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Consciousness Discussion Forum Schedule
2009 Speaker Requests
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University of Arizona Student Union - Ventana Room
6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Benjamin Kozuch (Philosophy, University of Arizona)
Jonathan Powell (Philosophy, University of Reading
"Orch OR is an Answer of the Right Shape"
Chun-Yu Lin (Psychology, University of Arizona)
"Neural correlates of unconscious memory"
Social Science Building, Room 311
Jesse Prinz (Philosophy, Univeristy of North Carolina)
"The AIR Theory of Consciousness"
Please note the special Day, Time, and Location for Dr. Prinz's talk.
There are two questions a theory of consciousness must address: what kind of mental
representations are candidates for consciousness and how do they become conscious.
In response to the first question, Iprovide neurobiological support for Ray Jackendoff's
conjecture thatconsciousness arises only at intermediate levels in hierarchically organized
perceptual pathways. In response to the second question, I argue that (despite recent
attempts to prove otherwise) consciousness is made possible by attention. Conscious
states are attended intermediate-level representations, or AIRs.
Wednesday 2/20/08 Student Union, Ventana Room
Susana Martinez-Conde (Barrow Neurological Institute)
"The role of fixational eye movements in visibility and visual awareness"
Our visual system contains a built-in contradiction: when we fixate our gaze on an object of interest, our eyes are never still. Instead we produce, several times each second, small eye movements of which we are unaware, called "microsaccades", "drifts" and "tremor". If we eliminate all these eye movements in the laboratory (using any number of retinal stabilization techniques), our visual perception of stationary objects fades, due to neural adaptation. Since we fixate our gaze over 80% of the time during visual exploration, these fixational eye movements often are responsible for driving most of our visual experience. When our eyes move across the image once again, after having stabilized the retinas, visual perception reappears. Due to their role in counteracting adaptation, fixational eye movements are an important tool to understand how the brain makes our environment visible. Moreover, because we are not aware of these eye movements, they can also help us understand the underpinnings of visual awareness. For the last decade, my laboratory and others have recorded the neural activity generated by microsaccades (and the other fixational eye movements) at different stages of the visual pathway (LGN, area V1, MT). This presentation will review these discoveries and their implications for visual awareness. I will also present the results of a recent experiment (Martinez-Conde et al., Neuron 2006), which for the first time demonstrates a direct role of microsaccades in counteracting visual fading.
Wednesday 2/27/08: Student Union, Presidio Room
Adam Arico, Brian Fiala, & Shaun Nichols (Philosophy, University of Arizona)
"The Folk Psychology of Consciousness"
What leads us to think that other individuals have minds? Some traditional answers: attributions of mentality are produced by analogical inferences (Mill), or by a dedicated mechanism (Reid). More recently, investigators have begun to ask the more refined question, "What leads us to think that other individuals have conscious minds?" Gray, Gray & Wegner (2007), Knobe & Prinz (2007), and Robbins & Jack (2006) have all recently contributed interesting and important work on what one might call “the problem of other conscious minds.”
Here we develop a new model for understanding this problem, which we dub "The Agency Model." It has been suggested that specific, relatively superficial cues suffice for identifying an object as an AGENT with goals and informational states (Johnson et al. 1998). We propose that identifying an object as an AGENT also suffices to produce a prepotent tendency to attribute conscious states to that object. In order to test the Agency Model, we ran a reaction-time study in which subjects were presented with a sequence of Object/Attribution pairs. Our model predicts that subjects should (i) be significantly more willing to attribute conscious states to typical agentive entities than to typical non-agentive entities, and (ii) take longer to respond negatively for consciousness attributions to typical agentive entities than for similar attributions to typical non-agentive entities. The results of this study confirm our basic predictions, but also call for a brief modification of the model. We discuss some possible modifications to the Agency Model, and direction for future research on the problem of other conscious minds.
August 29, 2007
Stuart Hameroff (Anesthesiology, Psychology, and Center for Consciousness Studies)
"Consciousness Studies 2007 Status Report: Global Versus Local Models of the NCC "
Having attended ASSC 11 in Las Vegas, Quantum Mind 2007 in Salzburg, Austria and Toward a Science of Consciousness 2007 in Budapest, Hungary over the summer, I am pleased to report some convergence of neuroscientific, cognitive and philosophical views toward the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC). For example, is consciousness a necessarily global output from the brain, or can it emerge from sufficiently vigorous local activity? Global activities are exemplified by global workspace (GW) type architectures with bottom-up AND top-down activities (e.g. between thalamo-cortical, cortico-cortical and cortico-thalamic regions). Such feed-forward and feedback networks have been identified as the NCC in brain imaging studies, with top-down activities from pre-frontal cortex to more posterior regions playing the role of attention, and fitting nicely with higher-order thought (HOT) and self-consciousness philosophical approaches. On the other hand more localized activities have also been shown to correlate with consciousness, for example purely posterior (visual and sensory cortex) activities without frontal activity when engrossed in watching a movie. Consciousness without top-down active attention is consistent with Dennett-like views: the most active region "wins". So the NCC is not constrained by a particular functional architecture. The question then becomes what type of activity in any particular local region or global architecture "wins" the prize of manifesting conscious content.
