Introducing Persons: Theories and Arguments in the Philosophy of the Mind

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Locke explicitly forswore making any hypothesis about the substantial basis of consciousness and its relation to matter, but he clearly regarded it as essential to thought as well as to personal identity. Locke's contemporary G. Leibniz was the first to distinguish explicitly between perception and apperception, i. In the Monadology he also offered his famous analogy of the mill to express his belief that consciousness could not arise from mere matter. He asked his reader to imagine someone walking through an expanded brain as one would walk through a mill and observing all its mechanical operations, which for Leibniz exhausted its physical nature.

Nowhere, he asserts, would such an observer see any conscious thoughts. Despite Leibniz's recognition of the possibility of unconscious thought, for most of the next two centuries the domains of thought and consciousness were regarded as more or less the same. Associationist psychology, whether pursued by Locke or later in the eighteenth century by David Hume or in the nineteenth by James Mill , aimed to discover the principles by which conscious thoughts or ideas interacted or affected each other. James Mill's son, John Stuart Mill continued his father's work on associationist psychology, but he allowed that combinations of ideas might produce resultants that went beyond their constituent mental parts, thus providing an early model of mental emergence The purely associationist approach was critiqued in the late eighteenth century by Immanuel Kant , who argued that an adequate account of experience and phenomenal consciousness required a far richer structure of mental and intentional organization.

Phenomenal consciousness according to Kant could not be a mere succession of associated ideas, but at a minimum had to be the experience of a conscious self situated in an objective world structured with respect to space, time and causality. Within the Anglo-American world, associationist approaches continued to be influential in both philosophy and psychology well into the twentieth century, while in the German and European sphere there was a greater interest in the larger structure of experience that lead in part to the study of phenomenology through the work of Edmund Husserl , , Martin Heidegger , Maurice Merleau-Ponty and others who expanded the study of consciousness into the realm of the social, the bodily and the interpersonal.

At the outset of modern scientific psychology in the mid-nineteenth century, the mind was still largely equated with consciousness, and introspective methods dominated the field as in the work of Wilhelm Wundt , Hermann von Helmholtz , William James and Alfred Titchener However, the relation of consciousness to brain remained very much a mystery as expressed in T. Huxley's famous remark,. In the s, the grip of behaviorism weakened with the rise of cognitive psychology and its emphasis on information processing and the modeling of internal mental processes Neisser , Gardiner However, despite the renewed emphasis on explaining cognitive capacities such as memory, perception and language comprehension, consciousness remained a largely neglected topic for several further decades.

In the s and 90s there was a major resurgence of scientific and philosophical research into the nature and basis of consciousness Baars , Dennett , Penrose , , Crick , Lycan , , Chalmers An animal, person or other cognitive system may be regarded as conscious in a number of different senses. It may be conscious in the generic sense of simply being a sentient creature, one capable of sensing and responding to its world Armstrong Being conscious in this sense may admit of degrees, and just what sort of sensory capacities are sufficient may not be sharply defined.

Are fish conscious in the relevant respect? And what of shrimp or bees? One might further require that the organism actually be exercising such a capacity rather than merely having the ability or disposition to do so. Thus one might count it as conscious only if it were awake and normally alert. In that sense organisms would not count as conscious when asleep or in any of the deeper levels of coma. Again boundaries may be blurry, and intermediate cases may be involved. For example, is one conscious in the relevant sense when dreaming, hypnotized or in a fugue state?

A third and yet more demanding sense might define conscious creatures as those that are not only aware but also aware that they are aware, thus treating creature consciousness as a form of self-consciousness Carruthers The self-awareness requirement might get interpreted in a variety of ways, and which creatures would qualify as conscious in the relevant sense will vary accordingly. If it is taken to involve explicit conceptual self-awareness, many non-human animals and even young children might fail to qualify, but if only more rudimentary implicit forms of self-awareness are required then a wide range of nonlinguistic creatures might count as self-conscious.

What it is like. In Nagel's example, bats are conscious because there is something that it is like for a bat to experience its world through its echo-locatory senses, even though we humans from our human point of view can not emphatically understand what such a mode of consciousness is like from the bat's own point of view.

Subject of conscious states. A fifth alternative would be to define the notion of a conscious organism in terms of conscious states. That is, one might first define what makes a mental state a conscious mental state, and then define being a conscious creature in terms of having such states.

One's concept of a conscious organism would then depend upon the particular account one gives of conscious states section 2. Transitive Consciousness. In addition to describing creatures as conscious in these various senses, there are also related senses in which creatures are described as being conscious of various things. The distinction is sometimes marked as that between transitive and intransitive notions of consciousness, with the former involving some object at which consciousness is directed Rosenthal The notion of a conscious mental state also has a variety of distinct though perhaps interrelated meanings.

