a number of serious objections, and it also requires a belief in the existence of God. Some form of materialism is probably much more widely held today than in centuries past. No doubt part of the reason for this has to do with the explosion in scientific knowledge about the workings of the brain and its intimate connection with consciousness, including the close connection between brain damage and various states of consciousness.

Brain death is now the main criterion for when someone dies. Stimulation to specific areas of the brain results in modality specific conscious experiences. Indeed, materialism often seems to be a working assumption in neurophysiology. The idea is that science is showing us that conscious mental states, such as visual perceptions, are simply identical with certain neuro-chemical brain processes; much like the science of chemistry taught us that water just is H2O. In this case, even if dualism could equally explain consciousness which would of course be disputed by materialists , materialism is clearly the simpler theory in so far as it does not posit any objects or processes over and above physical ones.

Materialists will wonder why there is a need to believe in the existence of such mysterious non-physical entities. Moreover, in the aftermath of the Darwinian revolution, it would seem that materialism is on even stronger ground provided that one accepts basic evolutionary theory and the notion that most animals are conscious.

Given the similarities between the more primitive parts of the human brain and the brains of other animals, it seems most natural to conclude that, through evolution, increasing layers of brain areas correspond to increased mental abilities. For example, having a well developed prefrontal cortex allows humans to reason and plan in ways not available to dogs and cats. It also seems fairly uncontroversial to hold that we should be materialists about the minds of animals.

If so, then it would be odd indeed to hold that non-physical conscious states suddenly appear on the scene with humans. There are still, however, a number of much discussed and important objections to materialism, most of which question the notion that materialism can adequately explain conscious experience. Although not concerned to reject the metaphysics of materialism, Levine gives eloquent expression to the idea that there is a key gap in our ability to explain the connection between phenomenal properties and brain properties see also Levine , The basic problem is that it is, at least at present, very difficult for us to understand the relationship between brain properties and phenomenal properties in any explanatory satisfying way, especially given the fact that it seems possible for one to be present without the other.

There is an odd kind of arbitrariness involved: Why or how does some particular brain process produce that particular taste or visual sensation? It is difficult to see any real explanatory connection between specific conscious states and brain states in a way that explains just how or why the former are identical with the latter. There is therefore an explanatory gap between the physical and mental. Unlike Levine, however, Chalmers is much more inclined to draw anti-materialist metaphysical conclusions from these and other considerations.

The easy problems generally have more to do with the functions of consciousness, but Chalmers urges that solving them does not touch the hard problem of phenomenal consciousness. Their theories ignore phenomenal consciousness. There are many responses by materialists to the above charges, but it is worth emphasizing that Levine, at least, does not reject the metaphysics of materialism. That is, it is primarily a problem having to do with knowledge or understanding. This concession is still important at least to the extent that one is concerned with the larger related metaphysical issues discussed in section 3a, such as the possibility of immortality.

Perhaps most important for the materialist, however, is recognition of the fact that different concepts can pick out the same property or object in the world Loar , In contrast, we can also use various concepts couched in physical or neurophysiological terms to refer to that same mental state from the third-person point of view. There is thus but one conscious mental state which can be conceptualized in two different ways: either by employing first-person experiential phenomenal concepts or by employing third-person neurophysiological concepts.

Qualia would then still be identical to physical properties. Moreover, this response provides a diagnosis for why there even seems to be such a gap; namely, that we use very different concepts to pick out the same property. There is a pair of very widely discussed, and arguably related, objections to materialism which come from the seminal writings of Thomas Nagel and Frank Jackson , Like Levine, Nagel does not reject the metaphysics of materialism.

Jackson had originally intended for his argument to yield a dualistic conclusion, but he no longer holds that view. The general pattern of each argument is to assume that all the physical facts are known about some conscious mind or conscious experience. Yet, the argument goes, not all is known about the mind or experience. It is then inferred that the missing knowledge is non-physical in some sense, which is surely an anti-materialist conclusion in some sense. The idea, then, is that if we accept the hypothesis that we know all of the physical facts about bat minds, and yet some knowledge about bat minds is left out, then materialism is inherently flawed when it comes to explaining consciousness.

