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It may seem obvious we are conscious for we are certain we see, feel and think, but there is no accepted scientific account of these mental states as a brain condition. And since most neuroscientists assume consciousness and its supposed powers without explaining it, science is brought into question. That consciousness does not exist is here explained. The alternative, the theory of brain-sign, is outlined. It eliminates the quasi-divine knowledge properties of seeing, feeling and thinking. Brain-sign is a means/mechanism enabling collective action between organisms. Brain-sign signifies the shared world of that action. Signs are intrinsically physical and biologically ubiquitous. Brain-signs are derived moment-by-moment from the causal orientation of each brain towards others and the world. Interactive behaviour which is not predetermined (as in passing a cup of coffee) is characteristic of vertebrate species. Causality lies in the electrochemical operation of the brain. But identifying the changing world by brain-signs binds the causal states of those interacting into one unified operation. Brain-signing creatures, including humans, have no ‘sense’ they function this way. The world appears as seen. The ‘sense of seeing’, however, is the brain’s communicative activity in joint behaviour. Similarly for ‘feeling’. Language causality results from the transmission of compres- sion waves or electromagnetic radiation from one brain to another altering the other’s causal orientation. The ‘sense of under- standing’ words is the communicative state. The brain understands nothing, knows nothing, believes nothing. By replacing the prescientific notion of consciousness, brain-sign can enable a scientific path for brain science. . . . . . Keywords Brain-sign Causalorientation Consciousness Interneuralcommunication Inter-organismcommunication Neural interpretation Introduction account emerging (e.g. Anderson 2014; Oakley and Halligan 2017). However, it seems that describing brain function re- A credibility gap lies at the heart of brain science. While con- quires mentalist concepts and function (cognition, so-called) sciousness supposedly illuminates the world, and language sub- while mentality itself is unexplained. jects its fabric to human mastery, it resists physical description. A solution is offered by brain-sign theory. Brain-sign replaces How it functions is ‘explained’ by substituting other words for it consciousness as the brain phenomenon. It is a biophysical like ‘awareness’ or ‘experience’ which invoke similar non- means of interneural communication by organisms about the physical concepts (e.g. Pennartz et al. 2019; Frith and Rees world (including the organism itself) which facilitates collective 2017). As a generality, neuroscientists identify active areas and action by signifying what in the world is jointly targeted. It results conditions of the brain, then attribute to them mental categories at each moment from the brain’s interpretation of its immediate as seeing, feeling or thinking, without specifying what they add causal orientation towards the world. Causal orientation both to, or how they arise from, physical states. positions and can initiate bodily action. However, this is ‘invis- At the same time, nonconscious neural activity is consid- ible’ to us as brain-sign, for ‘we’ are wholly determined by the ered so extensive and productive of behaviour that what con- brain’s causal operation over which brain-sign has no control. sciousness does beyond it is regularly asked with no agreed Subjectivist mental concepts and lexicon, and the mind generally, are rejected as superfluous to science. Signs are biologically ubiquitous and intrinsically physical. * Philip Clapson Since brain-sign is characterized by wholly physical pro- firstname.lastname@example.org cesses, the mind-body problem is dissolved. A clear distinc- tion is made between the phenomenon’s biophysical operation Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of and its communicative content. Given the coherence of the London, London, UK 112 Act Nerv Super (2020) 62:111–126 theory, proponents of consciousness needs demonstrate why layers or belonging to a particular class’ (p. 427). Towards brain-sign theory should not replace the intractable vagueness the end is this. ‘We still need to understand why certain struc- and implausibility of consciousness. tures and processes have a privileged relationship with sub- The three main criteria for developing the theory are to: jective experience’ (p. 445). Nowhere is consciousness or subjective experience ex- 1 Provide foundations for brain science by replacing con- plained as either biologically necessary or physically plausi- sciousness with brain-sign. ble. The Integrated Information Theory (IIT) states that the 2 Distinguish the concepts and lexicon of brain science from essential properties are that it ‘exists intrinsically’ and is ‘ex- that of (colloquial) mental states. traordinarily informative’.It ‘exists for the experiencing sub- 3 Improve ordinary discourse by a more lucid account of ject rather than for an external observer’ (p. 445). No relation human being and other creatures. to physical or operational terms is offered. Neuroscientist David Poeppel says: ‘The fact is that we After reviewing the status of consciousness and neurosci- have essentially no idea how the ‘stuff of thought’ relates to ence (A Background for Brain-Sign Theory), this text outlines the ‘stuff of meat’, in the case of speech and language, and the theory (The Theory of Brain-Sign). much the same is true in virtually all domains of higher cog- nition’ (2015, pp. 142–143). But Poeppel does not tell us what thought is. A Background for Brain-Sign Theory In his 2014 book Michael Anderson says that ‘When neu- roscientists start brandishing the ‘c’ word [consciousness], Many problems are raised about consciousness: What is it? there are two predictable reactions: increased public interest How can it be physical? How is it identified in the brain? How and attention and increased scientific scrutiny and criticism’ do neural states become knowledge? How do we deal with (p. 109). The first involve ‘enthusiastic adherents’, the second qualia? These questions assume consciousness exists. But ‘question whether we should continue wasting our energy consciousness has no scientific validation. figuring out why the brain appears to be wasting its energy’ A comparison with the geocentric universe is instructive. On (ibid.). However, Anderson offers no solution (personal com- earth, the heavens appeared to move over us. This vastly exag- munication); i.e. the problem is dismissed, not resolved, gerated human significance and supported a belief in a divine which is characteristic of cognitive neuroscience. realm above and a superhuman creator and ruler. Alternatives Stanislaus Dehaene reports that ‘When I was a student in were anathema. Similarly, the history of mind and conscious- the late 1980s, I was surprised to discover that during lab ness concerns a quasi-divine realm of knowledge by vision, meetings, we were not allowed to use the C-word. We all feeling and the power of thought. For many, experience is sup- studied consciousness in one way or another, of course, by portive despite a literature which raises doubts. The following asking human subjects to categorize what they had seen or to illustrates why a new approach is required. form mental images in darkness, but the word itself remained Christof Koch says: ‘Many modern analytic philosophers taboo’ (2014,p. 7). Dehaene’s attempt to define it is this: ‘ of mind…find the existence of consciousness such an intoler- The state of wakefulness, which varies when we fall asleep or able affront to what they believe should be a meaningless wake up;  attention – the focussing of our mental resources universe of matter and the void that they declare it to be an onto a specific piece of information; and  conscious access illusion…. If I have a tooth abscess, however, a sophisticated – the fact that some of the attended information eventually argument to persuade me that my pain is delusional will not enters our awareness and becomes reportable to others’ (ibid., lessen its torment one iota…. I have very little sympathy for p. 8). But this merely references other words for conscious- this desperate solution to the mind-body problem’ (2018). ness: ‘wakefulness’, ‘mental resources’, ‘attended informa- In their book The Neurology of Consciousness, Laureys tion’, ‘awareness’, ‘conscious access’. It does not explain in et al. (2016) state that ‘Happily…this book clearly demon- a more primary and biologically illuminating way. strates that…consciousness [is] a viable subject for scientific Lancelot Law Whyte wrote these prescient words in his study.’ (p. ix). But later this passage occurs in an article by 1960 book: ‘What does mental mean?... It is here the problem Tononi et al. ‘Despite the wealth of evidence…it is difficult to lies. No one yet knows how properly to define ‘mental,’ perhaps converge on a circumscribed set of brain structures that are because this can only be done within a valid monism’ (p. 63). ‘minimally sufficient and jointly necessary’ for consciousness Whyte’s words illustrate that (1) the problem does not be- [quoting Crick and Koch 2003]…. It is also important to keep gin with identifying consciousness in the brain for it has no in mind that, at this stage, we have no idea whether the ele- mentary neural units that contribute to consciousness are local It is still normal for manuals on neuroscience or neurobiology to make no groups of neurons, such as cortical mini-columns, or individ- reference to consciousness but to assume that physical states and processes ual neurons, and perhaps only neurons located in certain nonetheless result in (unexplained) experience or sensation (e.g. Luo 2016). Act Nerv Super (2020) 62:111–126 113 scientific definition. (2) There is no adequate explanation of not the raw sensory data but a simulation of the sensation…. what a definition would be. (3) Nor what language is that We do not experience things themselves. We sense them. We could establish it. do not experience the sensation. We experience the simulation Given this context, the following maps the struggle to ad- of the sensation…an illusion’ (p. 289). The word ‘illusion’ dress the topic. applies because we take it we experience what is so between ourselves and the world, whereas the brain has made a construct both by working over masses of sensory data, and discarding The Perfidious Brain the irrelevant. We are presented with a comprehensible result. So the argument goes. While proponents of consciousness assume that experience is But the language is crucially muddled. ‘Raw sensory data’ self-revelatory they talk of the difficulty of defining it. is related to sensory organs, but a sensation occurs as an Dehaene, for example, says ‘The word consciousness…is experiencer’s experience by definition. What Nørretranders loaded with fuzzy meanings covering a broad range of com- means to say is that sensation is not of the raw sensory data. plex phenomena’ (2014, p. 8). But a science of consciousness Instead he first says that ‘we do not experience the sensation’, would require a clear ontological status and biological func- which (assuming consciousness) we do (‘we sense them’ he tion as the brain. If the brain phenomenon is not conscious- says), but then he says ‘we experience the simulation of the ness then defining it would not involve circularity because the sensation’ which is nonsense. The appropriate question is that knowledge, which consciousness hypothetically provides, given sensory data (more precisely, sensory events) are legit- would not exist. imate expressions about sensory interfaces with the physical A response might be: ‘But where would our knowledge world, what, as physicality, is the experiencer’s experience of come from? I know the world is right there before me.’ sensation? i.e. what is sensation feeling supposed to be? For Which echoes Koch’s complaint: ‘A sophisticated argument without explanation, its elements (experience, sensation, feel- to persuade me that my pain is delusional will not lessen its ing) remain undefined—along with their host, consciousness. torment one iota.’ So the first stage entails suppressing the And why is it an illusion—to what, to whom? Nørretranders conviction that ‘the world is right there before me,’ and does not reach the heart of the matter. accepting that ‘my torment’ must be explicable in scientific terms. Otherwise the organism is elevated from biology by Not Getting to Biology unknown properties. Certainty about my pain and vision must also be explained. In a footnote in his 2017 book From Bacteria to Bach and Of course, if humans are not so elevated, they are not as is Back (p. 335), Daniel Dennett refers to Nørretranders’ book as generally supposed. Herein lies difficulty. For the freedom published in the same year as his Consciousness Explained effected by consciousness (‘I make decisions’)isan escape (1991), so there was no mutual reference. In Chapter 14 of from biophysical determinism. How could our behaviour be Dennett’s 2017 book, titled ‘Consciousness as an Evolved determined yet our experience tells us otherwise? So strong is User-Illusion’, he expounds on his computer-model version the grip of consciousness, the brain is accused of deceiving us. of consciousness. A few examples. ‘We can list the properties of the tokens on the computer Not Getting to the Matter desk-top: blue rectangular ‘files’; a black arrow-shaped cursor; a yellow highlighted word in black Times In his book The User Illusion, subtitled Cutting Consciousness Roman 12-point font…. What are the corresponding Down to Size, Tor Nørretranders intends to demonstrate what properties of these internal, re-identifiable private tokens consciousness actually does. ‘Consciousness is depth but is in our brains? We don’tknow – yet…. Close your eyes experienced as surface’ ((1991), 1998, p. 288). ‘We experience and imagine a blue capital A…. You just created a token in your brain, but we can be sure it isn’t blue, any more Overturning Galen Strawson, ‘‘There occurred in the twentieth century the than the tokens of ‘o’ that occur in a word-processing most remarkable episode in the whole history of ideas – the whole history of file are round. The tokenings occur in the activity of human thought. A number of thinkers denied the existence of something we know with certainty to exist: consciousness, conscious experience.’’ Isaiah neural circuits, and they have an important role to play Berlin Lectures, Oxford University (2017). in directing attention, arousing associated tokens, and e.g. Antonio Damasio: ‘Consciousness is just the latest and most sophisti- modulating many cognitive activities’ (p. 347). cated means of generating adequate responses to an environment…by making way for the creation of novel responses in the sort of environment which an organism has not been designed to match, in terms of automated responses’ The term ‘user illusion’ comes from the computer industry. (1999, p. 304) (slightly reconstructed) which it does by ‘the world of planning, Computer and brain functioning are made analogous. The the world of formulation of scenarios and prediction of outcomes’ (p. 303). ‘user’ (the human being) need not be acquainted with the work 114 Act Nerv Super (2020) 62:111–126 the computer does to facilitate ease of (e.g.) screen interface. Wegner’s aim is to escape the involvement of mental life in Likewise, consciousness is, as it were, the brain’sinterface to causal activity because causality belongs to the physical itself, the intelligible state of the brain. We can tell that be- world: ‘the [physical] mechanism of the process’. But the cause, sourced by the neural brain, the world is intelligible to explanatory text wholly depends upon mental life, else how us as a mental construct. can the nature of human being be described? But mental life, Dennett explains consciousness by proposing it emerges specifically consciousness, is not addressed. The index entry from an accumulating hierarchy of simpler physical states, for ‘conscious mind’ sends us to this passage. ‘The definition gradually increasing the range of its competence. (He re- of will as an experience means that we are very likely to ferred to it in 1991 as a ‘virtual machine’, and still does in appreciate conscious will in ourselves because we are, of 2017.) The problem, however, is not, as proponents of con- course, privy to our own experiences and are happy to yap sciousness say, that Dennett has not explained consciousness about them all day’ (p. 11). The ‘of course’ indicates that little because it has some kind of being which amassing operational is revealed as science. Being ‘privy to our own experiences’ is circuits in a hierarchy cannot just become (e.g. David opaque. What is identified by ‘our’? Is it a sense of self, and Chalmers 1996; Ned Block, see below). It is that the brain what is that vis-à-vis the brain? Then there is ‘own’—that phenomenon (aka consciousness) has not been given a which belongs (presumably) to me. But what is myself: how biofunctional role. Dennett wants to demystify consciousness. is it owned? How are we ‘privy’? How is privy-ness made But the computer analogy is not explanatory. As with available? What is an ‘experience’?... The book concerns the Nørretranders, what is consciousness supposed to do that the illusion of conscious will, but the foundational element, con- brain qua brain states could not? The answer requires a bio- sciousness (of conscious will), is never explained. It is as- logical explanation, not a computer analogy (cf. Chomsky sumed in the history of the word and concept only describable 2016,p. 29). by other terms of itself. Could Consciousness Play Tricks? The Explanatory Block of Mentalism In an attempt to deal with consciousness and the notion of In his 2017 book, Dennett addresses the work of Daniel qualia, or qualitative states, Dennett uses David Hume’ssem- Wegner and his The Illusion of Conscious Will (2002). Here inal comments on causation. ‘We seem to see and hear and is a relevant passage from that ‘groundbreaking’ book. ‘We feel causation every day, Hume notes’ (2017, p. 354). But can never be sure that our thoughts cause our actions, as there Hume said that this is a special case of the mind’s ‘‘great could always be causes of which we were unaware that have propensity to spread itself on external objects (1739, produced both the thoughts and the actions…. As Nisbett and I:xiv)’…. It survives to this day in the typically unexamined Wilson (1977) have observed, the occurrence of a mental assumption that all perceptual representations must be flowing process does not guarantee the individual any special knowl- inbound from outside’ (ibid., p. 355). But ‘you can’t find edge of the mechanism of this process. Instead, the person intrinsic sweetness by examining the molecular structure of seeking self-insight must employ a priori causal theories to glucose: look instead to the details in the brain of sweetness account for his or her own psychological operations…. seekers’ (pp. 355–356). This is the brain’s ‘benign illusion’.’ Conscious will is not a direct perception of the relation but And our brains ‘have tricked us into having the conviction… rather a feeling based on the causal inference one makes about that there seems to be an intrinsically wonderful but otherwise the data that do become available to consciousness – the indescribable property [i.e. qualia] in some edible things: thought and the observed act’ (pp. 66–67). sweetness’ (ibid., p. 356). As with Nørretranders, we are in a terminological black The phrase ‘our brains trick us’ is now a common expres- hole. First of all, consciousness exists but without definition. sion. Nick Chater, who claims there is no unconscious mind, Then, it is given attributes: ‘amental process’, ‘knowledge’, reprises the arguments. ‘So, except in a rather uninteresting ‘self-insight’ (i.e. introspection), the (necessarily conscious) sense, we aren’t really conscious of numbers, apples, people, ‘person’ who has ‘apriori causal theories’ and ‘psychological or anything else – we’re conscious of our interpretations of operations’, together with ‘a feeling based on causal infer- sensory experience (including inner speech) and nothing ence’ that ‘one [i.e. the mental subject] makes’‘about the data more. In this light, the tower of levels of consciousness, each which become available to consciousness’ with a ‘thought’ built on the last, collapses. It is one more trick played on us by and an ‘observed act’. the brain’ (2018,p.185). 