Necessary conditions for consciousness

L.A. Loren lloren at
Wed Feb 7 11:12:23 EST 2001

Jeffrey Kazuo Yoshimi wrote:
> Assume that for a brain to produce conscious experience...

You may want to consider the possibility that it is not brains that are
conscious (or that produce conscious experience), but rather bodies.
This is not to say that brains aren't an important part, clearly they
are. What I'm suggesting is that it might not make sense to focus on the
brain alone and exclude the rest of the body. It might be argued, for
example, that your eyes are really just your brain sticking out the
front of your head. If I'm not mistaken, there is also some evidence
that rudimentary processing is occurring in the retina. I can't think of
any principled reason to say that the computational processes that
underlie consciousness occur only in the brain but not at all in, say,
the spinal column. Where subjective experience is concerned, it
certainly feels as if my body is conscious (toes, fingertips, etc.).
There's also unilateral neglect, phantom limb syndrome, synesthesia,
etc. which at least suggest that the body is best understood as a whole
as opposed to a mode of transportation for the brain. If there is
someone at your University who teaches Merleau-Ponty you might want to
take a course or an independent study. He argues (persuasively I think)
that notions like "intelligence" and "consciousness" belong to the body
as whole, and not to the brain alone (although once again, the brain is
clearly a very important piece of meat). With regard to Cartesian
dualism, Jean-Paul Sartre pointed out that the best way to unify the
mind and body is not to separate them in the first place. You might want
to consider the possibility that it would be better not to separate the
brain from the body if you plan to explain how they function together at
some later time.

Just a thought.

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