Monthly Archives: November 2010

Some thoughts on materialism, ontology, and the philosophy of mind

In my estimation, materialist or physicalist philosophy of mind has always occupied a rather strange place in the hierarchy of ideas since its coming to force in the 20th century and peaking with the “hard nosed” scientific reductionism and mind-brain identity theories in the 1950s. The strangeness arises because so many well respected scientific types accept  materialism and scientific reductionism dogmatically, yet it has a more problematic reputation in the philosophy of mind. David Chalmers is but one example of the sustained philosophical attack on the philosophical coherency of materialistic philosophy of mind. Of course, Chalmers would certainly consider himself to be a scientific monist of some sort and no doubt accepts the edicts of neuroscience without hesitation. Yet when it comes right down to it, he thinks materialism will fail as an explanation of certain mental phenomena, namely, qualia. The essence of these qualities is simply irreducible to materialistic ontology, and that’s that. Moreover, the dialectic in philosophy of mind has branched into a thousand debates about type vs token materialism, supervenience, emergentism, reductionistic physicalism vs nonreductionistic physicalism, identity theory, functionalism, and, of course, qualia, subjectivity, consciousness, experience, thoughts, beliefs, personal identity, action, and so on.

Reflecting on this twisted tangle of ideas is dizzying.  One feels as if in a labyrinth constructed entirely of neatly typed philosophy articles, all disagreeing with each other in very nuanced ways. The lack of consensus is overwhelming and, frankly, quite dispiriting. There are always revolutions within revolutions, counter-revolutions, and temporary intellectual victories, but, inevitably, the younger generations find “devastating flaws” in all preceding philosophical work. Every ten years you hear the great battle cry of “Start over!” and “Shake up the foundations!” It seems the mind sciences have always been this way.The radical shift between Jamesian psychology and Watsonian behaviorism is but one example to illustrate the “revolutionary” cliche that has crippled philosophy of mind. The once popular enterprise of exploring “deep generative grammar” is another example of rapid intellectual shifts that inevitably oversell themselves and overgeneralize their models at the expense of capturing genuine phenomena being discovered in rival labs (Chomsky’s hubris at trying to formally prove learning theories false is  embarrassing)

Everywhere we turn in the philosophy of mind we see various talk of “revolution”. I admit that I have, at times, given into the easy temptation to “turn the rugs over” and declare a sweeping intellectual coup, having at least grasped “what is truly the case”. Don’t get me wrong, I do think that a lot of “underbrush” needs to be swept away from our Cartesian and ontotheological heritage. We need to, for example, thoroughly expunge homuncular thinking, no easy task given that ontotheology is built into our linguistic forms of life. It is hard conceptual work to develop theoretical vocabularies that move away from that heritage, yet make enough sense as to be understood and accepted by the mind that is constructed by that heritage (since it is precisely  that mind which is faced with the task of consciously understanding the world around it).

Philosophy of mind then can be seen as a kind of exercise in conceptual experimentation or concept construction. Science investigates reality and philosophy generates the conceptual framework to talk about and understand that investigation. This is not an original statement. Thinkers before me (such as Deleuze) have accepted similar conceptions of what philosophy can and should do for science. When asked about his research in an interview, it is reported that Deleuze answered by saying “Bergson lamented that modern science lacked a metaphysics. I want to provide that metaphysics, and hence, I think of myself as a pure metaphysician.”

Metaphysics has a bad rap because of its historical associations with ontotheology and speculative pseudoscience. But I agree with Deleuze that we need to rehabilitate metaphysics. The classic essentialist ways of thinking simply cannot handle the complexity and dynamical properties being discovered in modern science, especially the life sciences. It seems that life has formed a brilliant habit of breaking all previous habits in the way it sustains itself through time. I contend, along with Deleuze and other developmentally oriented thinkers, that the problem of speciation and morphogenetic individuation is a paradigm model for thinking about the philosophy of mind. Deleuze helps us avoid problematic questions like, “What is the essence of the mind?”. Rather than talking about necessary and sufficient conditions, Deleuze wants to ask, “How did the mind evolve over time? What were the singularities and highest points of intensity that pushed/pulled humans into our contingent historical pathway?”