4 5 As Dennett says in his 1991 book, ‘The way to discharge an intelligence that Kant incorporated the notion of causality into the mind’s Transcendental is too big for our theory is to replace it with an ultimately mechanical fabric of Categories of Understanding in the First Critique (1781, 1787), responding semi-independent semi-intelligences acting in concert’ (p. 251). to Hume’s critique. Act Nerv Super (2020) 62:111–126 115 But is it likely the brain, as consciousness, plays tricks on no information processing role. We think that consciousness us? (Which ‘us’?) What possible survival benefit could that greases the wheels of cognition but can obtain without it’ (p. entail? 167). In other words, access consciousness (pressing the button from eye-tracking) is not conscious, but is so when phenomenal consciousness is also active. What ‘greasing the wheels’ entails Current Non-scientific Nomenclature is not discussed. These theoreticians have different accounts about a suppos- Developing a scientific theory of the brain phenomenon is of a edly fundamental biological construct. But neither tells us different order from a theory of the physical universe what being conscious does, i.e. why it is necessary beyond (heliocentrism, molecular chemistry, quantum field theory). the causal power of physical brain states. We are not even told Although humans and other creatures may be purely physical, by Block what consciousness is, ontologically. He quotes theories about ourselves are generated by our brain’scapacity Dehaene concerning his (Block’s) position. ‘The hypothetical for theorizing, and it is that which requires scrupulous concept of qualia…will be viewed as a peculiar idea of the exploration. prescientific era’ (2014, p. 221). But since Dehaene does not tell us why ‘we’ as consciousness are an ignition of the brain Explanation Which Does Not Explain rather than just physical processes operating, there is no guide for the matter. In an article titled ‘Consciousness and Conceptual Clarity’, Ned Block says that: ‘The lesson to be drawn is that isolating consciousness in the brain may depend more on being clear Is the Brain Phenomenon Really Consciousness? about what we are looking for than on massive investments in new technology’ (2015, p. 175). He follows with a paraphrase There is another dimension. Why does consciousness exist at of Kant. ‘Concepts without data are empty; data without con- all? Before Freud, Nietzsche stated that ‘For the longest time, cepts are blind’ (ibid.). This is a seminal point. Does Block conscious thought was considered thought itself. Only now achieve it? does the truth dawn on us that by far the greatest part of our He illustrates his point about concept making by contrast- spirit’s activity remains unconscious and unfelt’ (1974,p. ing Dehaene’s theory of global broadcasting with the results 262). Under Freud’s aegis, this generated a profound change of experimental data from Wolfgang Einhäuser’s lab (Frässle in human self-conception in the twentieth century. The causal et al. 2014). soul was replaced by anatomical function, though Freud failed Dehaene, Jean-Pierre Changeux and colleagues (2011)ad- to establish how. Nietzsche had an additional insight (cf. vanced a global neuronal workspace theory of consciousness, Hume/Kant). ‘‘Explanation’ is what we call it, but it is ‘de- in which neural coalitions in the rear of the brain (the primary scription’ that distinguishes us from older stages of knowledge visual cortices) compete for dominance, the winners linking and science…. How could we explain anything? We operate long range with the prefrontal cortex where cognitive functions only with things that do not exist’ (ibid., p. 172)—i.e. mental are located, generating feedback to the visual cortices and constructs. This is what Nørretranders et al. aim at: the illusory thence ignition of the workspace. The workspace becomes nature of consciousness. (Use of ‘explain’ in this text assumes widely available to other brain processes. For Dehaene et al. Nietzsche’spoint.) the workspace is consciousness, i.e. it is cognitive functioning. However, John Bargh said in 2005, ‘If we are capable of However, the Einhäuser’s lab experiments on binocular rivalry, doing something effectively through nonconscious means, rather than depending on the subject’s account of their that something would likely not be the primary function for (cognitive) experience, introduced eye-tracking technology which we evolved consciousness’ (p.52).But Bargh which identified eye movements (left or right). A response hypothesises that ‘metacognitive consciousness [i.e. being resulted from subjects pressing a button without conscious cog- aware of ‘my’ conscious content and therefore being able to nition having taken place because they were not required to influence it] is the workplace where one can assemble and report it. It was therefore not associated with the global broad- combine the various components of complex-motor skills. casting theory; frontal processing had not occurred (Block This is a development of the human species because [quoting 2015, pp. 174–175). Thus phenomenal consciousness (Block Donald 2001,p.8] ‘whereas most other species depend upon 1995), i.e. conscious activity, was apparently identified without their built-in demons to do their mental work for them, we can cognition. Block termed cognitive activity access conscious- build our own demons’’ (p. 53). (The tenor of the Baars/ ness. As Block says in the (2015) article, ‘Lamme (2003), Dehaene workspaces.) Bargh continues: ‘The purpose of Zeki, and I do not think that phenomenal consciousness has Dehaene et al. retain this position in 2017. ‘What we call ‘consciousness’ Derived from the global workspace theory of consciousness developed by results from specific types of information-processing computations, physically Bernard Baars (e.g. 1997), as acknowledged in the text. realized by the hardware of the brain.’ Also introduced is self-monitoring. 116 Act Nerv Super (2020) 62:111–126 consciousness – why it evolved – may be for the assemblage endorsing our highly speculative and frequently misleading of complex non-conscious skills…. People have the capacity typology, we cannot afford to wait.’ of building ever more automatic ‘demons’ that fit their own They point out that with four sets of binary features in each environment, needs and purposes. As William James (1890) of the two types, there are 2 possible combinations. However, argued, consciousness drops out of the processes where it is the typology proposes only two, leaving 14 non-applicable. no longer needed’ (ibid.). Unlikely, they claim. Intentional goes with conscious and con- This has ironic consequences for psychology, for ‘the trollable presumably on the assumption that consciousness has evolved purpose of consciousness turns out to be the creation the power of intending and controlling what is done. of ever more complex nonconscious processes’ since, accord- Unintentional, unconscious and uncontrollable are the inverse. ing to Bargh, consciousness has a ‘limited capacity nature’ Here is one of their examples. ‘‘A bat and a ball cost $1.10 (referencing Baumeister et al. 1998), (ibid.). in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does But that implies psychology or cognitive science cannot be the ball cost?’ People almost invariably generate an initial neuroscience’s sought-for descriptive account of brain func- answer of 10 cents, but the correct answer is 5 cents.’ The tion, for psychology depends upon the causal properties of immediacy of the response is uncontrolled (Type 1) while at mental states—seeing, feeling, thinking, willing, motivation. the same time is consciously intended (Type 2), thus obvious- Indeed, Peter Carruthers, in his Interpretive Sensory Access ly breaking the typology. It is not that the wrong answer is Theory (ISA), and from extensive analysis, says: ‘If there are caused by the failure to work it out correctly but rather that the no conscious decisions then…there is no…conscious agen- conscious intention is to answer but is uncontrolled cy…. If there is no conscious agency, then there are no con- (unconscious). sciousness agents’ (2011, p. 379). But he does not then ex- One might say (which the authors do not) that the wrong punge consciousness. He avoids commitments regarding its answer is generated unconsciously (Type 1), which is why it is nature (ibid., p. 373). uncontrolled and, as it were, passes seamlessly through con- None of this solves the underlying question, why what has sciousness (Type 2) without further analysis (i.e. it is not con- been supposed as consciousness need exist. But authors do not trolled). For the immediate answer to the question is ‘obvious’ break free from it. The question remains: Why does all brain from the question’s phrasing ($1.10 cost and $1 more-than, work not occur without consciousness, particularly when it is leaving 10 cents). Further thought is required to get the right apparently so limited? answer. But is thinking conscious, or is it, as Bargh hypothesised in 2005, a more elaborate unconscious activity pre-generated via Does Consciousness Make Sense? consciousness? If so, here is an alternative analysis. While a correct answer might seem to result from consciousness (Type Moving forward, David Melnikoff with John Bargh in 2018, 2), since it evidently passes through it, it is the unconscious debunk the conscious/unconscious typology of mental pro- that can generate a delayed but ultimately efficient correct cesses. Type 1 is efficient, unintentional, uncontrollable and answer (Type 1), which would align with the typology if it unconscious. Type 2 is inefficient, intentional, controllable too was uncontrolled (Type 1). That is, consciousness has no and conscious. They say ‘This…typology has grown more immediate impact at all despite the experimental assumption it popular with each passing decade. In just the past 5 years it is intended. Thus the typology fails, as the authors are aware has shaped empirical and theoretical work’ on numerous areas but do not analyse in this example. of research, e.g. emotion, religiosity, interview bias, judge- They summarise: ‘Given that there are at least three disso- ment and decision making. They continue: ‘Popularity of this ciable ways in which a process can be unconscious, it makes magnitude is typically reserved for ideas that have withstood little conceptual sense to talk about consciousness as a unitary decades of conceptual scrutiny and empirical vetting, so it is processing feature that can co-occur with other features.’ This no surprise that the Type 1/Type 2 distinction has a reputation again undermines the disciplines of psychology and cognitive among many researchers of being uncontroversial, even axi- science, for what is demonstrated is the total absence of a omatic. But this reputation, it turns out, is undeserved.’ On the viable mentalist vocabulary (conscious/unconscious) related contrary ‘There is no evidence that processing features cluster to scientific concepts. together into two groups; and there is substantial evidence they do not.’ Each of the areas is explored in the light of Summary experimental research. They say, with some urgency, ‘It is time that we…come to terms with these issues. With organi- Mental life is opaque (Carruthers’ word) and problematic rath- sations like the World Bank and Institute of Medicine now er than precise and relevant to neuroscience. It lacks scientific definitions. Its function has no agreed interpretation. It is di- These ideas already exist in Nietzsche’s writings. visive since either our very being appears to demand it (Koch, Act Nerv Super (2020) 62:111–126 117 Strawson), or scientific impetus forces implausible solutions access to the world, consciousness, as a theory, provides the (Dennett, Dehaene, Tononi). Indeed, Dehaene says that ‘no resolution by positing seeing and hearing (or the sense of experiment will…show how the hundred billion neurons in seeing and hearing, cf. Nørretranders). But if consciousness the human brain fire at the moment of conscious perception. is a myth, how could brains communicate about the world? Only mathematical theory can explain how the mental reduces The answer is by signification, for signs are inherently to the neural’ (2014, pp. 162–163). In a similar vein David physical. Consider the death’s-head hawkmoth. The Poeppel says: ‘Bridging virtually all domains of higher cog- European variety can move about devouring honey in the hive nition and neurobiology in an explanatory fashion requires the of honeybees because it emits chemicals (a pheromone) formulation of computationally explicit linking hypotheses’ whose properties are akin to those of bees, and it is thus ‘un- (2015, pp. 143, slightly rearranged). Mathematics is a vital noticed’ (Moritz et al. 1991). The sign, the chemistry, does not tool. However, it is the mentalist assumption that is the source facilitate communal action but it does render moths insensible of the crisis in theorising, not the absence of computation. As to bees. More relevantly, a tiny brown pufferfish, identified Bargh and Melnikoff say, the current conscious/unconscious off the coast of Japan, creates in 7 days elaborate symmetrical schemata is ‘systematically thwarting scientific progress.’ The wheel-shaped designs in the sand with its fins to attract a following is a brief outline of an alternative. female to lay eggs in the middle which it then fertilizes (Barrington et al. 2014, pp. 184–187). The sign engenders collective action which aids the species survival. How do The Theory of Brain-Sign these creatures know to do this? They do not. Their actions are generated by Donald’s ‘built-in demons’ developed in Science requires an account of the brain phenomenon with a evolutionary time. Dennett (2017) refers to this activity as plausible physical schema. While mind, soul and spirit ad- competence, not comprehension. dress the mystery of human being, they are linked to notions But there is crucial differentiation in organisms’ biophysi- of divinity; in the case of mind, what Paul Churchland dubbed cal sign usage. Bargh/Donald state it is between built-in de- ‘folk psychology’ (1981). mons and humans who ‘can build [their] own demons’.The Here is the key analytical issue, referenced in ‘Current use of pheromone chemistry by insects (and others) to gener- Non-scientific Nomenclature’. Weare the objectofscientific ate cooperative action, or to defend or deceive, is well-docu- enquiry (mind/consciousness) and the means of enquiry (as mented. This sign communicates at a comparatively primitive mind/consciousness). Consciousness, as means and object, is biological level, as well as for humans. But it is functionally presupposed without identifying whether consciousness is ac- constrained. More elaborately, honeybees convey to others tually consciousness (‘Is the Brain Phenomenon Really the route to pollen by the angular relation to the sun (and other Consciousness?’ and ‘Does Consciousness Make Sense?’). factors) in their ‘dance’ signs. This is accomplished by altering Is the ‘we’ that enquires, apparent in Koch’s cry, a scientific receivers’ brain states via intervening electromagnetic radia- entity? ‘A sophisticated argument to persuade me that my pain tion and compression waves. But whilst more elaborate than is delusional will not lessen its torment one iota.’ Koch does pheromone release, the function remains precise. The dance is not justify the ‘me’ scientifically. It is a subject harbouring the an instruction. The pufferfish employs further complexity, for divinity (the knower knowing) within the mentalist lexicon. whilst the wheel design is an instruction if followed, it appears Actually, there are three topics to be dealt with, not two. to have an ‘acceptance-or-not’ role for the female. Moreover, They are (1) the function of our ‘presence’ in the universe, i.e. the sandscape is modified to achieve a result, which is a re- what are ‘we’ as the brain phenomenon? (2) The physical markable technical development. nature of that phenomenon fulfilling a coherent biophysical An evolutionary transition is taking place. Organism coop- function, and therefore (3) the physical actuality of the brain eration moves from instruction (molecular or behavioural) to phenomenon. an operation which is neither genetically preestablished or What is required is a way of reconstructing concepts and mimicked. It demands continual adaptive behaviour, as in evidence so that a plausible scientific model appears from the one person passing a cup of coffee to another, i.e. without ruins of a prescientific construct. Of course, given the history, predetermined responses. Dynamic interaction. Not only is this will require a fundamental change in our self-conception. this more elaborate, it needs a means/mechanism to facilitate it. That is brain-sign. Locating Brain-Sign The Missing Link—Causal Orientation Currently, and for thousands of years, humans have taken communication with others for granted because the world is The brain phenomenon, brain-sign, represents the world and immediately available as seen. Given this is impossible, for the response of the organism to the world; what mentalism the brain is isolated in each organism’s skull denying it direct supposes as seeing and emotion. But (mental) seeing and 118 Act Nerv Super (2020) 62:111–126 emotion are held to spring from the physical brain as different particularly in vertebrate species. In numerous situations, rep- kinds of entities from the brain and each other. Mentalism is resentations became sustained as the world-object of causal prolific, Dehaene’s ‘fuzzy meanings covering a broad range of brain structures—and thence, under natural selection, come to complex phenomena.’ Seeing, hearing, sensing, smelling, act as a communication medium/mechanism, greatly thinking, judging, discriminating, pain, depression, excite- expanding possible behavioural complexity. Representations ment, boredom, passion, shame, love, contempt, guilt, hope, do not add to causality for the organism itself: they become the confidence, etc. These are understood, not merely as personal communicative means of the interaction process. For the attitudes, but, hypothetically, states of the mind/brain. pufferfish, the wheel pattern is communication in the mating Brain-sign theory, however, has a straightforward explana- act. It operates in the time-sequence of mating. However, in- tion for the origin of them all. For something determines what creasing levels of cooperative interaction in mating behaviour segment of the world (including the body) is to be represented. occur. Many species of birds, for example, build nests for egg Assuming the brain itself causes the organism to act, it is the depository which is interactive, though the female is often brain’s immediate causal orientation towards the world (i.e. dominant. In evolutionary time interaction occurs with much the brain’s activated structures and electro-chemical status). In more advanced levels of reciprocation—for elephants, dol- the case of seeing, what causes what appears are the specific phins, apes and humans. Thus Bargh’sunderminings of con- elements of the world of the current causal orientation, includ- sciousness are given a scientific reconstruction, and science ing the organism itself. (Which is why the world can be seen itself a plausible physical genesis (i.e. with no conscious/ in different ways depending on the brain’s causal orientation.) unconscious dichotomy). But the brain does not see because its causal orientation has This is a new domain of biological explanation. Credibility already determined