There are at least six major options. States one is aware of. On one common reading, a conscious mental state is simply a mental state one is aware of being in Rosenthal , Conscious states in this sense involve a form of meta-mentality or meta-intentionality in so far as they require mental states that are themselves about mental states. To have a conscious desire for a cup of coffee is to have such a desire and also to be simultaneously and directly aware that one has such a desire. Unconscious thoughts and desires in this sense are simply those we have without being aware of having them, whether our lack of self-knowledge results from simple inattention or more deeply psychoanalytic causes.

Qualitative states. States might also be regarded as conscious in a seemingly quite different and more qualitative sense. See the entry on qualia. One's perception of the Merlot one is drinking or of the fabric one is examining counts as a conscious mental state in this sense because it involves various sensory qualia, e. There is considerable disagreement about the nature of such qualia Churchland , Shoemaker , Clark , Chalmers and even about their existence.

Traditionally qualia have been regarded as intrinsic, private, ineffable monadic features of experience, but current theories of qualia often reject at least some of those commitments Dennett Phenomenal states. Such qualia are sometimes referred to as phenomenal properties and the associated sort of consciousness as phenomenal consciousness, but the latter term is perhaps more properly applied to the overall structure of experience and involves far more than sensory qualia. The phenomenal structure of consciousness also encompasses much of the spatial, temporal and conceptual organization of our experience of the world and of ourselves as agents in it.

See section 4. What-it-is-like states. Nagel's criterion might be understood as aiming to provide a first-person or internal conception of what makes a state a phenomenal or qualitative state. Access consciousness. States might be conscious in a seemingly quite different access sense, which has more to do with intra-mental relations.

In this respect, a state's being conscious is a matter of its availability to interact with other states and of the access that one has to its content. In so far as the information in that state is richly and flexibly available to its containing organism, then it counts as a conscious state in the relevant respect, whether or not it has any qualitative or phenomenal feel in the Nagel sense. Narrative consciousness. The idea would be to equate the person's conscious mental states with those that appear in the stream Dennett , Although these six notions of what makes a state conscious can be independently specified, they are obviously not without potential links, nor do they exhaust the realm of possible options.

Drawing connections, one might argue that states appear in the stream of consciousness only in so far as we are aware of them, and thus forge a bond between the first meta-mental notion of a conscious state and the stream or narrative concept. Or one might connect the access with the qualitative or phenomenal notions of a conscious state by trying to show that states that represent in those ways make their contents widely available in the respect required by the access notion.

Aiming to go beyond the six options, one might distinguish conscious from nonconscious states by appeal to aspects of their intra-mental dynamics and interactions other than mere access relations; e. Alternatively, one might try to define conscious states in terms of conscious creatures. That is, one might give some account of what it is to be a conscious creature or perhaps even a conscious self, and then define one's notion of a conscious state in terms of being a state of such a creature or system, which would be the converse of the last option considered above for defining conscious creatures in terms of conscious mental states.

Distinctions can be drawn between creature and state consciousness as well as among the varieties of each. One can refer specifically to phenomenal consciousness, access consciousness, reflexive or meta-mental consciousness, and narrative consciousness among other varieties. How much this commits one to the ontological status of consciousness per se will depend on how much of a Platonist one is about universals in general.

See the entry on the medieval problem of universals. Though it is not the norm, one could nonetheless take a more robustly realist view of consciousness as a component of reality. That is one could think of consciousness as more on a par with electromagnetic fields than with life. Since the demise of vitalism, we do not think of life per se as something distinct from living things.

There are living things including organisms, states, properties and parts of organisms, communities and evolutionary lineages of organisms, but life is not itself a further thing, an additional component of reality, some vital force that gets added into living things.

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Electromagnetic fields by contrast are regarded as real and independent parts of our physical world. Even though one may sometimes be able to specify the values of such a field by appeal to the behavior of particles in it, the fields themselves are regarded as concrete constituents of reality and not merely as abstractions or sets of relations among particles. Though such strongly realist views are not very common at present, they should be included within the logical space of options.

However, this may be less of an embarrassment than an embarrassment of riches. Consciousness is a complex feature of the world, and understanding it will require a diversity of conceptual tools for dealing with its many differing aspects. Conceptual plurality is thus just what one would hope for. As long as one avoids confusion by being clear about one's meanings, there is great value in having a variety of concepts by which we can access and grasp consciousness in all its rich complexity.

However, one should not assume that conceptual plurality implies referential divergence. Our multiple concepts of consciousness may in fact pick out varying aspects of a single unified underlying mental phenomenon. Whether and to what extent they do so remains an open question. The task of understanding consciousness is an equally diverse project.