Some of my favorite points of highest intensity in human history include bipedalism, opposable thumbs, joint attention, tool construction, singing and music, symbolic thinking (systematicity in reference and compositionality), meta-awareness, introspection, theory of mind, philosophy, the scientific revolution, the information age, and, last but not least, the internet: the very tool that is allowing you, the reader, to hopefully receive these words as a stimulus for the development of interesting ideas in your brain many miles away. What do my readers think? What are the highest points of intensity for human evolution?

Advertisements

8 Comments

Filed under Consciousness, Philosophy

Quick thoughts on Damasio's new book, "Self Comes to Mind"

When I saw that renowned neuroscientist Antonio Damasio had a new book coming out I was immediately excited. When I saw that the title was Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain, I was doubly excited and preordered it, for this sounded like the sociocultural approach to consciousness that I have recently been arguing for. Although I am only about halfway through, I wanted to go ahead and post some brief thoughts on the introductory chapter. When I get done with the book, perhaps I will post a proper review of the whole book.

On the sixth page, Damasio writes the following:

I have been studying the human mind and brain for more than thirty years, and I have previously written about consciousness in scientific articles and books. But I have grown dissatisfied with my account of the problem, and reflection on relevant research findings, new and old, has changed my views, on two issues in particular: the origin and nature of feelings and the mechanisms behind the construction of the self.

I am particularly interested in his thoughts on the “construction of the self”, as this is closely related to my own research on Julian Jaynes and the sociocultural development of self-reflexive cognition, narratological cognitive control, and subjective feelings of interiority when introspecting. Like me, Damasio says that “in approaching the conscious mind, I privilege the self. I believe conscious minds arise when a self process is added onto basic mind process” (8).

Now, it is important to note that Damasio distinguishes between two kinds of selves: the self-as-object and the self-as-knower. The self-as-object is simply the living body. Philosophers like to call this self a “minimal self”, a prereflexive bodily self-consciousness. The self-as-knower is that self which is capable of reflective rumination, autobiographical narratological cognition. Damasio’s strength as a theorist is that he is a developmental thinker. In order to understand the mind, we must understand how it evolves in both phylogeny and ontogeny. Similar to my own account based on Julian Jaynes’ views, Damasio looks at human evolution in terms of reflexive introspection being constructed “on top of” or “out of” the underlying subpersonal, prereflective mind. Moreover, “the self-as-subject-and-knower is not only a very real presence but a turning point in biological evolution” (9). This is a very Jaynesian point. Jaynes and Damasio would probably disagree about the dating of the emergence of the self-as-knower, but both would probably agree on this point: “Conscious minds begin when self comes to mind, when brains add a self-process to the mind mix, modestly at first but quite robustly later” (22).

Speaking of Jaynes, I was very excited to see that Jaynes’ book The Origin of Consciousness was cited by Damasio. It wasn’t a very interesting citation, but I was glad to see it and know that respected neuroscientists take Jaynes seriously. Given Damasio’s emphasis on theoretically “starting over”, I am curious as to know if reading Jaynes caused him to reconsider the “mechanisms behind the construction of the self”.

A lot of Damasio’s points are echoed in the paper on neuroplasticity and consciousness that I just finished with Micah Allen. For example, Damasio says “There is no dichotomy between self-as-object and self-as-knower; there is, rather, a continuity and progression. The self-as-knower is grounded on the self-as-object” (10). In our paper, Micah and I argued that consciousness must be understood in terms of a dynamic interaction between prereflective consciousness and reflective consciousness. I take this to be compatible with Damasio’s distinction between the protoself and the autobiographical self, what he calls the “self as witness”.

The one place I think Damasio falters is on the issue of whether you need neurons to “have a mind”.  Damasio is quite clear when he says that “Organisms make minds out of the activity of special cells known as neurons”. (17) This is because Damasio places a great deal of emphasis on the capacity for neural networks to form maps of the internal bodily milieu and the external world. Without neurally grounded representational maps, Damasio doesn’t think you have “raw feels”. I find this to be an interesting position but I think it is open to philosophical inconsistencies. Rather than saying unicellulars lacking nervous systems don’t have any subjectivity proper, we should say that membrane bound, autopoietic,  dynamic systems display online intelligence, what Jaynes called behavioral reactivity. As Michael Wheeler defines it, “A creature displays online intelligence just when it produces a suite of fluid and flexible real-time adaptive responses to incoming sensory stimuli”. So while Damasio is right to say that neural mapping constitutes a computational shift from nonneural systems, this shift must be understood in terms of degrees of online intelligence, not ontological kind. That is, the difference between a nonneural organism and a neural organism is not a difference in consciousness. Their consciousness is exactly the same: nonreflective (what I have called “nonconsciousness”). What they differ in is degrees of online intelligence. The neural system simply allows for much more effective and functionally adaptive online intelligence. But this is a matter of degree, not kind.

