Thursday, February 2, 2012

378: Consciousness and Intentionality

The combined feature of qualitative, unified subjectivity is the essence of consciousness and it, more than anything else, is what makes consciousness different from other phenomena studied by the natural sciences.

Of course this is not the ultimate explanation of consciousness. It has a lot more features, but especially its unity is the most difficult part to explain scientifically.

No medical procedure to do with the unified consciousness has received as much philosophical attention in recent times as commissurotomies, more commonly known as brain bisection operations.

In these operations, the corpus callosum is cut. The corpus callosum is a large strand of about 200,000,000 neurons running from one hemisphere to the other. When present, it is the chief channel of communication between the hemispheres.

These operations, done mainly in the 1960s but recently reintroduced in a somewhat modified form, are a last-ditch effort to control certain kinds of severe epilepsy by stopping the spread of seizures from one lobe of the cerebral cortex to the other lobe.

In normal life, these patients show little effect of the operation. In particular, their consciousness of their world and themselves appears to remain as unified as it was prior to the operation. How this can be has puzzled a lot of people.

Under certain laboratory conditions, these patients behave as though two ‘centers of consciousness’ have been created in them.

The original unity seems to be gone and two centers of unified consciousness seem to have replaced it, each associated with one of the two cerebral hemispheres.

In an experiment a person was asked what profession he would choose, he said carpenter. Then asked to spell his choice of profession by using cards with letters on them, he spelled the word pilot.

When such a person can't see his hands those hands could be typing, but when asked "are you typing" the person says "no". This suggest, that these patients have two centers of consciousness.

I'll only draw your attention to this specific phenomena of the unity of consciousness. It is a complex subject and too big to discuss it here in full.

To bring the discussion of consciousness to an end, let me point at another important feature of consciousness: intentionality.

Conscious states typically have "intentionality," that property of mental states by which they are directed at or about objects and states of affairs in the world.

Philosophers use the word intentionality not just for "intending" in the ordinary sense but for any mental phenomena at all that have referential content.

According to this usage, beliefs, hopes, intentions, fears, desires and perceptions all are intentional. So if I have a belief, I must have a belief about something.

If I have a normal visual experience, it must seem to me that I am actually seeing something, etc. Not all conscious states are intentional ; for example, undirected anxiety lacks intentionality.

It can seem that consciousness and intentionality pervade mental life, but achieving an articulate general understanding of either consciousness or intentionality presents an enormous challenge.

I leave the subjects of the unity and intentionality of consciousness for further study to you.

