REFLECTIVE AND AFFECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS AS EXISTENCE
by Ted Honderich
This is a further improved version of a paper previously called `Reflective and Affective Consciousness'. It is better now -- more or less comprehensible if still imperfect. It is the fourth in a series of papers, and continues the idea that consciousness needs to be analysed not in any of the boring ways: by way of the plain or 17th Century materialism that is still with us in new packages, or immaterialism, or dualistic identity theory, or functionalism and cognitive science with philosophical ambition. (For argued surveys of these, and a particular allegiance now abandoned in favour of Consciousness as Existence, go to Mind Brain Connection and Mind and Brain Explanation.) Consciousness needs to be analysed, rather, mainly in terms of things existing outside of heads. The final draft of the paper will eventually turn up in the annual proceedings of The Royal Institute of Philosophy, a volume under the title Minds and Persons edited by Anthony O'Hear. At the end of the paper here there is a summary of it -- in fact the handout for a lecture.
1. Criteria of Adequacy for Analyses of Consciousness
One criterion of an adequate analysis of the nature of consciousness has to do with its three parts, sides or elements. These are seeing and the like, thinking and the like, and desiring and the like. The seeming natures of the perceptual, reflective and affective parts or whatever of consciousness are different despite similarity. An adequate analysis of consciousness, even if general, will preserve the differences. It will pass the test of what you can call differential phenomenology.
A second criterion is making consciousness something that exists in the ordinary way, a reality. Certainly we suppose it to be such. Yours came into existence at some stage of your embryonic development and goes out of existence and comes back into existence when you fall into and come out of dreamless sleep. What is it for anything to exist in the ordinary way? To my mind it is for the thing to be physical or of the same sort as the physical. What it is to be of the same sort as the physical, and hence what a tolerant naturalism or physicalism comes to, will be clearer later.
As for physical things themselves, they come in two lots. (1) Things that take up space and time and are perceived by all, or maybe all the experts -- this truistic point about their being public will be relevant to much that follows. (2) Unperceived things that take up space and time and are in causal or other nomic connection with the first lot of things, the perceived ones. So physical things consist in chairs and the rest of the perceived physical world, and also atoms and the rest of the unperceived physical world.1
Thirdly, consciousness is subjective. This third criterion of an adequate analysis of its nature is the most uncertain, obscure and fundamental. All the consciousness we know about -- forget the speculative talk about computers and Martians -- divides up into sequences such that each of them is different at least in being in a special relation to one organism or subject. Somehow consciousness is not objective.
A too weak version of this condition is simply that facts of consciousness have some dependency on only one organism or brain.2 The version fails, if you do not get immaterialist or spiritual about an organism or brain, because other things than consciousness have such a dependency. Others say about subjectivity that it involves privacy, or, more mysteriously, that neural processes have an 'inside', or that talk of them connotes more than it denotes or has a special sense as well as a reference.3 The strongest version of subjectivity is that facts of consciousness are out of space and come in sequences that are attached to or are episodes of a subject in the sense of a self or ego out of space. This is an idea of folk psychology, so-called, and maybe of many philosophers not actually struggling with the subject of consciousness. The idea is commonly assigned to Descartes.
Fourthly, an analysis of consciousness must allow for causal relations between events of consciousness, whatever their intrinsic nature, and physical events that precede and follow them. This is the input-output or body-mind criterion. Locations of croquet balls cause ideas and vice versa. Like other criteria, this one has its own implications. One is that an analysis of consciousness with the upshot that there is no mind-body problem at all, that it has all been just an illusion, will be at least suspect.
Can all else worth attention as a criterion be put into these four categories having to do with differential phenomenology, reality or physicality, subjectivity, and input-output? That has been my inclination. It is a mistake to suppose that anything needs to go in about certain doctrines of philosophers having to do with aboutness or intentionality -- that is, we do not have to suppose that an adequate account must be in line with any such philosophical doctrine as Franz Brentano's.4
2. Six Analyses of Consciousness
To come now to a second of my short lists, it is of sorts or families of answers to the question of the nature of consciousness generally. Six have been getting attention. Several of them have been getting it for a long time.
Plain or 17th Century materialism, what Donald Davidson calls 'Nothing-But Materialism'5, allows to events of consciousness only certain physical properties. These are neural properties as we know them -- electrical and chemical properties of current neuroscience -- or other properties of current science. By way of a useful parody, consciousness is cells. If the idea started with Hobbes, it has gone on being bequeathed. David Papineau in Introducing Consciousness seems to be one residuary legatee.6 A lot of scientific models of consciousness turn up here, including a recent one in terms of the common interpretation of Quantum Theory, this model being inspired sometimes by the wonderful proposition that since consciousness is a mystery you need a mystery to explain it.
A second answer to the question of the nature of consciousness is that conscious events have neural or anyway physical properties, but not of the electrochemical kinds in, say, in Kandel, Schwartz and Jessell's current edition of their splendid Principles of Neural Science or even in editions that can be anticipated.7 Consciousness is not the stuff in current neuroscience, but the stuff of future science. We found the physical reality of magnetism, and one day we will find the physical reality of consciousness. Maybe because of its vagueness, this is a popular view, certainly in the laboratories. It has also had philosophical advocates, such as me in a weak moment.8
Thirdly, the pill of plain materialism with respect to our consciousness is coated by adding a proposition about the input and output relations into which our neural events enter. This is one understanding of functionalism and cognitive science with philosophical ambition. Here we start with the truth that desires, say, are items with certain causes and certain effects, and equally banal truths about computers and computation, as well as forgetfulness about other truths about desires and computers. We leap to the drama that our own conscious events are wholly electrochemical events related to certain other events. The drama is coming to the end of its run philosophically, as behaviourism did before it. 9 It is becoming respectable science -- brain science, the science of the basis or a basis of consciousness, not the philosophical issue of its very nature.
A fourth view is another understanding of functionalism and the like. Here the conscious events are identified not with actual events in relations, say electrochemical events, but with whatever events could turn up in the relations -- or rather, not even that class of events themselves. Conscious is the relations, not the possible events in them. Consciousness is in this sense abstract. That is what is said, to whatever effect.