September 12, 2007 Brian Mcveigh (East Asian Studies)
"Elephants in the Psychology Department: Intellectual Barriers to Understanding Julian Jaynes"
Few confront the pink elephants that crowd psychology departments. Too many careers might be trampled on if the herd i.e., hallucinations, automatic writing, and poetic and religious frenzy is directly met head-on. Better to account for those roaming elephants by attributing them to a few loose neurological wires within the individual's brain.But wait; there is more: hallucinations are only one elephant. An entire family of anomalous psychological behavior: hypnotic trancing, glossolalia, and spirit possession has more or less been ignored. Though many have described these disconcerting phenomena, they have yet to explain and incorporate them into mainstream psychology in a robust theoretical manner. In The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976) Julian Jaynes boldly explained from where this strange family of eccentric psychological behavior migrated. He argued that a two chambered mentality (thus, bicameral), in which the right side of the brain spoke through the voices of gods to the brain's left side, accounted for auditory hallucinations. This psycho-hierarchy of god and individual, burdened by increasing sociopolitical complexity, eventually broke down, replaced by a unicameral mentality what Jaynes called consciousness of an inner conscience and other cognitive tools for handling social complexity. After defining consciousness, I explore six intellectual barriers to appreciating Jaynes's thinking: (1) the word consciousness itself, which is too vague and polysemantic to be of any use; (2) the mistake of equating consciousness with perception; (3) confusing consciousness with reasoning; (4) the failure to recognize that consciousness, not the unconsciousness, is the problem to be explored; (5) the under-appreciated extraordinariness of consciousness as a phenomenon in human history; and (6) ignoring history as a source of evidence for appreciating our psychic diversity and psychic plasticity.
9/26/07 Michael Bruno (Philosophy) "Action and Visual Consciousness"
10/10/07 John Allen (Psychology) "The Nature of Amnesia in Dissociative Identity Disorder: Electrophysiological and Behavioral Evidence"
10/17/07 Uriah Kriegel (Philosophy) at 7:30-9:00pm (NOTE SPECIAL TIME)
Presidio Room in the Student Union (NOTE SPECIAL LOCATION)
"Precis of Subjective Consciousness: A Self-Representational Theory"
In this presentation, I will summarize the main points of my forthcoming book, Subjective Consciousness: A Self-Representational Theory, which develops and defends a view about what distinguishes conscious mental events from non-conscious ones.
10/24/07 Terry Horgan and Mark Timmons (Philosophy) "Consciousness and Moral Principles"
11/7/07 Matthias Mehl (Psychology) "The mind in (inter-) action: A naturalistic observation approach to studying psychological processes in daily life".
11/28/07 David Woodruff Smith (Philosophy, UC Irvine) "The Modal Model of Consciousness: Q & A"
The structure of an act of consciousness may be explicated, I propose, in a phenomenological description that articulates inter alia the form of inner awareness of experience that is sometimes called self-consciousness. We distinguish, accordingly, certain forms of phenomenological structure in a simple visual experience: (i) The mode of presentation of the object of consciousness is reflected in the sense (Sinn) of the experience (per Husserl, Frege, Fellesdal). Indeed, the sense prescribes a particular object that can be re-identified in further experiences presenting the same object with different properties (per Husserl, Fellesdal, Smith and McIntyre). (ii) The presentation of the object is further modified or modalized by such characters as visuality, attentiveness, certitude, etc. (thetic characters, per Husserl). (iii) The modality of presentation in consciousness, on my analysis, includes not only such thetic characters, but also the specific characters of egocentricity, reflexivity, and phenomenality, as well as spatiotemporal locus. These modal characters, I propose, define the form of awareness the subject has of an act of consciousness. (Husserl speaks of modalities of judgment, as opposed to modalities of being. I want to appropriate the wide notion of intentional modalities introduced by Jaakko Hintikka, but I want to parse the modality of an experience into the several phenomenological characters indicated above.) I call this view the modal model of consciousness. It is distinguished from various higher-order monitoring models of consciousness. Arguably it is a one-level model (compare Thomasson adapting Brentano, and others). Arguably it is also a self-representational model (compare Kriegel and Williford). I shall outline the modal model, then turn to questions and issues raised for the model, and then consider prospective answers.
1/24/07 Farid Masour, Philosophy
"Unity of percepts and adverbial accounts of perceptual experience²
Much theorizing in philosophy of consciousness has occupied itself with the
question of the nature of raw feels or qualia. My main aim here is to
motivate a different question: How is it that qualia are organized and
structured in experience? I do this by first reviewing a debate between two
internalist accounts of qualia: sense datum theory and adverbialism. The
sense datum theorist construes experience as a relation between a subject
and a direct object, namely a sense datum. The adverbialist construes
experience as a mode of sensing. The crucial difference between the two
views is that the former regards the direct objects of sensing as
constitutive aspects of experience
while the latter does not.
Sense datum theorists have vigorously argued against adverbialism on
semantic grounds. In a debate that goes so deeply into the semantics of
experience, the central problem is never mentioned explicitly but is
suggested at almost every step. I argue that the central problem is to
explain how experience is structured. I also argue that this is a problem
not only for the adverbialist, but also for any other account of experience.
After a detailed explication of various aspects of this problem, I propose a
conceptualist solution to it.
2/7/07Luciano Floridi, Philosophy
"How to Know That You Are Not a Zombie"
This paper has three goals. The first is to introduce the "knowledge game",
a new, simple and yet powerful tool for analyzing some intriguing
philosophical questions. The second is to apply the knowledge game as an
informative test to discriminate between conscious (human) and
conscious-less agents (zombies and robots), depending on which version of
the game they can win. And the third is to use a version of the knowledge
game to provide an answer to Dretske's question "how do you know you are not
2/21/07 Uriah Kriegal, Philosophy
³A Cross-Order Integration Hypothesis for the Neural Correlate of
One major problem many hypotheses regarding the neural correlate of
consciousness (NCC) face is what we might call "the why question": why would
this particular neural feature, rather than another, correlate with
consciousness? The purpose of the present paper is to develop a NCC
hypothesis that answers this question. The proposed hypothesis is inspired
by the Cross-Order Integration (COI) theory of consciousness, according to
which consciousness arises from the functional integration of a first-order
representation of an external stimulus and a second-order representation of
that first-order representation. The proposal comes in two steps. The first
step concerns the "general shape" of the NCC and can be directly derived
from COI theory. The second step is a concrete hypothesis that can be
arrived at by combining the general shape with empirical considerations.
