< Consciousness Studies
This brief summary is an illustration of an attempt to model a multidisciplinary biopsychosocial (bps) understanding of self-consciousness seen from the perspective of both scientific methodology and metaphysical logic where the empirical and the inferential provide a seamless blend of the ontological brain with the epistemological mind.
The achievement of self consciousness is the crucial mental state allowing the human species to monitor the equilibrium state of biopsychosocial ongoing contingencies especially when confronting life-threatening circumstances. The inherited proto-semantics and acquired language guide the required recursive co-generation of the appropriate language and thought to meet the contingency. Thus informed, it allows humans to elaborate effective adaptive short and long range responses.
Definition of terms
Bps model uses some unusual definitions of terms. These are explained below.
“Sense-phenomenal awareness” is defined as an unconscious, life-preserving, adaptive reflex response which may occur without qualia. It originates at a sensory receptor, wherever located in the body economy, and ends at an effector organ, glandular or muscular. – Phenomenal consciousness/awareness is a term normally reserved for experience containing qualia in other analyses.
System/network “awareness” is defined in the bps model as that unconscious processing occurring during the integration of the participating neural network modules leading to a stereotyped adaptive response. – normally awareness is defined as knowledge that a conscious state is present.
Sense-phenomenal awareness may become a conscious experience when relevant inferential networks (e.g., memory, emotions, etc.)are subsequently accessed, including inner-language processors. When experiences are recalled the qualia that arise are called “conceptual qualia”.
“Access consciousness” is described as being initially an unconscious process that makes it possible for a life-preserving, reflex-driven and ‘unconscious’ sense-phenomenal state of mind to become conscious by making use of available, pertinent and concurrent mental states to interact with the novel sense-phenomenal input, a potentially life-threatening event.
“Proto-linguistic organ” or ‘plo’ is described as the first line of defense to guard against life-threatening stimuli arising from sense-phenomenal inputs (external, visceral or proprioceptive). Housed in the amygdaloidal complex, it represents the inherited proto-semantic (primitive ‘meanings’) database responsible for activating the corresponding unconscious fight/flight adaptive Cannon effector response.
“Proto-semantic” input from plo is described as a required initial participant in the subsequent recursive co-generation of inner language and thought as may be required in the eventual elaboration of “conceptual consciousness”.
Higher order consciousness theory
The ‘bps’ model of ‘consciousness’ is a high order consciousness theory in which an unconscious, non inferential phenomenal state (established from either online sensory receptor input or offline memory input), when confronting a novel life-threatening event, triggers an initially unconscious access intermediate stage where relevant modular networks are incorporated including Broca’s language processor recursively co-generating in the process the ‘inner language’ narrative state and accompanying thought, a conscious high order mental state, all of which causally precedes (or is simultaneous with) the adaptive response (if any, as we see in dreams).
Notice that bps considers phenomenal states to be non-conscious, this would confuse the ordinary reader who expects the Kantian term “phenomenal” to be equivalent to the term “conscious experience”. Only the higher order mental state is regarded as “conscious”.
The ‘bps’ model basically describes two co-existing, ongoing mental states, one non-inferential subconscious ‘gut feeling’ inner sense (BOP, a variant of Lycan’s 1996 HOP) and an initially non-inferential unconscious accessing of narrative pathways leading to (recursive co-generation of ‘inner language’ and thought is an open option) the eventual production of higher order thought (HOT) whose content is the feeling that oneself is the subject of self-consciousness.
In other words, according to the ‘bps’ theory, feelings are not part of consciousness until higher order thought occurs, i.e., qualia needs a context.
In ‘bps’ theory not even self-consciousness, of which ‘qualia’ may arguably be considered a subset of, has revealed its constitutive secrets. This means that bps is a theory of brain processing rather than a theory of the content of consciousness (qualia) or consciousness itself except when it ventures into the postulate that language and self-consciousness are recursively co-generated or co-causal. More controversial is the mediation of the amygdaloid complex (plo) in providing inherited primitive ‘meanings’ (protosemantic codelets) to initiate Chomskian language processing and thought co-generation, i.e., protosemantics precedes syntax structuring. For a more complete exposition see: