My Physical Properties Fix My Egocentric Contents




Egocentric.

I turn now to consider egocentric contents. Unlike the points made in the previous post concerning conceptualized contents, the relevant points about egocentric contents cannot be made in terms of my similarities to any numerically distinct entities. I assume that whatever egocentric contents are, numerically distinct entities capable of having egocentric contents, have contents concerning different entities. Thus no matter how similar to me a being is that is nonetheless numerically distinct from me, it will still be thinking about itself, not me, when it thinks the thoughts it expresses with the first-person pronoun. Thus the relevant question to ask is not whether my physical doppelganger must have the same egocentric contents as me (it can’t) but whether fixing my physical properties fixes my egocentric contents.

A positive response to this question is quite natural. Further, it is not one that should ignite much controversy. Even people who think that phenomenal consciousness is non-physical can grant that fixing my physical properties fixes my egocentric contents since egocentric contents seem not to alone suffice for phenomenal consciousness. Consider, in connection with this, that visual form agnosics can fail to be phenomenally conscious of the shape and orientation of objects, yet still, based on unconscious visual information, orient their body parts appropriately to, e.g use their hand to insert a card into a slot (Milner & Goodale, 1995). Arguably the unconscious information relied on concerns egocentric spatial contents. Additionally, while the neural activations in LGN mentioned previously have egocentric content, few take seriously the proposal that such sub-cortical neural activations suffice for phenomenal consciousness. Fewer still take seriously the thought that neural activations in LGN would be non-physical.

Now, dualists might object along lines discussed in the previous post that at least some egocentric content is non-physical insofar as direct phenomenal concepts have egocentric contents concerning non-physical qualia. But as this is essentially the same objection as already discussed, it will receive the same treatment as previously mentioned. I’ll say nothing further on the matter here.

The question naturally arises of which conceptualized egocentric contents fix phenomenal character. Do all of them? If only some of them do, which ones? It is worth noting that nothing particularly precise need be spelled out for the argument to go through. This is because, whatever conceptualized egocentric contents are the ones that constitute phenomenal character, if the remarks from earlier in this section are correct, then the appropriate conceptualized egocentric contents will be fixed by my physical properties because all of my conceptualized egocentric contents will be fixed by my physical properties.

Previous Posts:
1. Introducing Transcending Zombies
2. Anti-Skeptical Maneuvers
3. I Know I’m Not a Zombie
4. Some Remarks on Phenomenal Knowledge
5. The Egocentricity of Phenomenal Knowledge
6. The Knowing and the Known
7. My Physical Properties Fix My Conceptualized Contents

10 Responses to “My Physical Properties Fix My Egocentric Contents”

  1. Eric Thomson says:

    Based on your LGN claims, is there a contradiction between your earlier claim that egocentric implies ready for action? I assume if you think LGN is egocentric, then even retinocentric is egocentric. If that is the case, then even the retina has egocentric coordinates, but it seems a stretch to say retinal (or LGN) representations are prepped for action the way you said earlier.

    So I think either you should say that retinocentric is not egocentric, or that egocentric does not imply action-oriented.

  2. Eric makes a good point. To my knowledge, only parietal cortex and the superior colliculus have shown egocentric properties in micro-electrode probes. If the LGN has been shown to remap retinocentric stimuli into an egocentric frame, I would like to see the reference.

  3. Pete Mandik says:

    Eric does raise a good point. I’m not sure which is the best direction to go in at this point.

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  5. Pete,

    I think the direction you should take is clear. All the empirical and theoretical evidence points to the fact that retinocentric is not egocentric. Transforming retinocentric representations into a stable and coherent egocentric representation is a very tricky business. This is what the neuronal structure and dynamics of the retinoid system accomplishes.

  6. Pete Mandik says:

    The main way i think about ‘egocentric’ etc is like this. ‘egocentric’ just is ‘not allocentric’ and ‘allocentric’ is just ‘not-me-centric’. So, egocentric is just ‘not not-me-centric’.

    If something is my-head-centric, or my-torso-centric, or my-retina-centric, they are all not not-me-centric, since my head, torso, and retina all belong to ME. So they’re egocentric.

  7. Pete,

    This is a very important issue.

    You wrote:

    “If something is my-head-centric, or my-torso-centric, or my-retina-centric, they are all not not-me-centric, since my head, torso, and retina all belong to ME. So they’re egocentric.”

    I understand what you are saying, but I think this way of conceiving *egocentric* will lead you into a dead end if you want to claim that an egocentric representation is an action-oriented representation. It seems to me that all of these body-part centric representations have to be anchored to a single master egocentric coordinate to enable adaptive action in this world. Catching a ball is a simple example. In order to catch it, you have to track the location of the ball in 3D space with respect to your particular location in space. To complete the catch, you have to adjust the direction and extent of your reach (in your arm-centric representation?) in accordance with the ball’s trajectory in relation to your body’s location in egocentric space. This is a visual-motor task that requires the coordination of multiple sensory-motor maps and a 3D visual map via a common phenomenal spatiotopic coordinate of origin (the self-locus).

    You say that if a body part belongs to you it is “egocentric”. This implies that your left arm and your right arm are both egocentric. Doesn’t the fact that one arm is to left of *you* and the other arm is to the right of *you* imply that there is a higher center of egocentric representation that really corresponds to *you*? I call this master personal center in phenomenal space the self-locus (I!).

    For more about these issues, see:

    http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Models_of_consciousness#Retinoid_model

    http://eprints.assc.caltech.edu/355/

    http://eprints.assc.caltech.edu/468/

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