Volume 8, Issue 1, 2010

A Theoretical Model of Intentionality with an Application to Neural Dynamics
Hermann Haken, Institute for Theoretical Physics and Synergetics, University of Stuttgart, Germany and Wolfgang Tschacher, University Hospital of Psychiatriy, University of Bern, Switzerland

In this theoretical study we explore the concept of intentionality. Intentionality is the specific reference that mental phenomena ave with respect to objects, also termed the "aboutness" of cognitive acts. We discuss intentionality on the basis of self-organized pattern formation, a ubiquitous phenomenon in complex open systems. Dynamical systems theory provides an understanding of how emergent variables (order parameters) originate from microscopic variables. Control parameters comprise those external parameters and gradients that drive the systems - they represent environmental influences. The relationship between pattern formation and control parameters therefore addresses the functioning of a system in its environment. Our hypothesis is that self-organizing systems exhibit intentionality-like intentionality capabilities in their responses to environmental influences. This is modeled using differential calculus, by which we demonstrate how pattern formation reduces control parameters in an efficient manner. These ideas are applied to the complex system brain, using the Wilson-Cowan equations of axonal pulse rates in neural networks.

Voluntariy Behavior in Cognitive and Motor Tasks
Heidi Kloos and Guy van Orden, Center for Cognition, Action and Perception, Department of Psychology, University of Cinncinati, USA

Many previous treatments of voluntary behavior have viewed intentions as causes of behavior. This has resulted in several dilemmas, including a dilemma concerning the origin of intentions. The present article circumvents traditional dilemmas by treating intentions as constraints that restrict degrees of freedom for behavior. Constraints self-organize as temporary dynamic structures that span the mind-body divide. This treatment of intentions and voluntary behavior yields a theory of intentionality that is consistent with existing findings and supported by current research.

The Intentional Nature of Self-Sustaining Systems
J. Scott Jordan and Byron A. Heidenreich, Department of Psychology, Illinois State University, USA

For years, intentionality has referred to the directedness of mental states. As a result, discussions regarding intentionality have been conceptualized within a mental/physical framework that has made it difficult to integrate mental properties with physical systems. The purpose of the present paper is to present an approach to intentionality based on Wild Systems Theory (WST), a framework for cognitive science that avoids mental/physical distinctions. It does so by conceptualizing organisms as multi-scale, contextually-emergent, self-sustaining embodiments of context. Doing so renders self-sustaining systems both (1) naturally and necessarily "about" the multi-scale contexts they have had to embody to sustain themselves and (2) naturally "directed" toward self-sustainment. As a result, such systems are naturally intentional.

The Problem of Mental Causation Formalized
Jens Harbecke, Economics and Philosophy, University of Witten/Herdecke, Germany

By formalizing the problem of mental causation, we first prove rigorously that the premises of the problem are jointly incompatible. Before the background of the formalizations, we clarify and assess the anti-physicalist argument by Scott Sturgeon and the supervenience argument by Jaegwon Kim. We demonstrate (i) that, contrary to what has sometimes been contended, the negation of the non-identity premise of Kim's version of the supervenience argument is not tantamount to the claim that all mental events are identical to physical events, (ii) that a premise implicitly invoked by Kim is actually required for the validity of the first stage of his supervenience argument, (iii) that precisely this premise makes an epiphenomenalism with respect to mental events an impossible position, and (iv) that there are good reasons to believe in the falsity of this implicit premise which in turn shows that Sturgeon's critique of the supervenience argument is substantive.

On the Quest of Defining Consciousness
Ram Lakhan Pandey Vimal, Vision Research Institute, Acton, USA and Dristi Anusandhana Sansthana, Gujrat, India

About forty meanings attributed to the term consciousness can be identified and categorized based on functions and experiences. The prospects for reaching any single, agreed-upon, theory-independent definition of consciousness appear remote. Here, the goal is to search for a theory-dependent optimal (with the least number of problems) and general definition accommodating most views. This quest is mostly based on the premise that evolution must have optimized our mental system in terms of experience and function.
Based on a dual-aspect dual-mode proto-experience/subjective experience optimal framework, an optimal definition of consciousness describes it as a mental aspect of a system or a process with two sub-aspects: conscious experience and conscious function. A more general definition describes consciousness as a mental aspect of a system or a process, which is a conscious experience, a conscious function, or both, depending on contexts and particular biases (e.g. metaphysical assumptions). Both experiences and functions can be conscious and/or non-conscious. Our definitions are a posteriori insofar as they are based on observation and categorization.

Last revision: 29 June 2010