what will happen. The brain phenomenon may be enhanced by a biological parallel between brain-sign is the brain’s interpretation of its causal orientation towards as representational states of world objects, and the cellular the world as that world. (Which is supported by the experi- ‘colouration’ and design of the chameleon and cuttlefish, or ments of Benjamin Libet (e.g. 1983) in which a subject’s the surface markings of butterflies acting as deception. Other ‘chosen’ action neurally precedes awareness of it.) But why body structures, too, in which aspects of the world are ‘mim- would it do that if the image is not involved in its action? icked’ for defence, for example, stick and leaf insects, the Brain-sign is a means/mechanism by which brains jointly Phasmatodea (Butler 2012). Brain structures are certainly establish the domain of collective action from the successive more elaborate than body surface structures, not least because causal orientations. If A passes B a cup of coffee, each brain they continually change, as does causal orientation. How the continually interprets its shifting causal orientation so signify- brain mechanism is constructed is as yet unspecified. Tononi ing the cup and the ongoing interaction within the local envi- et al. say this about consciousness (above); but they have the ronment. The cup is identified between hands and bodies from more intractable problem of explaining consciousness itself. the time of inception to receipt. Thus brain-sign is not an Coincident to the neural representations of the world, brain external instruction one to another, as the bee dance or responses to the world are internalised for signification (so- pufferfish wheel. It is the content of the in-the-world transac- called emotion, etc.). These are temporally linked to world tion which each causal brain must continually establish to representations but are also sourced from the organism’scaus- effect it. This includes, of course, the ‘sense’ of each individ- al orientation. ual being in that world. Still, the question might be asked: If causality belongs in Brain-Sign: an Outline the physical brain operation, why do brains have to signify the world in which that operation takes place? The answer is that Causal orientation is the crucial link from brain to brain-sign. both the complexity and precision of interaction demands sus- Organisms do not act from seeing, thinking, feeling or belief. taining what the transaction is about. Brain-sign is the mutual They have no motives for what they do. These explanations reference for the brain/body action, though it is obviously not are brain generated without scientific constraint: they are pre- the actual world (cf. Kant, Nørretranders, Dennett, et al.). In scientific. Brain-sign theory initiates a new biophysical ac- action, they are one biophysical unit, not two or more. count of organisms. Here are fundamental elements of brain- sign structure. Foundation and Evolution By contrast with, e.g. Tomasello 2014; see Clapson 2016. Also this dis- Brain-sign did not develop so that complex interactions could counts references Dennett makes (2017, p. 342) to McFarland (1989), take place. That would counter evolutionary theory. The hy- Dawkins and Krebs (1978) and others, in which the ability not to reveal the organism’s ‘current state to competitive organisms’ is as significant as the pothesis is that the internally generated representation of the ability to communicate. For generating representations is not required for that world and responses to it result from the increasing causal behavioural operation, nor is it explained how representations could be causal, possibilities of evolving brains in relation to the world, i.e. the mind-body problem. Act Nerv Super (2020) 62:111–126 119 i Categories-of-the-world ‘experience’, ‘awareness’ etc. have no underlying neural as- j The biophysical marker sociations. Brain-sign theory states that there is nothing in the k Categories-of-interaction world the brain can know (cf. Nietzsche et al.). l Brain-sign language A luminous example of brain-sign’s improvement over psy- chology occurs with the notion of attention. In the well-known experiments of Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris (1999, 2010), individuals concentrating on a video game of basketball Perception Redesigned fail to notice a person in a gorilla suit appearing, chest pounding, and departing. The phenomenon was given the term From infancy, the organism explores the world. But the infant ‘inattentional blindness’. It even occurs if viewers are warned does not learn to see. The brain/body becomes acquainted of an irrelevant event beforehand (Chabris and Simons 2010). with objects by establishing, in neural structures (termed as- Brain-sign theory rejects inattentional blindness: the brain sees semblies or networks), causal responses to surfaces, substan- nothing so it cannot be blind. The brain’s causal orientation is tiality, construction, behaviour characteristics, native environ- the basketball game which the resulting brain-sign signifies. ment and use. By sensory input and interaction with the world This straightforward neuroscientific explanation replaces what (eyes, ears, bodily contact, tongue), and thence brain associa- has seemed a mental fallibility. Indeed, the flyer for the tion, neural instruction about action in the world is built. As Chabris/Simon 2010 book states that ‘Our minds don’twork gradually developed, the brain interprets its causal orientation the way we think they do.’ Yet the mind is retained as a valid towards the world thus generating brain-signs—portrayals of entity—ironically personifying the flyer. Similarly, Carruthers the world and the organism’s response to it, which signify in refers to this experiment in an interview (2018) but, despite joint behaviour. Parents and children begin to engage beyond asserting that ‘consciousness is not what we generally think it purely autonomic activity. is,’ he maintains it, so fixated is human culture. As a theory, mentalism’s seeming to see is replaced by an So returning to ‘The Theory of Brain-Sign’, we can say that ‘invisible’ capacity for interneural communicative acquain- (1) ‘Our presence in the universe’ is a biophysical condition of tance with the world implicit in everyday behaviour. It is not neural communication; (2) ‘The physical ontology of the phe- apparent to our lived lives. Thus the account moves from nomenon’ is that of a sign; and (3) ‘The physical actuality of conscious/unconscious duality to causal orientation and the brain phenomenon’ is structures and conditions of the interneural communication—the sought-for scientific monism brain, as yet to be determined. Of course, brain-signs between (ref. Lancelot Law Whyte). Brain-signs are part of the organ- organisms are not identical. They are adequate for a bio- ism’s survival arsenal. communicative role. The sense of seeing (and other senses) is the signification of ‘Perceptions’ in their many forms (sight, hearing, touch, the vast assembly of neural structures that enable behavioural taste) are termed, as brain-sign content, categories-of-the- and cooperative possibilities of the brain and body. It is a world for obvious reasons. They are not input to cognitive communicative shorthand for the brain’s operational capacity mechanics (Kant’s engine of reason) or any form of ‘what in numerous potential situations. What is predominant in ‘see- it’slike’ (Nagel 1974). They are output serving communica- ing’ is the image. But the organism’s so-called sense of seeing tion about the world of causal orientation. The organism does is actually the brain’s outward act of neural communication, not perceive: the world comes into being as brain-sign for whether another organism is present or not. The ‘sense of interneural communication. seeing’ an apple conveys causal possibilities in relation to apples as physicality: eatability, grown on trees, makes cider, It is appropriate to place the brain-sign account within the what Eve passed to Adam, and so on, the particularities de- literature. (If the reader wishes to continue the brain-sign nar- pendent on the brain’s immediate causal orientation. So, a rative, skip to the next section.) Firstly, the use of the term signified wall entails the behavioural feature of not walking ‘seeing’ by contrast with ‘perception’. Whilst they are used into it. The brain will not be communicating actually if no interchangeably, perception is often associated with a more other organism is present, but its biological status is commu- complex condition. Jan Koenderink and Joachim Krueger, in nicative. Thus the mentalist terms ‘consciousness’, their 2017 article, express this difference. The word ‘seeing’, or ‘vision’ as the authors say, assumes the world is directly Edmund Husserl developed his notion of the life-world (Lebenswelt)in and accurately present to the observer. ‘The central problem which we exist in the world with its objects around us—the experience we [for rationality] is the present emphasis on inverse optics – the take as normal and simply assume. His last published book, Crisis ((1954), 1989), influenced by Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time ((1927), 1962), [supposedly] objective nature of objects and environments [as distinguishes the experienced world from the scientific account of the world. seen].’ By contrast, they propose the world is a construct in Phenomenology sets out to describe the experienced characteristics. Brain- which the organism’s species, and thus sensory modalities, are sign, as the portrayal of the world from the brain’s causal orientation, is sci- entifically founded and eschews phenomenology as scientifically incoherent. incorporated together with its particular history (‘expectations, 120 Act Nerv Super (2020) 62:111–126 conjectures, and theories’) which affect the perceiving state the-world. The response to pain, the ‘discomfort’,willbe ad- (cf. Nørretranders, et al.). dressed in the next section. Brain-sign theory certainly agrees the brain phenomenon is In brain-sign communication, each organism is identified a construct: it derives from the causal orientation of the organ- as unique. As content, ‘pain’ is conjoined with the biological ism’s brain. But whilst distancing their account from identification of that organism, the biophysical marker, which rationality’s non-biological ‘all-seeing eye’, they preserve replaces the mental subject. Marker and ‘pain’ exist together mentalism and its elevation from the physical. No explanation as biophysical communication. Koch’s ‘sense of himself is offered for its causality. experiencing pain’ can be helpfully identified by others in a The second and linked topic is enaction or enactivism. As shared world, neurally generated. Koch does not experience John Stewart puts it, ‘‘The world’ as it can be diversely known this fact for neither Koch nor pain exist in the mentalist sense by living organisms from bacteria to contemporary humans is (The Perfidious Brain). actually brought about, ‘enacted’, by the cognitive organism Kant is partly right when he says that ‘Through this I… itself’ (2014, p. 27). This is the so-called embodied mind (or nothing is represented than a transcendental subject of the cognition, the topic presaged in the book by Varela et al. thoughts [or pain] = X’ (1933 p. 331). But Kant was expressly 1991). Alva Noё, a pioneer of the approach, says that ‘At talking of a non-physical mind that thinks or has pain. Brains the ground of our encounter with…different objects – appear- are physical; they do not think or have pain. ances in one modality or another – is sensorimotor skill’ (2004 But how do we account for thinking about ourselves or our p. 107). Being embodied means that mental states are not thoughts—meta-consciousness? How do we address knowing disembodied entities (Descartes) or with irreducible qualita- we are in pain? Daniel Wegner claims we (our selves) are tive properties (Chalmers). Appearances result directly from ‘privy to our own experiences’. Certainly, we seem to think bodily actions in the world. about things in the world and in ourselves, which are notion- Brain-sign theory sympathises. There are no causal mental ally quite different, because the object is in different places— states and brain-signs are generated from brain/body causality. outside and inside. But this is fallacious. There is no inner Moreover, Stewart comments that ‘the majority of epistemo- world: there is one physical world of which brains are part, logical positions…share a commitment to objectivism’ and and brain-signs are physical structures. this makes enactivism ‘an unusual point of view’.However, Our so-called inner life is interneural communication, neither Noё nor Stewart explain the biophysical function of whether we suppose we have pain (‘feeling’)orknow we have world appearances. Why are they there at all? Stewart even it (‘reflection’). The construct of brain-sign is the biophysical says, ‘We humans are profoundly social beings’ (ibid.) with- marker plus the location of content in the only place it could out arriving at brain-sign theory. This characterises a diverse be—the body Iam (in Koch’s case a tooth). ‘Becoming aware literature, which probably accounts for its failure to gain of it’, so-called, is neurally communicating it. Saying ‘Ihave unified assent—Thomas Kuhn’s ‘normal science’ (1962). pain in my jaw’ follows the initial brain-sign and differs from This failure is mentioned by Matthew Cobb in his 2020 it. The intent of saying it (before it is said) is not a mental book (p. 251) in relation to the book by neuroscientist reflection (or realisation) of being in pain. I.e. the supposition Gyӧrgy Buzsáki (2019). Buzsáki, working in the action- we think about ourselves as a self experiencing mental entity based genre, says ‘Cognition can be understood only as a results from the theoretical structure of mentalism forced on us social phenomenon that transcends the brain of an individual' from infancy without question. So, beyond the contortion of (p .228). But his fascinating account is still consciousness- our face, another brain can identify and associate with (quasi- bound, not brain-sign. replicate as signification) our brain’s condition, when told, because brain-sign creates a common world. This is neither empathy as a dualist mental function, nor simulation theory as The Subject (I, Self) Redesigned a mind state. But the latter is in-tune with brain-sign theory. Thus the philosophical notion of apperception (Descartes, For mentalism, the I is crucial for experience, and is concep- Leibnitz, Kant)—the awareness of self being aware of the tually central; hence Koch’s ‘my pain is [not]delusional’.But world—is superseded by the neuroscientific account of Koch’s discomfort is a communicative neural event. The caus- interneural communication. It occurs in our dog/cat (and other al orientation from which ‘pain’ is interpreted signifies the creatures) and is mistakenly supposed as mental selfhood. A organism should do something about it. This was Descartes’ creature ‘recognizing itself’ in a mirror (dolphins, explanation, but he proposed it was divinely sourced (effec- As Will Storr puts it: ‘The controlled hallucination inside the silent, black tively endorsed by Chalmers’‘hard problem’ and Block’s vault of our skulls that we experience as reality is warped by faulty informa- phenomenal consciousness). ‘Pain’ per se is a category-of- tion. But because the distorted reality is the only reality we know, we just cannot see where it’s gone wrong’ (Storr 2019, p. 62). 11 13 For example, Embodiment, Enaction, and Culture (Durt et al. 2017). See, e.g. Carruthers 2011, p. 224 and below. Act Nerv Super (2020) 62:111–126 121 chimpanzees) is not recognising a mental self. It has an addi- a chain of inner mental events. Our mind is continually tional behavioural ability towards its body. Inside its head, it interpreting, justifying and making sense of our own still signifies its interaction with others. behaviour, just as we make sense of the people around Here is another example. We are startled by an unbidden us, or characters in fiction’ (2018,p. 6). ‘There is no and very strange ‘thought’. And, as if peering into the depths, inner world’ (ibid., p. 8). ‘we’ say to ‘ourselves’: ‘How could I have thought that bizarre thing?’ But just as the bizarre thought occurs spontaneously, Brain-sign theory agrees the brain phenomenon is a crea- so does the questioning ‘reflection’. However, it is not an tion of the moment and the brain generates an account of itself introspective action by a mental I questioning a hidden (further below). That there are no unconscious mental states is (unconscious) interior producing bizarre thoughts. certain for none are conscious. But Chater’s mind and con- The bizarre thought is a brain-sign construct from the sciousness are given no biophysical credence, rendering brain’s immediate causal orientation. It is discontinuous with ‘interpreting, justifying and making sense’ gratuitous. In par- prior brain events. The brain constantly organizes and ex- ticular, the conscious subject is completely absent. So to presses its operation. Its processes are not controlled (or whom is ‘our’ behaviour made sense, and how does that hap- accessed) by a conscious or rational mind. But since the pen? Surely sentences occur. ‘Looking at the page in front of event is unrelated to prior causal orientations, the brain gen- me as I type, I have the feeling that I see words everywhere’ erates a communicative brain-sign noting its unrelated char- (ibid., p. 41). But this I has no scientific validation. It is simply acter. Because brain-signs function communicatively, the sup- assumed because it is how one talks (or types). posedly reflective event is, in principle, still communication In a somewhat similar way, Dennett persists in not explaining with others. It is formed with the biophysical marker and a consciousness whilst continuing to use the term. The issue is his new causal orientation pointing towards the construction of fixation on language. He says, according to Patricia Churchland, the bizarre ‘thought’ by a fictive self/mind. The prior ‘thought’ that ‘without language, an animal is not conscious. That includes is not coincident with it but, in these following brain-sign nonlinguistic humans.’ (2013, p. 204.) She demurs (after constructs, it hovers behind and before it temporarily. The Panksepp 2010): ‘Being conscious enables the acquisition of notion of self-inquiry does not describe the brain’s operation, language, not the other way round’ (ibid., p. 205). for the biophysical marker does no work beyond identifying Indeed, Dennett does not explain the conscious subject, the this organism. self. His view in 1991, repeated since, is that ‘If you think of This description makes three points. (1) The biophysical yourself as a center of narrative gravity…your existence de- marker is not a mental subject that can actively inquire into pends upon the persistence of that narrative…which could its mind. (2) Having identified the role of brain-sign, there is theoretically survive many switches of medium’ including no question of ownership of thoughts by a mental subject. (3) (apparently) immortality if your name, the ‘center’,isin print As brain-sign, we are the brain’s explanation of its state which (p. 430, emphasis added). You are simply information. Thus is functions as the common world with others. consciousness wiped out by his inapt computer analogy. Certainly often no communication takes place. But the In brain-sign theory, the biophysical marker replaces the brain does not discriminate in its autonomic creation of conscious subject (there is no consciousness) and endorses brain-sign for it does not know what it is doing. Over- Churchland’s claim about animals and nonlinguistic humans. production is characteristic of biological processes. For example, she proposes that ‘when my dog Duff sees me * packing my suitcase and looks downcast…he is feeling the Now again it is important briefly to distinguish this account sadness of imminent separation…probably similar to my from others in the literature. It has become fairly common to own’ (ibid., p. 249). The problem for Churchland is that ‘feel- state that the brain makes up stories, significantly influenced ing sad’ is scientifically unexplained. by the work of Michael Gazzaniga on split-brain patients (his On the other hand, Peter Carruthers, denier of conscious agen- ‘left brain interpreter’, e.g. 2011; also on consciousness, cy, says that ‘While selves exist, they…should be thought to 2018). But in doing so the brain has no access to any kind comprise all of the mental states…within the agent (the vast of (transcendent) knowledge beyond the conditions of its own majority of which are unconscious)’ (2011, p. 380). (Note the neural functioning. Here is an account from Nick Chater. conflict with Chater.) But by not eliminating consciousness and saying it is not epiphenomenal, he commits the self to vacuity. ‘Our flow of conscious thought, including our explana- tions of our own and others’ behaviour, are creations of Emotions, etc., Redesigned the moment, not reports of (or even speculations about) Another element of brain-sign is categories-of-interaction. By contrast with world representations, these express the organ- For Kant, the ‘considered’ self of reflection (the ‘empirical’ I) is an ordinary representation, not a manifestation of the transcendental I of consciousness. ism’s response to the world (cf. ‘Foundation and Evolution’). 