Not only do many different aspects of mind count as conscious in some sense, each is also open to various respects in which it might be explained or modeled. Understanding consciousness involves a multiplicity not only of explananda but also of questions that they pose and the sorts of answers they require. At the risk of oversimplifying, the relevant questions can be gathered under three crude rubrics as the What, How, and Why questions:.

The Mind/Brain Identity Theory

The three questions focus respectively on describing the features of consciousness, explaining its underlying basis or cause, and explicating its role or value. The divisions among the three are of course somewhat artificial, and in practice the answers one gives to each will depend in part on what one says about the others. One can not, for example, adequately answer the what question and describe the main features of consciousness without addressing the why issue of its functional role within systems whose operations it affects.


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Nor could one explain how the relevant sort of consciousness might arise from nonconscious processes unless one had a clear account of just what features had to be caused or realized to count as producing it. Those caveats notwithstanding, the three-way division of questions provides a useful structure for articulating the overall explanatory project and for assessing the adequacy of particular theories or models of consciousness. The What question asks us to describe and model the principal features of consciousness, but just which features are relevant will vary with the sort of consciousness we aim to capture.

The main properties of access consciousness may be quite unlike those of qualitative or phenomenal consciousness, and those of reflexive consciousness or narrative consciousness may differ from both. However, by building up detailed theories of each type, we may hope to find important links between them and perhaps even to discover that they coincide in at least some key respects. The general descriptive project will require a variety of investigational methods Flanagan Though one might naively regard the facts of consciousness as too self-evident to require any systematic methods of gathering data, the epistemic task is in reality far from trivial Husserl First-person introspective access provides a rich and essential source of insight into our conscious mental life, but it is neither sufficient in itself nor even especially helpful unless used in a trained and disciplined way.

Gathering the needed evidence about the structure of experience requires us both to become phenomenologically sophisticated self-observers and to complement our introspective results with many types of third-person data available to external observers Searle , Varela , Siewert As phenomenologists have known for more than a century, discovering the structure of conscious experience demands a rigorous inner-directed stance that is quite unlike our everyday form of self-awareness Husserl , Merleau-Ponty Skilled observation of the needed sort requires training, effort and the ability to adopt alternative perspectives on one's experience.

The need for third-person empirical data gathered by external observers is perhaps most obvious with regard to the more clearly functional types of consciousness such as access consciousness, but it is required even with regard to phenomenal and qualitative consciousness. For example, deficit studies that correlate various neural and functional sites of damage with abnormalities of conscious experience can make us aware of aspects of phenomenal structure that escape our normal introspective awareness.

As such case studies show, things can come apart in experience that seem inseparably unified or singular from our normal first-person point of view Sacks , Shallice , Farah Or to pick another example, third-person data can make us aware of how our experiences of acting and our experiences of event-timing affect each other in ways that we could never discern through mere introspection Libet , Wegner Nor are the facts gathered by these third person methods merely about the causes or bases of consciousness; they often concern the very structure of phenomenal consciousness itself.

First-person, third-person and perhaps even second-person Varela interactive methods will all be needed to collect the requisite evidence. Using all these sources of data, we will hopefully be able to construct detailed descriptive models of the various sorts of consciousness. Though the specific features of most importance may vary among the different types, our overall descriptive project will need to address at least the following seven general aspects of consciousness sections 4.

The relevant sort of qualitative character is not restricted to sensory states, but is typically taken to be present as an aspect of experiential states in general, such as experienced thoughts or desires Siewert The existence of such feels may seem to some to mark the threshold for states or creatures that are really conscious. If an organism senses and responds in apt ways to its world but lacks such qualia, then it might count as conscious at best in a loose and less than literal sense.

Qualia problems in many forms—Can there be inverted qualia? Block a b, Shoemaker , Are qualia epiphenomenal? Jackson , Chalmers How could neural states give rise to qualia? Levine , McGinn —have loomed large in the recent past. But the What question raises a more basic problem of qualia: namely that of giving a clear and articulated description of our qualia space and the status of specific qualia within it. Absent such a model, factual or descriptive errors are all too likely. For example, claims about the unintelligibility of the link between experienced red and any possible neural substrate of such an experience sometimes treat the relevant color quale as a simple and sui generis property Levine , but phenomenal redness in fact exists within a complex color space with multiple systematic dimensions and similarity relations Hardin Color may be the exception in terms of our having a specific and well developed formal understanding of the relevant qualitative space, but it is not likely an exception with regard to the importance of such spaces to our understanding of qualitative properties in general Clark , P.