3/7/07 Alvin Clark, Molecular & Cellular Biology
³Forgiveness: a Neurological Model²
3/21/07 Richard D. Lane, Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience
³Neural Substrates of Implicit and Explicit Emotional Processes²
Emotion has traditionally been equated with the conscious experience of
feeling states. However, with the discovery of implicit cognition it is now
increasingly being appreciated that implicit or unconscious emotion exists
also. Given that the neural substrates of implicit and explicit cognitive
processes are distinct, evidence will be presented that the same principle
of dissociable neural substrates similarly applies to implicit and explicit
emotional processes. In addition to reviewing behavioral and neuroimaging
evidence from my own laboratory and others¹, I will discuss the implications
of this work for preclinical and translational clinical research on emotion,
including mental health and mind-body research.
4/4/07 Mary Peterson, Psychology
4/13/07 Joshua Knobe, Philosophy
³Intuitions about Consciousness: Experimental Studies²
When people are trying to determine whether an entity is capable of having
certain kinds of mental states, they can proceed either by thinking about
the entity from a functional standpoint or by thinking about the entity from
a physical standpoint. We conducted a series of studies to determine how
each of these standpoints impact people's mental state ascriptions. The
results point to a striking difference between two kinds of states < those
that involve phenomenal consciousness and those that do not. Specifically,
it appears that ascriptions of states that involve phenomenal consciousness
show a special sort of sensitivity to purely physical factors.
9/6/06Terry Horgan and Uriah Kriegel, Philosophy,
"Phenomenal Epistemology, or What is Consciousness That We Know It So Well?"
Abstract. Our purpose in this paper is twofold. First, we wish to resurrect a limited version of the infallibility thesis. We argue that there is a kind of knowledge of one’s own phenomenal experiences that is infallible. Second, we outline an explanation of this limited infallibility. We suggest that it is due not so much to the nature of the knowledge as to the nature of the known: phenomenal experiences have a special feature – a sort of inbuilt awareness of themselves – that lends them, under certain circumstances, to infallible knowing.
9/20/06 Richard R. Bootzin, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology "Sleep and Cognition"
Abstract. There has been substantial recent interest in understanding the role of
sleep in a science of consciousness. In this presentation, two related
topics will be discussed: (1) the extent to which the processing of
external stimuli continues during sleep, and (2) the role of sleep in
10/4/06 Jennifer Matey, Philosophy, "Non-sensory Properties In Perceptual
10/18/06 Shaun Nichols, Philosophy, "Imagination and the I"
11/1/06 Dusana Rybarova, Psychology, "Language, Pragmatics, and Consciousness"
11/15/06 Kay Mathiesen, Information Resources, "Collective Consciousness"
12/6/06 Logan Trujillo, Psychology, "Near Death Experiences (NDEs): A
Challenge or Victory for Neurophysiological Accounts of
1/18/06: Burton Voorhees (Mathematics)
"Everyday States of Consciousness"
The idea for this talk came to me during the Copenhagen meeting last summer when I contrasted two presentations dealing with studies of unusual states of consciousness. The first was given by Even Thompson, reporting on a study conduced with the cooperation of a group of highly trained Tibetan meditators (between 10,000 and 50,000 hours of practice). Using EEG recordings while these meditators were in a meditative state (an objectless loving kindness meditation) it was found that there was a high degree of synchronized gamma over the entire cortex. The second talk was by Petra Stoerig and dealt with EEG and other measures taken on subjects in states of sleep, under anesthetics, and in coma or persistent vegetative states. The general idea in each study was to identify neural correlates of the states involved, and in the case of the meditators, to correlate this with first person reports. In the cases studied by Stoerig, it was relatively easy to collect the third person data, but the pathology of the states (excepting sleep) made first person evidence difficult or impossible. In the case of the meditators there were conscious individuals trained to enter a particular state, but again this state was remote from the ordinary, and was one stabilized by their meditative training. More generally, both first and third person studies of the neural correlates and qualitative properties of states of consciousness have focused on states that are:
1. Broadly defined (sleep, coma, waking, meditative), or;
2. Very specific (e.g., change blindness, etc.); and
3. Relatively stable.
This is, of course, necessary for EEG and fMRI studies, and is very important in terms of establishing general points of view and areas for further exploration. But at the same time, this glosses over what is most apparent for everyday consciousness—namely, that it seems to move through a variety of states that are fragile, transient, and ephemeral. For such states, it is extremely difficult to obtain reliable third person measures. Nevertheless, these everyday states seem to provide the possibility of good first person data. What is required to begin collecting such data, however, is a set of objectively defined states that individuals engaged in phenomenological studies can be trained to identify. Starting from a general set of descriptive categories, first person reports can be used to flesh out these categories and develop further refinements. In this talk I describe one such set of categories that is useful for phenomenological first person studies of everyday states of consciousness.
2/1: Chris Maloney (Philosophy)
What What It Is Like Isn’t and Is
Some mental states are phenomenally conscious. As Nagel noted, for someone who is phenomenally conscious, there is something that it is like to be so. What, then, is it like to be phenomenally conscious? Can an objective naturalistic science of the mind answer satisfactorily? Along with other representationalists, I maintain that cognitive psychology, based as it is in the representational theory of the mind, holds the naturalistic answer to the question of phenomenal consciousness. Phenomenal consciousness does indeed arise from the representational nature of thought. However and contrary to familiar varieties of representationalism, I deny that the qualitative character of a conscious state is determined by that state itself being mentally represented. And neither is the phenomenal feature of a conscious state determined by what the state represents. That’s what it is like isn’t. Rather, what it is like is is to use a peculiar medium of mental representation. To be phenomenally conscious is literally to use physical objects and their sensible properties as vehicles of mental representation. What it is like is what is.
2/15: Frances Balcomb (Cognitive Science)
The Emergence of Metacognition in Preschool Children
Research with non-human animals reveals surprising results about their metacognitive abilities. In contrast, human research has indicated that young children do not demonstrate sophisticated metacognitive skills. This is surprising given that the ability to access one’s own state of knowing may be an important function in many cognitive processes that are ongoing during development, such as learning. Our research has explored the emergence of metacognition in preschool children. Preliminary findings indicate that children may have metacognitive competence at earlier ages than was previously thought. This has significant implications about the state of conscious awareness in very young children, and the role it may play in self-guided learning and development.
