Egocentric contents conceptualized.

In my previous post I suggested that it wasn’t essential to spell out which conceptualized egocentric contents constitute phenomenal character since the physical will fix all of them. It may nonetheless serve to enhance both the intelligibility and the plausibility of the offered argument to provide further detail concerning which conceptualized egocentric contents fix phenomenal character and under what conditions they do so. To sketch such an account, it will be useful to begin by noting that the knowledge in question involves the occurrent deployment of concepts. It cannot just be, e.g., the kind of knowledge—like my knowledge that dogs are mammals—that I have even when I’m knocked out or distracted and not currently thinking about or perceiving any mammals.

A similar sort of point applies to the egocentric representations involved. Such representations, if they are to help underwrite knowledge claims like I am currently having conscious experiences, cannot have the kind of detached status that non-occurrent autobiographical knowledge has. Compare my standing belief that my phone number is 555-5555. It entails that my phone number is currently 555-5555. But the egocentric content of experience cannot be assimilated to such standing or abeyant representations.

According to the Allocentric-Egocentric Interface theory of consciousness (AEI) (Mandik, 2005), conscious states are states of activation in relatively intermediate levels of sensory processing hierarchies. More specifically, conscious states decompose into pairs of states wherein one member of the pair is a state of activation at a relatively low level of the hierarchy, the other member of the pair is a state of activation at a relatively high level of the hierarchy, and both members are reciprocally interacting with each other meaning that the higher-level member of the pair is triggered by the feed-forward flow of information from the lower member of the pair and the lower member’s activation is sustained in part by the feedback or recurrent flow of information from the higher level. This pair of reciprocally interacting states of activation constitute an “allocentric-egocentric” interface insofar as states lower in the hierarchy constitute relatively egocentric representations and representations found at progressively higher levels have increasingly allocentric contents. The phenomenal character of conscious states is identical to the contents of the hybrid allocentric-egocentric states. Such states have the conceptualized egocentric contents that figure in this paper’s central argument.

I will not here review the empirical evidence for AEI, will make do with the brief sketch just supplied. My aim here is to provide enough detail to convey the gist of the kind of explanatory burden a theory of this sort can bear.

I turn, in the next post, to begin showing how conceptual contents can bear explanatory burdens oft thought to require construing phenomenal character as non-conceptual. The thought I develop is designed to deal with the claim that there is a kind of appearance that cannot be explained in terms of conceptual states. More specifically, I will be examining the claim that there are certain patterns of success and failure in perceptual discrimination that cannot be explained in terms of conceptual states.

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
8. My Physical Properties Fix My Egocentric Contents

3 Responses to “TZ & AEI”

  1. Eric Thomson says:

    A bit off topic, but I think you give Akins too much credit in your 2009b and 2001. You don’t have to accept her weird narcissistic theory, just note that the thermoceptors are actually deltaT detectors instead of T detectors. Bill Casebeer pointed this out a while back while we were in grad school.

    I don’t think anything really rides on it, but you have cited both of those papers in this one, and you seem to buy her arguments in both. I think way too much was made of her paper.

  2. Pete Mandik says:

    I take it that part of her ‘weird narcissistic theory’ is just full blown anti-representationalism. But I’m an anti-anti-representationalist. So my take is something like what you attribute to Bill: reinterpret the cases as detecting (and thus representing) something after all.

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