Churchland There are obviously important links between the phenomenal and the qualitative. Indeed qualia might be best understood as properties of phenomenal or experienced objects, but there is in fact far more to the phenomenal than raw feels. As Kant , Husserl , and generations of phenomenologists have shown, the phenomenal structure of experience is richly intentional and involves not only sensory ideas and qualities but complex representations of time, space, cause, body, self, world and the organized structure of lived reality in all its conceptual and nonconceptual forms.

Since many non-conscious states also have intentional and representational aspects, it may be best to consider phenomenal structure as involving a special kind of intentional and representational organization and content, the kind distinctively associated with consciousness Siewert See the entry on representational theories of consciousness. Answering the What question requires a careful account of the coherent and densely organized representational framework within which particular experiences are embedded. Since most of that structure is only implicit in the organization of experience, it can not just be read off by introspection.

Articulating the structure of the phenomenal domain in a clear and intelligible way is a long and difficult process of inference and model building Husserl Introspection can aid it, but a lot of theory construction and ingenuity are also needed. There has been recent philosophical debate about the range of properties that are phenomenally present or manifest in conscious experience, in particular with respect to cognitive states such as believing or thinking.

Some imagery, e. On the thin view, the phenomenal aspect of perceptual states as well is limited to basic sensory features; when one sees an image of Winston Churchill, one's perceptual phenomenology is limited only to the spatial aspects of his face. On the thick view, the what-it-is-likeness of perceiving an image of Marilyn Monroe includes one's recognition of her history as part of the felt aspect of the experience, and beliefs and thoughts as well can and typically do have a distinctive nonsensory phenomenology. Both sides of the debate are well represented in the volume Cognitive Phenomenology Bayne and Montague Subjectivity is another notion sometimes equated with the qualitative or the phenomenal aspects of consciousness in the literature, but again there are good reason to recognize it, at least in some of its forms, as a distinct feature of consciousness—related to the qualitative and the phenomenal but different from each.

In particular, the epistemic form of subjectivity concerns apparent limits on the knowability or even the understandability of various facts about conscious experience Nagel , Van Gulick , Lycan On Thomas Nagel's account, facts about what it is like to be a bat are subjective in the relevant sense because they can be fully understood only from the bat-type point of view. Only creatures capable of having or undergoing similar such experiences can understand their what-it's-likeness in the requisite empathetic sense. Facts about conscious experience can be at best incompletely understood from an outside third person point of view, such as those associated with objective physical science.

A similar view about the limits of third-person theory seems to lie behind claims regarding what Frank Jackson's hypothetical Mary, the super color scientist, could not understand about experiencing red because of her own impoverished history of achromatic visual experience. Whether facts about experience are indeed epistemically limited in this way is open to debate Lycan , but the claim that understanding consciousness requires special forms of knowing and access from the inside point of view is intuitively plausible and has a long history Locke Thus any adequate answer to the What question must address the epistemic status of consciousness, both our abilities to understand it and their limits Papineau , Chalmers See the entry on self-knowledge.

The perspectival structure of consciousness is one aspect of its overall phenomenal organization, but it is important enough to merit discussion in its own right.

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Insofar as the key perspective is that of the conscious self, the specific feature might be called self-perspectuality. Conscious experiences do not exist as isolated mental atoms, but as modes or states of a conscious self or subject Descartes , Searle , though pace Hume A visual experience of a blue sphere is always a matter of there being some self or subject who is appeared to in that way. A sharp and stabbing pain is always a pain felt or experienced by some conscious subject. The self might be taken as the perspectival point from which the world of objects is present to experience Wittgenstein It provides not only a spatial and temporal perspective for our experience of the world but one of meaning and intelligibility as well.

The intentional coherence of the experiential domain relies upon the dual interdependence between self and world: the self as perspective from which objects are known and the world as the integrated structure of objects and events whose possibilities of being experienced implicitly define the nature and location of the self Kant , Husserl Conscious organisms obviously differ in the extent to which they constitute a unified and coherent self, and they likely differ accordingly in the sort or degree of perspectival focus they embody in their respective forms of experience Lorenz Consciousness may not require a distinct or substantial self of the traditional Cartesian sort, but at least some degree of perspectivally self-like organization seems essential for the existence of anything that might count as conscious experience.

Experiences seem no more able to exist without a self or subject to undergo them than could ocean waves exist without the sea through which they move. The Descriptive question thus requires some account of the self-perspectival aspect of experience and the self-like organization of conscious minds on which it depends, even if the relevant account treats the self in a relatively deflationary and virtual way Dennett , Unity is closely linked with the self-perspective, but it merits specific mention on its own as a key aspect of the organization of consciousness.

Epistemology

Conscious systems and conscious mental states both involve many diverse forms of unity. Some are causal unities associated with the integration of action and control into a unified focus of agency. Others are more representational and intentional forms of unity involving the integration of diverse items of content at many scales and levels of binding Cleeremans Some such integrations are relatively local as when diverse features detected within a single sense modality are combined into a representation of external objects bearing those features, e.