For those who think that Wheeler’s definition of online intelligence rules out unicellulars since he emphasizes “sensory stimuli”, consider this: does not a white bloodcell biochemically “sense” the presence of an enemy bacterium? On the most parsimonious metaphysical account, the white bloodcell is making a categorization judgment between invaders and noninvaders. This surely counts as an instance of sensory perception. To “sense” something means to “make sense” of it i.e. to make an interpretation. Unicellulars are surely capable of interpreting the world as either being nutritious or toxic. Sucrose is encountered as nutritious, for example. Heidegger made this point quite well. Any organism that “uses” the environment in the way unicellulars “use” sucrose demonstrates the structural ecstasies of temporality: retrospectivity (having-been) and prospectivity (futural). Perceiving an affordance involves perceiving an opportunity, which is futural. But what the world affords you depends on your entire past history of structural coupling (your having-been). Where the past meets the future is the present: the dynamic unfolding of action out of the virtual realm of opportunity.

Damasio is so close to getting it right on this point. He recognizes that biological value is rooted in the basic homeostatic life regulation we share with even unicellular organisms. Indeed,

What is not commonly appreciated, although it is well known, is that long before living creatures had minds, they exhibited efficient and adaptive behaviors that for all intents and purposes resemble those that arise in mindful, conscious creatures. Of necessity, those behaviors were not caused by minds, let alone consciousness. In brief, it is not just that conscious and nonconscious processes coexist but rather that nonconscious processes that are relevant to maintaining life can exist without their conscious partners. (31)

I agree wholeheartedly that unicellular life regulation is nonconscious. But I don’t think adding neurons bootstraps you into consciousness either, unless you mean prereflective bodily self-consciousness or phenomenal consciousness. But Damasio isn’t precise enough in his terminology and often seems to conflate prereflective consciousness and reflective consciousness. His distinction between nonminds, minds, and conscious minds just seems confusing. I suggest a continuum of online intelligence starting from unicellulars to higher mammals, with humanity’s offline autiobiographical intelligence being the qualitative evolutionary shift based on symbolic language and highly complex social inheritance mechanisms.

10 Comments

Filed under Consciousness, Psychology

Was Bentham on the autistic spectrum?

“Bentham, the father of utilitarianism, was an eccentric character. In some ways he prefigures the child-like adults for whom Dickens had so keen an eye. He has many of he features would suggest a mild degree of autism, and more specifically deficits in the right-hemisphere functions. He was socially awkward: according to J.S. Mill he ‘probably never talked to women at all, except for his cook and housemaid’, and according to Mill’s biographer, Packe, ‘courted women with a clumsy jocularity’. He had a peculiarly pedantic way of talking, and referred to his morning walks as ‘antejentacular circumgyrations’. With inanimate objects he was more at home, and had pet names for them: his stick was Dapple, and his teapot, through an impish uprising of his much-repressed unconscious, was Dick. Mill wrote of him that

he had neither internal experience nor external…He never knew prosperity and adversity, passion nor satiety…He knew no dejection, no heaviness of heart. He never felt like a sore and a weary burthen. He was a boy to the last…How much of human nature slumbered in him he knew not, neither can we know. Other ages and other nations were a blank to him for purposes of instruction. He measured them but by one standard: their knowledge of facts, and their capability to take correct views of utility, and merge all other objects in it…KNowing so little of human feelings, he knew still less of the influences by which those feelings are formed: all the more subtle workings both of the mind upon itself, and of external things upon the mind, escaped him and no one, probably, who, in a highly instructed age, ever attempted to give a rule to all human conduct, set out with a more limited concept either of the agencies by which human conduct is, or of those by which it should be, influenced.”

~Ian McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary, p. 339

Leave a comment

Filed under Philosophy, Psychology, Random

Link machine: Check out Andy Clark's critical review of A&A, Rubert

Since this link is being passed around the blogosphere, I thought I would share as well since it is such a great read.

Andy Clark’s double review of Adams & Aizawa’s The Bounds of Cognition and Rubert’s Cognitive Systems and the Extended Mind.