March 1, 2006
Stuart Hameroff (Anesthesiology, Psychology)
The neural correlate of anesthesia and consciousness
EEG monitoring during loss of consciousness with onset of general anesthesia reveals an abrupt cessation of cortical frontal-occipital gamma synchrony ("coherent 40 Hz"). The best electrophysiological correlate of consciousness, gamma synchrony presents two significant dilemmas for conventional models of brain function. One is that gamma synchrony is generated by cortical interneurons connected by dendritic-dendritic gap junctions (axonal spikes are not synchronized). The second is that gamma synchrony shows precise "zero-phase-lag coherence" across wide regions of brain (and spinal cord) which cannot be accounted for by thalamic pacing, cortical action potentials, chemical synapses, recurrent feedback, dendritic gap junctions (all of which convey phase delays) or electromagnetic/ephaptic conduction (too weak). Rather, some type of collective field generated by dynamics of post-synaptic receptors
and other dendritic proteins must account for gamma synchrony, binding and consciousness. Thus dendritic protein conformational dynamics is the neuromolecular correlate - the fine grain - of consciousness.
Not coincidentally, a century of study has shown that anesthetics ablate consciousness with relative selectivity (nonconscious brain functions continue during anesthesia) by actions on dendritic protein conformational dynamics. What can this tell us about a collective field in the brain?
Unlike all other pharmacological agents, anesthetic gases act without forming chemical bonds, but via weak quantum London forces (instantaneous electron cloud dipoles) in non-polar intra-protein regions called hydrophobic pockets. In the absence of anesthetics, protein conformation is regulated by endogenous London forces in hydrophobic pockets. By forming exogenous London forces in
these pockets, anesthetics impair endogenous London forces necessary for protein conformational dynamics. London forces are capable of long range quantum correlations. Thus gamma synchrony, binding and consciousness are likely to depend on a quantum field generated by long range correlations among London forces in dendritic proteins.
March 29, 2006
Benjamin Kozuch (Philosophy) The Difference Between Consciousness and Reportability: Neuroanatomical Restrictions On Phenomenal Reports
Linguistic reports about what content does and does not compose our consciousness are the cornerstone of the data we use in our study of consciousness. This talk will look at these reports as the product of a functionally segregated brain, coming to the following conclusion: the fact that content in some cognitive process is conscious, is not, in itself, sufficient to it showing up in a report about what the contents of one’s consciousness are. An extra requirement exists: the cognitive process the content is a part of must take place in some brain area that our brain’s language production system has direct access to.
A consequence of this is that judgments made by a subject about what content in their brain is not conscious cannot be assumed reliable. This creates problems for contrastive analysis, a widely used method in the scientific study of consciousness. As subjective reports that state some content in the brain to not be conscious lack epistemological grounding, and these reports form a substantial portion of the data used for contrastive analysis, the effectiveness of contrastive analysis also comes into question.
April 12, 2006
Mark Evan Furman, Cognitive Neuroscience/Non-linear Dynamical Systems
Mind imaging, consciousness and self-reference: Teaching the mind to see itself
Can conscious awareness be expanded by teaching the brain to see itself? Can self-reference give way to a kind of mind-imaging? What can we know about consciousness through mind imaging? What are some of the advantages of mind imaging? It has been proposed that the human brain is a non-linear dynamical, self-organizing system operating at points far from thermodynamic equilibrium. How can we create a simulation of this strange, dark world we call the conscious mind? NeuroPrint is a 10 -step methodology for folding conscious awareness back upon itself in order to reveal the mysterious manifestations of non-linear dynamics on cognitive representation and the nature of subjective experience. As we explore the dynamic cognitive landscape using NeuroPrint we find that not all cognitive representations are created equal. The cognitive bio-architecture revealed by the methodology elucidates a continuous competition between available emotional states, behaviors, and thoughts; a competition that is won by the most stable mental representations. What are these measures of stability? Can we use them to measure the success of psychotherapeutic interventions? Can we use them to predict the probability of one emotion, behavior or thought absorbing our conscious resources over another? Can mind imaging help us to become more effective at influencing and changing ourselves? Can we better understand how the mind makes "meaning" by studying the linkages between our thoughts, behaviors and emotional states? Can we more effectively recover lost state-dependent information? Will mind imaging help us to become more effective at transferring unique human expertise reminiscent of cognitive cloning? These are some of the provocative questions we will be exploring in this fascinating foray into the structure of subjective conscious experience.
April 26, 2006
My goal is to answer the following question: When we have mental states - including conscious experiential states - that represent certain things as being colored, what properties are our mental states representing these things as having? I first state three presumptions about the notion of representation presupposed in this question. I then present a simple overview of potential answers to this question. In that presentation, several puzzles arise that any successful theory of color must solve. With these puzzles in mind, I present the position that I favor. I argue that color representation systems work upon the same basic principles as hashing schemes employed by computer scientists, and I explain how this observation enables us to answer the question with which we began and to solve the puzzles that face other approaches.
May 10, 2006
Rubin Naiman (Integrative Medicine)
Toward a Braid Theory of Consciousness: Weaving Sleep & Dream Back into Waking
Farid Masrour (Graduate Student, Philosophy)
Discussion Forum Coordinator
(abstracts will be posted)
Santa Cruz Room, University of Arizona Student Union (Unless otherwise noted)
6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
September 7, 2005
Alfred Kaszniak (Psychology, Neurology, Psychiatry, CCS)
"The Neuropsychology of Self-Awareness"
Humans, and possibly other animals, seem to have the ability to consciously reflect upon their own behavior and at least some mental processes, that is, to be self-aware. If behavior and mind are functions of brain activity then how is it possible for the brain to be aware of or monitor its own activity? This presentation will describe one set of scientific approaches to addressing the question of how the brain monitors its own memory functioning, combining the study of of persons having select neurological illnesses with the technologies of brain imaging and cognitive psychology.
