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Consciousness has evolved and is a feature of all animals with sufficiently complex nervous systems. It is, therefore, primarily a problem for biology, rather than physics. In this review, I will consider three aspects of consciousness: level of consciousness, whether we are awake or in a coma; the contents of consciousness, what determines how a small amount of sensory information is associated with subjective experience, while the rest is not; and meta-consciousness, the ability to reflect upon our subjective experiences and, importantly, to share them with others. I will discuss and compare current theories of the neural and cognitive mechanisms involved in producing these three aspects of consciousness and conclude that the research in this area is flourishing and has already succeeded to delineate these mechanisms in surprising detail.
Delirium is a major health care problem with potentially serious consequences. Sub-optimal management is an unfortunate but pervasive hallmark of the disorder. We argue that lapses in the care of delirious patients are related to the peculiarities of delirium as a disorder that affects the “self” of the sufferer. Therefore, corruption of self renders behaviour outside the control of the delirious individual and places the person at risk of mechanistic dehumanisation. A proposed solution is to foster an expanded view of the self, taken from recent philosophy and cognitive science, which would allow the clinician to understand pathological behaviour as indicative of disruption to thought. An ethics of care approach that reframes the patient/carer relationship is proposed. These unique propositions could, together, facilitate the development of a framework of more caring and effective practices and relationships for delirium treatment.
The uses of natural selection argument in politics have been constant since Charles Darwin’s times. They have also been varied. The readings of Darwin’s theory range from the most radically individualist views, as in orthodox socio-Darwinism, to the most communitarian, as in Peter Kropotkin’s and other socialist perspectives. This essay argues that such diverse, contradictory, and sometimes even outrageous political derivations from Darwin’s theory may be partially explained by some incompleteness and ambivalences underlying Darwin’s concepts. “Natural selection,” “struggle for existence,” and “survival of the fittest” are open concepts and may suggest some hierarchical and segregationist interpretations. Circumstantially, Darwin accepted social “checks,” such as discouraging marriage of “lower” individuals to prevent them from reproducing, in a vein of Malthusian politics. This makes Darwin’s theory of selection by struggle collide with his theory of social instincts, by which he explains the origins of morality. It also favors reading Darwin’s On the Origin of Species or The Descent of Man from opposite, mostly ideological perspectives. Darwin’s position is ambivalent, although hardly unreasonable. The recognition he makes of social instincts, as well as the use of the concept of artificial selection, entails accepting the role of human consciousness, by which social evolution cannot be reduced to natural evolution, as socio-Darwinians did next and as some neo-Darwinists seem to repeat. On these grounds, this essay argues the inadequacy of the conventional model of natural selection for understanding politics. If we want to describe politics in Darwin’s language, artificial rather than natural selection would be the concept that performs better for explaining the courses of politics in real society.
The Stanley Miller experiment suggests that amino acid-based life is ubiquitous in our universe, although its varieties will not have followed the particular, highly contingent and path-dependent, evolutionary trajectory found on Earth. Are many alien organisms likely to be individually conscious in ways we would recognize? Almost certainly. Will alien consciousness require a ‘sleep cycle’? A strong argument suggests it will. Can some species develop analogs to culture and high-order technology? Less likely, but still fairly probable. If so, will we be able to communicate with them? Only on a basic level, and only with profound difficulty. The reasoning is fairly direct and involves convolution of a learned heritage system with individual and collective consciousness.
According to David Rosenthal’s higher-order thought (HOT) theory of consciousness, a mental state is conscious just in case one is aware of being in that state via a suitable HOT. Jesse Mulder (2016) recently objects: though HOT theory holds that conscious states are states that it seems to one that one is in, the view seems unable to explain how HOTs engender such seemings. I clarify here how HOT theory can adequately explain the relevant mental appearances, illustrating the explanatory power of HOT theory.
This paper explores how the new Communist government developed a political consciousness of discipline and collegiality among traditional rural midwives in Chinese villages during the 1950s. It argues that selected traditional rural midwives were taught to observe discipline by attending meetings and studying, and to develop collegiality with peers through criticism and self-criticism of their birth attendance techniques and personal characters in short training courses from 1951 onwards. A legitimized midwife identity gradually formed in rural communities, but with it came conflicts and rivalry. By keeping these midwives under institutional surveillance and creating a dynamic and constant moulding process, the new government intended to foster professional and political discipline and collegiality within the group based on a normativized notion of selflessness performed within a changing series of indoctrination schemes that demonstrated continuity and complementarity and which I have described as common, preliminary, institutionalized, and dynamic schemes. This article examines how the state attempted to retrain marginalized and derided midwives with appropriate class backgrounds in order to incorporate them into the modern medical world, then still dominated by doctors and nurses with suspect class backgrounds. Ironically, in creating “socialist new people” to intervene in traditional rural birthing practices and introducing fee-for-service professionalism, the CCP accidentally created a degree of petit-capitalist thinking among women whose traditional mode of work may have been more selfless, thus complicating the process of indoctrinating selfless dedication.