Leave a comment

Filed under Philosophy, Psychology

Sutton et al on Adams and Aizawa's critique of "revolutionary" cog sci

We are bewildered at the dialectic on which Adams and Aizawa rely. We are entirely happy to treat study of ‘the kinds of processes that take place in the brain’ as scientifically valid, and to accept intracranial cognition: we have never argued otherwise, and nor to our knowledge has Clark (nor Rowlands, nor Wilson). Cognition is not necessarily or always extended (Wilson and Clark 2009, p. 74; Sutton 2010, p. 191; Rowlands 2010). And even when it is extended, the brain remains a unique part of the extended system, performing operations which are distinct from (though complementary to) those of the external resources (Clark 2010a; Sutton 2010). Adams and Aizawa misunderstand the nature of the extended cognition thesis: the revolutionary flag which they belittle is not one we have ever saluted. In defending a complementarity-based case for extended cognition, neither we nor Clark ally ourselves with radical anti-cognitivism, whether of dynamicist, enactivist, phenomenological, or Wittgensteinian stripe. This is why our version of the thesis has real bite. We may adopt some of the constructive (rather than the critical) aspects of these movements, but ultimately we are playing the same game as Adams and Aizawa: we too maintain a version of the representational-computational theory of mind, even if ours is a somewhat revised and amended version (Clark 2001b).This is why complementarity-based theorists of distributed and extended cognition are in turn sometimes criticised by more extreme anti-cognitivists for “not proposing that the very idea of cognition is itself a mistake,” and because we do “not renounce cognitive science” (Button 2008, pp. 88–89; compare Malafouris 2004, Dreyfus 2007). While we respond vigorously to such critiques, and seek more precisely to differentiate our views from these truly radical alternatives, these critics do in these respects characterize our position more accurately than Adams and Aizawa, who wrongly think that the hypothesis of extended cognition requires wholesale rejection of intracranial cognitive processes and their neural and psychological study.

So Adams and Aizawa first treat extended cognition as a “revolutionary” thesis which denies intracranial cognition, and then suggest that complementarity fails to deliver on the revolutionary promise. They are thus seeking to trap the extended cognition theorist in a dilemma: either maintain the extreme “revolutionary”  position, or collapse back into individualism. But we reject the alleged dilemma. Along with Clark and the others, we inhabit a rich middle ground, one which this paper continues to develop, which is entirely distinct both from internalist forms of cognitivism and from externalist anti-cognitivism. Yet when Adams and Aizawa do accurately acknowledge that our views are not anti-cognitivist, they try to assimilate us to a more conservative internalism. They lump Sutton’s treatment of memory together with the work of Lakoff and Gallagher on embodied cognition as examples “of a non-revolutionary approach” (2008, p. 179). Their aim is to deny the existence of that middle ground, and to assimilate any view which is not radically anticognitivist to a much more orthodox individualism. Sutton’s project, they say, ‘can be undertaken while leaving much of the cognitive psychology of memory as the study of processes that take place, essentially without exception, within nervous systems’ (2008, p. 179). We disagree: this reversion to internalism is not an implication of Sutton’s view. As the cognitive psychological research on memory which we describe below demonstrates, the scientific study of memory is not and should not be restricted to the examination of processes occurring within the brain.

link to online version

link to academia.edu version

11 Comments

Filed under Philosophy, Psychology

Skeptical about Chemero's interpretation of Gibson

Chemero makes a curious statement about Gibson in a recent paper:

The claim that the cognitive system is not in the head at all, that cognition is to be explained entirely in terms of the interactions of whole animals and their environments, may seem like an automatic nonstarter and an idea so crazy that no one would have held it. That is not so. Skinnerian behaviorists still make claims like this (Hineline 2006), and the later work of Gibson (1979) can be interpreted as making claims like this. In both cases, the claim is that all of the explanatory work can be done by carefully studying the ways active animals interact with the environment. In the Skinnerian case, one focuses on the subtle ways that animal behavior is shaped by environmental outcomes, and claims that reinforcement learning can account for the whole gamut of behavior.In the Gibsonian case, one focuses on the breathtaking amount of information available to a perceiver, especially one that is moving, and claims that this information is sufficient for perception of the environment without the addition of information stored in the brain. Note that neither Gibson nor Skinnerians claim that the brain is not importantly involved in cognition; rather they claim that psychologists can do all their explanatory work without referring to the brain.

