As noted at the Introduction, this treatise is all about an attempt to model a biopsychosocial (bps) comprehensive understanding of self-consciousness seen from the perspective of theories of many types and hues encompassing the physical, metaphysical, neural, cognitive, functional, representational and higher-order aspects of consciousness. Each subset aims at different aspects of the problem and none of the theoretical perspectives in isolation suffice for explaining all of the self-evident features that we strive to understand. Consequently an ontologically oriented multidisciplinary synthesis grounded on real-time existential ecological considerations may provide the best pluralistic map to guide future enquiries.
Regardless of whether self-consciousness is inseparable from human life as we have defended or, as Jaynes suggested in 1974 based on ancient Greek linguistic evidence, it was not known before the pre-Homeric epics, the fact remains that thought and consciousness play an essential role in the viability and perpetuation of the human species before an ever-changing inhospitable external environment it didn't choose to live in. To achieve this survival goal man must harmonize his inherited biological endowments with his ongoing acquired social experiences. The brain, physical substrate of conscious activity, sorts out, categorizes and organizes the ongoing receptor sensory input such that any survival threat to the species is met with an adaptive Cannon response. The individual's psychic life is the resultant compromise between an inherited, not so flexible homeostatic body proper machinery and the constant social environmental challenges of an objective world of chaotic sensations which must be given order and accommodated in a structure of time, space and causality of our choice to prevent life-threatening alterations of the body dynamic equilibrium. Mental life has been charged with the biopsychosocial survival defense of the human species. The holistic integration of these 3 elements in a synthesis of neuro anatomico-physiological and physico-chemical data has been structured with the help of logico-mathematical tools of argumentation (see Merleau-Ponty 1945). It should not then be a surprise to find so many different piecemeal approaches to study the very different subsets of consciousness, that unique global feature so far only observed in the human living creature.
The subsets of consciousness range in granularity from species wakefulness to further variations thereof we have called 'states' of consciousness. Species wakefulness has 2 variations, depending on whether its attention is engaged in a particular object/event (vigil-transitive) or a dream-like cogitation (intransitive)], In the 'bps' model we made no essential distinction between the transitive, receptor-guided wakefulness and the intransitive sleep-guided Rem 'wakefulness', except for the attending adaptive motor response that is abolished during Rem sleep.
We apologize for having insisted so often on the clear distinctions between the different 'states' of consciousness during expositions. The literature is full of semantic confusions coming from younger inexperienced investigators that have not yet sorted out the different abstract levels of argumentation possible. We have equated sensory awareness (sense phenomenal consciousness) with stereotypic reflex-adaptive responses that may operate sans qualia or the need for introspective activity. This is the type non-human species or artificial intelligence (AI) imitate or emulate and can be further considered as the result of a 'non-inferential' type of brain processing. The reflex responses may be very complex as when dodging multimodal obstacles while driving downhill on a familiar winding road while solving a puzzle or listening to the news as you drive. If we remember how these same environmental features have been sorted out and categorized in our brain neuronal networks for future memory retrieval in the absence of the same objects/events, then we should have no problem understanding how these unconscious resources may be accessed were the same driver to suddenly encounter a novel feature like a collapsed mountain bridge, etc. Then we may 'consciously' experience sounds, colors, shapes, smells, etc. (sense phenomenal) or fright, hopes, beliefs, etc. (conceptual qualia), the total experience of which we called phenomenal consciousness proper to distinguish it from a concomittant introspective assessment of the novel situation. We chose to call non-sensory qualia as 'conceptual' because, unlike most sense-phenomenal features, affective states are not stand-alone features and are usually triggered in association with more complex conceptual organization of prior acquired experiences (religion, morals, etc.) of the subject as an agent. We have defended the argument that conceptual qualia carries both inherited (amygdaloid-mediated fear responses) and acquired affective baggage (hypothalamic / limbic / hippocampal, pain, sorrow, etc.), but more important, it requires accessing inferential linguistic resources (proto-linguistic organ, 'plo', to formulate the introspective thought narrative sequence (inner language?). This is a variation of Fodor's HOT model of consciousness as discussed in the text and summarized below.