Even in an ideal future in which everything physical is known by us, something would still be left out. Mary never sees red for example, but she learns all of the physical facts and everything neurophysiologically about human color vision. Eventually she is released from the room and sees red for the first time. This is a new piece of knowledge and hence she must have come to know some non-physical fact since, by hypothesis, she already knew all of the physical facts.

Thus, not all knowledge about the conscious mind is physical knowledge. The influence and the quantity of work that these ideas have generated cannot be exaggerated. Various suspicions about the nature and effectiveness of such thought experiments also usually accompany this response. More commonly, however, materialists reply by arguing that Mary does not learn a new fact when seeing red for the first time, but rather learns the same fact in a different way.

Recalling the distinction made in section 3b. We might say that Mary, upon leaving the black and white room, becomes acquainted with the same neural property as before, but only now from the first-person point of view. In short, coming to learn or know something new does not entail learning some new fact about the world. Analogies are again given in other less controversial areas, for example, one can come to know about some historical fact or event by reading a reliable third-person historical account or by having observed that event oneself.

But there is still only the one objective fact under two different descriptions. Finally, it is crucial to remember that, according to most, the metaphysics of materialism remains unaffected. Drawing a metaphysical conclusion from such purely epistemological premises is always a questionable practice.

Indeed, a materialist might even expect the conclusion that Nagel draws; after all, given that our brains are so different from bat brains, it almost seems natural for there to be certain aspects of bat experience that we could never fully comprehend. Only the bat actually undergoes the relevant brain processes.

Despite the plethora of materialist responses, vigorous debate continues as there are those who still think that something profound must always be missing from any materialist attempt to explain consciousness; namely, that understanding subjective phenomenal consciousness is an inherently first-person activity which cannot be captured by any objective third-person scientific means, no matter how much scientific knowledge is accumulated. Some knowledge about consciousness is essentially limited to first-person knowledge.

Such a sense, no doubt, continues to fuel the related anti-materialist intuitions raised in the previous section. Perhaps consciousness is simply a fundamental or irreducible part of nature in some sense Chalmers For more see Van Gulick Finally, some go so far as to argue that we are simply not capable of solving the problem of consciousness McGinn , , More specifically, McGinn claims that we are cognitively closed as to how the brain produces conscious awareness.

McGinn concedes that some brain property produces conscious experience, but we cannot understand how this is so or even know what that brain property is. Our concept forming mechanisms simply will not allow us to grasp the physical and causal basis of consciousness. We are not conceptually suited to be able to do so.

McGinn does not entirely rest his argument on past failed attempts at explaining consciousness in materialist terms; instead, he presents another argument for his admittedly pessimistic conclusion. McGinn observes that we do not have a mental faculty that can access both consciousness and the brain. We access consciousness through introspection or the first-person perspective, but our access to the brain is through the use of outer spatial senses e. Thus we have no way to access both the brain and consciousness together, and therefore any explanatory link between them is forever beyond our reach.

Materialist responses are numerous. Both first-person and third-person scientific data about the brain and consciousness can be acquired and used to solve the hard problem.


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  7. Presumably, McGinn would say that we are not capable of putting such a theory together in any appropriate way. Third, it may be that McGinn expects too much; namely, grasping some causal link between the brain and consciousness. Indeed, this is sometimes also said in response to the explanatory gap and the hard problem, as we saw earlier.

    Rats, for example, have no concept whatsoever of calculus. Rats are just completely oblivious to calculus problems. On the other hand, we humans obviously do have some grasp on consciousness and on the workings of the brain -- just see the references at the end of this entry! It is not clear, then, why we should accept the extremely pessimistic and universally negative conclusion that we can never discover the answer to the problem of consciousness, or, more specifically, why we could never understand the link between consciousness and the brain.

    Unlike many of the above objections to materialism, the appeal to the possibility of zombies is often taken as both a problem for materialism and as a more positive argument for some form of dualism, such as property dualism. Thus, it is logically possible for me to jump fifty feet in the air, but not empirically possible. The objection, then, typically proceeds from such a possibility to the conclusion that materialism is false because materialism would seem to rule out that possibility. It has been fairly widely accepted since Kripke that all identity statements are necessarily true that is, true in all possible worlds , and the same should therefore go for mind-brain identity claims.

    See Identity Theory. It is impossible to do justice to all of the subtleties here. A few lines of reply are as follows: First, it is sometimes objected that the conceivability of something does not really entail its possibility. Perhaps we can also conceive of water not being H2O, since there seems to be no logical contradiction in doing so, but, according to received wisdom from Kripke, that is really impossible.

    Much of the debate centers on various alleged similarities or dissimilarities between the mind-brain and water-H2O cases or other such scientific identities. Second, even if zombies are conceivable in the sense of logically possible, how can we draw a substantial metaphysical conclusion about the actual world?

    It seems that one could take virtually any philosophical or scientific theory about almost anything, conceive that it is possibly false, and then conclude that it is actually false. Something, perhaps, is generally wrong with this way of reasoning. Third, as we saw earlier 3b. On the one side, we are dealing with scientific third-person concepts and, on the other, we are employing phenomenal concepts. We are, perhaps, simply currently not in a position to understand completely such a necessary connection. Despite the apparent simplicity of materialism, say, in terms of the identity between mental states and neural states, the fact is that there are many different forms of materialism.

    The idea is simply that it seems perfectly possible for there to be other conscious beings e. It seems that commitment to type-type identity theory led to the undesirable result that only organisms with brains like ours can have conscious states. But for more recent defenses of type-type identity theory see Hill and McLaughlin , Papineau , , , Polger This view simply holds that each particular conscious mental event in some organism is identical with some particular brain process or event in that organism.

    This seems to preserve much of what the materialist wants but yet allows for the multiple realizability of conscious states, because both the human and the alien can still have a conscious desire for something to drink while each mental event is identical with a different physical state in each organism.

    Taking the notion of multiple realizability very seriously has also led many to embrace functionalism, which is the view that conscious mental states should really only be identified with the functional role they play within an organism. For example, conscious pains are defined more in terms of input and output, such as causing bodily damage and avoidance behavior, as well as in terms of their relationship to other mental states. It is normally viewed as a form of materialism since virtually all functionalists also believe, like the token-token theorist, that something physical ultimately realizes that functional state in the organism, but functionalism does not, by itself, entail that materialism is true.

    Some materialists even deny the very existence of mind and mental states altogether, at least in the sense that the very concept of consciousness is muddled Wilkes , or that the mentalistic notions found in folk psychology, such as desires and beliefs, will eventually be eliminated and replaced by physicalistic terms as neurophysiology matures into the future Churchland Materialism is true as an ontological or metaphysical doctrine, but facts about the mind cannot be deduced from facts about the physical world Boyd , Van Gulick In some ways, this might be viewed as a relatively harmless variation on materialist themes, but others object to the very coherence of this form of materialism Kim , Most specific theories of consciousness tend to be reductionist in some sense.

    The classic notion at work is that consciousness or individual conscious mental states can be explained in terms of something else or in some other terms. This section will focus on several prominent contemporary reductionist theories. We should, however, distinguish between those who attempt such a reduction directly in physicalistic, such as neurophysiological, terms and those who do so in mentalistic terms, such as by using unconscious mental states or other cognitive notions.

    The more direct reductionist approach can be seen in various, more specific, neural theories of consciousness. The basic idea is that mental states become conscious when large numbers of neurons fire in synchrony and all have oscillations within the hertz range that is, cycles per second. However, many philosophers and scientists have put forth other candidates for what, specifically, to identify in the brain with consciousness. The overall idea is to show how one or more specific kinds of neuro-chemical activity can underlie and explain conscious mental activity Metzinger Even Crick and Koch have acknowledged that they, at best, provide a necessary condition for consciousness, and that such firing patters are not automatically sufficient for having conscious experience.