The Discussion

[13:19] herman Bergson: Thank you....
[13:19] Farv Hallison: Can a dream be intentional?
[13:19] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): some say they do that
[13:19] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): get the dream ready and dream it
[13:20] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): :-)
[13:20] herman Bergson: difficult question Farv
[13:20] druth Vlodovic: "lucid dreaming"
[13:20] Jarapanda Snook: In some dreams I am aware that I am acting with intentionality
[13:20] herman Bergson: It is some uncontrolled random event
[13:20] Jarapanda Snook: it is like I am consciously dreaming
[13:20] Mick Nerido: dreams lack a conscious intention
[13:21] herman Bergson: Yes jara....we talk and we think and believe in our dreams...
[13:21] herman Bergson: That's the point Mick
[13:21] druth Vlodovic: though according to the definition given you can have an intention you have no control over, like wanting to run away from something even if you know you shouldn't
[13:21] herman Bergson: So it is a kind of in between unconscious and conscious ...
[13:22] herman Bergson: oh yes druth.....
[13:22] Jaelle Faerye: wait wait
[13:22] Jaelle Faerye: but what tells me that this is not a dream?
[13:22] Jarapanda Snook: mostly my dreams are just like watching a B-movie, but sometimes i seem to act very consciously intentionally
[13:22] Mick Nerido: I dream of a solution to a RL problem, is that intentionalty
[13:22] herman Bergson: one of the main point regarding the unity of consciousness is that there is so much more going on in your brain of which you arent aware
[13:23] Farv Hallison: hello Hokon
[13:23] Hokon Cazalet: hi =) just got home from work
[13:23] herman Bergson: I am inclined to restrict intentionality to conscious mental states
[13:23] druth Vlodovic: why?
[13:24] herman Bergson: because it is about the fact that thought, believes desires etc are always about something....
[13:24] Jarapanda Snook: maybe that is a flawed assumption?
[13:25] herman Bergson: there is a clear relation between being conscious and the about of what you are conscious of.
[13:25] herman Bergson: Dreams don't fit into that picture
[13:25] Farv Hallison: Do the objects in SL qualify as things?
[13:25] Jarapanda Snook: so where does the subconscious come in ?
[13:25] Hokon Cazalet: dreams are about something, though dream-less sleep def doesnt fit
[13:25] herman Bergson: After waking up you can be aware of your dream
[13:26] Hokon Cazalet: during my dreams i look and use things, albeit its an illusion, but there is still content to my fantasies
[13:26] herman Bergson: I don't know what to do with dreams....
[13:26] herman Bergson: yes in dreams you seem to have intentional conscious mental states
[13:26] druth Vlodovic: but if impulses are included in intentionality then anything you do started as an impulse and became a plan,
[13:26] Hokon Cazalet: i simply say dream = vivid imaginations, my imagination of a unicorn has intentionality - its about a unicorn; my dream about fighting zombies has intentionality
[13:27] Mick Nerido: That memory of a dream makes it a conscious event
[13:27] Hokon Cazalet: i imagine myself gazing at zombies and i make use of imaginary tools - all of this has intentionality
[13:27] herman Bergson: Yes could say that.....
[13:28] herman Bergson: with intentionality I only want to say that a lot of conscious mentla states are always about something
[13:28] Hokon Cazalet: id be the same, i don't think all consciousness is conscious of something
[13:28] herman Bergson: Believe me...I'd rather not dig into this subkject too deep :-))
[13:28] druth Vlodovic: I'm actually interested in the idea of multiple conscious states, i've experienced evidence of this, odd that you are only "conscious" of one conscious state at a time
[13:28] Hokon Cazalet: hehe =)
[13:28] herman Bergson: because philosophically it is really complex
[13:29] Hokon Cazalet: and psychologically complex
[13:29] Hokon Cazalet: id agree =)
[13:29] Hokon Cazalet: i like what druth said also, only being conscious of one thing at a time - might be tied into the unity of intentional consciousness
[13:29] Hokon Cazalet: but i'm not sure its necessary
[13:29] herman Bergson: just look at these four statements regarding intentionality
[13:30] herman Bergson: Consciousness is explanatorily derived from intentionality.
Consciousness is underived and separable from intentionality.
Consciousness is underived but also inseparable from intentionality.
Consciousness is underived from, inseparable from, and essential to intentionality.
[13:30] Hokon Cazalet looks
[13:30] Jarapanda Snook: but I am aware of 2 simultanious states of consciousness - like a foreground an background - at the same time
[13:30] herman Bergson: I just give you the statements to show you how complex the issue of intentionality can become
[13:30] druth Vlodovic: do people ever register on instruments as being conscious when they are not experiencing consciousness?