September 21, 2005
John Pollock (Philosophy)
'Virtual machines and the mind/body problem'
When your word processor or email program is running on your computer, this creates a "virtual machine" that manipulates windows, files, text, etc. What is this virtual machine, and what are the virtual objects it manipulates? Many standard arguments in the philosophy of mind have exact analogues for virtual machines and virtual objects, but we do not want to draw the wild metaphysical conclusions that have sometimes tempted philosophers in the philosophy of mind. A computer file is not made of epiphenomenal ectoplasm. I argue instead that virtual objects are "supervenient objects". The stereotypical example of supervenient objects is the statue and the lump of clay. To this end I propose a theory of supervenient objects. Then I turn to persons and mental states. I argue that my mental states are virtual states of a cognitive virtual machine implemented on my body, and a person is a supervenient object supervening on his cognitive virtual machine.
October 5, 2005
"Causation and Conscious Agents'
In several earlier papers I have defended a contextualist approach to mental causation that I call “causal compatibilism.” In recent work, George Graham and John Tienson and I have argued that there is a rich phenomenology of agency—a “what it’s like” of doing, of self as source of one’s behavior—that is intentional/representational and therefore has satisfaction conditions; we have urged the question of the nature of these satisfaction conditions as an important (though seriously underappreciated) philosophical issue; and we have described a range of potential positions concerning these satisfaction conditions, some of which threaten to lead to the conclusion that the phenomenology of agency is illusory.
I will summarize my version of causal compatibilism, and also the range of potential philosophical positions that Graham and Tienson and I have described concerning the satisfaction conditions for the phenomenology of agency. I will then explore the interconnections between these two topics. My working hypotheses are the following. First, implicit contextual parameters govern not only causal claims about events (including mental events), but also claims about agency. Second, these implicit parameters operate in a way that vindicates a thoroughgoing causal compatibilism in philosophy of mind: not only is the event-causation of behavioral events by mental events compatible with the event-causal completeness of the physical domain, but the content of agent-phenomenology—the what-it’s-like of self as originating source of one’s behavior—is also compatible with physical event-causal completeness.
October 19, 2005
Heidi Harley (Linguistics)
Lexical decomposition, linguistic theory, and linguistic awareness
Syntactic and semantic linguistic behavior is both rule-governed and automatic, and mostly occurs largly below the threshold of awareness. Modern linguistic theory dealing with these topics, I contend, can be seen as an example of an elaborately worked-out model of a subpart of human consciousness. The goal of linguistic theory, as stated in the earliest generative work, is to predict the differing first-person sensations evoked in a native speaker by grammatical, ungrammatical, and nonsensical expressions. Linguistic theory has almost exclusively been developed using a heterophenonmenological methodology, although mostly applied to the investigator himself -- first-person heterophenomenology.
I will exhibit some familiar and unfamiliar cases of the various sensations under consideration, and sketch some of the explanations
proposed within the model for what is going on in the mind of the speaker to cause these sensations, with a focus on the lexical
semantics/syntax interface and the atomism debate. I will spend most time on an example from my own work on the syntax and lexical semantics of 'want'.
November 2, 2005
Uriah Kriegel (Philosophy)
For many decades, dualism was treated primarily as a challenge to a physicalist worldview. It did not function as a viable alternative to
physicalism. Thus dualism constituted not so much an explanatory theory of consciousness as the avoidance of one. This state of affairs has been rectified in the past decade or so, mainly through the work of David Chalmers (1995, 1996, 2002a). Chalmers developed what could genuinely be called a dualist theory of consciousness, namely, his so-called naturalistic dualism.
In this paper, I press an argument against naturalistic dualism, the argument from epiphenomenalism.
November 9, 2005 *Tubac Room, Student Union, 7:00 to 8:30 pm*
Richard Lane (Psychiatry)
Neural Substrates of Implicit and Explicit Processes
November 16, 2005
Radu Bogdan (Tulane University)
Self-Regulation and Self-Consciousness
Self-consciousness develops out of an internal sense of self-to-target relatedness or self-intentionality (where target can be an action,
one’s own body, items in the world, items in one’s own mind), when (at least) two conditions are met: (a) one’s mind synthesizes a manifold of representations of different kinds, in different cognitive modalities and from various input sources, and (b) the synthesizing itself could be subject to a voluntary and creative self-regulation.
A corollary of this thesis is that which aspects of the world, its body and its mind an organism is self-conscious of are those, and possibly only those, that it could (in principle) do something about -- that is, not only monitor and control but also initiate, modify or modulate
innovatively in response to the specific demands of a situation.
December 7, 2005
Mike Bruno (Philosophy)
Monitoring Theories of Consciousness and Introspective Richness
Monitoring theories of conscious have been developed in both higher-order and same-order varieties. Higher-order theories hold that a mental state is conscious when it is the target of a separate and distinct mental state. Same-order theories hold that a mental state is conscious in virtue of that state having dual contents, one world-directed and one self-directed. Given how we understand the nature of mental states and contents, however, there seems to be a prima facie worry that there is no substantial difference between these views. One difference seems to emerge when we consider how they each attempt to explain introspection. According to higher-order theories, introspection occurs when there is an unconscious higher-order representation directed at another higher-order representation. According to same-order theories, introspection involves an attentional shift in which a subject becomes more focally aware of the self-directed content she is usually only peripherally aware of. I will raise a problem for each of these treatments of
introspection. Same-order theories have a problem accounting for the possibility of cases in which one is able to introspect and introspective state. Higher-order theories face a problem accounting for the richness of introspection. After raising these problems, I will discuss possible responses on behalf of the proponents of each theory. Finally, I'll argue that embracing either one of these responses threatens to render the dispute between these views terminological.
Consciousness Discussion Forum
Spring 2005 Schedule
All talks will take place at the Student Union's Ventana Room at 6:30 (unless otherwise noted).
Alwyn Scott (Applied Mathematics), "Reductionism revisited"
From the perspective of nonlinear science, it is argued that one may accept physicalism and reject substance dualism without being forced into reductionism. This permits a property dualism under which biological and mental phenomena may emerge from intricate positive feedback networks, involving many levels of both the biological and cognitive hierarchies.
