May 3, 2009

Understanding Consciousness, 2nd Edition

books,phenomenology,philosophy,theory — alice @ 10:51 pm


Authored by Max Velmans

Understanding Consciousness, 2nd Edition provides a unique survey and evaluation of consciousness studies, along with an original analysis of consciousness that combines scientific findings, philosophy and common sense. Building on the widely praised first edition, this new edition adds fresh research, and deepens the original analysis in a way that reflects some of the fundamental changes in the understanding of consciousness that have taken place over the last 10 years.

The book is divided into three parts; Part one surveys current theories of consciousness, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. Part two reconstructs an understanding of consciousness from first principles, starting with its phenomenology, and leading to a closer examination of how conscious experience relates to the world described by physics and information processing in the brain. Finally, Part three deals with some of the fundamental issues such as what consciousness is and does, and how it fits into to the evolving universe. As the structure of the book moves from a basic overview of the field to a successively deeper analysis, it can be used both for those new to the subject and for more established researchers.

Understanding Consciousness tells a story with a beginning, middle and end in a way that integrates the philosophy of consciousness with the science. Overall, the book provides a unique perspective on how to address the problems of consciousness and as such, will be of great interest to psychologists, philosophers, neuroscientists and other professionals concerned with mind/body relationships, and all who are interested in this subject.

2009, 408 pp, paperback and hardback
ISBN: 978-0-415-42516-2

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January 25, 2009

‘Introspectionism’ and the Mythical Origins of Scientific Psychology

Alan Costall
Article in Consciousness and Cognition

According to the majority of the textbooks, the history of modern, scientific psychology can be tidily encapsulated in the following three stages. Scientific psychology began with a commitment to the study of mind, but based on the method of introspection. Watson rejected introspectionism as both unreliable and effete, and redefined psychology, instead, as the science of behaviour. The cognitive revolution, in turn, replaced the mind as the subject of study, and rejected both behaviourism and a reliance on introspection. This paper argues that all three stages of this history are largely mythical. Introspectionism was never a dominant movement within modern psychology, and the method of introspection never went away. Furthermore, this version of psychology’s history obscures some deep conceptual problems, not least surrounding the modern conception of “behaviour,” that continues to make the scientific study of consciousness seem so weird.

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November 17, 2008

BOOK: Frontiers of consciousness — The Chichele lectures

books,reviews,theory — thomasr @ 10:31 am

Frontiers of ConsciousnessIn recent years consciousness has become a significant area of study in the cognitive sciences. The ‘Frontiers of Consciousness‘ is a major interdisciplinary exploration of consciousness. The book stems from the Chichele lectures held at All Souls College in Oxford, and features contributions from a ‘who’s who’ of authorities from both philosophy and psychology. The result is a truly interdisciplinary volume, which tackles some of the biggest and most impenetrable problems in consciousness.

The book includes chapters considering the apparent explanatory gap between science and consciousness, our conscious experience of emotions such as fear, and of willed actions by ourselves and others. It looks at subjective differences between two ways in which visual information guides behaviour, and scientific investigation of consciousness in non-human animals. It looks at the challenges that the mind-brain relation presents for clinical practice as well as for theories of consciousness. The book draws on leading research from philosophy, experimental psychology, functional imaging of the brain, neuropsychology, neuroscience, and clinical neurology.

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December 18, 2007

Unconscious Perception: Adding a Dorsal Stream to IDA

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September 15, 2007

Brain stem may be key to consciousness:

From MindHacks
An article in this week’s Science News discusses whether the brain stem may play a more central role in consciousness than it’s usually given credit for.

It focuses on children with hydranencephaly, a where the cortex fails to develop in children and instead, the space is filled with cerebral spinal fluid.

Typically, affected children survive only a few months after birth, but those that do survive seem to remarkably more conscious than you would guess based on theories that suggest the cortex is where all the action happens to support consciousness.

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September 10, 2007

Initiative: Decade of the Mind

ASSC,human nature,theory — thomasr @ 3:22 am

Dear all!

I would draw your attention to the letter  ‘A Proposal for a Decade of the Mind Initiative‘ by JAMES S. ALBUS, GEORGE A. BEKEY, JOHN H. HOLLAND, NANCY G. KANWISHER, JEFFREY L. KRICHMAR, MORTIMER MISHKIN, DHARMENDRA S. MODHA, MARCUS E. RAICHLE, GORDON M. SHEPHERD, GIULIO TONONI just now published in SCIENCE VOL 317 7 SEPTEMBER 2007 page 1321.