    Many current theories attempt to reduce consciousness in mentalistic terms. Much of what goes on in the brain, however, might also be understood in a representational way; for example, as mental events representing outer objects partly because they are caused by such objects in, say, cases of veridical visual perception. Although intentional states are sometimes contrasted with phenomenal states, such as pains and color experiences, it is clear that many conscious states have both phenomenal and intentional properties, such as visual perceptions.

    It should be noted that the relation between intentionalilty and consciousness is itself a major ongoing area of dispute with some arguing that genuine intentionality actually presupposes consciousness in some way Searle , Siewart , Horgan and Tienson while most representationalists insist that intentionality is prior to consciousness Gennaro , chapter two. The other related motivation for representational theories of consciousness is that many believe that an account of representation or intentionality can more easily be given in naturalistic terms, such as causal theories whereby mental states are understood as representing outer objects in virtue of some reliable causal connection.

    The idea, then, is that if consciousness can be explained in representational terms and representation can be understood in purely physical terms, then there is the promise of a reductionist and naturalistic theory of consciousness. Alternatively, conscious mental states have no mental properties other than their representational properties. Two conscious states with all the same representational properties will not differ phenomenally. A First-order representational FOR theory of consciousness is a theory that attempts to explain conscious experience primarily in terms of world-directed or first-order intentional states.

    Probably the two most cited FOR theories of consciousness are those of Fred Dretske and Michael Tye , , though there are many others as well e. Like other FOR theorists, Tye holds that the representational content of my conscious experience that is, what my experience is about or directed at is identical with the phenomenal properties of experience. Whatever the merits and exact nature of the argument from transparency see Kind , it is clear, of course, that not all mental representations are conscious, so the key question eventually becomes: What exactly distinguishes conscious from unconscious mental states or representations?

    What makes a mental state a conscious mental state? Without probing into every aspect of PANIC theory, Tye holds that at least some of the representational content in question is non-conceptual N , which is to say that the subject can lack the concept for the properties represented by the experience in question, such as an experience of a certain shade of red that one has never seen before. Actually, the exact nature or even existence of non-conceptual content of experience is itself a highly debated and difficult issue in philosophy of mind Gunther Gennaro , for example, defends conceptualism and connects it in various ways to the higher-order thought theory of consciousness see section 4b.

    This condition is needed to handle cases of hallucinations, where there are no concrete objects at all or cases where different objects look phenomenally alike. For example…feeling hungry… has an immediate cognitive effect, namely, the desire to eat…. If so, then conscious experience cannot generally be explained in terms of representational properties Block Tye responds that pains, itches, and the like do represent, in the sense that they represent parts of the body.

    And after-images, hallucinations, and the like either misrepresent which is still a kind of representation or the conscious subject still takes them to have representational properties from the first-person point of view. Indeed, Tye admirably goes to great lengths and argues convincingly in response to a whole host of alleged counter-examples to representationalism. Historically among them are various hypothetical cases of inverted qualia see Shoemaker , the mere possibility of which is sometimes taken as devastating to representationalism.

    These are cases where behaviorally indistinguishable individuals have inverted color perceptions of objects, such as person A visually experiences a lemon the way that person B experience a ripe tomato with respect to their color, and so on for all yellow and red objects. For more on the importance of color in philosophy, see Hardin On Inverted Earth every object has the complementary color to the one it has here, but we are asked to imagine that a person is equipped with color-inverting lenses and then sent to Inverted Earth completely ignorant of those facts.

    Since the color inversions cancel out, the phenomenal experiences remain the same, yet there certainly seem to be different representational properties of objects involved. The strategy on the part of critics, in short, is to think of counter-examples either actual or hypothetical whereby there is a difference between the phenomenal properties in experience and the relevant representational properties in the world. Such objections can, perhaps, be answered by Tye and others in various ways, but significant debate continues Macpherson Intuitions also dramatically differ as to the very plausibility and value of such thought experiments.