A fifth sort of view is that the mind is the brain, or consciousness is identical with neural processes, but in the mere sense that conscious properties are properties of single events that also have neural properties. Davidson's identity theory comes here, as does a past favourite of my own, the Union Theory.10 This sort of thing is rightly said to be a dualism of properties, which you can take as a philosophical recommendation, but not enough of one.
Finally, immaterialism. Consciousness is a matter of properties and also a thing, one thing per person. Both are out of space. This is the vague idea of us all to start with, and the idea of Descartes, mentioned already as one end of the range or ranges of ideas of the subjectivity of consciousness. Is there a very great deal of philosophy that comes down to this sort of thing? Is it what non-materialists privately think they have to believe? Despite Wittgenstein's behaviourism, is it the implication of his piece of self-indulgent audacity that whatever thinking comes to, there is nothing happening in the brain that corresponds to it? 11 Certainly this immaterialism is in a good deal of elevated reflection by the philosophers of origination or Free Will.12
These six sorts of view, I propose, have recently exhausted the argued or contemplated possibilities. Consciousness could be material or strictly physical, maybe in a package not delivered yet or one with ribbons. It could be abstract. It could be paired with the neural in single events. Or it could be traditionally mental.
3. Perceptual Consciousness as Existence
To these six sorts of view can be added one, which has now got some attention13, about perceptual consciousness in particular.14 It is that your being aware of this room consists in certain things existing in a certain sense. You being aware of this room, to put it into a mouthful, consists in there being a certain state of affairs -- things outside your head occupying space and time, and being as coloured as things ever are and also propertied in other ways, and having a required or necessary condition in the unperceived physical world outside you and also such a condition in neural events in only your head. In virtue of this latter dependency on what is in your head and also where the head is, the state of affairs is different in what it contains from any other such state of affairs and also the states of affairs that are the perceived physical world and any part of the perceived physical world.
To repeat, what it is for you to be aware of this room, perceptually conscious, is for things to exist in this sense -- spatio-temporally, with certain properties, with certain dependencies, and different from other such things. The awareness is the existing.
This view, Perceptual Consciousness as Existence, may have the unique recommendation of satisfying all the four criteria set out at the start for an adequate analysis of consciousness. Certainly a principal argument for the view is the extent to which the competing analyses do not satisfy the criteria.15
The three materialist views -- functionalism on the first understanding is such a view16 -- clearly fail the subjectivity test. No coating can change the pill. Nothing will get us to agree that consciousness itself is cells. That consciousness is not cells is the most resilient proposition in the philosophy of mind, and has been since the 17th Century. Having seen off behaviourism, it will do the same with materialist functionalism. We can be as certain that a materialism of future science will fail for the same reason, leaving out the subject-matter on which we have a grip.
The fourth view, functionalism understood as being about abstract relations, fails the second test, about reality. No. 5, the dualistic identity theory, gives no contentful account of the property it assigns to the one thing that is identified by also having other properties. It doesn't get started. It doesn't come up for testing. The sixth view, Immaterialism, fails the second and fourth tests -- reality and the input-output problem. None of the six views pays enough attention to the first criterion -- in short, differences between the seeming and therefore maybe the actual natures of seeing, thinking and desiring.
Is Perceptual Consciousness as Existence the remaining arguable theory? How it gives us a clear and actual fact of subjectivity may be evident. According to this view, there actually are subjective worlds or states of affairs. There are worlds different from, if like or related to, physical or objective worlds. They are in a plain sense private and do not exist in the absence of a brain or the like -- neither of which facts takes them seriously out of analogy with the perceived part of the physical world.17 So subjectivity is rescued from mysterious and inapposite ideas and images, and of course a self or an elusive subjective aspect of each mental event.18
It is as evident that the view makes consciousness into a reality. It is of the same sort as the physical. Very roughly it makes awareness into a state of affairs akin to the state of affairs that is the perceived physical world. As for satisfying the first criterion, differential phenomenology, the view was prompted by it -- prompted by the fact that what being aware seems to come to is indeed things somehow existing.
As for the input-output criterion, my world of perceptual consciousness consists in things in space. This state of affairs can be in plain causal connection with all other categories of things in space, in particular the things in the physical world. Certainly there can be cross-classification causation -- causation between worlds of perceptual consciousness and the physical world.
4. Features of the View
This view of perceptual consciousness, rightly, makes it fundamental to reflective and affective consciousness. To say more of it, therefore, is also to speak of them. It can most easily be made clearer, perhaps, not by adding more formal content to the above somewhat formal statement of it, but by more informal means, the first one being a reminder having to do with heads.
The view does indeed take perceptual consciousness right outside of heads. What it is for you to be aware of the room is for an extra-cranial state of affairs to exist. This is not a certain familiar truth. It is not the truth that our ordinary concepts of seeing or touching, to the extent that there are ordinary concepts, bring in extra-cranial facts -- that seeing by definition is different from hallucinating. That leaves it possible that the perceptual consciousness itself is in the head -- cells, immaterial stuff, or whatever. That is not Perceptual Consciousness as Existence.
To say a word more about this radical externalizing of perceptual consciousness, contemplate the literal question 'Is your consciousness inside your head?' It is a question that we are all inclined at least to jib at.19 Some of us want to say no, on account of what can be called folk immaterialism. Some of us want to say no on account of the fact just remarked on, that seeing etc. necessarily involve a thing seen or whatever. Is it possible to put aside both of these distractions and still want to say no -- straight-off, so to speak? I think so. Conceivably Wittgenstein in one of his better moments did so, when he went on against thinking and feeling being 'a process in the head'.20
All this is bad news for the materialisms. My present point, though, is that it seems a virtue of our account of perceptual consciousness, whatever needs to be said of reflective and affective consciousness, that it saves us from further unhappiness, gives us a good reason for saying at least some consciousness is not stuff in our heads. It goes to the end of the path on which recent doctrines of externalism and anti-Individualism hesitate.21 What the view leaves behind inside the head is only what is there for certain, which is a brain.