First claim: ecological information in the environment is sufficient for perception of the environment.

This sounds weirdly put to me. I think a better way of stating Gibson’s claim would this: the discrimination of ecological information from the environment is sufficient for the control of action in that environment. The point is not that “cognition ain’t going on in the head”, but rather, that the brain doesn’t need to build an internal model of the environment in order to successfully navigate it. If we define cognition as the “coordination of motor control”, then it seems metaphysically plausible that this is taking place inside the head, without violating the spirit of Gibsonian psychology.

Second claim: Gibson thought that psychology can be complete without referring to the brain.

I’d like to see some solid textual evidence supporting this interpretation. I do not recall Gibson ever saying such a ridiculous thing. If we want to give a complete account of how information is discriminated then we are going to have start talking about the brain. Gibson never talked about the brain only because so much more conceptual work needed to be done. It is only after we have laid down the basic foundation of affordance theory that we should investigate the brain, otherwise we might be prone to improperly determine the computational task. Gibson was against cognitivist theories only because he thought they were positing unnecessary steps in the computational process. For example, we don’t need to compute information about depth from a 2D picture because the information specific for depth is already available in the ambient optic array.

However, if we redefine cognitive computation in terms of controlling action-perception cycles, then there is a real sense in which the brain is computing information. Rather than doing the computation in terms of discrete mental representations and internal, lingua-form models (that get experienced as a rich picture of the external world),  the computation of information is done in terms of sensorimotor connectivity. On Edward Reed’s selectionist account and Robbins’ subtractionist account, Gibson’s affordance theory actually makes empirical predictions about how variable neural activity is coordinated so as to produce functionally specific responses to changing environmental demands. Gibsonian information theory actually predicts that the brain will seek out invariances in the environment so as to “select” the most functionally advantageous course of action from out of the “virtual phasespace” of the neural population dynamics. This approach turns out to endorse a theoretically deep model of decision-making and attention-control at the prereflective level. Moreover, such a selectionist account is self-consciously compatible with evolutionary biology and developmental systems theory insofar as the emphasis is on plasticity and adaptation.

So, far from being a psychological theory that completes itself without referencing the brain, Gibsonian theory actually provides a radical new approach to understanding small and large scale brain dynamics. Once we have done the hard theoretical work of determining what kind of affordance information is available in the environment, we must then look into the brain and determine how the discrimination of such information allows for the coordination of neural dynamics in such a way as to bring about functionally specific, adaptive behavior in response to changing environmental demands.

2 Comments

Filed under Psychology

Are philosophers allowed to redefine standard terminology?

My friend Micah and I recently co-authored a paper on neuralplasticity, social interaction, and consciousness. Jon Cogburn kindly read an early draft version and gave me his comments. His biggest complaint was that we were using a nonstandard definition of “consciousness”. He said that our terminology goes against standard folk psychological conceptions, and thus, we were unjustified in using the standard term “consciousness” in a nonstandard way.

The question I want to explore in this post is whether and to what extent a philosopher is allowed to redefine standard terminology. If people have been using consciousness to mean one thing for 30 years, must a philosopher necessarily follow the trend? Or is the standard way of defining consciousness the very problem that needs fixing?

Personally, I think philosophers are allowed to deviate from the everyday usage of terminology, especially for ambiguous words that display the property of polysemy. I think that the ordinary usage of consciousness isn’t precise enough to generate a rigorous mental taxonomy that is appropriate for neural explanation. In some contexts, consciousness is transitive and synonymous with “awareness” e.g. “I am conscious of that chair”; in others, consciousness is intransitive and synonymous with being awake and alert e.g. “When I awoke, I became conscious”. A distinction has also been made between creature consciousness and mental-state consciousness. Creature consciousness is applied to the whole organism (“the cat is conscious of the mouse”) whereas mental-state consciousness is applied only to particular mental events (“that particular belief is conscious”). For mental-state consciousness, we can further distinguish between phenomenal consciousness (what Ned Block now calls “phenomenology”) and access consciousness. For mental states with phenomenology, there is “something it is like” to be in those states. For mental states with just access consciousness, there is not “anything it is like” to be in them, they are just functional states that “do something”. Furthermore, some philosophers claim that laypersons standardly think of consciousness as being synonymous with self-consciousness (awareness of awareness).