Consciousness defines us as persons. It allows us to have both pleasurable and painful experiences. I present four neurological conditions in the clinical setting to explore how consciousness can be beneficial or harmful to patients: intraoperative awareness, prolonged disorders of consciousness, locked-in syndrome, and the effects of narcotics and sedation on terminally ill patients. The ethical significance of consciousness for patients in these conditions depends on two factors: the content of one’s experience and whether one can report this content to others. I argue that the value or disvalue of phenomenal consciousness, what it is like to be aware, may depend on its relation to access consciousness, the ability to report or communicate the content of awareness. Phenomenal consciousness can have disvalue when one wants or expects to be unconscious. It can also have disvalue in the absence of access consciousness because it can allow the patient to experience pain and suffer. Technology that enabled neurologically compromised patients to reliably communicate their experience and wishes could benefit and prevent harm to them. More generally, the neurological conditions I discuss raise the question of when and in what respects consciousness is preferable to unconsciousness.
Higher-order theories account for intransitive consciousness by using the transitive notion ‘awareness-of.’ I argue that this notion implies a form of ‘seeming’ that the higher-order approach requires, yet cannot account for. I show that, if the relevant kind of seeming is declared to be present in all representational states, the seeming in question is objectionably trivialized; while using the higher-order strategy to capture not only intransitive consciousness but also the relevant kind of seeming results in an infinite regress. Finally, highlighting distinctive features of representations that explain why they display seeming amounts to abandoning the higher-order approach altogether.
The questions of how to understand free will and mental causation are clearly connected, for events of seemingly free choosing are mental events that appear to be efficacious vis-à-vis other events. Nonetheless, the free will and mental causation debates have proceeded largely independently of each other. Here we aim to make progress in determining the mutual bearing of these debates. We first argue that the problems of free will and of mental causation can be seen as special cases of a more general problem of mental ‘quausation’, concerning whether and how mental events of a given type can be efficacious qua the types they are—qualitative, intentional, freely deliberative—given reasons to think such events are causally irrelevant. We go on to identify parallels between hard determinism and eliminativist physicalism and between soft determinism and nonreductive physicalism, and we use these parallels to identify a new argument against hard determinism and to reveal and motivate a common strategy underlying apparently diverse soft determinist accounts.
Objectives: Previous evidence indicates that patients with schizophrenia exhibit reduced repetition priming in production tasks (in which each response cue engenders a competition between alternative responses), but not in identification tasks (in which each response cue allows a unique response). However, cross-task comparisons may lead to inappropriate conclusions, because implicit tests vary on several dimensions in addition to the critical dimension of response competition. The present study sought to isolate the role of response competition, by varying the number of solutions in the context of the same implicit tasks. Methods: Two experiments investigated the performance of patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls in the high-competition and low-competition versions of word-stem completion (Exp.1) and verb generation (Exp.2). Results: Response competition affected both the proportions of stems completed (higher to few-solution than to many-solution stems) and the reaction times of verb generation (slower to nouns having no dominant verb associates than to nouns having one dominant verb associate). Patients with schizophrenia showed significant (non-zero) priming in both experiments: crucially, the magnitude of this facilitation was equivalent to that observed in healthy controls and was not reduced in the high-competition versions of the two tasks. Conclusions: These findings suggest that implicit memory is spared in schizophrenia, irrespective of the degree of response competition during the retrieval phase; in addition, they add to the ongoing debate regarding the validity of the identification/production hypothesis of repetition priming. (JINS, 2015, 21, 314–321)
What is the primary function of consciousness in the nervous system? The answer to this question remains enigmatic, not so much because of a lack of relevant data, but because of the lack of a conceptual framework with which to interpret the data. To this end, we have developed Passive Frame Theory, an internally coherent framework that, from an action-based perspective, synthesizes empirically supported hypotheses from diverse fields of investigation. The theory proposes that the primary function of consciousness is well-circumscribed, serving the somatic nervous system. For this system, consciousness serves as a frame that constrains and directs skeletal muscle output, thereby yielding adaptive behavior. The mechanism by which consciousness achieves this is more counterintuitive, passive, and “low level” than the kinds of functions that theorists have previously attributed to consciousness. Passive frame theory begins to illuminate (a) what consciousness contributes to nervous function, (b) how consciousness achieves this function, and (c) the neuroanatomical substrates of conscious processes. Our untraditional, action-based perspective focuses on olfaction instead of on vision and is descriptive (describing the products of nature as they evolved to be) rather than normative (construing processes in terms of how they should function). Passive frame theory begins to isolate the neuroanatomical, cognitive-mechanistic, and representational (e.g., conscious contents) processes associated with consciousness.