122 Act Nerv Super (2020) 62:111–126 They also result from the brain’s interpretation of its causal vigorous exercise. Context is crucial. How is it determined? orientation and coincide with categories-of-the-world. By the brain’s causal orientation in brain-operational terms. Mentalism, as a theory, states that if a lion appears before The first is a threat; the second, exertion. Different categories- us we see it and feel fear. Brain-sign theory says we do not see of the-world arise with different categories-of-interaction—in it or feel fear. The brain and body react, but they do so purely the first case external activity the brain takes as threatening; as physical structures which includes signification to facilitate for the jogger, the path ahead and leg ache. In other words, interneural communication about the world and the body’s adrenalin’s influence on causal orientation is qualified by cir- response to it. Whilst the complexity of language is a distinc- cumstance. Claiming adrenalin causes fear is incorrect, as is tion between humans and other creatures, humans are not seeing a threatening situation. Adrenalin is a constituent of distinct from (many) other vertebrate creatures in the genera- causal orientation; seeing does not exist. tion of brain-sign (Patricia Churchland and her dog). Pessoa comments ‘it may be time to stop describing con- As a high-level generality, categories-of-the-world are gen- cepts in terms of dichotomies [ref. Newell 1973; Kelso and erated from activity in the neocortex; categories-of-interaction Engstrøm 2006] and to adopt a vocabulary that views con- from the limbic system, the amygdala being a prime locus. cepts as complementary pairs that mutually define each other The limbic system is older phylogenetically, but these two and, critically, do not exclude each other’ (2013, p. 5). areas are influential on each other. That ‘emotion interacts Therefore ‘I believe it is more fruitful to describe mental phe- with cognition has become a fairly well accepted notion’ nomena in terms of cognitive-emotional interactions’ (ibid.). states Luiz Pessoa (2013,p.2). Brain-sign theory discards mentalist terminology (i.e. Both categories derive from the causal orientation, so while Pessoa’s ‘descriptive’ usage of cognition-emotion) locating an aim of neuroscience should be the identification of where and brain-signs in neural structures and conditions derived from how brain-sign is located, it is equally necessary to determine the causal orientation. The point is not that this can be done where and how causal orientation occurs. The implication is that today; rather it offers a constructive route in grounding future the brain’s causal status has states of fast recurring reportability brain science. from which brain-sign is derived. This must be a condition An example is, ‘disappointment’ resulting from an event or with identifiable physical characteristics, by contrast with con- situation not matching hopes or wishes. The person, the sup- sciousness where neural assemblies are representationally intel- posed self, feels ‘let down’ or failed in ‘what was wanted’. ligent (by unspecified means) and, as it were, glow, feel, sense The brain-sign reconstruction emphasises causal orientation and emote (cf. Tononi et al. 2016; Dehaene 2014—as above). (immediate or subsequent) as brain networks directed at a Koch says ‘I feel the pain’. How can matter feel pain? Or be biophysically describable relation toward the world (generat- upset about it? Brain-sign theory resolves this because ‘we ing control, co-opting allies, endorsement of actions). are’ a neural construct, not a mental event. States of Organisms are continually baulked in such events, to a greater (supposed) anger, adoration, envy, gratitude, serve interneural or lesser degree. They adapt their networks accordingly, e.g. communication directly and are not merely behavioural atti- altering their instructions or aborting the activation. What does tudes. They do so because, as signs, they are a common brain not happen is human subjects pondering the situation and occurrence, which is a tacit justification for their role. Antonio making mental decisions (cf. Carruthers). So, while pain/ Damasio says: ‘The thing to marvel at …is the similarity not pleasure or love/hate accounts have been neurally generated the difference [between organisms in emotional expression]’ as simpler explanations than brain analysis, they are inade- (1999, p. 53). However, his subsequent statement is that ‘emo- quate for science (e.g. Freudian psychology, and contra tions produce quite reasonable behaviors’ (ibid.,p.54— Solms 2018). Categories-of-interaction related to causal ori- emphasis added). But the physical generator of an organism’s entation offers a plausible investigative route. behaviour is not an emotion; it is its causal orientation from As mentioned, the motivations people are deemed to have which brain-sign derives. This renders brain science tractable. are non-scientific categories, as are Aristotelian ‘purposes’. The associated behaviour fits into biologically determinable The physical universe has no purposes or motivations and classifiable structures. (contra Pessoa, chapter 6; Berridge 2018). The current con- Here is an example. Activated adrenalin (epinephrine) en- cern for mental health as distinct from physical health (daily ergises the body’s condition in blood circulation for rapid expressed in the news) is as scientifically unhelpful as phlo- response (Luo 2016, p. 353). So, is the sense of fear the sole giston before molecular chemistry. result of adrenalin release? No. Adrenalin is also released in * The terms ‘exteroception’ and ‘interoception’ have become An indicative example is chronostasis resulting from the rapid movement of current: the first, perception of the external world; the second the eyes (the saccade) to a new target resulting in the stopped-clock illusion. The second hand appears to have a longer immediate delay before moving than subsequently because the brain anticipates the saccade. See further Knoll For recent discussion of constitution and causality, see, e.g. Kästner and et al. (2013). Anderson (2018). Act Nerv Super (2020) 62:111–126 123 perception of inner states of the body. Obviously, the terms bodily, though an operational misnomer—i.e. how the brain presume the capacity for ‘perception of…’ As Cynthia Price categorises it as brain-sign. Major depression and mood dis- and Carole Hooven put it: ‘What becomes conscious, i.e. in- orders (categories-of-interaction) are neurologically commu- teroceptive awareness, involves the processing of inner sensa- nicated representations. Which is why they ‘play a role for tions so they become available to conscious awareness’ every individual,’ as the authors say, and not because mental (2018). states exist or influence behaviour. Erik Ceunen et al. (2016) claim that ‘‘Interoception’ is a concept which relates to a…wide range of health…and psy- Language Redesigned chological aspects of human life, playing a role in every indi- vidual…. A cursory glance at the literature is sufficient to see Language has been a great mystery. How does it raise us … a vast range of subjects.’ The authors generate a list of beyond other creatures? How can words change minds or ‘inner’ conditions including: medically defined symptoms, influence actions? But at the heart of these questions is a emotions in general, decision making, and subjective time profound mistake. perception. Pain is particularly significant. They quote The Brain-sign language is not language as generally supposed, International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). Pain i.e. that we (mentally) understand words and sentences and act is ‘An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associat- upon them. Understanding is a prescientific concept, which ed with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms dissolves a central plank of Kant’s doctrine. But before ad- of such damage’ (Merskey and Bogduk 1994). This makes no dressing the mistake, the principles of the brain-sign theory attempt at science. Giving this diversity a technical name does approach are outlined. not solve the mind-body problem. Because the universe is physical, a scientific theory needs to The authors say that ‘The only thing determining whether determine the physical characteristics of the linguistic process. something is interoceptive is whether it contributes to the sub- Language is not a phenomenon of mind. It is an evolved means jective perception of body state.’ So whether there is actual for one organism to change the causal orientation of another damage, in the case of pain, is irrelevant to interoception if it is (contra Chomsky, e.g. 2016; Dehaene 2014,p.250).Thisis felt. For example, ‘The findings [of McGrath et al. 2013] effected by the generation and reception of compression waves suggest that at least for major depression, and perhaps for between brains from/to vocal mechanism and ears. In the case of mood and other disorders, there are two subgroups of pa- humans, it also entails transmission by electromagnetic radiation tients…one…with an overactive anterior insula, the other… via the eyes (‘reading’). Physical transmission is a basic inter- with an underactive anterior insula. These two…neurological organism practice. Many creatures sign by molecular transmis- biomarker patterns…are suggestive respectively of accurate sion for location marking. Urine spray is customary for dogs. So and inaccurate perceivers…. Regardless of the accuracy with language has no transcendent characteristics. Complexity is the which individuals with mood and anxiety disorders can per- feature language offers, resulting from associated brain capacity. ceive sensory homeostatic afferent feedback, individuals with The foundational principle is that language is ‘learned’ and such disorders excessively rely on sources other than the ac- maintained, not as words and sentences, but as neural elements of tual bottom–up homeostatic pathways, giving more weight to causal orientation. That is, words are linked (as brain-signs) with maladaptive cognitive-emotional schemes of interpretation behavioural actions in relation to the organism’s engagement (Paulus and Stein 2010).’ I.e. over- and underactive neural with the world. For example, the word ‘apple’ activates behav- conditions generate ‘biased’ accounts. ioural networks associated with apples. When one brain (A) This is supported by the authors’ comment that ‘Seth executes the transmission of compression waves to another (B), (2013) proposes that interoception…is not just passive, the word ‘apple’ occurs in the latter’s brain as brain-sign. But the bottom–up processing, but…also involves active top–down causal path for the word to become the brain-sign occurrence activation to make predictions of the causes of sensory input. results from the association in B’s brain with its causal orientation His view is…that perception is a process of not only afferent towards apples. In other words, brains do not have dictionaries of feedback, but also of predictions, and ultimately the integra- words with meaning. B’sbrain-signof ‘apple’ is a signification tion of both, resulting in prediction errors.’ An expanded con- of causal networks in B’sbrain.The word ‘apple’, which A and structivist account (cf. Koenderink and Krueger 2017), now B then hold in common, is a joint association of causal possibil- concerning ‘inner’ states. ities (actions in the world) associated with apples. Words (so- Brain-sign theory contributes twofold. There are no subjec- called) are neural signifiers of causal orientations, i.e. subsets of tive phenomenological states, and there is a clear discrimina- the totality of possibilities, and not added mental conditions that tion of the world as represented (including what is termed are understood and can affect actions. How the brain generates imagined and remembered), and a response to it. So, ‘pain’ brain-sign in this situation is not yet established. However, its which is not caused by body damage yet ‘felt’ is categories-of- operational function is on the same grounds as other brain-sign the-world and categories-of-interaction. The pain ‘felt’ is elements. 124 Act Nerv Super (2020) 62:111–126 Thus,intraininganinfanttoassociateawordwith anobject, art…. There is no justification for collating linguistic mean- the adult attempts to generate in the child the same neural operation ings unless in terms of men’s dispositions to respond overtly he/she has. However, the adult has no access to the nature of his/ to socially observable stimulations. An effect of recognizing her own operative neural structure because that is not revealed by this limitation is that the enterprise of translation is found to be the brain in its operation. Brain-sign itself, as said, has no causal involved in a systematic indeterminacy’ (1960, p. ix). The impact on the organism’s own actions. It is purely a sign. point is not that ‘dispositions to respond’ or ‘stimulations’ What seems to happen is that the adult points to an object and are not the base conditions for ‘indeterminacy’.It is that brain says its name. By that method, in an opaque way, the adult forces communication by signification depends upon neural struc- the word into the infant’s head for each occasion the object is tures (causal orientations) which are different in individuals, before it. But while this is an automatic method of the concerned particularly across languages. They serve an often communi- parent (as ‘supposed’ by him/her), what happens is more com- cative adequacy. plex. When the adult engages with an object with its brain caus- ally orientated towards it, the neurally interpreted name as brain- sign can also occur. These two brain-sign elements (object and Summary word) coexist. This elaborate neural event is to be installed in the child. The child’s brain is being trained to associate its causal Brain-sign theory offers an account accessible as science orientation towards the object, from which its brain-sign of the which mentalism does not. object is derived, with its causal orientation towards the com- Subjectivity is replaced by biology enabling collective ac- pression waves impact by which the name will become a linked tion amongst organisms. That behaviour exists in compara- neural structure. After the structure is built, and when activated tively primitive organisms but reaches its complexity-zenith by compression waves from an external source, the name will and flexibility in humans, who co-signify the world in which occur in the child as a brain-sign evoking the causal neural struc- joint action can occur. It is not an input to the brain, but tures associated with the object. This replaces the notion of aprofile of action in the world held in common. Many writers meaning. The ‘sense’ we know what a word means is the com- emphasise the ability of humans to communicate, but their municative act (cf. ‘perception’, ‘Perception Redesigned’). The approach is dogged by the history of mind as a private occurrent word does not reference the world object. individualised condition. In summary, the causal orientation of one brain can alter the The theory has two major impacts. (1) The structures and causal orientation of another, which is signified by the coinci- states of neural causal orientations, from which brain-signs de- dence of brain-signs (words and objects) from those causal rive, require a descriptive vocabulary identifying resulting behav- orientations. The word ‘is’, for example, evokes that to which iour. This is a major task since there is no likelihood of one-to- causal orientation is possible, not the mysterious notion Being one correspondence, and causal brain states are highly complex. which inspired Heidegger ((1927), 1962). Searching for men- However the assumptions of mentalism obscure this crucial ac- tal states of language is a misapplied effort. Of course, neuro- tivity. Indeed, it is likely that the current identification of active science should be concerned with the where and how brain- brain areas associated with mental function is often associated sign is manufactured; but as a sign, it is not a gift of knowledge. with causal orientations. However, brain-signs are brain explana- Talking to each does not concern world reality; the words sig- tions of its operation which may, therefore, aid neuroscientific nify brain causality which is an ‘invisible’ reality. investigation. (2) The theory alters human self-conception, in- As the infant grows, the causal properties of its brain de- cluding denial of knowledge. Humans neither know nor believe velop, so associations with what a word (and its influence anything. Neural structures and states determine the organism’s within sentences) signifies vastly expand in its potential action action in the world, not word formations or feelings. This way of capability. This is inaccurately termed greater knowledge or viewing human life is a scientific upgrade from psychology. wisdom. Reading a story (electromagnetic communication), While radical as a proposal—though individuals have proffered while apparently an enjoyable occupation for the child (cate- adjacent hypotheses—the function of brain-sign completes a sci- gories-of-interaction), is actually an engagement of the brain’s entific account that potentially could improve human decision causal orientations. No human gets to the raw processes of the making and behaviour, so influencing adaptation and survival. brain because the brain builds its causal functionality and then These will be long term developments. signifies it for communication. Brain-sign is a scientific hypothesis. But the actuality of its implementation cannot be known (or explained). As Galileo The Preface to W.V.O. Quine’s book Word and Object said, ‘There is not a single effect in nature…such that the most exactly reflects brain-sign functioning. ‘Language is a social ingenious theorist can arrive at a complete understanding of it.’ Brain-sign theory is why. Heidegger says: ‘It is said that ‘Being’ is the most universal and emptiest of concepts.’ Being and Time (p. 2). Quoted from Chomsky 2016,p. 91. Act Nerv Super (2020) 62:111–126 125 Chomsky, N. (2016). What kind of creatures are we? Columbia Compliance with Ethical Standards University Press. Churchland, P. M. (1981). Eliminative materialism and the propositional Conflict of Interest The author declares that he has no conflict of attitudes. The Journal of Philosophy, LXXVIII. https://doi.org/10. interest. 5840/jphil198178268. Churchland, P. S. (2013). Touching a nerve: our brain, our selves. W.W. 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Activitas Nervosa Superior – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 25, 2020
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