philosophy of mind

James Teo james at teoth.fsnet.co.uk
Sat Jan 12 12:51:25 EST 2002

On 12 Jan 2002 08:20:13 -0800, mats_trash at hotmail.com (mat) wrote:

>I started Damasio's book, and probably will return, but the emotional
>theory narked me so I put it down to read Calvin Edelman Churchland et
>al. who seem a little more down to earth.

Yeah, I totally agree, while I think his emotional theory has some
merit, he puts too much weight on it. The thing I liked most about his
book though was the definitions he laid out clearly. I think that
terminology of core and extended consciousness, core and extended self
is a huge step forward (if not totally original to Damasio).

>Anyway.  I think in principle I totally agree with you (with some
>reservations!).  If you say that for information to reach awareness it
>has to be computationally altered then I agree, though I would say
>that it becomes altered such that it can be causally effective on
>other information in the brain.  Using the term 'awareness' still has
>overtones of dualism - 'who' or 'what' is aware of this information. 

The phrase more accurate of how I see it is:
"the primary represented information has to be processed into becoming
an awareness."
rather than what you suggested:
"the primary represented information has to be processed and presented
to an awareness".

I hope you can see the difference in meaning.

>A highly simplified example - a red visual stimulus induces a 2Hz
>spiking pattern in a cortical neuron and this is subsequently modified
>to 3Hz (by arousal systems or whatever) such that it can be causally
>effective to induce a reaction to brake your car via your motor
>cortex.  Is that all you require in your theory? I get the feeling
>that you actually want more, you want the person to 'sense' the red
>light and 'feel' like he wants to stop the car etc.. Who senses this

I think you are projecting the dualist bogeyman on me. The "Who" you
speak of is not the focus of my question as it is clear that we have
both have accepted the premise that there is no 'Who' which
information is presented to. Rather the 'Who' arises FROM the
information presented. This 'Who' is just a sensation, it has no
relation to 'free will' and such things, so it is not responsible for
inducing the brake on seeing the red light. It is just something which
arises from processing the information in a certain way, but it still
has to be explained as that is one of the central questions of

>It can't be another part of the brain becuase that is
>essentially the same as the part of the brain already visited. 
>Changing the spiking frequency makes no essential difference either. 
>Neither does postulating networks of resonating neurones make the leap
>you want. You want something objective and outside the brain to 'see'
>the spiking frequency and feel and see the redness.

Okay, let's make things explicitly clear with a fake Q&A session. I
include my views with it so that there is no confusion.

Q: What is awareness?
Awareness is the subjective sensation of being. There can also be an
"awareness of..." which is the subjective sensation of the relevant

Q: Is awareness a real phenomeneon?
A: Yes, as it is (?universally) subjectively experienced.

Q: Does our awareness exist outside our brain?
A: No. The brain so far is the only place where awareness is known to
arise from.

Q: Does awareness have a non-biological non-material component?
A: No. The concept of soul has no place in cognitive science until
there is a way to adequately define what a soul is. 

Q: Does awareness preclude Cartesian dualism?
No, although it does require that brain function is not unitary but
divisble into many subsystems.

I think a lot of the confusion arises because the verbs: see, hear and
such, in the English language requires the presence of a subject, but
in reality, in the context of cognitive science IMHO these verbs
should not need it. 

I hope you understand what I am suggesting. None of this is original,
and all of it is pretty much straight from books by Koch, Damasio and
other people interested in cognition. 

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