Other forms of intentional unity encompass a far wider range of contents. The content of one's present experience of the room in which one sits depends in part upon its location within a far larger structure associated with one's awareness of one's existence as an ongoing temporally extended observer within a world of spatially connected independently existing objects Kant , Husserl The individual experience can have the content that it does only because it resides within that larger unified structure of representation.

See the entry on unity of consciousness. Particular attention has been paid recently to the notion of phenomenal unity Bayne and its relation to other forms of conscious unity such as those involving representational, functional or neural integration. Some have argued that phenomenal unity can be reduced to representational unity Tye while others have denied the possibility of any such reduction Bayne Conscious mental states are typically regarded as having a representational or intentional aspect in so far as they are about things, refer to things or have satisfaction conditions.

One's conscious visual experience correctly represent s the world if there are lilacs in a white vase on the table pace Travis , one's conscious memory is of the attack on the World Trade Center, and one's conscious desire is for a glass of cold water. However, nonconscious states can also exhibit intentionality in such ways, and it is important to understand the ways in which the representational aspects of conscious states resemble and differ from those of nonconscious states Carruthers Searle offers a contrary view according to which only conscious states and dispositions to have conscious states can be genuinely intentional, but most theorists regard intentionality as extending widely into the unconscious domain.

See the entry on consciousness and intentionality. One potentially important dimension of difference concerns so called transparency , which is an important feature of consciousness in two interrelated metaphoric senses, each of which has an intentional, an experiential and a functional aspect. Conscious perceptual experience is often said to be transparent, or in G.

When I look out at the wind-blown meadow, it is the undulating green grass of which I am aware not of any green property of my visual experience. Moore himself believed we could become aware of those latter qualities with effort and redirection of attention, though some contemporary transparency advocates deny it Harman , Tye , Kind Conscious thoughts and experiences are also transparent in a semantic sense in that their meanings seem immediately known to us in the very act of thinking them Van Gulick Our conscious mental states seem to have their meanings intrinsically or from the inside just by being what they are in themselves, by contrast with many externalist theories of mental content that ground meaning in causal, counterfactual or informational relations between bearers of intentionality and their semantic or referential objects.

The view of conscious content as intrinsically determined and internally self-evident is sometimes supported by appeals to brain in the vat intuitions, which make it seem that the envatted brain's conscious mental states would keep all their normal intentional contents despite the loss of all their normal causal and informational links to the world Horgan and Tienson There is continued controversy about such cases and about competing internalist Searle and externalist views Dretske of conscious intentionality.

Though semantic transparency and intrinsic intentionality have some affinities, they should not be simply equated, since it may be possible to accommodate the former notion within a more externalist account of content and meaning. Both semantic and sensory transparency obviously concern the representational or intentional aspects of consciousness, but they are also experiential aspects of our conscious life. They are part of what it's like or how it feels phenomenally to be conscious. They also both have functional aspects, in so far as conscious experiences interact with each other in richly content-appropriate ways that manifest our transparent understanding of their contents.

Whether partly in response to outer influences or entirely from within, each moment to moment sequence of experience grows coherently out of those that preceded it, constrained and enabled by the global structure of links and limits embodied in its underlying prior organization Husserl In that respect, consciousness is an autopoietic system, i. As a conscious mental agent I can do many things such as scan my room, scan a mental image of it, review in memory the courses of a recent restaurant meal along with many of its tastes and scents, reason my way through a complex problem, or plan a grocery shopping trip and execute that plan when I arrive at the market.

These are all routine and common activities, but each involves the directed generation of experiences in ways that manifest an implicit practical understanding of their intentional properties and interconnected contents Van Gulick Consciousness is a dynamic process, and thus an adequate descriptive answer to the What question must deal with more than just its static or momentary properties. In particular, it must give some account of the temporal dynamics of consciousness and the ways in which its self-transforming flow reflects both its intentional coherence and the semantic self-understanding embodied in the organized controls through which conscious minds continually remake themselves as autopoietic systems engaged with their worlds.

The How question focuses on explanation rather than description. It asks us to explain the basic status of consciousness and its place in nature. Is it a fundamental feature of reality in its own right, or does its existence depend upon other nonconscious items, be they physical, biological, neural or computational? And if the latter, can we explain or understand how the relevant nonconscious items could cause or realize consciousness?

Put simply, can we explain how to make something conscious out of things that are not conscious? The How question is not a single question, but rather a general family of more specific questions Van Gulick They all concern the possibility of explaining some sort or aspect of consciousness, but they vary in their particular explananda, the restrictions on their explanans, and their criteria for successful explanation.