Kenneth Forster (Psychology), "Reading without awareness"
Using a masked priming paradigm, it is easy to show that briefly presented words are recognized,even though the subject is completely unaware of the stimulus. Priming occurs when the prime is the same word as the target (repetition priming), or is similar to the target (form priming), or is similar in meaning to the target (semantic priming). What is not so clear is whether the word is interpreted semantically, because in some tasks semantic priming is only obtained at relatively long prime durations, where subjects begin to demonstrate partial awareness of the prime. This suggests the possibility that semantic interpretation is exclusively a conscious process, and is not an automatic, reflex-like process, as typically assumed.
Jim Laukes (co-founder of the Center), "The history of the Center for Consciousness Studies"
This talk will offer a historical summary of several important events in the development of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona. Key areas of discussion will be the Tucson
conferences, the politics of program committees, funding from the Fetzer Institute, establishing a Center, conferences in Denmark, Japan, Sweden and the Czech Republic, research grants and academic
Jim Laukes was program coordinator for the 1994-2002 Tucson
consciousness conferences and an associate director of the Center from
Steven Rapcsak (Neurology), "Face recognition memory:
Implications for the study of consciousness"
Face recognition is an essential biological and social skill. Accurate recognition depends on the ability to encode, store, and retrieve distinct memory representations for the faces of countless individuals encountered in everyday life. In addition, face memory records must be integrated with specific biographic and name information in order to allow the recognition of each person's unique identity. Converging evidence from functional imaging, cortical electrical recording, and neuropsychological studies suggests that face memory operations in the human brain are mediated by a distributed neural
system. Components of this network include specialized memory storage sites within temporal neocortex that interact with medial temporal lobe and prefrontal cortical areas during face memory encoding and retrieval. Selective damage to these neuroanatomic regions gives rise to face recognition disorders characterized by memory loss or memory distortion. In this talk, I will discuss the implications of these findings for the study of consciousness by contrasting overt vs. covert face recognition and by examining the behavioral and neural correlates of the "feeling of knowing" state in face memory.
Jennan Ismael (Philosophy)
"Doublemindedness:A model for a dual-content cognitive architecture"
I'll describe a kind of cognitive architecture in which self-(re)presenting states play a central role. I won't argue directly that it is the architecture of the human mind, but I will suggest that it reproduces some of the cognitive phenomena - in particular, that it gives rise to the kinds of cognitive gaps that have presented intransigent problems in understanding the nature of mind. I'll compare this kind of system with familiar models of single-content architecture and say what kinds of advantages the dual content
Alfred Levinson (Economics), "Explaining visual illusions and
Visual illusions, saccades, the binding problem, and Libet's experiments are classified into three categories (structural, learned, mixed) to clarify our understanding of the nature of these mysteries
and to reconcile the differences between the functionalists and their opponents. The concept of indexing is introduced to explain binding taking a cue from the autistic calendar savants. Libet's experiments
are explained without reference to backward referrals by elaborating on Penfield's view that "electrical current paralyzes the area of the cortex for its normal uses" taking into account recent work by Barnes
and McNaughton and their colleagues in the memory lab.
Farid Masrour (Philosophy), "Consciousness, unity, and intentionality"
Two new lines of thought have recently resurfaced in analytic philosophy of mind. According to the first line, conscious states enjoy intentional content in virtue of their phenomenal character. When one is in a conscious state, there is something that it is like to be in that state. This "something it is like to be in the state" is usually called the phenomenal character of the state. The proponents of the first line of thought hold that conscious states have intentional content in virtue of their phenomenal character. For example, when I see a blue book in front of me, my visual experience, as it were, "says" something about the world, namely that a blue book is located in front of me. What my visual experience "says" about the world is usually called its intentional content. A second line of thought maintains that conscious states can stand in unity relations. There is something like tasting your breakfast coffee. There is something like listening to music. Is there anything like tasting your coffee while listening to music? If so, we would say that the two experiences are unified. In this talk I will attempt to unify these two emerging line
of thoughts. This will be done in two steps. I will first show that there is a strong link between unity of consciousness and its intentional content. Then I will provide an explanation for this connection.
Jennifer Matey (Philosophy, Stony Brook U.), "The concept of state consciousness in the higher order thought theory of consciousness"
David Rosenthal's Higher-Order Thought (HOT) hypothesis is one of the most widely argued for of the higher-order accounts of consciousness. In this paper, I address an inconsistency in his account of
consciousness. Rosenthal's argument vacillates between two independent models of the HOT theory. At the heart of these two models are two different concepts of 'state consciousness'. While both concepts refer
to token target states, the two concepts refer to those states in virtue of different properties. In the first section of this paper, I review the two models. In subsequent sections, I examine these models more closely. I argue that the second model is preferable to the first for several reasons. One reason is that it fits better with the
commonsense concept of 'intransitive consciousness'. All else being equal, a theory that uses terms in a way that fits with our concepts should be preferred. But ultimately this model is also problematic. I
highlight those problems and suggest that they might be averted by modifying a core feature of the HOT theory, the transitivity principle. In the second part of this paper I develop a version of the modified transitivity principle. I hypothesize that Rosenthal's occasional employment of this modified model may make sense of some problematic aspects of his theory. I also suggest that the inconsistency identified in the first section of this paper might actually reflect these two versions of the transitivity principle. One version gives us a token target state centered concept of state consciousness, and the other, which discusses only mental state types, doesn't give us a theory of state consciousness at all. In conclusion I discuss some other concerns for the modified version of the HOT theory and argue that, contrary to what Rosenthal and others often
argue, the theory is not incompatible with the causal efficacy of conscious states.
