Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Damasio on consciousness

From the introduction to Chapter 9 of his new book The Strange Order of Things.

"The term 'consciousness' applies to the very natural but distinctive kind of mental state described by the above [subjective] traits. The mental state allows its owner to be the private experiencer of the world around and, just as important, to experience aspects of his or her own being. For practical purposes, the universe of knowledge, current and past, that can be conjured up in a private mind only materializes to its owner when the owner's mind is in a conscious state, able to survey the contents of that mind, in his or her own subjective perspective." This perspective is combined with "integrated experience, which consists of placing mental contents into a more or less unified multidimensional panorama" (143- 44).

Also of note is that consciousness is not located in any particular brain area but
"it is possible to identify several brain regions and systems that are unequivocally related to producing key ingredients of the process as outlined earlier: perspectival stance, feeling and experience integration" (154). But "still, the panoramic integrated experience [...] is not to be found in one single brain structure but rather in more or less numerous time series of frames being activated piecemeal" (156).

I'm also reminded of this post, which discusses both modal and amodal representations with some recommendations. The embodied thesis claims that sensorimotor modes are fundamental in forming more abstract concepts and representations. It is critical of the amodal representation thesis, the pure expression of the latter claiming representational meaning is divorced from bodily experience.
Given the neuroscientific research to date, there is evidence for both systems, so the authors propose a hybrid. There is an amodal conceptual hub located in the anterior temporal cortex which integrates the information from the modal sensorimotor areas.

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