For example, one might ask whether we can explain access consciousness computationally by mimicking the requisite access relations in a computational model. Or one might be concerned instead with whether the phenomenal and qualitative properties of a conscious creature's mind can be a priori deduced from a description of the neural properties of its brain processes. Both are versions of the How question, but they ask about the prospects of very different explanatory projects, and thus may differ in their answers Lycan It would be impractical, if not impossible, to catalog all the possible versions of the How question, but some of the main options can be listed.

Possible explananda would include the various sorts of state and creature consciousness distinguished above, as well as the seven features of consciousness listed in response to the What question. Those two types of explananda overlap and intersect. We might for example aim to explain the dynamic aspect either of phenomenal or of access consciousness. Or we could try to explain the subjectivity of either qualitative or meta-mental consciousness. Not every feature applies to every sort of consciousness, but all apply to several.

How one explains a given feature in relation to one sort of consciousness may not correspond with what is needed to explain it relative to another. The range of possible explanans is also diverse. In perhaps its broadest form, the How question asks how consciousness of the relevant sort could be caused or realized by nonconscious items, but we can generate a wealth of more specific questions by further restricting the range of the relevant explanans. One might seek to explain how a given feature of consciousness is caused or realized by underlying neural processes, biological structures, physical mechanisms, functional or teleofunctional relations, computational organization, or even by nonconscious mental states.

The prospects for explanatory success will vary accordingly. In general the more limited and elementary the range of the explanans, the more difficult the problem of explaining how could it suffice to produce consciousness Van Gulick Criteria of explanation. The third key parameter is how one defines the criterion for a successful explanation. One might require that the explanandum be a priori deducible from the explanans, although it is controversial whether this is either a necessary or a sufficient criterion for explaining consciousness Jackson Its sufficiency will depend in part on the nature of the premises from which the deduction proceeds.

As a matter of logic, one will need some bridge principles to connect propositions or sentences about consciousness with those that do not mention it. If one's premises concern physical or neural facts, then one will need some bridge principles or links that connect such facts with facts about consciousness Kim Brute links, whether nomic or merely well confirmed correlations, could provide a logically sufficient bridge to infer conclusions about consciousness.

But they would probably not allow us to see how or why those connections hold, and thus they would fall short of fully explaining how consciousness exists Levine , , McGinn One could legitimately ask for more, in particular for some account that made intelligible why those links hold and perhaps why they could not fail to do so.

A familiar two-stage model for explaining macro-properties in terms of micro-substrates is often invoked. In the first step, one analyzes the macro-property in terms of functional conditions, and then in the second stage one shows that the micro-structures obeying the laws of their own level nomically suffice to guarantee the satisfaction of the relevant functional conditions Armstrong , Lewis Moreover, the model makes intelligible how the liquidity is produced by the micro-properties.

A satisfactory explanation of how consciousness is produced might seem to require a similar two stage story. Without it, even a priori deducibility might seem explanatorily less than sufficient, though the need for such a story remains a matter of controversy Block and Stalnaker , Chalmers and Jackson Our current inability to supply a suitably intelligible link is sometimes described, following Joseph Levine , as the existence of an explanatory gap , and as indicating our incomplete understanding of how consciousness might depend upon a nonconscious substrate, especially a physical substrate.

The basic gap claim admits of many variations in generality and thus in strength. In perhaps its weakest form, it asserts a practical limit on our present explanatory abilities; given our current theories and models we can not now articulate an intelligible link. A stronger version makes an in principle claim about our human capacities and thus asserts that given our human cognitive limits we will never be able to bridge the gap.

To us, or creatures cognitively like us, it must remain a residual mystery McGinn Colin McGinn has argued that given the inherently spatial nature of both our human perceptual concepts and the scientific concepts we derive from them, we humans are not conceptually suited for understanding the nature of the psychophysical link. Facts about that link are as cognitively closed to us as are facts about multiplication or square roots to armadillos. They do not fall within our conceptual and cognitive repertoire. An even stronger version of the gap claim removes the restriction to our cognitive nature and denies in principle that the gap can be closed by any cognitive agents.

Those who assert gap claims disagree among themselves about what metaphysical conclusions, if any, follow from our supposed epistemic limits. Levine himself has been reluctant to draw any anti-physicalist ontological conclusions Levine , On the other hand some neodualists have tried to use the existence of the gap to refute physicalism Foster , Chalmers The stronger one's epistemological premise, the better the hope of deriving a metaphysical conclusion.

Thus unsurprisingly, dualist conclusions are often supported by appeals to the supposed impossibility in principle of closing the gap. If one could see on a priori grounds that there is no way in which consciousness could be intelligibly explained as arising from the physical, it would not be a big step to concluding that it in fact does not do so Chalmers However, the very strength of such an epistemological claim makes it difficult to assume with begging the metaphysical result in question.

