Thursday June 19, 9:30AM-12:30PM at Nietzsche Hall
Conscious States and Conscious Creatures: Explanatory Strategies in The Science of Consciousness
University of Oxford
St. Catherine's College
Manor Road Oxford OX1 3UJ
School of Philosophy & Bioethics
Monash University VIC 3800
The search for the neural correlates of consciousness currently takes two forms. Some theorists focus on identifying the mechanisms that are implicated in allowing a creature to be conscious at all. We might call this approach the creature-based methodology. This approach doesn’t attempt to control for the contents of consciousness, but looks to contrast conscious creatures with unconscious ones. Other theorists focus on identifying the mechanisms that underpin fine-grained phenomenal contents, such as the conscious states associated with colour or pain. We might call this approach the content-based (or state-based) methodology. This approach doesn’t attempt to control for consciousness as such, but looks to contrast one content with another.
This tutorial examines how these two methodologies are, or should be, related. Should one be preferred over the other? What are their relevant strengths and weaknesses? Can they be pursued independently, or should we be looking to develop methodologies that allow us to identify both the global and local mechanisms responsible for consciousness? How might the contrast between these two methodologies be related to debates concerning the structure of consciousness? We aim to shed some light on these issues from both philosophical and empirical angles.
1. Introduction (30 minutes)
In this module we introduce the participants to the various ways in which the distinction between creature consciousness and state consciousness has been understood, and we present a number of reasons for thinking that the distinction is important for both the philosophy and the science of consciousness.
2. The metaphysics of consciousness: How might the structure of consciousness constrain its explanation? (1 hour)
Following Searle, we can distinguish two conceptions of the structure of consciousness: the building block model and the unified field model. According to the building block model, the creature’s overall conscious state (at a time) is generated by the fact that the creature has a number of particular (fine-grained) conscious states, which are bound together to form a single total conscious state. According to the unified field model, the creature’s overall conscious state is generated by various contents feeding into a single unified field. Unlike the building block model, the unified field model need not posit any binding mechanism responsible for unifying fine-grained conscious states. We present some reasons for favouring the unified field model, and then draw some implications from the discussion for the question of whether creature consciousness or state consciousness ought to take priority in the study of consciousness.
3. Explanatory issues: Should we focus on conscious states, conscious creatures, or both? (1 hour)
Much of the empirical evidence amassed in the search for the neural correlates of conscious states can be unified in an explanatory model inspired by the computationalist idea that the brain is an organ for predicting its sensory input. However, as a model of consciousness, it has the very serious problem that it isn’t about what it takes for a mental state to be conscious. Instead it focuses on which representational states happen to be selected for conscious presentation in a creature that the model presupposes is conscious. One could try to incorporate the neural correlates of creature consciousness into the model, but this makes the model less explanatory since we don’t know the contribution of this new element. The underlying problem is that in searching for the neural correlates of creature consciousness as such, in isolation from particular conscious states, one works on the dubious presupposition that there are two distinct properties of being conscious, being creature conscious and being state conscious. We examine a number of responses to this problem.?
4. General discussion (30 minutes)
We will leave this time free for participants in the tutorial to contribute to the discussion and respond to the idea presented previously.
Thursday June 19, 9:30AM-12:30PM at Mchelangelo Hall
Terminology in Consciousness Studies
Institute of Cognitive Science
2217 Dunton Tower
Carleton University Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6
Consciousness studies currently displays a profusion of mostly ill-defined technical or quasi-technical terms. One recent survey counted over 50 such terms (Brook, forthcoming). Just a sample: Access consciousness, phenomenal consciousness, self-consciousness, creature consciousness, state consciousness, monitoring consciousness, peripheral consciousness, prereflexive consciousness, background consciousness, focal consciousness, peripheral consciousness, awareness, conscious awareness ... and on and on. There is no agreement even on something as basic as whether, to be called 'conscious', a psychological state must, at least in part, be about one's own psychological states. It is unlikely that consciousness studies will ever achieve a sound scientific footing with such an imprecise and ungainly conceptual toolbox. In this workload, researchers from behavioural/experimental, neuroscientific, and philosophical backgrounds will lay out and, to the extent possible, organize the existing terminology, then begin the task of forging a single framework of concepts for consciousness studies. At least half of the three hours of the workshop will be devoted to open discussion.