As a second informal reminder of the view, is it also worth remarking, as some have, that it makes consciousness part of ontology, not epistemology? Maybe the remark has some use. In it, what is the subject-matter of ontology taken to be? If that subject-matter includes existing states of affairs, and if the subject-matter of epistemology is taken to have to do with a mysterious mental relation of ours to those states of affairs, then the view in question does of course transfer perceptual consciousness from epistemology to ontology.
A third thing about the view is that it presupposes what some philosophers will hurry to call a Kantian premise. This is that there is a so-called noumenal reality to which we bring our own perceptual and neural machinery -- our classificatory machinery. It is my own inclination to think of this reality-underneath as not being beyond or almost beyond our conceiving or classifying, but rather as being the unperceived but certainly theorized part of the physical world.
Of this world, the world of atoms, we make or construct the perceived physical world, that public world, and we also come to have exactly what you have been hearing of -- worlds of perceptual consciousness. We make of the reality-underneath a lot of other worlds as well. So a somewhat familair line of thought out of the history of philosophy is in Perceptual Consciousness as Existence. And, incidentally, no real multiplying of worlds, no creative prodigality in the way of David Lewis.22
A fourth comparison has to do with the fact that philosophers of mind have hitherto been inclined to make out of the bottom world not only the perceived or public world outside of heads but also a mental world inside of heads, which latter world has then failed to measure up to good criteria for analyses of consciousness.
The present view having to do with existence constructs things differently. It is different in making out of the bottom world a generally perceived world outside of heads, a physical world having in it things of certain perceived properties and dependent on perceivers generally, and also worlds of perceptual consciousness, each to some extent different and having a different and unique dependency.
Fifthly, Perceptual Consciousness as Existence is indeed separate from other views, and despite some misconceptions cannot be seen as or turned into any of them. It evidently is none of the listed materialisms -- 17th Century, futuristic or functionalist. It is also remote from functionalism when that doctrine is taken immaterialistically, as making consciousness into a matter of bare relations. Consciousness as Existence isn't the dualistic identity theory either. It is, by the way, less dualistic about mind and body than that theory. It does not assign unexplained properties of consciousness to the same events that also have other properties. That is, it does not leave properties of consciousness as possibly entirely unlike physical properties, but makes them akin to physical properties. Finally, the view is nothing like immaterialist.
One more informal characterization -- which will lead us further down the agenda. Brentano regarded consciousness as consisting in content or object and something else. The second thing, which he referred to with commendable restraint in his talk of direction, also presupposed a self or inner point of view or what you will along these lines. There has since been some philosophical time given to the subject of content -- the content of consciousness. One view takes the content of your present perceptual consciousness to be physical chairs and the like.
With this in mind it is possible to see the existential view of perceptual consciousness in a certain way. What it does is to reduce perceptual consciousness to something related to what others often more vaguely call its content or object. Those of sensitive philosophical dispositions, who react badly to talk of reduction, can as well see the view as one that enlarges perceptual consciousness into a reality gestured at by others in talk of content or object.
Let us now press on. What of reflective and affective consciousness, thinking and the like and desiring and the like? Can these two other parts, sides or elements of consciousness be understood in a way that fits in with the nature of perceptual consciousness as we have it? For a start, can reflective and affective consciousness be identified with something like what others regard as only their content?
Certainly it will at least be embarrassing if the shortcomings of the six general views of consciousness are escaped in the case of perceptual consciousness and then have to be put up with to some extent in connection with reflective and affective consciousness. We really cannot put together what we have about perceptual consciousness with a materialist or an immaterialist view of thinking. Not only would we be falling into a kind of inconsistency, we would be back with the input-output problem. We cannot take up a merely functionalist view of our feeling, desiring and intending, not only because of inconsistency but also because such a view would have its own intrinsic shortcomings.
5. Reflective Consciousness, Possible Worlds, Concepts etc.
To start with reflective consciousness, thinking in a wide sense, you can try to bring it into a taxonomy.
(1) There are the sorts of thinking that enter into and are part of what we have been concerned with so far, perceptual consciousness. These reflective things implicit in perceptual consciousness include conceptualizing, mentioned already, and also attending.
(2) Reflective consciousness also includes memory -- both the activity of remembering and the result of the activity.
(3) There is curiosity and inquiry. We ask questions, try to measure, seek causes and effects, experiment, guess, reason, seek to prove, and do philosophy, science and politics.
(4) Whether or not as a result of curiosity and inquiry, we suppose, judge and believe things to be the case. This is our thinking in a narrow sense -- thinking that such-and-such in whatever way, thinking somehow that something has a property or relation.
(5) We imagine things, make up stories, create art.
(6) In sleep we dream.
That is a poor taxonomy, partly because much of a category or species may also fall into another one, but let us not try to do better. The thing aims us in the right direction.
It does remind us that reflective consciousness is not what perceptual consciousness seems to be -- a somehow bounded and filled whole, what used to be called a perceptual field, and what it is indeed natural to call a world of perceptual consciousness. Reflective consciousness seems to consist, rather, in disparate activities, from conceptualizing in perceiving through believing a truth of arithmetic to dreaming. It has in it the different operations of our intelligent and intellectual existence.
Still, does the earlier account of perceptual consciousness in terms of an actual world tempt you to regard reflective consciousness in a related way? Are you tempted to the idea that thinking in the wide sense consists in their being possible worlds or anyway possible things, no doubt with a special dependency on one thinker's brain? It is the idea that to think something, in whatever way, is for a thing to exist in whatever way it is that possible things do exist. My theorizing with my eyes shut, say, consists in possible objects having possible properties.
Although some of us are capable of forgetting it, partly because the usage has helped out with some formal logic, the origin and clearest sense of our saying there are possible worlds is that our actual worlds, perceptual and physical, have a certain character or certain features. To say there is a possible world in which Jane Austen lived all her life in Bath is to say our actual worlds are such that it could have happened that she did. What that comes to, in brief, is that our actual worlds are such that our laws of nature and logic do not preclude her having lived her life in Bath. So with talk of possible things as against possible worlds. To talk of them is to talk of things not precluded by our laws of nature and logic.
