NATS 1860 Lecture Notes - 18 Months, Neuropsychology, Artificial Neuron
NATS 1860: Consciousness
Philosophy of Mind
Defining Consciousness: The awareness of environmental and cognitive events
such as the sights and sounds of the world as well as ones memories, thoughts,
feelings and bodily sensations.
What is mental imagery?
Experience that resembles perceptual experience, but which occurs in the
absence of the appropriate stimuli for the relevant perception
Any of the senses: sights, sounds, feelings..
Phenomenology of Consciousness
Ability to discriminate, categorize, and react to environmental stimuli
The integration of information by a cognitive system
The report ability of mental states (consciousness is the awareness of your
current mental states, therefore you are able to report on your state)
The ability of a system to access its own internal states
The focus of attention (what you are paying attention to is what you are
conscious of, you can be conscious of in your periphery, yet your attention
may not entirely be there
The deliberate control of behavior
The difference between wakefulness and sleep
Easy vs. Hard Problems
Chalmers (1996) suggests the previous aspects of consciousness will
eventually be explained scientifically. He calls these the “easy problems of
Ex. When a certain part of the brain is active, what is conscious
The hard problem is the problem of experience
There is “ something it is like” to be conscious
Experiences have qualities (qualia_ not reducible to physical properties:
redness, depth, sounds, smells, emotions, images
Phenomenal consciousness, subjective level
But how do we know how hard a problem is before we have solved it?
Mind- Body Problem
What is the relationship between mental events (ex. Perception, pains, hopes,
desires, beliefs) and physical events (e.g. Brain activity)
Dualism: the mind and body are distinct entities
Idealism: there are only mental entities
Materialism: there are only physical entities (your brain is an emergent
property, computer program running on your brain)
Cartesian dualism (substance dualism): the mind and body are two different
What is the substance of “red” or “pain”?
Do experiences have properties that ordinary physical matter does not?
Intentionality: experiences inherently relate to something else
Interactionism: mind and body interact somehow
Epiphenomenalism: mental states done play any causal role
Reductive materialism: mental events will ultimately be reduced to material
events (mind- brain identity theory_
Like “Heat” is reducible to kinetic energy
Heat is a velocity of molecules bouncing around, whether it be in a liquid or a
solid. It is categorized as a physical property.
Eliminative Materialism: some of our current concepts concerning mental
states will be found invalid and will be eliminated from scientific vocabulary
Like “vitalism” and “ether” ex. Vitalism being the life force in things, fluid of
life that passes through your body. They didn’t know anything about cells
and neurons, therefore they justified it by using mysticism.
Consciousness and Behavior
Perceptual Rivalry (spinning ballerina)
How do we know whether something is conscious?
o Consciousness is subjective (internal, private)
o Criteria for consciousness
Like a “Turing Test” for consciousness? Ex. If you cannot tell
the difference between what is conscious and what isn’t, it isn’t
fair to say what is consciousness.
Turing Test: You communicate electronically with A and B,
can you tell which one is the computer, if not, then the
computer is said to have passed the Turing Test for intelligence
Zombies? Look like they are conscious, but they are really not.
Are Your Mental States the same as my mental states?
Inverted spectrum argument
Alien is raised on a planet where red/ green is revered. In their
language, grass is green. Then this alien visits earth and says grass is
Is your “red” the same as my “red”? How can we tell?
o There is no way you can look at someone’s brain and
determine their mental state
o You can eliminate consciousness in certain ways by eliminating
certain areas of the brain or pathways
How do we assess awareness?
o Was there something presented or not?
Objective Criteria: Indirect measure of effect of presented item
o Item has an effect
A behaviorist would say that the subject is indeed aware of the stimulus,
even though the subject denies it.
Behaviorist: is a branch of psychology
“Gray Area” of consciousness between subjectiveness
Perception without awareness (Marcel, 1983)
Present either blank screen or word masked.
Degrees of Consciousness
Is consciousness a discrete phenomenon? That is. Are you either conscious
or unconscious, with no middle ground?
Which animals are conscious?
What about people? Are we conscious from birth, or is consciousness a
phenomenon that develops later?
Can computers be conscious?
Self- Awareness in animals
When viewing themselves in a mirror, chimpanzees and other animals first
act as if confronted by another animal
However, after 5 to 30 minutes, chimps understand the image is their own
(investigate the specifics of their own face)
o Animals able to recognize themselves in a mirror: Humans (18
months and older), orangutans, gorillas, bottlenose dolphins, orcas,
elephants, European magpie (no neocortex) and bonobos and
But further research shows that they o not attribute beliefs and
knowledge to other humans. Humans are special.
Ex. Chimps have failure to attribute knowledge to the
“knower”. Can’t make connections to different people.
Can computers be conscious?
What is each of your neurons was replaced, one by one, with an artificial
o Would you abruptly cease to be conscious at some point?
o Or would your consciousness fade away? Is your consciousness
o Or would your consciousness not change?