Volume 15, Issue 1, 2017

Could Consciousness Be an Illusion ?
William Seager, Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto at Scarborough, Canada

The problem of integrating consciousness into our scientific, physicalist picture of the world has proved remarkably difficult. One possible explanation of the difficulty is that we are the victims of an illusion: we think that consciousness exists. Although almost self-evidently ridiculous, the claim that consciousness is in some significant sense illusory can be defended. One line of argument holds that consciousness is merely an "intentional object". Another argues that the sense that consciousness has a distinct and special kind of existence (apart, say, from its physical basis) stems from a kind of misunderstanding of indexicality. I examine these two approaches and argue that ultimately they fail to even begin to show that consciousness is an illusion.

Modeling Consciousness Using Cognitive Maps
Jeffrey Yoshimi, School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts, University of California at Merced, USA

Two types of neuro-phenomenology are distinguished: (1) actualist neuro-phenomenology, which studies isomorphisms between actual states of consciousness and patterns of activity in the brain which support them, and (2) possibilist neuro-phenomenology, which studies the relationship between possible conscious experiences and their neural correlates. I describe a method for studying both types of neuro-phenomenology using cognitive maps, which are state histories for a real or virtual agent. The points in a cognitive map simultaneously represent possible brains states and conscious states. I present initial work on a model of reinforcement learning that shows how certain claims the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl made can be linked to testable hypotheses about brain and behavior.

Consciousness Is (Probably) Still Only in the Brain, Even Though Cognition Is Not
Luis Favela, Department of Philosophy, University of Central Florida, Orlando, USA

There is increasing theoretical justification and empirical support for non-brain-centric approaches to cognition. The body, non-biological tools, and environment are understood as playing causally significant roles in or are constitutive of many instances of cognition. Although not without critics, such non-brain-centric approaches are doing so well that some argue that not only is cognition situated, embodied, extended, and distributed (cognitionSEED) but so too is consciousness (consciousness SEED). Here "cognition" refers to an organism's abilities to engage with its world, which includes perceiving and acting skillfully, as well as capacities such as decision-making, planning, and reasoning. "Consciousness" refers to states of a system with subjective phenomenal character. Some defend ConsciousnessSEED by appealing to affordances and complex systems theory. I argue that these do not support the claim that cognitionSEED entails consciousnessSEED. I then present phenomenological and neurophysiological considerations to think that consciousness is (probably) still only in the brain, even though cognition is not.

The Role of Valence in Intentionality
David L. Anderson, Department of Philosophy, Illinois State University, Normal, USA

"Functional intentionality" is the dominant theory about how mental states come to have the content that they do. "Phenomenal intentionality" is an increasingly popular alternative to that orthodoxy, claiming that intentionality cannot be functionalized and that nothing is a mental state with intentional content unless it is phenomenally conscious. There is a consensus among defenders of phenomenal intentionality that the kind of phenomenology that is both necessary and sufficient for having a belief that "there is a tree in the quad" is that the agent be consciously aware of the meaning of "tree" and "quad". On this theory, experiences with a valence - experiences like happiness and sadness, satisfaction and frustration - are irrelevant to intentionality. This paper challenges that assumption and considers several versions of "valent phenomenal intentionality" according to which a capacity for valent conscious experiences is either a necessary or a sufficient condition for intentionality (or both).

The Subjectivity of Experiential Consciousness: It's Real and It's Bodily
Lana Kühle, Department of Philosophy, Illinois State University, Normal, USA

Experiential consciousness is characterized by subjectivity: There is something it is like to be a subject of experience - a first-personal perspective, a what-it-is-like-for-me. In this paper I defend two proposals. First, I contend that to understand the subjectivity of consciousness we must turn to the subject: we are embodied subjects of experience. Thus, I argue, the subjectivity of experiential consciousness should be understood as a bodily subjectivity. Second, if we take this approach, I propose that we can finally begin to explain the structure of experiential consciousness as subjective by looking at certain bodily processes - in particular interoception.

Contextual Emergence in Decompositional Dual-Aspect-Monism
Harald Atmanspacher, Collegium Helveticum, University and ETH Zurich, Switzerland

The concept of contextual emergence has been proposed as a non-reductive, yet well-defined relation between different domains of description. It yields a formally sound procedure to translate between descriptive domains in an overall consistent fashion, which has been successfully applied in numerous examples. In this article I want to explore its significance for a particular perspective in the metaphysics of consciousness that has recently attracted increasing attention as an alternative to standard physicalist accounts: dual-aspect monism or, to be more specific, its decompositional variants. In general, dual-aspect monism addresses the mental and the physical as epistemic aspects of one underlying reality that itself contains no mind-matter split. Contextual emergence can here be discussed in two different ways: (1) as a relation between states in the mental and physical domains, and (ii) as a relation between the mental and the physical on one side and their psychophysically neutral base on the other.

Wild Presence
J. Scott Jordan, Department of Psychology, Illinois State University, Normal, USA and Georg Franck, Institute of Architectural Sciences, Vienna University of Technology, Austria

The purpose of the present paper is to make a case for the reality of experience by conceptualizing it in terms of self-sustaining embodied context, as opposed to subjective or mental properties entailed in physical bodies. In need of a way to refer to the patterns we find in embodied context (i.e., experience) without using terms derived from physical-mental, objective-subjective dialectics, we examine the utility of discussing embodied context in terms of presence . At its core, presence refers to the persistent Now that runs through all our experiences, and stands in contrast to the "block universe" approach to reality. We then examine how the notion of embodied context speaks to the conceptualization of time entailed in the concept of presence, while simultaneously addressing the notions of bodies, intentionality, and phenomenology in a manner that is consistent with the notion of presence, yet renders presence causal and, therefore, non-epiphenomenal.

Last revision: 19 July 2017