So if we do not go in for the metaphysical prodigality of worlds mentioned earlier, the idea that our thinking in general is to be understood in terms of possible worlds and things is the idea that it is to be understood in terms of the natural constitution or operation of our worlds of perception and physical worlds, along with our conceptual schemes with respect to them. Whatever is to be said of how the idea fares with our adequacy-criteria, there is an immediate objection. It is plain that reflective consciousness goes far beyond this curious and limited subject-matter. In the relevant sense, for a start, and despite what was said of an intermingling of reflective and perceptual consciousness, I can think impossibilities. I can have thoughts that go beyond both kinds of limits on possibility.
The point that our thinking far outstrips possible worlds and things certainly persists, by the way, if you feel that what has just been said of them in terms of our laws is too deflationary. Possible worlds can be as real as mushrooms, popping up in ever-greater numbers every metaphysical spring, watered by modal logic. They remain, as their name reminds us, different from impossible worlds. But our thinking in general also has to do with impossible worlds.
Something very different from possible worlds and things may come to mind at this point. This is the idea that reflective consciousness consists in concepts and propositions , to which can be added images -- images of the same order of reality or unreality. 23 It can be said for this idea that it does not defeat itself by putting a mistaken limit on the reach of our thinking. So in place of a view that may be conventional, that our thinking in the general sense has concepts and propositions in it, that it is something that has this content, should we consider the idea that what thinking in general comes to, all of what it comes to itself, is concepts and propositions?
In addition to the recommendation of no mistaken limits on thinking and, you may say, no superfluous addition to what others call the content of reflective consciousness, the idea may have other recommendations. Might it be carried forward in such a way as to satisfy the criteria of adequacy for accounts of consciousness having to do with differential phenomenology and subjectivity? Could be.
With respect to subjectivity, you can say that my reflective consciousness will be different from yours, and different from any set of concepts and propositions that has been ordered by us in a cooperative enterprise -- the defining of a common language. The idea of concepts and propositions can also seem to have another virtue. Like its predecessor, about possible worlds and things, it allows us at least to wonder if being reflectively conscious is other than the fact of there being stuff literally in one's head.
But that is the end of the possible reccomendations and virtues. The idea ordinarily understood shares a large flaw likely also had by its possible-worlds predecessor. If reflective consciousness is taken to consist in concepts, propositions and images, and these are abstract objects, not things or events taking up space and time, then there are the immediate results that reflective consciousness is not real in our required sense, and also is not itself in causal connection with the events of input and output. Abstract objects are not events, not things in space and time. Whatever else is to be said of them, it seems they cannot be effects or causes. They have nothing to do causally with, say, locations of croquet balls.
You will agree, I hope, even if you do not share exactly my impulse about the real, that any view of any part of consciousness that denies its causal efficacy or functionality, makes it epiphenomenal, is intolerable? Will it not take more than a brave philosopher, indeed a philosopher of bravado, to defend epiphenomenalism? Will it not take such a philosopher to defend what has recently been correctly expressed as the view that 'remembering our childhood plays no part in the writing of our memoirs' and 'it is never pain that makes us wince, nor anger that makes us shout'. This is more than 'an affront to common sense'.24
So much for the bare idea, for a while, that my remembering the look of my father or thinking a sceptical thought about something is the inefficacious stuff of concepts, propositions and equally abstract images. Can we get to a better view by marrying something to it?
We can add to it for a start in that while my two pieces of thinking are not causes of my subsequent behaviour, the wholly neural processes that are associated with them are exactly such causes. They cause, for example, my subsequent speech-acts, the physical sentences that report my pieces of thinking. And further, to come to the essence of the strategy, we add in that a piece of thinking can be required or necessary for an associated neural process in something other than a causal or other nomic sense. So since the neural process is causally required for the later behaviour, that will give the right role to the pieces of thinking.
Or rather, this much being familiar enough, the real essence of this third strategy must be to try to conceive of a suitable relation of necessity between the abstract thinking and the neural process. It will be a long way from a causal or otherwise nomic relation, of course, given that the thinking is abstract. It can hardly be that the relation between a neural process and my thinking of the look of my father is deductive. It is not that a description of one entails a description of the other. Neuroscience is not an a priori discipline. Might the funny relation be a constitutive or part-whole relation? But hitherto those have been nomic or logical. Might it have the name of being a metaphysical relation? Easily said, but what is one of those?
Being in bad trouble, and wanting to leave it behind, do you now stick to the idea of thinking being abstract concepts and propositions, but just give up on a funny relation that gives efficacy to consciousness? Contemplate epiphenomenalism after all, contemplate that remembering our childhood plays no part in the writing of our memoirs and that it is never pain that makes us wince nor anger that makes us shout? Maybe your mind turns to consolations. This epiphenomenalism of reflective consciousness being taken as abstract, you can say, goes perfectly well with perceptual consciousness having no tinge of epiphenomenalism to it. Worlds of perceptual consciousness are made up of things in space and time. So what you are swallowing is only a partial epiphenomenalism. Why shouldn't our conviction of the efficacy of the mental or mental causation be owed to and have to do with only part of the mental?
This hopeful idea does not register a larger problem. It is not just that we would need a new sort of relationship between thought and neural process for the purpose of escaping epiphenomenalism. We need such a relation actually to have such a view of reflective consciousness to consider. We need such a relation for this hopeful view we have been gesturing at. Its very essence is a relationship between what is abstract and what is physical. The problem for it at bottom is the input-output or mind-body problem. What is the relation it offers? Without at least the beginning of an answer to the question, we hardly have a view to consider.
That is not all. Making our thinking into concepts and propositions, with whatever funny relation to the brain, plainly runs up against another difficulty. I remarked that it might satisfy some of our adequacy-criteria, but there is the second criterion to think about. Consciousness is a reality, something physical or, as we said at the very beginning, of the sort of the physical. We achieved this with perceptual consciousness, but on reflection we are not achieving it with the idea on hand of reflective consciousness as concepts and propositions.
In these straits, let us not weaken and fall back into materialism about reflective consciousness, even a fancy kind -- say functionalism or some related doctrine that in fact leaves out the fact of consciousness as we have a grip on it and in particular its subjectivity. All of that falls victim to our conviction that consciousness isn't cells, and hence to disproofs -- say the excellent one articulated by Searle in terms of the Chinese Room in his bad old days before he found Free Will and a new and wonderful view of the mind.25 Let us rather reflect on something new, or anyway something else, for the excellent reason that nothing on hand works.