As we ponder on these complex abstractions we find language very limited and troublesome at times. So, we must arbitrarily insist on 'awareness' as being distinct from 'consciousness'. When I become 'aware' of the road obstacles without thinking about them my sensory receptors and my muscle/gland effectors act as servo controls that run the show 'subconsciously' according to non-inferential programmed neuronal networks, we are running on servo controlled mechanisms, a combination of genetic and acquired contingency codelets. When the novel situation exceeds the expectations of an automatic reflex response we must 'access' different neuronal networks and in the process we become consciously aware. We must introspectively situate ourselves as actors in the ongoing new scenario by translating the complex proto-semantics into a sentential code which, by inner speech, elaborates the thought. 'Access consciousness' describes a pre-inferential unconscious reaching for a narrative mechanism (Broca's) to elaborate the high order thought associated with introspective consciousness. It simply makes it possible for a reflex-driven 'unconscious' phenomenal state of mind to avail itself of available, pertinent and concurrent mental states to interact with its content in the solution of the novel situation in behalf of species life preservation. This also represents a variation of Ned Block's 1995 model of 'access consciousness'. The equivalent access to a narrative, non-linguistic state of mind that brings introspection and qualia in the form of a 'stream of consciousness' is much more complex to analyze and awaits future dilucidation of assymetric processing.
Thus we have unconscious adaptive responses to multimodal sensory input --> novel situation --> unconscious activation of access circuits to ongoing available and pertinent algorithms --> unconscious 'plo' narrative algorithm processing into syntax structure--> inner language-->conscious thought & unconscious elaboration of response--> motor adaptive response. It is not clear whether in the last step the thought is causally efficient in producing the result, especially after Libet's experiment but we adopt causality based on other criteria (see below).
It should be noticed that the different apellations we chose to identify the different mental states does not necessarily commits their content to either the ontological or epistemological perspectives. In fact we prefer to conceive self consciousness as an additional component of reality inseparable from life (as the mostly measurable physical constituents of reality plus the associated abstractions or sets of relations among their constituent particles beyond sensory or combinatorial human resolution) like quantum mechanical or E-M fields, or even vitalism. Abstract nominalization of extrasensory or extra-combinatorial resolution of self-evident reality must be included as part and parcel of logical options, conceptual plurality is in, dynamically equilibrated inside complex manifolds accommodating referential domain divergence all converging on the single phenomenon of self consciousness..***(see manifold discussion).
To get an idea of the problems we have encountered in elaborating an all inclusive ontological 'bps' model of self-consciousness we have had to bridge the physical and metaphysical epistemological accounts and accommodate both in the same manifold. It was not easy and is still inconclusive because the descriptive, ontological What, the explanatory, epistemological How, and the spiritual Why questions summarize different approaches to an understanding of self consciousness. Your research choice will very much depend on whether you feel comfortable with reliable first person accounts or you rather cast your reputation exclusively on third person accounts (direct or indirect measurements). Both metaphysical logic 'dualists' or physico-mathematical 'physicalist' models ultimately rely on logical inferences and intuitions. Somehow, it is hoped that, having framed phenomenal, conceptual, narrative (sensory or linguistic varieties), access and introspective accounts into either symbolic, sentential or phenomenal consciousness logic calculus, we may identify where their respective domains substantively coincide, overlap, link or non-locally interact inside the comprehensive manifold. The most elusive concept to frame has been 'qualia'. So far nobody has been able to articulate a qualia space and assign location coordinates for the different quale, whether in sense-phenomenal (representational?) or conceptual consciousness (intentional?, see Hardin 1992).
Neither has anyone even attempted a cognitive account of the subjective qualic experience. (see Lycan 1996, Chalmers 2003) (See the entry on self-knowledge). An unconscious 'awareness' of a red apple can be measured psychologically by an external planned behavior paradigm; if the awareness becomes a conscious experience the subject can match the apple redness using a color palette. It may sound like a contradiction but neither conscious or unconscious (here better called subconscious) 'experience' requires reflexive introspective consciousness because the self need not appear as an explicit element in human experiences of spatio-temporal objects, their attributes and their relations; only when their meaning and intelligibility become relevant to the subject in the context of 'bps' survival as noted above. It is in this context that inherited and acquired memories fashion contingent strategies of adaptation by integrating the stereotypical cause--> effect routines with the improvised cognitive and intentional demands of the moment. Integration is a continuous, never ending dynamic processing by the ongoing, temporally extended subject at all levels of mental states as discussed, from local feature gathering defining a unit participant to a global assembly of all participants in a changing scenario of spatially connected interacting objects in the external environment. (see Cleeremans 2003). We need not argue that only conscious states are capable of this local/global integration, any artificial intelligence attempt to 'animate' a representative computer program of a conscious state will not make it conscious independent of the intentions of the programmer, regardless of Carruthers 2000 wishful thinking to the contrary.