The authors propose a Decade of the Mind initiative. According to them (they represent its steering committee) it would build on progress of the recent Decade of the Brain (1990-99) and should in short focus on four broad, but intertwined areas:

  1. Healing and protecting the mind.
  2. Understanding the mind.
  3. Enriching the mind.
  4. Modeling the mind.

I strongly agree with the view that ‘present time ripe for breakthroughs in the study of the mind’ and sure the Decade proposed is extremely opportune initiative which will also positively influence on mind research in many countries outside the USA. Even the fact of publishing the letter concerning
the idea of the Decade could help to mind research progress worldwide.

The ASSC as a whole, all its members and all who are interesting in mind/brain, psychology, cognition, computer etc sciences should without doubt intensively support the Decade of the Mind initiative.


Petro Gopych,
Kharkiv, Ukraine

(From the PSYCHE mailing list)

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August 30, 2007

Get introduced to consciousness science now!

theory,web resource,workshop — thomasr @ 2:15 am

It is now time for the annual and popular on-line introductory course to consciousness science. Professors Baars and McGovern will lead you through the basic steps in this field, highlight important topics and findings, and invite you to in-depth discussions. Click on the banner to go to the webcourse website.


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June 19, 2007

Phenomenology & the Cognitive Sciences

journal,phenomenology,theory — thomasr @ 2:53 am

A new issue of Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences is out with headlines such as

See the full TOC here.

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May 24, 2007

Narrative selves

From MindHacksPhilosophy Now has an article on how the self might be based on our ability to create narratives. The article looks at how the self has been related to our ability to make narratives out of the disconnected events in our lives, and particularly focuses on the theories of philosophers Alasdair MacIntyre and Paul Ricoeur.

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May 22, 2007

Minds, brains and programs — Searle BBS draft

An unedited penultimate draft of a BBS target article by John Searle is now available. It has been accepted for publication (Copyright 1980: Cambridge University Press U.K./U.S. — publication date provisional) and is currently being circulated for Open Peer Commentary. This preprint is for inspection only, to help prospective commentators decide whether or not they wish to prepare a formal commentary. Please do not prepare a commentary unless you have received the hard copy, invitation, instructions and deadline information.

For information on becoming a commentator on this or other BBS target articles, write to:

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April 4, 2007

Ned Block paper, BBS call for commentators

journal,theory — thomasr @ 2:38 pm

nedblock.pngNed Block is known for his suggestions that there are two aspects of consciousness and their neural underpinnings that need to be disentangled. In BBS, there is now an unedited and uncorrected final draft of a manuscript that, while being accepted for publication, it needs commentators, as is standard procedure in BBS. The paper is called “Consciousness, Accessibility, and the Mesh between Psychology and Neuroscience“.

If you are interested in commenting on this interesting paper, go to the BBS commentator page for this manuscript. Mind, do not start to write the comment before receiving a formal invitation.

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Event perceptions

perception,phenomenology,theory — thomasr @ 2:11 pm

/category/phenomenology/feed/goossensflowoftime_jpg2.jpgSo how do we really experience the world around us, and events as they occur? As discrete units of experiences or as one flow of experience. In a recent paper in Psychologial Bulletin authors Jeffrey Sacks and colleagues suggest that we perceive and conceive of activity in terms of discrete events, and that the perception of boundaries between events arises from ongoing perceptual processing. The elaboration of this view and  accompanying consequences are laid out in this paper. Here we link to the abstract as well as the manuscript.

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March 12, 2007

On the (sound) track of anesthetics

3412_web.jpgDanish scientists challenge the accepted scientific views of how nerves function and of how anesthetics work. Their research suggests that action of nerves is based on sound pulses and that anesthetics inhibit their transmission.

Every medical and biological textbook says that nerves function by sending electrical impulses along their length. “But for us as physicists, this cannot be the explanation. The physical laws of thermodynamics tell us that electrical impulses must produce heat as they travel along the nerve, but experiments find that no such heat is produced,” says associate professor Thomas Heimburg from the Niels Bohr Institute at Copenhagen University. He received his Ph.D. from the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen, Germany, where biologists and physicists often work together – at most institutions these disciplines are worlds apart. Thomas Heimburg is an expert in biophysics, and when he came to Copenhagen, he met professor Andrew D. Jackson, who is an expert in theoretical physics. They decided to work together in order to study the basic mechanisms which govern the way nerves work.

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February 2, 2007

On becoming aware of what you eat

perception,reviews,theory — thomasr @ 7:42 pm

plate_food.jpgA recent review article explores how we become aware of the (integrated) flavor of food. Abstract: In recent years, progress has been made understanding the neural correlates of consciousness. Experimental and computational data have been largely based on the visual system. Contemporary neurobiological frameworks of consciousness are reviewed, concluding that neural reverberation among forward- and back-projecting neural ensembles across brain areas is a common theme.