6. Reflective Consciousness as Existence -- Outer Representations
Let us start again, as in the case of perceptual consciousness, with the so-called phenomenology. As they say, what is reflective consciousness like? What is it now like, as they say, for you to remember the look of your father? That is, what is the seeming nature of your remembering the look of your father? The experience is a lot different from seeing him. To take another piece of reflective consciousness, what is the seeming nature of your consciously believing something, that the squirrel is going up the other side of the tree, or that some philosophy is up the spout? What about dreaming? It also has a seeming nature that is different from the seeming nature of daily life. So does picturing this room after you leave it, or otherwise imagining something.
Would that there were one answer to this question of differential phenomenology as persuasive as the answer that what it seems to be to be perceptually conscious is for a world somehow to exist. Something is a reality when I remember the look of my father, or believe something, or dream, or imagine. That reality sure isn't cells. But how are we to think of it? There is nothing to hand with which reflective consciousness can enlighteningly be compared, and by which it can be got into view -- as perceptual consciousness could be compared with the perceived part of the physical world.
And to revert to our earlier reflections on possible worlds, there really is no phenomenological temptation to speak of reflective consciousness heuristically as a world. To talk of someone thinking with his eyes closed as being in a world of thought, maybe mathematics, is a poor metaphor at best. Thinking with your eyes shut isn't at all like being aware of this room. The closest thing to perceptual consciousness that can be found in reflective consciousness is dreaming, and for several reasons it is a good way off.
Still, it is not as if direct reflection on our thinking produces nothing. Something can be said of the phenomenon. It is that in all of our thinking things exist that may be true or may come to be true of other things. In the case of me and my father, there is an image or the remains of one. In the case of me and the squirrel's going up the other side of the tree, there is a sentence of English or a part of one. Without asking about the ontological standing of the image and the sentence, we can make this our start of an account of thinking. We can take it that what we actually seem to know about reflective consciousness, as remarked above, is that it is a matter of representations.
These representations, it seems, even if they are more or less physical rather than abstract, cannot be adequately described just as effects of the things of which they may be true. That recent hope was futile. There are many more effects of my father than such signs of him.26
You make a better start on saying what a representation is by saying something about it itself being causal rather than the thing it represents being causal. It is that a representation is what shares some of the effects of what it represents. A representation can make you smile, or go into the next room, and so on. The picture of a tiger, or the image of a man or woman of a kind or doing something, or a symbol for fire, has some of the effects of what is represented. That is more or less what it comes to for a representation to stand for something else, isn't it?
Before we get into any philosophical deep water, say about relations between representations, and about systems of representations, remember we have a real grip on a certain kind of them. These are written or spoken words as those you are now reading -- and the equally more or less physical images, photos, drawings, icons and what-not that fill and litter our lives.
I admit straightaway that we are not really sure how they have become representations, and have not quite worked out in general the related matter of what class of effects they share with what they represent. But we do in one clear sense know what they are: they are things that turn up in our worlds of perceptual consciousness. If your actual chair is in your world, so too is something else of the sort of the physical -- the actual words or whatever that represent or are true of your chair.
So as to have a proposal clear quickly, here it is baldly. Reflective consciousness is partly a matter of certain representations -- instances of representations, if you want. There are actual representations or signs in our worlds of perceptual consciousness. They are items like other items in these spatio-temporal states of affairs.
To go further with the proposal, what reflective consciousness more or less comes to in part is these actual representations. They are of course private in the way of all contents of perceptual worlds, and they have, so to speak, no unperceived existence, where the latter is a comment about their neural and otehrwise bodily basis.
Reflective consciousness so conceived, you will note, is no more than the sort of thing, or one sort of thing, that others take to be its content.
This proposal, to remember our adequacy-criteria, makes reflective consciousness different from perceptual consciousness. It also makes it a reality -- what it consists in is of the sort of the physical, part of the reality of worlds of perceptual consciousness. Reflective consciousness so conceived, further, is as subjective as perceptual consciousness, as already indicated, and also something that causes and is caused by physical things -- it passes the input-output test.
What about what can be contemplated for a while as almost another criterion of an adequate analysis of consciousness -- the idea that consciousness is not in the head? Well, we do not have to say of reflective consciousness as so far conceived that it is inside our heads. The representations in question aren't.
Do you not rush into agreement with the given proposal about reflective consciousness? Is what delays you that question of how the actual representations become representations? I myself am not much concerned with this interesting and large matter. Our problem is the nature of consciousness, an analysis of consciousness, not an explanation of how it or any part of it comes about. No doubt the story has something to do with something like chimps making an involuntary sound while running away, and then coming to use the sound voluntarily and purposively to give advice about running away. The story will also have to do with the causes that are natural signs, so called, such as footprints in the sand. You will not expect me to do better at getting a great part of the evolution of a species into a sentence or two.
Are you delayed in your agreement with the given proposal because you object, as you might have with the existential analysis of perceptual consciousness, that the given analysis of reflective consciousness is no analysis but a case of something like circularity or petitio principii? That in fact we have set out to analyse thinking, and said it consists in part in some representations, but in fact ended up with the non-analysis that thinking is thinking about representations?
That is, you say a representation is only a representation if it is taken as such. For someone not in the know, the same item is no representation at all. So, to repeat, there is the embarrassment that we set out to say what it is to be in a way conscious, we come up with the answer that it is for certain representations to occur, but it transpires that the answer when explicit is such that our endeavour reduces to the circularity that to be conscious in a way is to be conscious of some representations. If this is not full circularity or petitio principii , it is no great advance.
It seems to me this is not the case -- that the objection can be resisted. What it is for me to remember the look of my father, so to speak, is for my subjective representations to exist for a while, no more that that. They represent or symbolize away, so to speak, without my helping them by doing something else conscious. The label hereby put on the view, Reflective Consciousness as Existence, is in fact apposite. There is no more to this consciousness than the existing of the mentioned things.