Thursday June 19, 9:30AM-12:30PM at Raphael Hall
The Evolutionary Function of Consciousness
Juliane Charlotte Wilcke
Department of Psychology
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800
Why are we conscious? What is consciousness for? This tutorial will provide an overview of the literature on the evolutionary function of consciousness and raise issues important to an evolutionary explanation of consciousness. Before surveying the hypothesised functions of consciousness, we will consider whether consciousness could have any causal influence on our actions at all. In addition to outlining arguments for and against epiphenomenalism, I will also mention other positions which question the evolutionary approach to consciousness. We will then look at whether consciousness can be shown to be an adaptation independent of the function it may have. In the second section of the tutorial, I will present an overview of commonly advanced evolutionary functions of consciousness. Such functions include intrinsic motivation, integrated representation, selection and organisation of information, access to information, and flexible control. We will have time to examine some prominent hypotheses for functions of consciousness and their support more closely. These hypotheses will help to illustrate critical issues for evolutionary explanations of consciousness, such as how specific the aspects of consciousness are that have a function, what the consciousness-related behaviours are upon which natural selection acted, when the functions of consciousness emerged and how much they have changed since then. The final section of the tutorial will consider strategies and methods available for investigating the evolution of consciousness, and what contribution each of these strategies and methods can be expected to make for generating hypotheses about evolutionary functions of consciousness and finding evidence for them.
The approximate durations given for each section include time for questions and discussion.
1. Warm-up questions (10 min)
2. Epiphenomenalism and methodological adaptationism (40 min)
3. Overview of commonly advanced evolutionary functions of consciousness (20 min)
4. Critical issues in the evolutionary explanation of consciousness (15 min)
5. Some prominent hypotheses for functions of consciousness and their support (45 min)
6. Strategies and methods for studying the evolutionary function of consciousness (40 min)
7. Conclusion (10 min)
Thursday June 19, 1:30PM-4:30PM at Nietzsche Hall
Neurophilosophical Approaches to the Dreaming Mind—a Contrastive Analysis of Dreaming and Wakefulness
The problem of dream consciousness poses many interesting questions for interdisciplinary approaches to mind, consciousness, and cognition. As a second global state of consciousness aside from wakefulness, dreaming presents a natural comparison condition for standard cases of waking consciousness and can open up new theoretical and methodological approaches. There is a wide field of research dedicated both to the empirical analysis of dream reports and the neurophysiological mechanisms of dreaming, and the relevance of dreaming for philosophical theories of consciousness and subjectivity is also increasingly being recognized. Nonetheless, there is currently no consensus on how exactly to pinpoint the differences between dreaming and waking consciousness and how to relate dreaming to broader theories of consciousness and subjectivity.
Following a brief introduction to the most important philosophical questions raised by the problem of dream consciousness, the first part of the tutorial will focus on recent findings from empirical research on sleep and dreaming. The second part will focus on the specific status of subjectivity in the dream state, which will be discussed within the framework of the self-model theory of subjectivity. Here, we will attempt to develop a more fine-grained description for the phenomenological profile. In the third part, we will suggest preliminary solutions to some of the questions addressed at the outset and attempt to sketch the outlines of a neurophilosophical theory of dream consciousness. In an extended final discussion with the participants, we will consider the prospective insights to be gained from a contrastive analysis of dreaming and wakefulness.
1. Philosophical and neuroscientific approaches to dream consciousness (Jennifer M. Windt)
2. The phenomenological deep structure of dreams: Dreaming and the self-model theory of subjectivity (Thomas Metzinger)
3. Dreaming as a natural comparison condition for waking consciousness? Towards a differentiated framework (Jennifer M. Windt)
Additional materials, including a comprehensive bibliography, will be provided and handed out to the participants. The presentations in the first two parts of the tutorial will take approximately 45 minutes and will be followed by 15 minutes of discussion. In the third part of the tutorial, some of our own theoretical positions will be presented to the participants for an extended critical discussion. The tutorial will last three hours.
1. Hobson, J. A., and Pace-Schott, E. F. (2002). The cognitive neuroscience of sleep: neuronal systems, consciousness and learning. Nature Reviews 3: 679-693.