    For more, see Seager , chapters 6 and 7. See also Chalmers for an excellent discussion of the dizzying array of possible representationalist positions. As we have seen, one question that should be answered by any theory of consciousness is: What makes a mental state a conscious mental state?

    There is a long tradition that has attempted to understand consciousness in terms of some kind of higher-order awareness. In general, the idea is that what makes a mental state conscious is that it is the object of some kind of higher-order representation HOR. This is sometimes referred to as the Transitivity Principle. Any theory which attempts to explain consciousness in terms of higher-order states is known as a higher-order HO theory of consciousness. HO theorists are united in the belief that their approach can better explain consciousness than any purely FOR theory, which has significant difficulty in explaining the difference between unconscious and conscious mental states.

    HOT theorists, such as David M. Rosenthal, think it is better to understand the HOR as a thought of some kind. HOTs are treated as cognitive states involving some kind of conceptual component. HOP theorists urge that the HOR is a perceptual or experiential state of some kind Lycan which does not require the kind of conceptual content invoked by HOT theorists. A common initial objection to HOR theories is that they are circular and lead to an infinite regress. It also might seem that an infinite regress results because a conscious mental state must be accompanied by a HOT, which, in turn, must be accompanied by another HOT ad infinitum.

    However, the standard reply is that when a conscious mental state is a first-order world-directed state the higher-order thought HOT is not itself conscious; otherwise, circularity and an infinite regress would follow. When the HOT is itself conscious, there is a yet higher-order or third-order thought directed at the second-order state. In this case, we have introspection which involves a conscious HOT directed at an inner mental state.

    When one introspects, one's attention is directed back into one's mind. For example, what makes my desire to write a good entry a conscious first-order desire is that there is a non-conscious HOT directed at the desire. In this case, my conscious focus is directed at the entry and my computer screen, so I am not consciously aware of having the HOT from the first-person point of view. The basic idea is that the conscious status of an experience is due to its availability to higher-order thought. Thus, no actual HOT occurs. Daniel Dennett is sometimes credited with an earlier version of a dispositional account see Carruthers , chapter ten.

    It is worth briefly noting a few typical objections to HO theories many of which can be found in Byrne : First, and perhaps most common, is that various animals and even infants are not likely to have to the conceptual sophistication required for HOTs, and so that would render animal and infant consciousness very unlikely Dretske , Seager Although most who bring forth this objection are not HO theorists, Peter Carruthers is one HO theorist who actually embraces the conclusion that most animals do not have phenomenal consciousness.

    Gennaro , has replied to Carruthers on this point; for example, it is argued that the HOTs need not be as sophisticated as it might initially appear and there is ample comparative neurophysiological evidence supporting the conclusion that animals have conscious mental states. Most HO theorists do not wish to accept the absence of animal or infant consciousness as a consequence of holding the theory. The debate continues, however, in Carruthers , , and Gennaro , , , chapters seven and eight.

    When I have a thought about a rock, it is certainly not true that the rock becomes conscious. So why should I suppose that a mental state becomes conscious when I think about it? This is puzzling to many and the objection forces HO theorists to explain just how adding the HO state changes an unconscious state into a conscious. There have been, however, a number of responses to this kind of objection Rosenthal , Lycan, , Van Gulick , , Gennaro , , chapter four. A common theme is that there is a principled difference in the objects of the HO states in question.

    Rocks and the like are not mental states in the first place, and so HO theorists are first and foremost trying to explain how a mental state becomes conscious. It might be asked just how exactly any HO theory really explains the subjective or phenomenal aspect of conscious experience. Some argue that this objection misconstrues the main and more modest purpose of at least, their HO theories. The claim is that HO theories are theories of consciousness only in the sense that they are attempting to explain what differentiates conscious from unconscious states, i.

    Thus, a full explanation of phenomenal consciousness does require more than a HO theory, but that is no objection to HO theories as such. Another response is that proponents of the hard problem unjustly raise the bar as to what would count as a viable explanation of consciousness so that any such reductivist attempt would inevitably fall short Carruthers , Gennaro Part of the problem, then, is a lack of clarity about what would even count as an explanation of consciousness Van Gulick ; see also section 3b.