That is not to deny a burden of what has just been asserted, however. Representations are representations only for those who are in some special way related to them. That is part of what it is for something to be a representation, but not necessarily something that gives rise to a circularity. What comes into view here is also a larger, more general consideration.
Our subject-matter has been and is consciousness. We all have a grip on it. Indeed in a sense we know what it is, know nothing better. You will not need much reminding that our subject-matter is not other nearby things. For example, it is not doing things without being conscious. There is a significant subject-matter there. If it can be called 'mental function' of a kind or whatever, and if it is spoken of in terms of some recent piece of neuroscience, say blindsight, it is as old as the hills, or anyway our relations to the hills. Philosophers noticed a good while ago that we walk without conscious planning, do some of our driving of cars while only aware of what is on the radio, and so on.
The main nearby subject-matter that is not ours in this inquiry, though, is not doing things without being conscious. It is the non-conscious side of conscious proceedings. There is a lot to thinking, you can say, that is not part of the conscious thinking. This subject matter of neuroscience, cognitive science and so on, is larger than that of doing things without being conscious.
A decent account of consciousness, and more particularly of consciousness as representations, does not have to transform the non-conscious side into a matter of consciousness, and will be absurd if it tries. Rather, to come to the main point, a decent account of consciousness will make use of the fact of non-conscious mental functioning where it is needed.
To revert to your objection, it was that it is futile to try to understand consciousness as being certain representations, since that must really be to understand it as a matter of being conscious of the representations. I don't think so. My line is that sometimes being conscious when that is thinking of your father may be the fact that something is representing him in a certain way -- something in your world of perceptual consciousness is having certain effects. It would not have the effects in the absence of certain facts of non-consciousness, but that is nothing to the point. That something is a representation because of a lot of other things is not the proposition that it is a representation because someone is conscious of it as such.
8. Reflective Consciousness as Existence -- Inner Representations
Will you say there are more representations than the actual ones in our worlds of perceptual consciousness? More representations that the ones on paper and in sounds and so on? And that they have to do with our thinking? Will you not give up the familiar idea that certain representations can be said in a way to be definitely in the head, making up a stream of reflection.
Certainly I grant it. Reflective consciousness is a matter of a second class of representations, inner rather than outer. They are states and events of ourselves and other forms of life of which we know and maybe other things. These representations -- things sharing some effects with what they are said to represent -- stand in a relation to the contributing organism that is analagous to that relation of perception, so to speak, in which the contributing organism stands to its world of perceptual consciousness.
These representations, then, items in an actual language of thought, have an existence different from but related to that of the contents of the physical world itself -- the perceived part of the physical world. These inner representations, as you will anticipate, have a subjective character as clearly as do things, including the other representations, in worlds of perceptual consciousness.
To take this line, of course, is to give up in this sector on the idea that consciousness is not in the head. To take this line accepts the truth that generality can be pursued at too great a cost, an overriding of recalcitrant facts. An analysis of consciousness may have a recommendation on account of satisfying some idea for the most part. While an adequate analysis of consciousness has to avoid saying that consciousness is always stuff inside heads, we can have a little in there. This ecumenical spirit might also be engaged in with other objections.
Instead let me conclude quickly about reflective consciousness, or rather repeat, that it consists in representations in our outer worlds of perceptual consciousness and also representations in our heads acceptable to a tolerant physicalism.
As a result, to repeat some of what was said earlier, we have an account of reflective consciousness that makes it satisfactorily different from perceptual consciousness. The representations in question also have reality. They are subjective as well, as just remarked. How I contribute to my cranial ones, the counterpart of my perceptual apparatus with perceptual consciousness -- that question is for friends in the laboratories. To say that my representations are subjective is also to say they are not exactly your representations, or of course the agreed representations of our physical and objective worlds. Further, they are private in something like the way of things in perceptual worlds and they have, so to speak, no uncontemplated existence -- which facts to not subtract them from an actual world. To remember the last of our adequacy-criteria, the representations in question pass the input-output test too.
9. Affective Consciousness as Existence
To come now to affective consciousness, or desiring in a general sense, which has more in it than speaking of affect or has sometimes conveyed, here too we can contemplate an informal taxonomy.
(1) Evidently particular desires and wants of very many kinds, and, quite as important, satisfactions and frustrations of them, are at least part of affective consciousness. The desires and wants range from inclinations and hankerings, through wants and appetites, to cravings and lusts, to irresistible compulsions, which is but one one sorting-out of them. They seem to be separable in general into attractions and repulsions.
(2) Affective consciousness includes a wide range of sensations, feelings, emotions and attitudes, different in their subjects or objects and also a good deal else. They include pain, pleasure, hunger, satiety, hope, fear, courage, pride, shame, happiness, anger, sadness, love, loyalty, respect, wonder, depression, calm and so on.
(3) This consciousness also includes what is somehow separable from all this, which is valuing. Almost all things can have some value for us. They are good or bad for me or you from the point of view of self-interest. They are right or wrong morally. They are legal or not, rational or not, beautiful, expensive, preferable, tolerable and so on. Other persons as well as things have these values.
(4) We have intentions of two kinds, the forward-looking or inactive kind, such as the intention today to travel by train tomorrow, and the active kind of intentions, these being involves in the actual initiation and carrying forward of actions. Active intentions are close to what have traditionally been regarded as willings, volitions and the like, but they need to be understood, less traditionally, as being a considerable part of what can be called our consciousness of or in acting. 27
A little reflection on this attempt at taxonomy brings out its shortcomings. Very clearly, at least many of the particular desires and wants in the first category enter into the sensations, feelings, emotions and attitudes in the second category, and vice versa. So with the sensations etc. and the valuing. Pride cannot be taken in what is worthless, of no value, and to think one has done right is to respect oneself for a while. Also, all three sorts of affective consciousness are involved in the fourth, the intentions. To intend to do something, tomorrow or now, is to want something, feel about it, and put some value on it.
To speak differently but as truly, there is the fundamental fact that the first category's particular desires and wants and their satisfactions and frustrations are more or less pervasive in and are much of the stuff of the following three categories of affective consciousness. Some of the sensations, feelings and so on of the second category, say hunger, are close to being desires themselves. All of the sensations, feelings and so on include desires. Think of fear or hope.