Jibanananda Das (1899–1954) is widely revered as the preeminent poet of post-Tagore Bengali literature. His oeuvre is unremittingly autobiographical, narrating desultory journeys into a vulnerable yet stoic, companionless life. The poem that the paper analyses is one of his most well known. Two streaks of narrative run parallel in the poem: the protagonist’s act of suicide without any apparent reason and the ceaseless brutality of nature as a way of life. The poem has occasioned a large body of critical literature. As against the prevalent interpretation of the poem, which privileges self-consciousness and a dialectical scheme of interpretation, we set off a Foucauldian, archeo-genealogical reading. In our reading, the poem is a theater of many voices constituting a matrix of language, which, strictly speaking, is a nonlanguage—articulations that perfectly fold back against one another to implicate in a tautological bind the originary meaninglessness of living and of life’s constitutive cruelty. Here negation is uncontainable and illimitable, always spilling over, always open to possibilities of being otherwise, its trail running in negating—almost inevitably—negation itself and thus gesturing an aleatory renewal of a space for the political.
Determining the biological function of phenomenal consciousness appears necessary to explain its origin: evolution by natural selection operates on organisms’ traits based on the biological functions they fulfill. But identifying the function of phenomenal consciousness has proven difficult. Some have proposed that the function of phenomenal consciousness is to facilitate mental processes such as reasoning or learning. But mental processes such as reasoning and learning seem to be possible in the absence of phenomenal consciousness. It is difficult to pinpoint in what way phenomenal consciousness enhances these processes or others like them. In this paper, we explore a possibility that has been neglected to date. Perhaps phenomenal consciousness has no function of its own because it is either a by-product of other traits or a (functionless) accident. If so, then phenomenal consciousness has an evolutionary explanation even though it fulfills no biological function.
This paper explores whether consciousness can exist without attention. This is a
hot topic in philosophy of mind and cognitive science due to the popularity of
theories that hold attention to be necessary for consciousness. The discovery of
a form of consciousness that exists without the influence of attention would
require a change in the way that many global workspace theorists, for example,
understand the role and function of consciousness. Against this understanding,
at least three forms of consciousness have been argued to exist without
attention: perceptual gist, imagistic consciousness, and phenomenal
consciousness. After first arguing that the evidence is inconclusive on the
question of whether these forms of consciousness exist without attention, I here
present a fourth form of consciousness that is likely to be more successful:
conscious entrainment. I argue that conscious entrainment is a form of
consciousness associated with skilled behavior in which attention is sometimes
Visual alterations, peripheral light loss (PLL) and blackout (BO), are components
of acceleration (+Gz) induced loss of consciousness (LOC) and
recovery of consciousness (ROC). The kinetics of loss of vision (LOV) and
recovery of vision (ROV) were determined utilizing ocular pressure induced
retinal ischemia and compared to the kinetics of LOC and ROC resulting from
+Gz-induced cephalic nervous system (CPNS) ischemia. The time from
self-induced retinal ischemia in completely healthy subjects (N
= 104) to the onset of PLL and complete BO was measured. The time
from release of ocular pressure, with return of normal retinal circulation, to
the time for complete recovery of visual fields was also measured. The kinetics
of pressure induced LOV and ROV was compared with previously developed kinetics
of +Gz-induced LOC and ROC focusing on the rapid onset, vertical arm,
of the +Gz-induced LOC and ROC curves. The time from onset of
increased ocular pressure, immediately inducing retinal ischemia, to PLL was
5.04 s with the time to BO being 8.73 s. Complete recovery of the visual field
from BO following release of ocular pressure, immediately abolishing retinal
ischemia, was 2.74 s. These results confirm experimental findings that visual
loss is frequently not experienced prior to LOC during exposure to rapid onset,
high levels of +Gz-stress above tolerance. Offset of pressure induced
retinal ischemia to ROV was 2.74 s, while the time from offset of
+Gz-induced CPNS ischemia to ROC was 5.29 s. Recovery of retinal
function would be predicted to be complete before consciousness is regained
following +Gz-induced LOC. Ischemia onset time normalization in
neurologic tissues permits comparison between different stress-induced times to
altered function. The +Gz-time tolerance curves for LOV and LOC
provide comparison and integration of neurologic state transition kinetics in
the retina and CPNS.