2. Hobson, J.A., Pace-Schott, E., and Stickgold, R. (2000). Dreaming and the brain: toward a cognitive neuroscience of conscious states. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23: 793-842.
3. Maquet, P., Ruby, P., Maudoux, A., Albouy, G., Sterpenich, V., Dang-Vu, T., Desseiles, M., Boly, M., Perrin, F., Peigneux, P., and 4. Laureys, S. (2005). Human cognition during REM sleep and the activity profile within frontal and parietal cortices: a reappraisal of functional neuroimaging data. In: Laurey, S., ed., Progress in Brain Research, Vol. 150.
5. Metzinger, T. (22004a). Being No One. The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
6. Metzinger, T. (2004b). Precis of ?Being No One“. PSYCHE - An Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Consciousness, 11: 1-35; Online: http://psyche.cs.monash.edu.au/symposia/metzinger/precis.pdf.
7. Nielsen, T. A. (2000a). A review of mentation in REM and NREM sleep: “Covert” REM sleep as a possible reconciliation of two opposing models, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23:851-866.
8. Nielsen, T. A. (2000b). Covert REM sleep effects on REM mentation: Further methodological considerations and supporting evidence, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23: 1040-1057.
9. Revonsuo, A. (2006). Inner Presence. Consciousness as a Biological Phenomenon. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
10. Valli, K., Revonsuo, A., Palkas, O., Isamail, K. H., Ali, K. J., and Punamaki, R.-J. (2005). The threat simulation theory of the evolutionary function of dreaming: Evidence from dreams of traumatized children. Consciousness and Cognition 14: 188-218.
11. Windt, J. M. and Metzinger, T. (2007), The Philosophy of Dreaming and Self-Consciousness: What Happens to the Experiential Subject during the dream state? In McNamara, P. and Barrett, D. (Eds.), The New Science of Dreaming (Greenwood Press).
Thursday June 19, 1:30PM-4:30PM at Mchelangelo Hall
Adaptive Anomalies in Conscious Time Perception
Department of Neurophysiology
NTT Communication Science Laboratories
3-1, Morinosato-Wakamiya, Atsugi-shi, 243-0198
An ideal observer in physics is able to read his watch on the occurrence of each event no matter how small the intervals of neighboring events are. The brain is no way an ideal observer. Temporal order judgments of sensory signals are sometimes inverted by crossing the arms, visual distractors and saccadic eye movements. Perception of simultaneity is subject to changes in various ways, for example, after repeated exposures to a pair of stimuli with a constant interval. Subjective duration may be expanded or shrinked by a number of factors like the size and number of visual stimuli. We review these and other anomalies in conscious time perception and try to find adaptive reasons why the non-physical time perceptions are constructed from sensory signals by the brain.
Thursday June 19, 1:30PM-4:30PM at Raphael Hall
Emotions, Feelings, and Decision-Making
Brain and Creativity Institute
University of Southern California
HEDCO Neuroscience Building
3641 Watt Way, Suite B26
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2520
The somatic marker hypothesis provides a systems-level neuroanatomical and cognitive framework for decision-making and its influence by emotions and feelings. The key idea of this hypothesis is that decision-making is a process that is influenced by marker signals that arise in bioregulatory processes, including those that express themselves in emotions and feelings. This influence can occur at multiple levels of operation, some of which occur consciously, and some of which occur non-consciously. The frontal lobes are key elements of this neural circuitry and play a crucial role in decision-making. However, there are other neural structures that also play key roles in emotions, feelings, and decision-making, namely the amygdala and the insular cortex. In this seminar, several studies are reviewed, which confirm various predictions from the hypothesis. Specifically, evidence will be presented to argue that (1) decision-making is a process guided by emotions and feelings; (2) conscious knowledge alone is not sufficient for making advantageous decisions; (3) the implementation of decisions under certainty engage different neural circuitry than that of decisions under uncertainty or ambiguity; and (4) emotion may not always be beneficial to decision-making: there are conditions under which emotion can be disruptive.
One learning objective of this seminar is to have an overview of the neural basis of emotions, feelings, and decision-making, based on work in patients with focal brain damage. A second objective is to provide a perspective on how this knowledge can be applied to understanding human choice at a social, as well as clinical level.