Another serious problem that seems to haunt physicalist activists is related to the 'levels of organization' of reality. Most investigators are specialists within their respective disciplines and feel increasingly insecure as they have to stray away from their secure discipline niche. If their job description (or discipline) requires them to examine diamonds before cutting them to make a living in the market they insist in being concerned about the tetrahedral arrangement of the diamond's carbon atoms, something they don't need to market the diamond. Other may go further and become obsessed with the valence angles of carbon atoms as a function of their orbital arrangement or the influence of weak orbital electron spin effects or strong nuclear gravitational effects on the orbital electrons, etc. Unless you are old enough to retire from academia or a research institution and adopt a cosmological perspective, you are wasting energies in navigating unchartered waters sans an experience compass to guide you through the troubled waters, regardless of your IQ scores. If these youngens were to find solace and time to be reflexive on the problem of interdisciplinary misadventures they would realize that our peripheral sensorium 'presents' (the what) and/or our central brain 'represent' objects or events in our existence which we manipulate inferentially by deduction (the how) but we are and remain blind to the structure/functional elements transparency giving rise to such conscious thoughts and experiences that characterize the various mental states! Yet we insist on the certainty of the gospel poetry derived from such deductions. In our opinion, it would seem as if, semantically speaking, natures invisibility stems from the intrinsic character of the intentionality of conscious mental states as modified by previous social experience and resulting in an ongoing self adjusting, self organizing autopoiesis (see Varela 1980) that escapes our empirical and logic-deductive detection. This is as far as the ontology of consciousness has traveled thus far in providing an answer to the 'what' question.
Most cognitive 'scientists' don't realize that epistemological representationalism has developed a richer but less reliable model of the virtual mental states in consciousness, the richer the model the more they become less scientific, and there is no reason to deny it. It may even be a good thing!. Its reality is outside the descriptive or even the explanatory reach of scientific methodology as it relies almost exclusively on computational criteria. Yet, no one has developed a truly conscious robot as yet. Neither has anyone provided the non-nomic bridging principles that link the physical or neural facts with facts about mental states (see Kim 1998). Any intelligible explanatory link, whether factual, nomic or functional that extrapolates from measurable micro to observable macro-behavioral properties will always need to include the quintessential component of life or at least recognize the autonomy of biology as a special science (see Fodor 1974), the only guarantee of such model ever being autonomous (see Chalmers 2001). The transition from the physico-chemical to the psycho-physical is not continuous and remains beyond our present cognitive and conceptual capacities. As long as physicalists wear their horse blinders they will ignore the metaphysical bridge as the only one in harmony with our epistemic limitations. The physicalist dream of an inter-theoretic deduction makes as much sense as trying to reduce sociology to the quantum mechanical level of explanation! Furthermore, first person and third person perspectives are driven by inherently different semantic underpinnings. Any claim to the contrary is plain wishful thinking, e.g., Baar's global landscape model which is essentially an elegant attempt to explain 'access consciousness' and will suffice to explain subconscious awareness, never introspective self consciousness.
Only in the 'bps' model of self consciousness is there a place found for theology as a required constitutive social element. Nobody in the scientific world would dare ask the question of 'why' a consciousness. That is a theological question rooted on ethical/moral principles of social conviviality. Scientist professionals describe the 'what' and philosophers of science, with the aid of metaphysic logic, explain the 'how' but only a believer is apt to propose his version of 'why' based on informed intuitions or alleged extra-sensorial perceptions. The appeal for a dualist interpretation in never as strong as when discussing the causal efficiency of thoughts. Were thoughts to be the concurrent result of an adaptive response or a post-facto residual phenomena (as Libet's 1985 experiments suggest) then dualism would collapse and phenomenal and conceptual qualia would be mere epiphenomenal events irrelevant to the physical laws controlling the adaptive response of our species to maintain 'bps' equilibrium and we humans would be not much different from robots existing in other worlds with identical physical laws in operation. As a corollary, this attractive argument would do away with the notion of free will, especially within a narrow interpretation of 'bps' survival strategies. It is so difficult to explain the 'aboutness' of thoughts (intentionality) that were it not for the undeniable fact of self-evident altruistic behaviors against self-interest and contra 'bps' survival, one would succumb to the temptation of denying the existence of 'free will'.