Gary Schwartz, Psychology, Surgery, Medicine, Neurology, and Psychiatry
"Testing the Survival of Consciousness Hypothesis"
Recent advances in contemporary theory and experimental design are making it possible to test predictions of the survival of consciousness hypothesis. The experiments require the collaboration of skilled research mediums and research sitters who are trained how to score the data. Previous experiments have addressed and ruled out conventional explanations such as fraud, cold reading, rater bias, and experimenter effects. A recent "triple-blind" experiment (Beischel, Schwartz, Mosby, Fleischman, and Hayes, 2005) establishes not only anomalous information retrieval in gifted research mediums, but also points to the implausibility of "mind reading of the sitter" as the source of the information. Future research on "discarnate intention"
is required to determine the veracity of the survival of consciousness hypothesis.
Logan Trujillo (Psychology, U of A)
"Electrophysiological Correlates of Conscious Face Perception"
This presentation will present some of my work in the electrophysiological correlates of conscious object perception, in particular face perception under conditions that require visual closure and binding of stimulus features. Human participants reported their perceptions of briefly exposed black and white shape fragments (Mooney faces) while scalp level electroencephalographic (EEG) brain activity was recorded. Visual closure leads to a global percept of these stimuli as faces. Face perception is much more likely to occur for upright than for inverted Mooney faces, and is less likely for feature-scrambled versions. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were computed by averaging the EEG recordings for each subject and trial condition, thus creating an index of the average brain response to the presented stimuli. Measures of interelectrode synchrony were also computed to assess the hypothesis that synchronous oscillatory neural activity plays a role in conscious perception at the level of global feature integration. Greater ERP responses were found when faces were perceived than when they were not, independently of stimulus orientation (upright/inverted). This face-selective response was localized to regions of visual cortex during portions of the ERP time course associated with face perception and recognition processes (in agreement with previous studies). Importantly, since participants were conscious of a visual stimulus qua stimulus when the faces were both perceived and not perceived, the observed differential ERP response may be considered a candidate for a neural correlate of consciousness for content. Differential neural synchrony was also found as a function of face perception, but the magnitude and statistical significance of this difference was dependent upon recording, analysis, and task conditions. This suggests that, at best, neural synchrony may be a correlate of creature consciousnes
Stephen Biggs (Philosophy), "An Argument Against Representationalism"
Brentano (1874) famously claimed that two features demarcate the mental: consciousness and intentionality/representation. Although Brentano thought that these features relate intimately, even
constitutively, subsequent generations of philosophers rarely treated them together. Recently, however, the tide has turned. Most philosophers now endorse some form of representationalism, claiming that conscious experiences are essentially representational. This paper develops a challenge for representationalism. The challenge begins with a thought-experiment designed to reveal that a nomologically possible subject can have perceptual experiences like ours that bear no important relation to the external world and that
she does not take to represent. The first revelation threatens the commonplace versions of representationalism that are sometimes called 'reductive representationalism'. The second revelation threatens a version of non-reductive representationalism that was developed originally by McGinn.
The paper is dedicated largely to developing this thought experiment as an objection to these views.
Wednesday evening consciousness talks
April 4, 2001
Pedro Fonseca, a visiting graduate student in Philosophy, from CREA, Paris
Can new physics solutions avoid epiphenomenalism?
Chalmers argues that "new physics solutions" cannot avoid epiphenomenalism
(Chalmers 1996, pp. 156-8, 163). We will argue that Chalmers' argument only
shows that a reductive explanation of consciousness cannot be found, that
zombies are a logical possibility in every possible world. However,
non-reductive solutions that appeal to new or contemporary physics may still
have important advantages in avoiding epiphenomenalism. We will illustrate
this with an example. In the Journal of Consciousness Studies (7,10:3-22),
Searle has taken the view that if determinism is true at the brain level,
free will is a 'massive illusion' (p.13). Starting from Penrose's idea of
non-computable (but non-random) behavior, we will explore some of the ways
in which a non-predictable system might be provide a correlate of
consciousness that avoids epiphenomenalism. We will also suggest that some
additional assumptions, that depart from the traditional Penrose-Hameroff
interpretation, may be required to avoid seeing free will as an illusion (if
Searle's libertarian argument is accepted).
March 21, 2001
David Chalmers, Department of Philosophy, UofA, will be giving a talk.
What is the Unity of Consciousness?
(N.B. This is joint work with Tim Bayne)
Many have held that the conscious experiences of a subject at a time
(visual experiences, bodily sensations, emotional experiences, and so
on) are *unified* with each other. This idea has a strong intuitive
appeal, but it raises many questions. What exactly does it mean for a
subject's conscious states to be unified? Are there cases in which
unity breaks down? If consciousness is typically or necessarily
unified, what explains this fact? I will first distinguish a number
of notions of unity, and isolate a central notion for which the claim
that consciousness is necessarily unified is tenable without being
trivial. I will then discuss potential counterexamples to this unity
thesis, and will consider the implications of the unity thesis
for theories of consciousness more generally.
March 7, 2001
Dr. Ivan Havel of the Center for Theoreitical Study, Prague, Czech Republic
Conscious action and Searle's gaps
The talk will reflect on some thoughts of John Searle about voluntary action
(especially those presented in Chapter 9 of his forthcoming book or in JCS
7, No. 10). His concept of a gap and his idea of system causation will be discussed
within a framework of multiple 'causal domains'; the domains mutually
interact but each has its own characteristic causal nexus.
Dr. Havel's recent paper from which he will draw parts of his talk is
now on web: http://www.cts.cuni.cz/~havel/kirchberg00.pdf
February 28, 2001
Ken Forster, Professor of Psychology, University of Arizona
The Role of Awareness in Priming
Recent research in human word recognition has used a priming technique in
which the prime is masked in an effort to obtain a "pure" measure of
activity in the lexical processing module. This technique reveals a
different pattern of priming effects from what had previously been
observed. Priming due to form similarity is now readily observed, where
earlier it had been absent. On the other hand, semantic similarity appears
to play a much smaller role when the prime is masked.