    Once this is clarified, however, the hard problem can indeed be solved. Moreover, anyone familiar with the literature knows that there are significant terminological difficulties in the use of various crucial terms which sometimes inhibits genuine progress but see Byrne for some helpful clarification. A fourth important objection to HO approaches is the question of how such theories can explain cases where the HO state might misrepresent the lower-order LO mental state Byrne , Neander , Levine , Block After all, if we have a representational relation between two states, it seems possible for misrepresentation or malfunction to occur.

    If it does, then what explanation can be offered by the HO theorist? If my LO state registers a red percept and my HO state registers a thought about something green due, say, to some neural misfiring, then what happens? For example, if the HO theorist takes the option that the resulting conscious experience is reddish, then it seems that the HO state plays no role in determining the qualitative character of the experience.

    On the other hand, if the resulting experience is greenish, then the LO state seems irrelevant. Rosenthal and Weisberg hold that the HO state determines the qualitative properties even in cases when there is no LO state at all Rosenthal , , Weisberg , a, b. Gennaro argues that no conscious experience results in such cases and wonders, for example, how a sole unconscious HOT can result in a conscious state at all. He argues that there must be a match, complete or partial, between the LO and HO state in order for a conscious state to exist in the first place.

    This important objection forces HO theorists to be clearer about just how to view the relationship between the LO and HO states. Debate is ongoing and significant both on varieties of HO theory and in terms of the above objections see Gennaro a. There is also interdisciplinary interest in how various HO theories might be realized in the brain Gennaro , chapter nine. A related and increasingly popular version of representational theory holds that the meta-psychological state in question should be understood as intrinsic to or part of an overall complex conscious state. This stands in contrast to the standard view that the HO state is extrinsic to that is, entirely distinct from its target mental state.

    The assumption, made by Rosenthal for example, about the extrinsic nature of the meta-thought has increasingly come under attack, and thus various hybrid representational theories can be found in the literature. To varying degrees, these views have in common the idea that conscious mental states, in some sense, represent themselves, which then still involves having a thought about a mental state, just not a distinct or separate state. Thus, when one has a conscious desire for a cold glass of water, one is also aware that one is in that very state.

    The conscious desire both represents the glass of water and itself. These theories can go by various names, which sometimes seem in conflict, and have added significantly in recent years to the acronyms which abound in the literature.

    PHILOSOPHY - History: Locke on Personal Identity #1

    For example, Gennaro a, , , , has argued that, when one has a first-order conscious state, the HOT is better viewed as intrinsic to the target state, so that we have a complex conscious state with parts. Gennaro holds that conscious mental states should be understood as Kant might have today as global brain states which are combinations of passively received perceptual input and presupposed higher-order conceptual activity directed at that input. Higher-order concepts in the meta-psychological thoughts are presupposed in having first-order conscious states.

    Robert Van Gulick , , has also explored the alternative that the HO state is part of an overall global conscious state. Both Gennaro and Van Gulick have suggested that conscious states can be understood materialistically as global states of the brain, and it would be better to treat the first-order state as part of the larger complex brain state. Nonetheless, there is agreement among these authors that conscious mental states are, in some important sense, reflexive or self-directed.

    And, once again, there is keen interest in developing this model in a way that coheres with the latest neurophysiological research on consciousness. A point of emphasis is on the concept of global meta-representation within a complex brain state, and attempts are underway to identify just how such an account can be realized in the brain. Thomas Natsoulas also has a series of papers defending a similar view, beginning with Natsoulas To some extent, this is a terminological dispute, but, despite important similarities, there are also key subtle differences between these hybrid alternatives.

    Like HO theorists, however, those who advocate this general approach all take very seriously the notion that a conscious mental state M is a state that subject S is non-inferentially aware that S is in. See also Lurz and for yet another interesting hybrid account. Aside from the explicitly representational approaches discussed above, there are also related attempts to explain consciousness in other cognitive terms.

