NATS 1860 Note 17
- It’s only recently that we focus on consciousness as an attribute of the brain
- Philosophy of the mind:
o First of all you need to define consciousness:
The awareness of environmental and cognitive events such as
the sights and sounds of the world as well as of one’s
memories, thoughts, and bodily sensations
o What is awareness then? What are the contents of consciousness?
These would be sensory imagery.
- What is mental imagery?
o This is an experience that resembles perceptual experience, nut which
occurs in the absence of the appropriate stimuli for the relevant
o Any of the senses – sights, sounds, feelings
o Can be quit detailed, but tend to be less detailed than the perception
of an actual stimulus
o Perception without stimulus? It can be a member of action past
perceptual experiences, or anticipations of new ones
o Crucial for thought?
It’s used for memory retrieval, problem solving, etc.
- Consciousness is the ability to discriminate, categorize, and react to
o However, just because it can react doesn’t mean its conscious
- The integration of information by a cognitive system
- The reportability of mental states
o Therefore, consciousness is an access to the current mental state.
- The ability of a system to access its own internal states
- The focus of attention
o This is a vast topic, and the book doesn’t do the topic justice.
o What you’re paying attention to – you’re often conscious of.
- It involves the deliberate control of behaviour
o There a certain type of brain damage when you’re conscious of the
world, but you cannot do anything about it
- The differences between wakefulness and sleep
- Easy v. Hard problems
o Chalmers (1996) suggests the previous aspects of consciousness will
eventually be explained scientifically. He calls these the “easy
problems” of consciousness
He claims that we can look at various stages of consciousness
to figure out what neural activity works in regards to what
o 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, sound, smells, emotions, images “It’s so hard that we’ll never be able to solve it”
The hard part is how difference experiences that is not
reducible to any physical properties.
Phenomenal consciousness is at a subjective level.
o How do we know how hard a problem is before we have solved it?
- When Isaac Newton came up with gravity, it seemed very hard because there
were two things that didn’t exchange anything.
o It’s hard to explain metaphysical claims.
- What is the relationship between mental events (perceptions, hopes, desires,
beliefs, etc.) and physical events (brain activity)
o They seem like two separate things, and yet they interact together.
o Is the mind a physical thing or is it a mental substance
o If the mind isn’t physical, then how does it interact with a physical
- Dualism: the mind and body are distinct entities.
o The mind is separate from the body. These are different things.
- Idealism: there are only mental entities
o All the physical world is totally an illusion
- Materialism: there is are only physical entities
o Your mind is a manifestation of the activity of your brain
o This is a computer program running on your brain
The program is the power of electrical activity and is running
on your computer.
- Cartesian dualism (substance dualism): the mind and body are two different
o What is the substance of “red” or “pain” – they’re mental things
o Maybe these experiences have properties that ordinary physical
o Intentionality: experiences inherently relate to something else
o Interactionism: the mind and body interact
o Epiphenomenalism: the mental states don’t play any causal role
- Property Dualism: mental properties are not reducible to non-physical
properties (emergent feature)
- This is the philosophy that there is only material things in the world – no
spirits, souls, other than matter or energy
- Reductive materialism: mental events will ultimately be reduced to material
events (mind-brain identity theory)
o Heat is reducible to kinetic energy of the molecules
The more the molecules are moving, the warmer the thing. Heat is just the velocity of molecules.
- Eliminative Materialism: some of our current concepts concerning mental
states will be found invalid and will be eliminated from scientific vocabulary
o Consider vitalism or ether
People used to think that the universe was filled with a
substances called “ether” and the waves went across it.
They used science to prove that ether didn’t exist.
Vitalism is some sort of life force in things. They didn’t
understand cells, energy or the mitochondria – they just
considered that there is a life force.
Consciousness and Behaviour
- How do we know whether something is conscious
o Consciousness is subjective (internal or private?)
- Criteria for consciousness:
o Behavioural similarity
o Physical similarity
o Like a “Turing test” for consciousness.
If you can’t tell the difference between two conscious and
unconscious things, then it’s not fair to say that one of the two
This is a test for computer intelligence.
You communicate electronically with A and B
Can you tell which one is a computer?
If not, then the computer is said to have passed the
Turing Test for intelligence.
There are some that get quite clever.
Eliza used to be a psychotherapeutic program that talking to
- Are your mental states the same as my mental states?
o Inverted spectrum argument
o Alien is raised on a planet where red/green colours are inverted.
Their green is our red
o Is your red my red? How can we tell?
- You can eliminate consciousness by knocking out certain pathways in the
- How do we assess awareness?
o It’s a subjective criteria” Was there something presented or not?
o Objective criteria: Indirect measure of effect of presented item item
has an affect
- A behaviourist would say that the subject is indeed aware of the stimulus,
even though the subject denies it o If they see the object, then they cannot deny it even if they’re not
aware of it.
o If something has an effect on the person, then it exist.
- There is a gray areas of whether someone denies something or not
- Subliminal perception
o Perception without awareness
o They would present either a blank screen or word masked
Subjects are a t a chance performance in determining whether
or not a word has been presented
But the word still has effects
This is a scare because you don’t know if something is your
idea or if it was placed in your head.
o There are semantically related target answered to faster than
- Master primes are when subjects are unaware. You can immediately mask
images and present the target to judge the character of the boy.
Degrees of consciousness
- Is consciousness discrete or binary? That is, are you either conscious or
unconscious with no middle ground?
- Which animals are conscious?
o As the complexity of animals increase, are they more conscious or are
all animals of the same conscious
- What about people? Are we conscious from birth, or is consciousness a
phenomenon that develops later?
- Can computers be conscious?
o Essentially our brain is a computer – you can simulated actions of
- Self-awareness in animals:
o When viewing themselves in mirrors, chimpanzees and other animals
first act as if confronted by another animal
o However, after 5-30 minutes, chimps understand that the images is
their own – they investigate specifics on their own faces
Humans can recognize themselves when we’re about 18
Bonobos and Chimpanzees recognize themselves
Gorillas can do this
Orcas, dolphins, elephants, and the European magpie can (this
is interesting because it doesn’t have a Neocortex)
- Further research shows that they do not attribute beliefs and knowledge to
- Animals don’t have the same theory of mind that humans do
- Chimpanzee ask where the person stands, but do not seem to be aware that
they need to ask the person who needed to do this - They do not attribute knowledge to the knower. If you show a chimp
someone hiding food under boxes, then the chimp doesn’t know that the
person out of the room doesn’t know
- Can computers be conscious?
- What if we replace your brain neurons with chips?
- Would you abruptly cease to be conscious at some point?
- Or would your consciousness fade away? Is consciousness graded?
- Or would your consciousness not change?
- Maybe consciousness doesn’t feel
Attention, Intelligence, and Consciousness