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Lecture 25

PHIL-UA 73 Lecture 25: Lectures 22-25: Chalmers, Lau, Brown, Block -- COMBO: in-class & powerpoint notes

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Ned Block

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Consciousness 3
Combination of Professor Block’s notes and in-class lecture (content belonds to Ned Block)
- First order pain can be produced by
empathetic means
o Hand scanner experiment with nails when shown a video of a hand getting hammered with
nails, the “pain” area of the watcher’s brain lit up, even though they weren’t actually feeling
Scorecard for the transitivity principle: a perceptual states being phenomenally conscious consists in ones
being aware of oneself as being in that state
- Good
o Source amnesia
o Gopnik baby experiments (children tried to hop into fake cars and tried to take animals out of
the picture books)
Block says these experiments go beyond “armchair philosophy”
- Bad
o The inexistence of consciousness
o Lowered frontal activation with higher sensory experience
- When there is a lot of sensory activation in the back of the brain, the frontal cortex is less active. You
can have intensely conscious experiences where the probability of a higher order thought decreases.
- The frontal part of the brain does not work very well in babies; it is mostly perception. Around 6 months
old, babies have a high ratio of perceptual to frontal synapses (however, babies are clearly conscious).
As we get older, we have a higher ratio of frontal to perceptual synapses. Babies who were given a
specifically shaped pacifier preferred to look at images that resembled that pacifier.
- Consciousness depends on what is most directly in the visual cortex. So why is there color
consciousness in the periphery? As you move towards the periphery, integration windows get larger
there is a lot more space integrated into a single patch of cortex. Even though there are fewer color
receptors, they add up because the space is larger in the periphery.
Brown and Lau Inattentional Inflation experiment:
Researchers arranged a pairs of high contrast and low contrast images so that people would not attend to high
contrast and pay attention to the low contrast. They found that if you equalized the unattended high contrast and
attended low contrast for “sensitivity” (d-prime),
first order representations are the same but consciousness is
different so consciousness cannot be first order.
Blocks reply: what they say is a difference in consciousness is actually a difference in higher
order thought
When making decisions, some people are liberal and others are conservative in their
answers. You can’t really trust what people report – Brown and Lau took their replies as a perfect index
of consciousness. They set up a situation where the higher order thought and conscious experience
were actually different. Attention reduces variation; inattention increases variation. Because there is a
lot of variation, that information is more likely to cross the threshold into consciousness
Lau Paper
Metacognitive pointers that do not have their own perceptual contents
find more resources at
find more resources at
1. Avoids duplication of content
2. Respects transitivity
3. Right relation to dispositions to believe
Activity in V1, V2, V3 is legit, but the other input (“stuff”) is just random background noise
- Electrodes measure facial movements. Someone with blind sight cannot see things in his left visual field.
An image with a scared facial expression is placed into his left visual field. He can’t identify it, but he
copies her facial expression.
Solution to Lau’s problem
: even if there is a personal level belief in seeing, the sub-personal state wins
out. It tells us that it is just random noise. Higher order thought is generated by a sub-personal state
- Sounds can make one think of color (synthesizing colors from non-concrete objects, like “time”).
Synesthetics know that what they perceive is not really accurate, even if it’s conscious. Therefore they
stop believing what they see they are tempted to believe their experiences, but their temptation is
overridden by background knowledge of their condition.
Tendency to have these beliefs = constitutive property of the conscious experience.
Block reply: they key thing is
sub-personal endorsement
, and in the case of synesthesia instead of blind sight.
- Functional organization: what is central is the brains
abstract causal organization
, an organization
that might be realized in many different physical substrates.
o “Arises” is a dualistic terminology
- Chalmers: a functional organization is determined by specifying
o 1) Number of abstract components
o 2) For each component, a number of different possible states
o 3) A system of dependency relations specifying how the states of each component depends on
the previous states of all components and on inputs to the system and how outputs from the
system depend on
- Moronic theory of pain: sitting on a tack causes pain. Pain causes anxiety. Pain causes “ouch”
o Being in pain = Being an x such that there is a property p and p causes the property q and p
causes “ouch” and x is in the state of p
Chalmers: the same functional organization gives us same phenomenal state, but it is not true for every form or
every state nomological possibility: absent qualia
find more resources at
find more resources at

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Consciousness 3 **Combination ofProfessorBlocks notesand inclass lecture (content belondstoNedBlock) 111417 First orderpaincan beproduced by empatheticmeans o Handscannerexperimentwithnails whenshownavideoofahand gettinghammeredwith nails,thepainarea of thewatchersbrain lit up,eventhoughtheywerentactually feeling pain Scorecardforthe transitivity principle:a perceptualstatesbeing phenomenallyconsciousconsists inones being awareof oneself as beingin thatstate Good o Sourceamnesia o Gopnikbabyexperiments (childrentriedtohopinto fake carsand triedtotake animals outof the picture books) Blocksays theseexperimentsgobeyondarmchairphilosophy Bad o The inexistenceof consciousness o Loweredfrontalactivationwithhighersensoryexperience Whenthere is alot ofsensoryactivation inthebackof the brain, thefrontalcortexis lessactive. You can have intenselyconscious experienceswheretheprobability of ahigherorderthoughtdecreases. The frontalpartof thebrain doesnotworkverywellin babies;itis mostlyperception.Around6months old, babieshaveahighratio of perceptualtofrontalsynapses (however, babiesareclearlyconscious). Asweget older,wehave ahigherratiooffrontalto perceptualsynapses.Babieswhoweregivena specificallyshapedpacifierpreferredtolookat imagesthatresembledthatpacifier. Consciousness depends onwhatis mostdirectly in thevisualcortex. Sowhy is therecolor consciousness intheperiphery?Asyoumovetowardstheperiphery,integrationwindows get larger thereis a lotmorespace integratedintoasingle patch ofcortex. Eventhoughtherearefewercolor receptors,theyaddupbecause thespace is largerin theperiphery. Brownand Lau InattentionalInflationexperiment: Researchers arrangedapairsof highcontrastandlow contrastimages sothatpeoplewould notattendtohigh contrastand payattention tothe low contrast. Theyfoundthat if youequalizedthe unattendedhigh contrastand attended low contrastforsensitivity (dprime),firstorderrepresentationsarethesame butconsciousness is differentsoconsciousnesscannot befirst order. Blocks reply:whattheysayis a differenceinconsciousness isactually a differencein higher order thought.Whenmaking decisions,somepeopleare liberaland othersareconservative in their answers.Youcantreally trustwhatpeoplereport BrownandLau tooktheirrepliesasa perfectindex ofconsciousness. Theyset up asituationwherethehigher orderthought andconsciousexperience wereactually different.Attentionreduces variation; inattentionincreasesvariation.Becausethereis a lot of variation, thatinformation is more likely tocross thethreshold intoconsciousness LauPaper Metacognitive pointers that donothavetheirownperceptualcontents
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