[13:31] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): sure is
[13:31] Hokon Cazalet: position one is false, the concept of intentionality gives no useful or specific predictions; correct jarapanda [actually husserl discusses that in Ideas I, that not all thoughts are necessarily part of the intentional act]
[13:31] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): especially if multi tasking
[13:31] herman Bergson: yes jara That is one of the features of consciousness
[13:31] herman Bergson: the distinction between Center and Periphery of attention
[13:31] Jarapanda Snook: right
[13:32] herman Bergson: Such features are open to scientific research....
[13:32] Hokon Cazalet: yup
[13:32] herman Bergson: psychology and neuroscience for instance
[13:33] herman Bergson: And I guess that there is a lot of research going on in that area
[13:34] herman Bergson: A thing I haven't mentioned regarding the unified consciousness is concepts like personal identity and the Self
[13:34] herman Bergson: a complete new chapter....
[13:35] herman Bergson: I think we should discuss Daniel Dennett in relation to this.
[13:35] Jarapanda Snook: is the Self focussed in the peripheral consciousness?
[13:35] herman Bergson: there are theories that what we experience as our Self, is just something the brain makes up afterwards for us
[13:36] Jarapanda Snook: like rationalizing dreams when we wake up?
[13:36] herman Bergson: like the idea that we have a free will is also just a story afterwards....we just believe we have....
[13:36] herman Bergson: something like that ...
[13:36] herman Bergson: I am still studying on these issues..
[13:36] Hokon Cazalet is also
[13:37] Jarapanda Snook: do you mean free will physically or psychologically?
[13:37] herman Bergson: The question do we have a free will? is a hot issue these days
[13:37] Mistyowl Warrhol: question.. if we lost our 5 senses, smell, taste, touch, vision, hearing, would be still be "conscious'?
[13:37] herman Bergson: psychologically
[13:37] Jarapanda Snook: I am sure we would
[13:37] Farv Hallison: hello Rodney
[13:37] druth Vlodovic: so "experience" is just memory?
[13:37] Rodney Handrick: Hi Farv
[13:38] herman Bergson: our idea that it is WE how dicide in all kinds of situations
[13:38] Qwark Allen: oh no! rodney arrived first
[13:38] herman Bergson: Hi Rodney
[13:38] Sybyle Perdide: hello Quwark
[13:38] Sybyle Perdide: hello Rod
[13:38] Rodney Handrick: lol...hi Qwark
[13:38] herman Bergson: You are too early.....^_^
[13:38] Lizzy Pleides: Hi Rodney and Qwark
[13:38] Qwark Allen: sorry delay
[13:38] herman Bergson: Hey Qwark ㋡
[13:38] Rodney Handrick: Hi Sybyle
[[13:38] Jaelle Faerye: Hi Qwark and Rod and the others
[13:38] Jaelle Faerye: since we are at "hellos"
[13:38] Rodney Handrick: Hi Jaelle
[13:38] Jarapanda Snook: it's like The Waltons in here
[13:39] herman Bergson: Well...I definitely will discuss the issue of free will with you soon...
[13:39] Sybyle Perdide: what is your room, Jara? upperstorey left last but one?
[13:39] herman Bergson: and also the idea that the brain in fact just tells us stories what we call our personal identity...
[13:40] Jarapanda Snook: surely we are free to think what we like, but it is the transition to doing what we like that breaks down
[13:40] herman Bergson: it is even worse Jara.....
[13:40] Jarapanda Snook: I thought so...
[13:40] Mistyowl Warrhol: They are here for Tues lecture.. lol ( I can say that since I was so late also!!!)
[13:40] herman Bergson: They allways come up with the Libett story....
[13:41] Farv Hallison: hello Mistyowl
[13:41] herman Bergson: He discovered that when you decide to move your hand, the brain is already in full action before you are even aware of your wish to move your hand
[13:41] Mistyowl Warrhol: Hello hugs to all :-)
[13:41] Hokon Cazalet: huggles
[13:42] herman Bergson: So when I say I want to move my hand, my brain already has taken that decision before I said it.
[13:42] Farv Hallison huggs MistyOwl
[13:42] herman Bergson: I still have to look into that matter
[13:42] druth Vlodovic: "by the way, we decided to move you hand."
[13:42] Hokon Cazalet: me too, i find that interesting
[13:42] Mistyowl Warrhol: But that is logical, because the decision to move the hand came from the brain.
[13:42] Jarapanda Snook: but you can think about moving your hand when it doesn't move
[13:42] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ LOL ♥
[13:42] Mistyowl Warrhol: Unless the hand just touch a hot burner, then.....
[13:42] herman Bergson: yes you can ㋡
[13:43] herman Bergson: But philosophically it has a ground....
[13:43] druth Vlodovic: so is the consciousness just for learning and providing general direction?
[13:43] Jarapanda Snook: and you can also think about not moving your hand while you are moving it
[13:43] herman Bergson: when we are just material beings and all is governed by the laws of nature