Thus those who wish to use a strong in principle gap claim to refute physicalism must find independent grounds to support it. Some have appealed to conceivability arguments for support, such as the alleged conceivability of zombies molecularly identical with conscious humans but devoid of all phenomenal consciousness Campbell , Kirk , Chalmers Other supporting arguments invoke the supposed non-functional nature of consciousness and thus its alleged resistance to the standard scientific method of explaining complex properties e.

Such arguments avoid begging the anti-physicalist question, but they themselves rely upon claims and intuitions that are controversial and not completely independent of one's basic view about physicalism. Discussion on the topic remains active and ongoing. Our present inability to see any way of closing the gap may exert some pull on our intuitions, but it may simply reflect the limits of our current theorizing rather than an unbridgeable in principle barrier Dennett Moreover, some physicalists have argued that explanatory gaps are to be expected and are even entailed by plausible versions of ontological physicalism, ones that treat human agents as physically realized cognitive systems with inherent limits that derive from their evolutionary origin and situated contextual mode of understanding Van Gulick , ; McGinn , Papineau , On this view, rather than refuting physicalism, the existence of explanatory gaps may confirm it.

Discussion and disagreement on these topics remains active and ongoing. As the need for intelligible linkage has shown, a priori deducibility is not in itself obviously sufficient for successful explanation Kim , nor is it clearly necessary. Some weaker logical link might suffice in many explanatory contexts. We can sometimes tell enough of a story about how facts of one sort depend upon those of another to satisfy ourselves that the latter do in fact cause or realize the former even if we can not strictly deduce all the former facts from the latter.

Strict intertheoretical deduction was taken as the reductive norm by the logical empiricist account of the unity of science Putnam and Oppenheim , but in more recent decades a looser nonreductive picture of relations among the various sciences has gained favor. Economics is often cited as an example Fodor , Searle Economic facts may be realized by underlying physical processes, but no one seriously demands that we be able to deduce the relevant economic facts from detailed descriptions of their underlying physical bases or that we be able to put the concepts and vocabulary of economics in tight correspondence with those of the physical sciences.

All that we require is some general and less than deductive understanding of how economic properties and relations might be underlain by physical ones. Thus one might opt for a similar criterion for interpreting the How question and for what counts as explaining how consciousness might be caused or realized by nonconscious items. However, some critics, such as Kim , have challenged the coherence of any view that aims to be both non-reductive and physicalist, though supporters of such views have replied in turn Van Gulick Others have argued that consciousness is especially resistant to explanation in physical terms because of the inherent differences between our subjective and objective modes of understanding.

Thomas Nagel famously argued that there are unavoidable limits placed on our ability to understand the phenomenology of bat experience by our inability to empathetically take on an experiential perspective like that which characterizes the bat's echo-locatory auditory experience of its world. Given our inability to undergo similar experience, we can have at best partial understanding of the nature of such experience.

No amount of knowledge gleaned from the external objective third-person perspective of the natural sciences will supposedly suffice to allow us to understand what the bat can understand of its own experience from its internal first-person subjective point of view. The How question thus subdivides into a diverse family of more specific questions depending upon the specific sort or feature of consciousness one aims to explain, the specific restrictions one places on the range of the explanans and the criterion one uses to define explanatory success.

Some of the resulting variants seem easier to answer than others. Positive answers to some versions of the How questions seem near at hand, but others appear to remain deeply baffling. Nor should we assume that every version has a positive answer. If dualism is true, then consciousness in at least some of its types may be basic and fundamental.

If so,we will not be able to explain how it arises from nonconscious items since it simply does not do so. One's view of the prospects for explaining consciousness will typically depend upon one's perspective. Optimistic physicalists will likely see current explanatory lapses as merely the reflection of the early stage of inquiry and sure to be remedied in the not too distant future Dennett , Searle , P.

To dualists, those same impasses will signify the bankruptcy of the physicalist program and the need to recognize consciousness as a fundamental constituent of reality in its own right Robinson , Foster , , Chalmers What one sees depends in part on where one stands, and the ongoing project of explaining consciousness will be accompanied by continuing debate about its status and prospects for success. The functional or Why question asks about the value or role or consciousness and thus indirectly about its origin.

Does it have a function , and if so what is it? Does it make a difference to the operation of systems in which it is present, and if so why and how? If consciousness exists as a complex feature of biological systems, then its adaptive value is likely relevant to explaining its evolutionary origin, though of course its present function, if it has one, need not be the same as that it may have had when it first arose. Adaptive functions often change over biological time. Questions about the value of consciousness also have a moral dimension in at least two ways.

