Vol 16, No 2 (2010)

Table of Contents


Past, Present, and Future of Scientific Research on Consciousness. Full Text
Stephanie Ortigue & Gabriel Kreiman

Book Review

Review of Shaun Gallagher’s and Dan Zahavi’s: The Phenomenological Mind: An Introduction to Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science (pages 1-4). Summary Full Text
One might interpret the locution “the phenomenological mind” as a declaration of a philosophical thesis that the mind is in some sense essentially phenomenological. Authors Gallagher & Zahavi appear to have intended it, however, to refer more to the phenomenological tradition and its methods of analysis. From the subheading of this book, one gains an impression that readers will see how the resources and perspectives from the phenomenological tradition illuminate various issues in philosophy of mind and cognitive science in particular. This impression is reinforced upon finding that many analytic philosophers’ names appear throughout the book. That appearance notwithstanding, as well as the distinctiveness of the book as an introduction, the authors do not sufficiently engage with analytic philosophy.


Pushing brains: Can cognitive neuroscience provide experimental evidence for brain-mind causation? (pages 5-22). Summary Full Text
What makes the issue of causal relations between mental and cerebral events so special? And is there experimental evidence from neuroscience for this sort of causation? To answer these questions, the issue of brain-mind causation is considered against the background of the mind-brain problem and the theory of causation in general. Then, one empirical study from cognitive neuroscience is discussed as an example of how the correlations of mental and cerebral events and processes are investigated in current research. From the prevailing empirical studies, it is obvious that neuroscience can only demonstrate concurrence of cerebral and mental events, not an additional causal relationship between them. The decision for a certain causal interpretation is based on precedent commitments to particular philosophical attitudes concerning, among other things, the mind-brain problem, scientific explanation, and the issue of reductionism. Finally, it will be argued that it may make sense to interpret brain-mind relations causally, provided that we do not understand causation in terms of some sort of physical connection. Current process theories are not applicable to the case of brain-mind causation, because they are largely conceptualized in terms of the physical, so that there is no conception of how they could be applied to an instance of causation that involves a non-physical relatum.
The central role of anterior cortical midline structures in emotional feeling and consciousness (pages 23-47). Summary Full Text
Heinzel et al.
Current theories of emotion have often excluded emotional feeling from the core of emotion, thereby associating emotional feeling with high order processing. In contrast, we characterize emotional feeling as a basic process that is fundamentally involved in emotional processing. Emotional feeling is further described by the phenomenal features of unity and qualitativeness. Based on recent imaging data, we assume that neural activity in the anterior cortical midline structures is crucial for constituting emotional feeling. The phenomenal feature of unity could be reflected in the connectivity pattern of the aCMS. What phenomenally is described as qualitativeness may correspond to what is psychologically termed valence.
Non-Reductive Objectivism – A Dual-Aspect Model of Causality (pages 48-58). Summary Full Text
Non-reductive objectivist accounts of color have been the focus of a certain amount of discussion recently. The present paper examines what explanations would be needed in order for an extended version of the viewpoint encompassing most of the sensory qualities to achieve conceptual consistency with the scientific account of reality. Once the explanations required have been identified, a form of non-reductive objectivism that meets them and embodies a dual-aspect model of causality is put forward. It is shown that this sheds new light on the hard problem of consciousness and supports a physicalist interpretation of man while also according reality in the external world to the phenomenal content of sensory experience.
The Scientific Study of Consciousness: Searle's Radical Request (pages 59-89). Summary Full Text
Abstract: John Searle offers what he thinks to be a reasonable scientific approach to the understanding of consciousness. I argue that Searle is demanding nothing less than a Kuhnian-type revolution with respect to how scientists should study consciousness given his rejection of the subject-object distinction and affirmation of mental causation. As part of my analysis, I reveal that Searle embraces a version of emergentism that is in tension, not only with his own account, but also with some of the theoretical tenets of science. I conclude that Searle has offered little to motivate scientists to adopt his proposal.
Subconscious Stimulus Recognition and Processing During Sleep (pages 90-97). Summary Full Text
During sleep, consciousness is reduced, associated with a diminished connection of the brain to the environment. This is due to the blocking of the thalamocortical pathway by inhibitory mechanisms. This “thalamic gating” during sleep, however, is not complete, but partial. The stream of information is considerably reduced, but the brain is not fully disconnected from the environment. An inspection of the environment takes place to optimize safety during sleep. Stimuli having a meaning for the individual, or signaling danger, are recognized, and may enter into awareness, leading to a wake-up call, which allows the individual to react. This subconscious stimulus evaluation is regarded as having a guardian function for sleep. The recognition of stimuli during sleep points toward the presence of a sort of consciousness without awareness in the sleeping brain.


Mid-Range Action-Driving Visual Information (pages 98-116). Summary Full Text
Bennett & Foo
Milner and Goodale (1995, 2006, 2008) have advanced a justly influential theory of the structure of the human visual system. In broad outline, Milner and Goodale hold that the ventral neural pathway is associated with recognition and experiential awareness, and with a kind of indirect control of action. And they hold that, by contrast, the dorsal neural stream is associated with the non-conscious, direct control of visually informed action. Most of the relevant empirical research has focused on the visual control of close-in, “personal space,” reaching and/or grasping. While their view has not escaped controversy and debate, we think that Milner and Goodale have a compelling story to tell about the visual guidance of such close in, “personal space” action. However, the question of whether their scheme applies to behavior with visually specified targets that are outside of the space accessible by simply reaching and grasping is largely unstudied. And it should be studied, since this is the arena of much human behavior. We provide good reason to think that the Milner and Goodale scheme may well not apply to important classes of mid-range, ‘action space’ behavior. But the matter is in the end to be decided in the lab. We describe a research program to do this.