[13:44] herman Bergson: it means that all processes are determined...also what happens in outr brain...
[13:44] herman Bergson: it is the classic problem of determinism and th epossibility of free will
[13:44] Lizzy Pleides: some movements are reflexes
[13:44] herman Bergson: yes Lizzy...completely controlled by the brain itself
[13:45] herman Bergson: as you see ...we still have a few questions to deal with ㋡
[13:46] herman Bergson: deal
[13:46] Qwark Allen: heehe
[13:46] Qwark Allen: we have more questions, then answers
[13:46] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): always
[13:46] herman Bergson: Yes Qwark, keeps us pretty busy ^_^
[13:46] Qwark Allen: indeed´
[13:46] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): there are always questions here after a set of lectures
[13:46] herman Bergson: Does anyone of you still have a question?
[13:47] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
[13:47] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
[13:47] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): what is next
[13:47] herman Bergson: Main issues are free will and Dennett....
[13:47] druth Vlodovic: so the consciousness could be seen as a programmer, writing in the program but not causing the actual work to be done?
[13:48] herman Bergson: the picture is more that the brain is a computer and consciousness the software
[13:48] Jaelle Faerye: has a déjà vu feeling
[13:48] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): :-)
[13:48] druth Vlodovic: but if the consciousness doesn't cause, say, movement, but is informed afterwards, then it only provides the general plan
[13:49] druth Vlodovic: so it is actually a step removed from the software
[13:49] Jarapanda Snook: but actions like moving your hand are pre-programmed - like a muscle memory
[13:49] herman Bergson: yes Druth.... some people hold such kinds of ideas...
[13:49] Mistyowl Warrhol: I think the consciousness is the sixth sense, that takes all the data from the other 5 and translates them into something our brain can use.
[13:50] Hokon Cazalet: im curious, what about actions we take that require a choice in less time than it takes for the brain to unconsciously process it? how much of a gap is there?
[13:50] Jarapanda Snook: interesting, Misty
[13:50] herman Bergson: half a second Hokon
[13:50] Hokon Cazalet: misty, thats a concept Aristotle had actually, from De Anima =)
[13:50] Hokon Cazalet: ok, thats short enough
[13:50] Hokon Cazalet: so my question is void =)
[13:50] herman Bergson: The remark of Misty is questionable
[13:51] Mistyowl Warrhol: Well, it does make sense.
[13:51] Mistyowl Warrhol: What.. you question me ??????? ROFL
[13:51] Jarapanda Snook: the Sixth Sense is about intuition perhaps
[13:51] herman Bergson: The brain is not a sense organ, but an information manipulating unit
[13:51] Farv Hallison rolls on the floor with Mistyowl.
[13:52] herman Bergson: and this information processing in the brain causes consciousness
[13:52] druth Vlodovic: it's been studied a lot due to it's application to automotive safety hokon
[13:52] Hokon Cazalet: hm half a second explains some of the weird stuff we do, such as recognizing ive done something out of habit, yet wrong for this situation
[13:52] herman Bergson: I apologize Misty...^_^
[13:52] Hokon Cazalet: oh ok cool druth, makes sense =)
[13:52] Mistyowl Warrhol: lol
[13:53] Hokon Cazalet: sort of jerked "whoops"
[13:53] Qwark Allen: by that definition, we can extrapolate, that all living beeing with brains, have consciense
[13:53] herman Bergson: Yes qwark....depending on the level of development of the central nervous system....
[13:54] Jarapanda Snook: not necessarily - are ants conscious?
[13:54] herman Bergson: Animal consciousnes is a serious subject
[13:54] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): they move
[13:54] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Yes-ah!
[13:54] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): it is
[13:54] Qwark Allen: ants have no brain
[13:54] Qwark Allen: °͜° l ☺ ☻ ☺ l °͜°
[13:54] Qwark Allen: lol
[13:54] Hokon Cazalet: ant's probably have no unified consciousness, no real brain
[13:54] herman Bergson: Ants have a brain Qwark :-)
[13:54] Jarapanda Snook: I think they do
[13:54] Jarapanda Snook: fish then
[13:54] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): yes they do
[13:54] Hokon Cazalet: they have ganglia
[13:54] herman Bergson: Yes they have a brain...absolutely....
[13:54] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): right
[13:54] Hokon Cazalet: or whatever that stem is called
[13:54] Qwark Allen: was talking more about mamal brains
[13:54] Mistyowl Warrhol: and they could have, just not near the stage of development we have.. and depending on the being.
[13:55] herman Bergson: But the test of consciousness is often related to the mirror test
[13:55] Jarapanda Snook: but you would not think of them as being conscioous...