In an attempt to extrapolate these concepts to the oral-sensory and olfactory systems involved with multimodal flavor perception, the integration of the sensory information of which into a flavor gestalt has been reviewed elsewhere. The neurocognitive bases of human multimodal food perception: Sensory integration. I reconceptualize the flavor-sensory system by integrating it into a larger neural system termed the Homeostatic Interoceptive System (HIS). This system consists of an oral (taste, oral touch, etc.) and non-oral part (non oral-thermosensation, pain, etc.) which are anatomically and functionally highly similar. Consistent with this new concept and with a large volume of experimental data, I propose that awareness of intraoral food is related to the concomitant reverberant self-sustained activation of a coalition of neuronal subsets in agranular insula and orbitofrontal cortex (affect, hedonics) and agranular insula and perirhinal cortex (food identity), as well as the amygdala (affect and identity) in humans. I further discuss the functional anatomy in relation essential nodes. These formulations are by necessity to some extent speculative.

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January 21, 2007

Philosophy of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Biology

calendar-event,conferences,theory — thomasr @ 8:10 am

bristol.jpgFollowing the success of PPNB 2005 in Oxford, the CONTACT project is hosting PPNB 2007 in Bristol and PPNB 2008 in Edinburgh.

We aim to bring together young researchers interested in mind-world relations, to address philosophical issues raised by empirical work in psychology, neuroscience, biology, and other life sciences. Relevant topics include: consciousness, perception, emotion, covert processing and related dissociations, ecological or embodied approaches to the mind, representation in neural networks, social cognition, motor control and voluntary action, simulation theory, evolutionary psychology, issues of group selection, the relation of thought to language, mental disorders, the evolution of language, animal minds, modularity, rationality, cognitive and biological issues concerning complexity or emergence, dynamic versus computational views of cognition, and so on.

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December 19, 2006

New issue of Psyche: Rosenberg

journal,reviews,theory — thomasr @ 10:36 am

header-greek.gifA new issue of Psyche is out, focusing on the work of Gregg Rosenberg. It is a special issue focusing on consciousness, causation and the links to the physical structure of the brain.

Rosenberg has a page about the book, with several of the key chapters available online.

In fact, for those wanting a quick overview of his theory, he’s put together some PowerPoint slides which explain the key points in nine easy steps.

The new edition of Psyche examines Rosenberg’s arguments in some detail, as the link between consciousness and brain function, and the causal role of mental phenomena are two of the most important and difficult parts of modern consciousness research (from MindHacks)

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December 15, 2006

The rosetta stone of the human mind

books,theory — thomasr @ 1:53 pm

rosetta.jpg Three languages to integrate neurobiology and psychology
Vincenzo R. Sanguineti

The study of the brain-mind complex has been hampered by the dichotomy between objective biological neuroscience and subjective psychological science, based on speculative topographic models and psychodynamics formulations. The two antithetical avenues of research, premises, and dynamic hypotheses, have evolved in a polarization of neuroscience. This is partly responsible for the failure to unravel the transformation of neural events into mental images: how matter becomes imagination, and vice versa. This book illustrates how the simultaneous use of these two approaches enriches the understanding of the neural and mental realms, and adds new dimensions to our perception of neuropsychological events; how the two different scientific metaphors are similar in what they describe; and how the awareness and application of these perspectives are helpful in getting a deeper theoretical grasp on major mental events, better understanding single minds, and formulating a more integrated therapeutic intervention.

2007, XIX, 163 p., 18 illus., Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0-387-33644-3
ISBN-13: 978-0-387-33644-2
Written for: Researchers and advanced students in Neuroscience, Cognitive
Table of contents Sample pages

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October 4, 2006

A testable taxonomy for consciousness

neuroscience,theory,unconscious processes — thomasr @ 2:14 am

brain1.jpgFor those of you who have not yet read it, the May 2006 issue of Trends in Cognitive Sciences featured an important article by Stanislas Dehaene, and prominent colleagues, called “Conscious, preconscious, and subliminal processing: a testable taxonomy”. The article is available here (PDF). Basically, the approach uses the neuronal workspace hypothesis to distinguish between different forms of mental processing.

This article is now the most read article in TICS.

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February 28, 2006

Heterophenomenology vs. critical phenomenology

theory — thomasr @ 12:27 pm

Max Velmans presents and discusses the two approaches and gives the conclusion that “there is little to recommend (heterophenomenology) other than an attempt to shore up a counterintuitive, reductive philosophy of mind.”

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February 24, 2006

Inattentional blindness and GW theory

theory — thomasr @ 11:33 pm

CogPrints now features the piece “Generalized inattentional blindness from a Global Workspace perspective” by Rodrick Wallace. This article is an attempt at applying the Global Workspace model of consciousness to inattentional blindness.

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