Archive for March, 2006

Introspecting Brain States as Such

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

I will be at the Ninety-eighth Meeting of The Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology in Charleston, SC 13―15 April 2006 presenting my stuff on the alleged transparency of phenomenal consciousness and arguments against it based on a Churchlandish account of introspection.

Here’s an excerpt from and link to a longer version.

Paul Churchland has defended various bold theses throughout his career. Of particular interest to the current chapter is what I shall call Churchland’s Introspection Thesis.

A person with sufficient neuroscientific education can introspect his or her brain states as brain states.

Is the Introspection Thesis true? It certainly isn’t obvious. Introspection is the faculty by which each of us has access to his or her own mental states. Even if we were to suppose that mental states are identical to brain states, it doesn’t follow immediately from this supposition that we can introspect our mental states as brain states. This point is analogous to the following. It doesn’t follow immediately from the mere fact that some distant object is identical to a horse that we can perceive it as a horse. Further, it isn’t obvious that any amount of education would suffice to make some distant speck on the horizon seem like a horse. It may very well be the case that no matter how well we know that some distant speck is a horse; as long as we are sufficiently distant from it we will only be able to see it as a speck. Analogously then, it may very well be the case that no matter how well we know that our mental states are brain states, we will only be able to introspect them as irreducibly mental.

Link to paper

Phenomenal consciousness and the allocentric-egocentric interface

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

I’ll be presenting my latest stuff on consciousness at Toward a Science of Consciousness 2006 April 4-8, Tucson Convention Center, Tucson, Arizona.

Here’s an abstract and link to a long published early version.

Abstract: I propose and defend the Allocentric-Egocentric Interface Theory of Consciousness. Mental processes form a hierarchy of mental representations with maximally egocentric (self-centered) representations at the bottom and maximally allocentric (other-centered) representations at the top. Phenomenally conscious states are states that are relatively intermediate in this hierarchy. More specifically, conscious states are hybrid states that involve the reciprocal interaction between relatively allocentric and relatively egocentric representations. Thus a conscious state is composed of a pair of representations interacting at the Allocentric-Egocentric Interface. What a person is conscious of is determined by what the contributing allocentric and egocentric representations are representations of. The phenomenal character of conscious states is identical to the representational content of the reciprocally interacting egocentric and allocentric representations.

Link to paper.


Wednesday, March 29th, 2006


Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik.

Phone cam pic of found object at Starbucks, 181st and Fort Washington NYC.