So with the third and fourth categories. Think of what is good for America or right for all of us, or of intending to do this rather than that. These at least have desire or want as a component. Evidently forward-looking intentions can be regarded as complexes of a desire for what is said to be intended together with beliefs of several kinds, and active intentions as such complexes with the addition of an executive element, something that can have the name of being a command to one's body.
As in the case of reflective consciousness, then, all I claim for the taxonomy is that it aims us in the right direction.
Here is one of three quick proposals about affective consciousness -- it has to do in the first instance and most clearly with the first category of particular desires and wants. The proposal is that what it is to desire a thing is for the thing to have properties that it has independently of the desirer. For reasons just remarked on, the pervasiveness of desires in affective consciousness, this is also part of what it is to have feelings about something, value something, and intend something.
The proposal goes against what philosophers have sometimes seemed to drift into or anyway towards, the attitude that someone's desiring something is just a fact about that person. To this a salutary response is that the thing has to be desirable . That is, it has to have some property, whatever mistakes are made about it, in virtue of which the person desires it -- whatever desiring comes to. The thing has to be bigger, more highly paid, quiet or whatever, or of course dirty, dangerous, ignorant, fatal or whatever. This is no matter of projecting value onto a world, gilding a world, and so on,28 but of value being in part in the world.
Here we also encounter a common inclination and also some faded philosophy, to the effect that things have not only natural but also non-natural properties, and these are what is in question with valuing and the like. There is the non-natural property of goodness. The existence of such a thing was supposed to be proved by the proposition that it is an open question whether any natural property is the or a property of moral goodness. It would not be such if there was a definitional or conceptual connection between the two items.29
This is not the time for a return to all that. Let me say simply that nothing can obscure the fact that I want to meet someone because of their smile, reputation or what-not, and that I may take a policy as right because it distributes goods to those in greater need or, very differently, in favour of my already well-fed nation. That we do not agree about what is desirable or right, and hence that certain definitions are not written into language, has no tendency whatever to show that the properties in virtue of which we have feelings about things -- hope for them, are shamed by them or whatever -- are not ordinary properties of them.
So, a part of what it is somehow to desire something is for it to have certain actual properties. That is to say, to come to a crux, that part of what it is for you to desire something is for things in your world of perceptual consciousness, or as we can add, for things as represented in your reflective consciousness, to have certain properties. It follows that what it is for you to desire something is a fact or reality, and subjective in a clear sense, of course, and that it involves no barrier to the causal connections of input and output.
That cannot be the end of the story of affective consciousness, however. We need a further proposal, since the first has nothing in it about differential phenomenology, the different nature of affective as against perceptual and reflective consciousness, desiring in general as against seeing and thinking. To take the first category of affective consciousness, there is a difference that asserts itself between wanting and just seeing something. To turn to the second category, there is a difference between having the pain of being burned and seeing a match burning. Similar remarks are to be made about valuing and intending. All of desiring is different from seeing and thinking.
The difference has often been taken as having to do with our behaviour and our bodies. A ludicrous view here, reduced to useful parody, was the radical behaviourism that made my wanting to get a book for my son no more than my movements in ordering it from Amazon.com. Not my actions, note, since the ordinary idea of an action imports mental content excluded from radical behaviourism's idea of wanting something.
But if this is to be put aside, it is clear we must not put aside everything about behaviour and bodies in attempting an analysis of affective consciousness. Indeed it is impossible to do so with pain and the rest of what are rightly referred to as bodily sensations -- some of the items in the second category of facts of affective consciousness. These, to come to a point, can perhaps or presumably be treated somehow along the lines of reflective consciousness. To have a headache is for something in my body in a way to exist.
As with bodily sensations, so, in ways and degrees, with the rest of what is in the second category of affective consciousness. We can give some place to the existence of inner bodily items with feelings, emotions and attitudes. In fact a bodily component in fear, courage, shame, even respect and wonder, has been a reasonable assumption before now. A related account can be given of the particular desires and wants of the first category. So with the two kinds of intentions. With respect to active intentions, those involved in the actual initiation and carrying forward of actions, there is what we ordinarily call direct awareness of items of bodily movement. Something similar if weaker can be said in connection with valuing.
A third part of an analysis of affective consciousness, separable from what has just been said, has to do with behaviour or action in another way. Again to take simple cases from the second species of affective consciousness, fear and courage involve thinking of whole actions, say fleeing and attacking. To be afraid is partly a matter of the existence of representations of actions. So affective consciousness takes into itself some reflective consciousness. Similar remarks can be made about particular desires and wants, values, and of course intentions.
The conclusion about affective consciousness, then, is that it is to be understood as consisting in (1) a side of perceptual consciousness, this having to do with actual properties of things and people, and in (2) states or events in our bodies, and in (3) reflective consciousness having to do with actions. This view of affective consciousness thus inherits the recommendations of its components with respect to the adequacy-criteria with which we started. It makes affective consciousness into kinds of existence of things.
10. A Doubt and a Certainty
The view in sum, Consciousness as Existence, is that what it is to be conscious in any of the three ways is for certain things in a way to exist, different things in each case. Consciousness is its content -- what others have called its content with at least the implication that there is more to it.
Of what worth is the view? Well, the stuff on perceptual consciousness seems to me an enlightening reorganization of thinking on the subject, a conceptual revision that serves truth better -- the truth of the four criteria of consciousness. Anyway it seems to have this recommendation on a clear day, in the morning. The stuff on reflective and affective consciousness is not much more than preliminary sketches. My doubt about it includes some about the possibility of concealed circularity.
The certainty is that although Consciousness as Existence may not be true, or a good reorganization of our thinking, it has the use of illustrating how much change is needed in the plodding industry of our current philosophy of mind. A lot of it is only philosophy of mind so-called. It has or aspires to strengths other than those of philosophy, more or less scientific strengths. It is not good at logic in a large sense. While the essential science goes on, we need to get back to that -- logic about the mind.