    The two most prominent such theories are worth describing here:. Instead, the MDM holds that all kinds of mental activity occur in the brain by parallel processes of interpretation, all of which are under frequent revision. Consciousness consists in such global broadcasting and is therefore also, according to Baars, an important functional and biological adaptation. We might say that consciousness is thus created by a kind of global access to select bits of information in the brain and nervous system. It is, in any case, an empirical matter just how the brain performs the functions he describes, such as detecting mechanisms of attention.

    Objections to these cognitive theories include the charge that they do not really address the hard problem of consciousness as described in section 3b. Dennett is also often accused of explaining away consciousness rather than really explaining it. Two other psychological cognitive theories worth noting are the ones proposed by George Mandler and Tim Shallice Finally, there are those who look deep beneath the neural level to the field of quantum mechanics, basically the study of sub-atomic particles, to find the key to unlocking the mysteries of consciousness.

    The bizarre world of quantum physics is quite different from the deterministic world of classical physics, and a major area of research in its own right. Such authors place the locus of consciousness at a very fundamental physical level. This somewhat radical, though exciting, option is explored most notably by physicist Roger Penrose , and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff The basic idea is that consciousness arises through quantum effects which occur in subcellular neural structures known as microtubules, which are structural proteins in cell walls.

    It is difficult to assess these somewhat exotic approaches at present. Given the puzzling and often very counterintuitive nature of quantum physics, it is unclear whether such approaches will prove genuinely scientifically valuable methods in explaining consciousness. One concern is simply that these authors are trying to explain one puzzling phenomenon consciousness in terms of another mysterious natural phenomenon quantum effects. Thus, the thinking seems to go, perhaps the two are essentially related somehow and other physicalistic accounts are looking in the wrong place, such as at the neuro-chemical level.

    Although many attempts to explain consciousness often rely of conjecture or speculation, quantum approaches may indeed lead the field along these lines. One exciting aspect of this approach is the resulting interdisciplinary interest it has generated among physicists and other scientists in the problem of consciousness. Over the past two decades there has been an explosion of interdisciplinary work in the science of consciousness. Some of the credit must go to the ground breaking book by Patricia Churchland entitled Neurophilosophy.

    In this section, three of the most important such areas are addressed. For an important anthology on the subject, see Cleeremans However, when one looks at how the brain processes information, one only sees discrete regions of the cortex processing separate aspects of perceptual objects. Even different aspects of the same object, such as its color and shape, are processed in different parts of the brain.

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    What mechanisms allow us to experience the world in such a unified way? What happens when this unity breaks down, as in various pathological cases? As was seen earlier with neural theories section 4a and as will be seen below on the neural correlates of consciousness 5b , some attempts to solve the binding problem have to do with trying to isolate the precise brain mechanisms responsible for consciousness. Perhaps the binding problem and the hard problem of consciousness section 3b. If the binding problem can be solved, then we arguably have identified the elusive neural correlate of consciousness and have, therefore, perhaps even solved the hard problem.

    In addition, perhaps the explanatory gap between third-person scientific knowledge and first-person unified conscious experience can also be bridged. Thus, this exciting area of inquiry is central to some of the deepest questions in the philosophical and scientific exploration of consciousness. Narrowing down the precise brain property responsible for consciousness is a different and far more difficult enterprise than merely holding a generic belief in some form of materialism.

    The basic idea is that mental states become conscious when large numbers of neurons all fire in synchrony with one another oscillations within the hertz range or cycles per second. Currently, one method used is simply to study some aspect of neural functioning with sophisticated detecting equipments such as MRIs and PET scans and then correlate it with first-person reports of conscious experience. Another method is to study the difference in brain activity between those under anesthesia and those not under any such influence.

    A detailed survey would be impossible to give here, but a number of other candidates for the NCC have emerged over the past two decades, including reentrant cortical feedback loops in the neural circuitry throughout the brain Edelman , Edelman and Tononi , NMDA-mediated transient neural assemblies Flohr , and emotive somatosensory haemostatic processes in the frontal lobe Damasio These and other NCCs are explored at length in Metzinger Ongoing scientific investigation is significant and an important aspect of current scientific research in the field.