We are inclined to regard an organism's moral status as at least partly determined by the nature and extent to which it is conscious, and conscious states, especially conscious affective states such as pleasures and pains, play a major role in many of the accounts of value that underlie moral theory Singer As with the What and How questions, the Why question poses a general problem that subdivides into a diversity of more specific inquiries.

In so far as the various sorts of consciousness, e. Thus the Why question may well not have a single or uniform answer. Perhaps the most basic issue posed by any version of the Why question is whether or not consciousness of the relevant sort has any causal impact at all. If it has no effects and makes no causal difference whatsoever, then it would seem unable to play any significant role in the systems or organisms in which it is present, thus undercutting at the outset most inquiries about its possible value.

Nor can the threat of epiphenomenal irrelevance be simply dismissed as an obvious non-option, since at least some forms of consciousness have been seriously alleged in the recent literature to lack causal status. See the entry on epiphenomenalism. Such worries have been raised especially with regard to qualia and qualitative consciousness Huxley , Jackson , Chalmers , but challenges have also been leveled against the causal status of other sorts including meta-mental consciousness Velmans Both metaphysical and empirical arguments have been given in support of such claims.

Among the former are those that appeal to intuitions about the conceivability and logical possibility of zombies, i. Some Kirk , Chalmers assert such beings are possible in worlds that share all our physical laws, but others deny it Dennett , Levine If they are possible in such worlds, then it would seem to follow that even in our world, qualia do not affect the course of physical events including those that constitute our human behaviors.

If those events unfold in the same way whether or not qualia are present, then qualia appear to be inert or epiphenomenal at least with respect to events in the physical world. However, such arguments and the zombie intuitions on which they rely are controversial and their soundness remains in dispute Searle , Yablo , Balog Arguments of a far more empirical sort have challenged the causal status of meta-mental consciousness, at least in so far as its presence can be measured by the ability to report on one's mental state. Scientific evidence is claimed to show that consciousness of that sort is neither necessary for any type of mental ability nor does it occur early enough to act as a cause of the acts or processes typically thought to be its effects Velmans According to those who make such arguments, the sorts of mental abilities that are typically thought to require consciousness can all be realized unconsciously in the absence of the supposedly required self-awareness.

Moreover, even when conscious self-awareness is present, it allegedly occurs too late to be the cause of the relevant actions rather than their result or at best a joint effect of some shared prior cause Libet What is it to have genuine knowledge? What makes an action virtuous or an assertion true? Such questions can be asked with respect to many specific domains, with the result that there are whole fields devoted to the philosophy of art aesthetics , to the philosophy of science , to ethics , to epistemology the theory of knowledge , and to metaphysics the study of the ultimate categories of the world.

The philosophy of mind is specifically concerned with quite general questions about the nature of mental phenomena: what, for example, is the nature of thought , feeling , perception , consciousness , and sensory experience? These philosophical questions about the nature of a phenomenon need to be distinguished from similar-sounding questions that tend to be the concern of more purely empirical investigations—such as experimental psychology —which depend crucially on the results of sensory observation.

Empirical psychologists are, by and large, concerned with discovering contingent facts about actual people and animals—things that happen to be true, though they could have turned out to be false. For example, they might discover that a certain chemical is released when and only when people are frightened or that a certain region of the brain is activated when and only when people are in pain or think of their fathers. In asking these questions, philosophers have in mind not merely the perhaps remote possibilities of ghosts or gods or extraterrestrial creatures whose physical constitutions presumably would be very different from those of humans but also and especially a possibility that seems to be looming ever larger in contemporary life—the possibility of computers that are capable of thought.

Could a computer have a mind? What would it take to create a computer that could have a specific thought, emotion , or experience? Perhaps a computer could have a mind only if it were made up of the same kinds of neurons and chemicals of which human brains are composed. But this suggestion may seem crudely chauvinistic, rather like saying that a human being can have mental states only if his eyes are a certain colour.


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On the other hand, surely not just any computing device has a mind. Whether or not in the near future machines will be created that come close to being serious candidates for having mental states, focusing on this increasingly serious possibility is a good way to begin to understand the kinds of questions addressed in the philosophy of mind. Although philosophical questions tend to focus on what is possible or necessary or essential, as opposed to what simply is, this is not to say that what is—i.

However, unlike the cases of diseases and substances, questions about the nature of thought do not seem to be answerable by empirical research alone. At any rate, no empirical researcher has been able to answer them to the satisfaction of enough people. So the issues fall, at least in part, to philosophy. One reason that these questions have been so difficult to answer is that there is substantial unclarity, both in common understanding and in theoretical psychology, about how objective the phenomena of the mind can be taken to be.

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