The findings obtained with this technique provide cues to the temporal
sequence of events in word recognition, especially over the first 50-100
ms. They also raise interesting questions concerning the nature of
conscious processes. For example, is there any difference in the way an
"aware" prime is processed and the way an "unaware" prime is
processed? Can unaware stimuli serve as the basis for action? Is
conscious recognition required before semantic properties are revealed? Why
is the individual unaware of the prime? These and other questions will be
discussed, but not necessarily answered.
February 21, 2001
Brad Thompson, Philosophy Department, University of Arizona
Evidence and Theory in the Science of Consciousness: The Problem of
In consciousness research, some behaviors (such as verbal behavior) of a
subject are treated as evidence for the presence of a conscious experience
of a stimulus, whereas other (often complex) behaviors are not regarded as
indicative of consciousness. Given the lack of an a priori connection
between behavior and conscious experience, the choice of what counts as
evidence in the science of consciousness rests on assumptions of
plausibility. Verbal report (both of the presence and the absence of
experience) is the most common criteria for consciousness in humans, though
other voluntary behaviors are also sometimes taken as evidence.
These criteria indeed seem to be plausible candidates for evidence of the
presence of conscious experience. But is it always appropriate to take the
explicit denial of conscious experience, or the absence of the ability to
use stimulus information in a spontaneous and voluntary manner, to be
evidence for the absence of experience? This is standard practice in the
study of various phenomena, such as implicit memory and blindsight. I argue
that we should be more cautious, and that our intuitions regarding the
attribution of consciousness support an expansion of what is counted as
evidence for the presence of consciousness. This liberalizing of our
criteria for consciousness has its dangers. I will make some suggestions
about how we might navigate between the Scylla of panpsychism and the
Charybdis of pessimism which lie along this path.
The choice of what counts as data in the study of consciousness, not
surprisingly, has significant implications for theories of consciousness.
In particular I argue that the numerous theories that can be viewed as
"global availability" theories of consciousness lose all of their
plausibility as theories of the cognitive or neural correlates of phenomenal
experience given these considerations about evidence.
February 14, 2001
Mitchell Porter, visiting scholar at the Center for Consciousness Studies
Towards a Theory of Everything – including consciousness
A way of thinking about consciousness is proposed,
in which the theoretician's task is to find our place in the
space of possible worlds, given conscious experience. A theory
of possible worlds is outlined, naturalistic and phenomenological
models of consciousness are examined in this context, the quantum
factor is considered, and the outlook for a 'quantum monadology'
January 24, 2001
John Preston, a visiting philosopher, University of Reading
Some Thoughts on Active Externalism and the Extended Mind
Andy Clark and Dave Chalmers ('The Extended Mind', Analysis vol.58, 1998,
pp.7-19) have argued for the thesis of 'active externalism' (that when
people are appropriately linked with certain entities, the whole arrangement
constitutes a cognitive system in its own right) and for the further thesis
of the extended mind (that the mind extends into the world).
My presentation will form a commentary on C&C's article, developing certain
objections to the extended mind thesis, while applauding active externalism.
I will argue that while C&C's views on cognition represent a welcome
tendency to move away from conceiving mental representations as 'inner',
there are some reasons for declining to accept their conclusions about everyday mental
phenomena, and minds. Specifically, without further conditions, their
argument for the extended mind thesis may too readily credit people with
beliefs, so I try to suggest some further constraints on belief. I also question
(in the hope of clarifying) their thesis that recognizing the important
category of 'epistemic actions' forces us to assign epistemic credit to
cognitive systems, rather than just to people. Finally, I try to evaluate
the helpfulness to cognitive (and social) science of both active
externalism, and the extended mind thesis.
November 29, 2000
Dr. Jenann Ismael, UA Philosophy Department
Physicalism and Jackson's Black and White Mary
Of all of the challenges to physicalism about the mental, Jackson's
argument from the incompleteness of the knowledge of a scientifically
savvy, but experientially naive neurophysiologist is at once the most
powerful and the most revealing. The story is familiar; Mary, his
neurophysiologist, heretofore confined to a black and white room,
possesses a complete and correct account of the physical facts involved in
color experience, nevertheless has something to learn, something evidently
not included among those facts, when she has her first color experience.
Physicalists have typically responded by either denying that Mary learns
something when she has her first color experience, or allowing that she
learns something, but denying that it is a fact (as opposed to, say, an
ability). I will suggest a way for the physicalist to both have her cake
(allow that Mary genuinely acquires a new piece of information when she
leaves her colorless exile) and eat it too (to insist that her physical
theory is nevertheless complete; there are no facts that are not
represented in it).
October 11, 2000
Navjyoti Singh, a visiting scholar from NISTADS, New Delhi, INDIA
Indian Theories of Mind
Various Indian analytic traditions are particularly rich in theorizing about
'mental operations' that get evidenced in the first person experience (FPE).
Discourses among these theories are based on claims regarding
trans-subjective universals and tests for their entailments in 'experience'
as well as in 'body-action'. We shall present basic analytic insights that
are shared by the three major Indian theorizing traditions - Vaisesika,
Jaina and Bauddha.
(1) Experience can be decomposed into simple events sequenced in private
time-line (FPE reference frame);
(2) Each mental event is temporally extended but not spatio-temporally
(3) Unit of pure temporal extension is an analytically irreducible 'moment'
which is intrinsic to FPE-frame;
(4) 'Location' is fundamentally distinct from spatial extension. All
entities are located though not all entities are spatially extended;
(5) Entities with spatial extension participate in mental event by virtue of
their 'reification' (collapse) in non-spatially-extended entities;
(6) Typology of events disclose trans-subjective structure of mind, its
type-elements and their relations;
(7) Unit of 'moment' and idea of aspatial 'location' syntactically helps
characterize and embed causal processes within FPE-frame of private
(8) Mental events are related to each other and to their constitutive
elements in a way that conserves phenomenal unity of experience;
(9) An integrative entity/structure called 'manas' is posited that causally
links (a) sensa, (b) motor action, and (c) 'internal' states in the
production of a mental event.
We shall show that based on such insights it is possible to construct
rigorous theories of the functioning of mind from the first person
perspective which can have entailments amicable to third person