Paradigms of Consciousness
led by Bob McCauley
Selected Readings from:
Dennett's Consciousness Explained
Dennett was originally an analytic philosopher along the lines of Ryle
(philosophical behaviorism). However, over time Dennettís beliefs have
evolved into a form of naturalism articulated by Quine in the 60ís as "why
are we so worried about the epistemology, what is important is that psychology
be self-contained (consistent).
Phenomenology: a 20th-century philosophical movement, the primary objective
of which is the direct investigation and description of phenomena as consciously
experienced, without theories about their causal explanation and as free
as possible from unexamined preconceptions and presuppositions.
Heterophenomenology (Dennet): a 3rd person account of subjective experience.
Someone can relate their experience to you, and you can collect this data
through a recording device and then transcribe the recordings. This detailed
description can then be used as a starting point for analysis and the development
of a hypothesis describing how the subjective experience was generated.
An example of this was given in the reading when subjects were shown
two flashes of different colors. If the colored flashes were close enough
in space and time, the flash appears to move from the original position
to the final position. In addition the colored dot is perceived to change
its color midway along its path from the original color to that of the
second color. The logical conclusion is the subject has "perceived" the
second colored dot before he/she consciously perceives the intervening
dots change their color.
So here we see that you are allowed o speak and have absolute authority
over what you say about your experience. However, you donít get to be the
expert of how the phenomenon manifests itself.
Ron countered with Wittgensteinís definition of how we can talk about
subjective experience. The idea being that we learn to define various aspects
of our experience (e.g., pain) with words, and this allows us to effectively
discuss our inner life. This was key to discussing the various "states
of consciousness" during Ronís presentation.
Bob went on to discuss how our brain is creating a smooth and stable
story, but we have come to understand that this is being synthesized by
various brain centers. The example that was given was our saccading eyes
and how we do not perceive either the lack of visual information during
the saccade or the movement (i.e. we perceive the world as stable and not
jumping back and forth).
We make up an internal narrative construct from the various circuits
and processing centers.
From the reading, we have that processing needs to happen only once.
In other words it is the processing itself that is the perception of that
phenomenon. Once a center has completed its bit of the processing, it can
either pass relevant info. upstream to other centers for processing at
their level, or it can just release the information and the information
is then lost.
Thus, we find various centers processing information at their level.
Some of these centers process simultaneously, some at different times.
Each is preparing its own draft of the events that are occurring. This
is the multiple drafts model that Dennett proposes.
McCauley talked about how certain cells (centers) are competing to recruit
other parts of the brain to "buy" into their version. He talked about how
this was like the wave at stadiums and how individuals try to recruit others
into participating in the wave they are trying to initiate.
There does not seem to be a place where all of this gets put together
but appears to be a process that all participating brain centers contribute
to. Although it was not mentioned, it is likely that memory centers are
active in this process as well.