1 Cf. Anthony Quinton, The Nature of Things (London & Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973).
2 E.g. John Searle, The Rediscovery of the Mind (London & Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1992).
3 E.g. Edgar Wilson, The Mental as Physical (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980).
4 Franz Brentano, Psychology From an Empirical Standpoint, ed. Oskar Kraus, Linda L. McAlister (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973), p. 88. For interpretation see David Bell, Husserl (London: Routledge, 1990), Ch. 1. For my rejection of intentionality as a criterion of consciousness, see "Consciousness as Existence, and the End of Intentionality", in Anthony O'Hear, ed., Philosophy at the New Millenium, Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures for 2000-2001 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001)
5 Donald Davidson, 'Mental Events', in his Essays on Actions and Events (Oxford: Clarendon, 1980).
6 David Papineau, Introducing Consciousness (Cambridge & New York: Icon/Totem Books, 2000). For a review, see my 'Consciousness and Inner Tubes', Journal of Consciousness Studies, 7, 7, 2000.
7 Kandel E. R. R. & J. H. Schwartz & T. M. Jessell, 1991, Principles of Neural Science (New York: Prentice Hall, 1991).
8 "Consciousness, Neural Functionalism, Real Subjectivity," American Philosophical Quarterly, 32/4, October, 1995.
9 'Functionalism, Identity Theories, the Union Theory', The Mind-Body Problem: A Guide to the Current Debate, ed. R. Warner & T. Szubka (Oxford & Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1994).
10 Davidson, `Mental Events'; Honderich, A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience, and Life-Hopes (Oxford: Clarendon, 1988) or Mind and Brain (Oxford: Clarendon, 1999), both p. 71 ff.
11 Zettel, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe & G. H. von Wright (Oxford, Blackwell, 1967), ss. 608-610.
12 Robert Kane, ed, Oxford Handbook of Free Will (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).
13 Rudiger Vaas, `Consciousness and Its Place in Nature', Journal of Consciousness Studies, 9, 2, 2002.
14 "Consciousness as Existence," in Anthony O'Hear, ed., Current Issues in the Philosophy of Mind, Royal Institute of Philosophy lectures for 1996-7 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 137-155; "Consciousness as Existence Again," in Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy, Vol. 9, Philosophy of Mind, ed. B. Elevitch (Bowling Green: Philosophy Documentation Center, 1999), and also Theoria, No. 95, June 2000; The second paper corrects the first in certain important respects. See also `Consciousness as Existence and the End of Intentionality', referred to in note 4. All the papers are on my website: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~uctytho/
15 That we need something new is the view of very many philosophers. See, for example, Thomas Nagel, "Conceiving the Impossible and the Mind-Body Problem," Philosophy, July, 1998.
16 Argument for this, and also the objection that strict functionalism is incoherent, see my "Functionalism, Identity Theories, The Union Theory," op cit.
17 See in particular "Consciousness as Existence", despite the mistakes in it.
18 For an account in terms of a subjective aspect of each mental event, rather than a substance-subject or the like of mental events, see my A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience and Life-Hopes.
19 In my recent experience the fact has been illustrated in discussions with a couple of scientists, Susan Greenfield, author of The Human Brain: A Guided Tour and The Private Life of the Brain, and Roger Penrose, author of The Emperor's New Mind and Shadows of the Mind.
20 Zettel, s. 611.
21 Honderich, 'The Union Theory and Anti-Individualism', in Mental Causation, ed. John Heil and Alfred Mele (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993).
22 Lewis, David, On the Plurality of Worlds (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986).
23 Hannay, Alastair, Mental Images: A Defence (London & New York: Allen & Unwin and Humanities Press, 1971).
24 Keith Campbell, Nicholas J. J. Smith, `Epiphenomenalism', Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward Craig (London & New York: Routledge, 1998).
25 John Searle, 'Consciousness, Free Action, and the Brain', Journal of Consciousness Studies, `Mind the Gap' issue, 7 (10), 2000; Ted Honderich, 'Mind the Guff', Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8 (4), 2001.
26 `Consciousness as Existence and the End of Intentionality', pp. 14-15.
27 A Theory of Determinism, pp. 216-231.
28 Cf. Simon Blackburn, Essays in Quasi-Realism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993).
29 G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, revised edition ed. Thomas Baldwin, 1993).
SUMMARY / LECTURE HAND-OUT
An adequate analysis of consciousness will make it (i) as phenomenologically different in its three parts as it seems to be, (ii) a reality, and hence at least of the same sort as the physical -- the physical being either what is spatial and generally perceived or spatial and nomically connected to what is generally perceived, (iii) subjective, and (iv) such as to make input-output relations possible.
Previous kinds of analysis of consciousness: plain or revived 17th Century materialism; futuristic materialism; functionalism as materialist; functionalism in terms of abstract relations; dualistic identity theory; immaterialism.
PERCEPTUAL CONSCIOUSNESS AS EXISTENCE What it is for you to be aware of this room is for the room in a way to exist: for things to be in space and time, propertied, and dependent both on a noumenal or underneath world and also on you neurally. Additionally this state of affairs or world is different from others' worlds of perceptual consciousness and from the perceived and unperceived physical world.
Thus perceptual consciousness is subjective in clear sense. Rescued from 'inside the head'. View ontologises consciousness? Relation to noumenal world or reality-underneath. A different construction. Not materialism. Not immaterialism or near to traditional dualism. Consciousness made akin to what others take as its content.
REFLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS Taxonomy: conceptualizing etc. in perception; memory; inquiry; thinking in narrow sense; imagining; dreaming.
(1) Understand in terms of possible worlds? (2) Or concepts, propositions and images? (3) Concepts etc. related to neural processes? (4) Concepts etc. as epiphenomenal? More fundamental difficulty.
Start with phenomenology: reflective consciousness seems to consist in things that are or might be true of other things. Analyse reflective consciousness into two lots of representations. (1) Actual representations in perceptual worlds -- objections re 'explanation' of representations, circularity, non-conscious mental functioning. (2) Actual but internal or cranial representations - ecumenical spirit.
AFFECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS taxonomy: particular desires and wants; sensations, feelings, emotions & attitudes; valuing; intentions. Genus of these species: wanting in general.
To want something: (a) A thing in a perceptual world or a thing as represented has a property, (b) there are events in the wanter's body, (c) actions are represented.
A DOUBT AND A CERTAINTY.
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