To accommodate both versions we preserve 'free will' by assigning it veto power on the unconscious-driven intended adaptive response in behalf of a higher ineffable spiritual value, we call this form of control 'proximate causation'. If not, what other functions may phenomenal or conceptual states of mind serve the species that evolution wouldn't have rid off already?, why consciousness? The argument assigning consciousness a smooth control and efficiency of the adaptive response implies causality as a temporally co-existent activity along with the elaboration of the motor response, as we have argued it happens when subject is presented with novel situations where species survival is at stake.
In a 'bps' context, any theory of mind requires the subject not only to introspect in reflexive contemplation of self but also gain an insight into the mental states of those sharing his ecological niche, their beliefs, intentions and motivations. The entire body and facial expression language complement linguistic and artistic narratives in documenting an individual's state of mind. This way informed cooperative interactions assure social survival for the group. The Kantian chaotic world of multimodal sensations from environmental objects, their individual attributes and interactions may get sorted out and recombined with equivalent genetic or acquired stored memories according to the individual neuronal network structure/functional processing idiosyncrasies that gives us our personalities and it is only by a theory of mind that a social consensus, as it were, is achieved before collectively deciding for a course of adaptive action for the group. We have argued that the pain/pleasure reward system is intimately associated with both phenomenal and conceptual forms of consciousness and it is conceivable that different response protocols to same event may be so ingrained that social consensus among a plurality of intrinsic motivations may be difficult to attain as witnessed in the geopolitical 'balkanization' of multi-ethnic pluralities.
In short, there may be a constellation of metaphysical / ontological theories of self consciousness, each touching on their different aspects and manifestations, some so specific as trying to look at general reality under a high power microscope, others so general as trying to look at specifics with a telescope, none trying the nearly impossible task of articulating a common sense epistemic bridge between the physical and the non-physical aspects, with the exception of Chalmers. As we treaded carefully along the minefield of indirect 'facts', first person accounts, inferences and explanatory poetry we tried to examine the scope of each model cast on a puzzle board to see the range of their individual extensions from a vintage point perspective and proceeded to approximate the puzzle parts as best we could fit them into a unit to achieve an integrated operational working mosaic. The most important piece of the puzzle is inspired by important variations on the 2 leading high order (HO) theories both of which requiring an ad hoc continuum between an unconscious, non inferential phenomenal state (established from either online sensory receptor input or offline memory input), an unconscious access intermediate stage, an unconscious relevant inferential, narrative state and finally a conscious high order mental state, all of which causally precedes the adaptive response (if any, as we see in dreams), as we have argued above. Our 'bps' model approach assumes the highly controversial stance that in the final mental state proto-semantics precede syntax during the ongoing serial elaboration of the self-conscious thought (see our arguments in the text). We further assume that either a basic first order sensory perception (BOP) or basic first order thought (BOT) or memory input starts the process, both eventually converging on a similar neuronal pathway. This way an audio-visual external object/event perception (BOP) or an affective unexplained state (desire, belief, anger, etc.) originating from either body-proper homeostatic disturbance propioception (BOP) or pain/pleasure reward system will first be subjected to an evaluation of its potential survival threat by amygdaloid processes described in the text. Meanwhile, a simultaneous slower pathway evaluates the context in which same perception is situated by utilizing hippocampal pathways as described. At this point a series of preparations for a possible adaptive motor/glandular response take place; this involves reticular activating system (attentional), hypothalamic, limbic and executive pre-frontal cortex participation as described in the text. It should have been noticed that the originating affective state perception may have, by exception, required a preceding high order process (HOT) requiring self-consciousness in itself. For example, a sudden depressive feeling of guilt (BOP) may also have intentionality (aboutness) and thus needs, besides the initial amygdaloid evaluation, accessing narrative network pathways to situate the affective feeling in context (HOT). Bps basically describes two co-existing, ongoing, online mental states, one non-inferential subconscious 'gut feeling' inner sense (BOP, a variant of Lycan's 1996 HOP) and an initially non-inferential unconscious accessing of narrative pathways leading to the eventual production of higher order thought (HOT) whose content is the feeling that oneself is the subject of that guilt experience (self-consciousness). We hope this variation does away with the need to explain inner sense or inner perceptions at the unconscious , non-inferential level, more in harmony with neurophysiology. It may also explain why the object/event, whether sensory perceived or present in thought (BOP), generating a gut feeling of unexplained depression and guilt may or may not trigger an eventual high order reflexive thought (HOT) depending on its valence (pain/pleasure) and magnitude as controlled initially by the life-preserving amygdaloid system. This gut feeling of unconscious qualia has been deemed incoherent by Papineau. Once the original perception (BOP) finds its way and persists un-explained (or pathologically explained by narrative brain) in high order thoughts, we are dealing with a an emerging case of mental health.