    One problem with some of the above candidates is determining exactly how they are related to consciousness. For example, although a case can be made that some of them are necessary for conscious mentality, it is unclear that they are sufficient. That is, some of the above seem to occur unconsciously as well. And pinning down a narrow enough necessary condition is not as easy as it might seem. Even if such a correlation can be established, we cannot automatically conclude that there is an identity relation.

    Even most dualists can accept such interpretations. Maybe there is some other neural process C which causes both A and B. Philosophers have long been intrigued by disorders of the mind and consciousness. Part of the interest is presumably that if we can understand how consciousness goes wrong, then that can help us to theorize about the normal functioning mind. Questions abound: Could there be two centers of consciousness in one body? What makes a person the same person over time? What makes a person a person at any given time?

    These questions are closely linked to the traditional philosophical problem of personal identity, which is also importantly related to some aspects of consciousness research. Much the same can be said for memory disorders, such as various forms of amnesia see Gennaro a, chapter 9. Does consciousness require some kind of autobiographical memory or psychological continuity? On a related front, there is significant interest in experimental results from patients who have undergone a commisurotomy, which is usually performed to relieve symptoms of severe epilepsy when all else fails.

    Philosophical interest is so high that there is now a book series called Philosophical Psychopathology published by MIT Press. Another rich source of information comes from the provocative and accessible writings of neurologists on a whole host of psychopathologies, most notably Oliver Sacks starting with his book and, more recently, V. Ramachandran ; see also Ramachandran and Blakeslee Philosophy of Physics, Barry Loewer Causation, Helen Beebee Metaphysics, E.

    J Lowe Personal Identity: Are we Ontological Trash? Free Will, Ferenc Huoranszki Specialization and Science 2. Mind and Consciousness 3. Analytic Metaphysics 4. Rising Self-Consciousness 5. Coda A: What is Analytic Philosophy? The volume has obvious competition--free, peer-reviewed resources exist online covering the subtopics of philosophy.

    Thus it needs to justify its nontrivial price tag, and it does. The pitch of the articles is more historical and the articles themselves are more readable than those in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , and more in-depth than those in The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

    Summing Up: Highly Recommended. Its combination of original topic-based essays and clear historical introductions, together with a glossary, brief chronologies and extensive bibliographies, will make it of great use to undergraduates and researchers alike. The editors provide an engaging and informative overview of the history and major figures of analytic philosophy as well as insightful discussions of such issues as what is distinctive about analytic philosophy and the differences between analytic and Continental philosophy. This multi-faceted volume also features advanced survey articles by leading philosophers on the major areas of analytic philosophy.

    The Bloomsbury Companion to Analytic Philosophy is an excellent resource for students and researchers and anyone interested in analytic philosophy, the most important movement in recent and contemporary philosophy. This is a welcome addition to the Bloomsbury Companions series. If you want a comprehensive guide to analytic philosophy, look no further. The extensive introduction is especially useful, and offers a lucid and insightful overview of the historical development of analytic philosophy. The chapters provide state of the art overviews of individual topics by acknowledged experts.

    And the coda seeks to assess the prospects of work in the analytic tradition.

    Personal Identity and Self-Consciousness (International Library of Philosophy) Personal Identity and Self-Consciousness (International Library of Philosophy)
    Personal Identity and Self-Consciousness (International Library of Philosophy) Personal Identity and Self-Consciousness (International Library of Philosophy)
    Personal Identity and Self-Consciousness (International Library of Philosophy) Personal Identity and Self-Consciousness (International Library of Philosophy)
    Personal Identity and Self-Consciousness (International Library of Philosophy) Personal Identity and Self-Consciousness (International Library of Philosophy)
    Personal Identity and Self-Consciousness (International Library of Philosophy) Personal Identity and Self-Consciousness (International Library of Philosophy)
    Personal Identity and Self-Consciousness (International Library of Philosophy) Personal Identity and Self-Consciousness (International Library of Philosophy)

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