[13:55] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): they are extremely clever and organized
[13:55] Jarapanda Snook: or do we me Self-Conscious...
[13:55] herman Bergson: no ants arent conscious in the sense we are....
[13:55] Jarapanda Snook: self aware?
[13:55] Qwark Allen: no doubts about that gemma
[13:55] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): :-)
[13:55] Jarapanda Snook: individually they are not clever
[13:56] druth Vlodovic: the mirror test seems to rely on the subject doing something we'd recognize as a reasonable response to recognizing itself
[13:56] Jarapanda Snook: they have a hive cleverness we can't comprehend
[13:56] herman Bergson: yes Jara..... when an organism shows self recognistion we must conclude that it has some level of consciousness
[13:56] Mistyowl Warrhol: and elephants? We know they remember and grieve?
[13:56] Jaelle Faerye looks at her Werber books
[13:56] Lizzy Pleides: thank god i am not an ant
[13:56] herman Bergson: in that respect....just study the works of Frank de Waal
[13:56] Hokon Cazalet: although something can be conscious without being self-aware [or is the philosophic definition self-awareness? i did find it out we didnt call dreams conscious states . . .]
[13:57] Jarapanda Snook: elephants, dogs and dolphins - I think those are the only self aware anomals
[13:57] Hokon Cazalet: find it odd*
[13:57] herman Bergson: he is an expert in animal behavior, especiallly chimps
[13:57] herman Bergson: chimpansees too Jara
[13:57] Jarapanda Snook: yes sorry
[13:57] herman Bergson: But for instance an Orang Oetang not
[13:57] Qwark Allen: and all wales
[13:57] druth Vlodovic: if we tried the morror test on an animal that had some sort of superstitious fear about seeing another "me" as a bad thing then a "reasonable response" would be to attack it lol
[13:58] herman Bergson: The whale is a very special creature....
[13:58] herman Bergson: it is the only creative animal as far as I know.....
[13:58] herman Bergson: it sings songs...I suppose to communicate....
[13:58] Jarapanda Snook: they have a level of consciousness we would find it hard to comprehend
[13:58] Qwark Allen: whales have the most sofisticated language of the planet
[13:59] herman Bergson: but not like a bird always sings its same old song...the whale composes new ones all thetime
[13:59] herman Bergson: somehting like that , yes
[13:59] Hokon Cazalet: herman, this may have been explained already (and ive only explored consciousness with continental works), what's the definition of consciousness in this discussion?
[13:59] Qwark Allen: and they have cultural language also
[13:59] Qwark Allen: like some talk french and other english
[14:00] druth Vlodovic: or maybe some animals are intelligent enough to know that they cannot be in two places at the same time, so they dismiss out of hand the idea that it might be "me"
[14:00] Jaelle Faerye: where elephants have a very low infra sounds that can be heard by others very far and have some kind of respect for their deads
[14:00] Lizzy Pleides: true Jaelle
[14:00] Jaelle Faerye: they recognize and greet the bones of their dead ones when they meet them
[14:00] herman Bergson: Consciousness consists of inner, qualitative subjective states and processes of sentience and awareness
[14:00] Qwark Allen: you know rhinos are descendants of early whales?
[14:01] Hokon Cazalet: hm ok
[14:01] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): getting way off track
[14:01] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ LOL ♥
[14:01] Jaelle Faerye: i think we are just discovering things
[14:01] herman Bergson: looks at his watch.....
[14:01] Jaelle Faerye: each and every day
[14:01] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): 'right
[14:01] herman Bergson: we are a bit late....
[14:01] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): :-)
[14:01] Jaelle Faerye: and that in a few decades maybe all will laugh at those theories about consciousness
[14:02] Qwark Allen: AAHH!!!
[14:02] Jaelle Faerye: and on this note
[14:02] Hokon Cazalet: AHH!!!!
[14:02] herman Bergson: Time to thank you all for your participation.....
[14:02] Jaelle Faerye: i wish you all a pleasant time
[[14:02] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): hope to be here tuesday if I can
[14:02] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): if not thursday as usual
[14:02] Jarapanda Snook: Thank you Herman
[14:02] herman Bergson: Class dismissed...
[14:02] Lizzy Pleides: thank you Herman!
[14:02] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[14:02] Qwark Allen: ¸¸.☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`☆ H E R MA N ☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`
[14:02] Qwark Allen: thank you
[14:02] Sybyle Perdide: thank you
[14:02] Jaelle Faerye: thank you, herman
[14:02] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Bye, Bye ㋡
[14:02] Jaelle Faerye: Bye Gemma

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