Now, with all these different usages of consciousness, what possible hope can we have for uniting them together into a single explanatory model? When “folk psychological intutions” display such polysemy, are we not better off starting from scratch and redefining our terminology so as to achieve logical consistency, explanatory parsimony, and conceptual coherence? We will never achieve these criterion of explanatory success unless we are willing to jigger with standard definitions.

Accordingly, Micah and I believe that orthodox approaches to consciousness often conflate two distinct kinds of consciousness: prereflective consciousness and reflective consciousness. We argue that keeping these two kinds of consciousness separate is crucial for understanding “what-it-is-like” to be human. Many philosophers fail to realize that phenomenal feeling and meta-consciousness upon those feelings are two separate things. Either philosophers focus exclusively on phenomenal feeling at the expense of meta-consciousness, or claim that meta-consciousness and phenomenal feeling are the same thing. In contrast to this approach, we contend that phenomenal feels and reflection upon phenomenal feels are two separate things.

Moreover, we contend that it is language that bestows the capacity for reflective consciousness, what we sometimes call “narrative consciousness”. This has the effect of limiting reflective consciousness to linguistically competent humans. Nonverbal animals are simply not reflective in the way verbal humans are. So whereas a preverbal infant is preflectively conscious (there is “something it is like” to be an infant), it is incapable of stepping “offline” to generate a psychological distance between itself and its own actions, and thus is not reflectively conscious.

Those who are careful readers of this blog will notice that the above usage of terminology deviates from what I normally insist upon. What Micah and I are calling “prereflective consciousness” I normally call “nonconsciousness”. That is, I normally reserve the term “consciousness” for reflective consciousness alone, with all prereflective mentality being nonconscious. This was actually the original terminological structure of our paper. But Shaun Gallagher and Jon Cogburn insisted so strongly that we were “highjacking” the standard usage of consciousness without justification that we decided to change our terminology (for fear of no one understanding us). Actually, it was just me that was doing the highjacking, since Micah resisted my usage of the term “nonconscious” from the beginning and only went  along with it reluctantly. So now the paper follows his terminological intuitions rather than mine and the definitions we employ are inline with Cogburn and Gallagher’s own understanding, not Julian Jaynes (who I follow).

But I still stand by my original claim that it is conceptually coherent and explanatorily more parsimonious to say that “there is something it is like” to be nonconscious. Moreover, I shouldn’t be restricted to how other philosophers have used consciousness in the past or to how laypersons understand the term. My contention is not just that it is “preferable” to use my nonstandard restriction of consciousness to “reflective consciousness” (while allowing that higher-order representations are unnecessary for phenomenal feeling), but also, that we can make philosophical progress only by redefining our terminology in light of the distinction between the nonconscious mind and the conscious mind.

Here is a reductio ad absurdum for the standard definition of consciousness as just the low-level phenomenal feels or “what-it-is-like” to be alive.

  1. Consciousness is simply being alive and intelligently responding or reacting to the world without being meta-conscious. One doesn’t need to be aware that you are aware in order to be aware.
  2. White blood cells are alive and intelligently respond to their surroundings by chasing and and devouring the appropriate kind of bacteria. Accordingly, white blood cells are “aware” of bacteria. Just as there is “something it is like” to be a bat in virtue of the bat being alive, there is “something it is like” to be a white blood cell. (It would require a question begging definition of phenomenal feels to restrict them to more phylogenetically evolved organisms)
  3. Accordingly (from 1 and 2), there are billions of conscious entities swirling in our blood stream at any given moment.

Now, some people are willing to bite the bullet here and claim, yes, under the best definition of consciousness that are billions of conscious entities existing inside every human. My claim that this result is undesirable for philosophy of mind and that we should adjust our terminology in order to avoid this. Accordingly, it is more coherent and parsimonious to restrict the term “consciousness” for “meta-consciousness” and use the phrase “nonconscious phenomenal reactivity” for “phenomenal consciousness”. My intuition is that it makes more sense to say that consciousness is something rare rather than ubiquitous. On my view, only one species is capable of consciousness. Consciousness is a recent socio-cultural adaptation. It is learned in ontogeny, not present at birth. Preverbal infants are not conscious. Humans who never learn a language are not conscious. We are conscious less of the time than we think, for we cannot be conscious of what we are not conscious of.

1 Comment

Filed under Consciousness, Philosophy