Details on the inner neuronal workings of the 'bps' model described are found in the text but in general they draw heavily from Edelman, Damasio and Llinas models molded to fit a 'bps' approach where we find un-necessary to distinguish between dispositional or occurrent higher-order thoughts (Carruthers 2000) because, while temporally appearing as 'ocurrent', in reality there were various populations of neuronal network alternatives at the 'disposition' of subject who unconsciously 'chose' the appropriate adaptive alternative based on preferred pathways along weighted synaptic alternatives established on 'bps' survival prerogatives criteria.
The careful reader may have noticed that while we had been trying hard for an ontological definition of self-consciousness based on neurological, neurochemical and neuroscientific criteria in general, it has remained elusive to fit inside a cognitive model straight jacket. Not even 'qualia', of which self-consciousness may arguably be considered a subset of, has revealed its constitutive secrets. At that point the neuroscientist has to make a qualitative jump into trading ontological certainty for a lesser quality epistemological representational certainty. Not all known facts about consciousness can be represented in cognitive theories, the ontological 'what' will always be superior in quality than cognitive representational 'how' or any speculative theological 'why'. Dennet's and Baar's Global Workspace theory are essentially physicalist-oriented representational accounts of 'access consciousness' and, like all cognitive theories, have much to contribute in the simulation of the unconscious state. A I virtual mental states, where attentional and working memory scenarios play important roles, have but very little to say about self-consciousness. It should be clear that any cognitive model must integrate with neural correlates to market the idea among neuroscientists. The required bridging of analog computer programs of reentrant cortical loops of Edelman with neurophysiological data coming from cortico-thalamic electrophysiological activation (see Crick-Koch, Llinas 2001), neurochemical NMDA synaptic data or QM theory is very challenging. In our opinion fNMRI confirmation of Damasio's clinical data on fronto-limbic nexus or visualization of online fronto-mesencephalic loops of monitoring activity prior to the elaboration of an adaptive response (Gray 1995) will tie in with Edelman and Llinas work to give the neural theories a decided advantage at least in an understanding of unconscious phenomenal 'consciousness' (see above). The ever present affective component mediating conscious mental and its relation to the pain/pleasure periacqueductal gray--> hypothalamus--> frontal cortex axis along Medial Forebrain Bundle MFB remains a puzzle to be resolved.
We have seen in the physics lab how two resonant oscillators communicate at the speed of light through air across big distances when one of the oscillators reaches a critical frequency. This response may provide an explanation for the apparent simultaneity we often see in neuronal processing, effector responses and computers. Can we then explain consciousness according to a quantum physics protocol? Nothing could behave more counterintuitively than quantum mechanics at the Planck micro dimension level. Yet familiar EMF propagate at counterintuitive speeds and distances and do many counterintuitive things some of which we can indirectly measure, others we can barely believe they can exist like zero point gravity, non-locality or 'entanglement'. We personally believe, like some others, that an alternate faster-than-an-action-potential propagation speed can be also achieved by moving the EMF along the chemical bonds of bound or structured water ubiquitously found in the cellular millieu. Besides speed of propagation, quantum mechanical (QM) systems act holistically because their associated particles continue interacting even when separated at long distances, as if they remained 'entangled'. This may well be the un-articulated mediation in the Penrose-Hameroff micro-tubular model. However, their explanation is based on the quantum-mechanical-like selective collapse of a wave function from a superposition of multiple possible states to a single state, as it happens in QM systems when there is an an attempt at observation or measurement. The collapse triggers a coherent flow controlling neuronal activity, similar to the coherent flow measured in Bose-Einstein condensates.
It is usually at this point where the uncertainties borne out of the probabilistic nature of QM systems lead others to look further into non-empirical criteria, a qualitative jump, as we enter into the metaphysical domain looking for complementary explanations. Enter the substance and/or property dualistic models of consciousness. Detractors from these views fail to see that the 'ontology' of physical reality at the fundamental, quantum mechanical level is really informational or cognitive-theoretic (it from bit) where the ontology of psycho-physical invariants will have to settle for inferred metaphysical logic descriptions. We strongly suspect that QM theories will treat self consciousness and its inseparable life feature as a fundamental feature of physical reality whose intrinsic monadic attributes access reflexive, high order states of consciousness (see Russell 1927, Stapp 1993).
End of Summary Chapter 24
Dr. Angell O. de la Sierra, Esq. 2003, Deltona, Florida.