Nietzsche, we are often told, had an account of ‘self’ or ‘mind’ or a ‘philosophical psychology’, in which what he calls our ‘drives’ play a highly significant role. This underpins not merely his understanding of mind—in particular, of consciousness and action—but also his positive ethics, be they understood as authenticity, freedom, (self-)knowledge, autonomy, self-creation, or power. But Nietzsche did not have anything like a coherent account of ‘the drives’ according to which the self, the relationship between thought and action, or consciousness could be explained; consequently, he did not have a stable account of drives on which his positive ethics could rest. By this, I do not mean that his account is incomplete or that it is philosophically indefensible: both would leave open, misleadingly, the possibility of a rational reconstruction of Nietzsche's views; both would already assume more unity and coherence than we find in his texts. Specifically, as I show through detailed analysis, Nietzsche provides varied and inconsistent accounts of (1) what a ‘drive’ is, (2) how much we can know about drives, and (3) the relationship between drives and conscious deliberations about action. I conclude by questioning the hunt for a Nietzschean theory: is this the best way to be reading him?
Although organizational learning types like adaptive and generative learning are considered to follow different processes, a general framework of organizational learning that includes them has remained elusive. In order to do so, we propose a framework that embraces them and incorporates facets such as consciousness and emotions, which are strongly related to organizational learning but had not been included in any model. These facets are essential in the framework as they bind the process together and represent a sequence and progression through the learning process.
Consciousness is one of the most "inconvenient" objects of psychological research. This chapter outlines the basic challenges for a theory of consciousness in order to suggest a direction in which contemporary psychology may develop and discusses the scope of these challenges. It provides a reconstruction of Lev Vygotsky's conception of consciousness in its evolution throughout his scholarly life. The chapter gives the main definitions of consciousness in Vygotsky's works. It describes the different ideas on consciousness in the general context of Vygotsky's cultural-historical theory. The chapter presents a critical analysis of the theory of consciousness from the perspective of its own "zone of proximal development" and its contemporary relevance. The analysis of Vygotsky's theory of consciousness shows that the perspectives of this theory are enormous, but they remain mere perspectives to date because the theory is still at the initial stage of its development.
A core thesis of Kitcher's is that thinking about objects requires awareness of necessary connections between one's object-directed representations ‘as such’ and that this is what Kant means by the transcendental unity of apperception. I argue that Kant's main point is the spontaneity or ‘self-made-ness’ of combination rather than the requirement of reflexive awareness of combination, that Kitcher provides no plausible account of how recognition of representations ‘as such’ should be constituted and that in fact Kant himself appears to lack the theoretical resources to clearly distinguish between (first-level) consciousness and self-consciousness or apperception properly so-called.
In 2005 Elliott et al. published a paper entitled ‘Effect of posture on levels of arousal and awareness in vegetative and minimally conscious patients: a preliminary investigation’. Twelve patients, of whom 5 were in the vegetative state (VS) and 7 in the minimally conscious state (MCS), were assessed with the Wessex Head Injury Matrix (WHIM) when supine and when upright on a tilt table. The present study replicated and extended these findings by including a third position, sitting, in addition to supine and standing. We assessed 16 patients (8 in the VS and 8 in the MCS) with mixed aetiologies and compared the observed behaviours in three different positions (supine, sitting and standing) using the WHIM. Most patients (75%) showed more behaviours when in the upright position, compared to lying down (p < .003). Our findings are similar to those seen in the study reported by Elliott et al. With regard to sitting, 62.5% of patients were more responsive when assessed sitting in a wheelchair (p < .05) than in a supine position, and almost 69% were more responsive if assessed in an upright position compared to sitting. This was particularly true for patients in the MCS, where 87.5% did better if assessed on a tilt table or standing frame compared to sitting, suggesting that positional changes can have an effect on the level of arousal and awareness among patients in the VS and MCS.