Embodied Human Consciousness, Abrupt Global Climate Change and Freedom - S. David Stoney, Ph.D.

VII. Ecological Neuroscience Book Proposal - My aim is to introduce a process philosophical approach to understanding nervous system function and show how compatible it is with contemporary neuroscience, including the development of embodied human consciousness. This realistic approach validates the human knower and his or her capacity to feel, to know, and to take responsible action on and in the world. For that reason I call it "Ecological Neuroscience." I shall be refining this proposal as I make progress with writing.   As it stands at this point, it is probably too much for one book.  However, I wanted to lay out the entire vision before attempting to divide it up.  I seek a publisher who can provide expert editorial, layout, and graphic arts assistance.

Draft Book Proposal
03/05/02

For latest version click here

Ecological Neuroscience: A Process Philosophical Approach
by
S. David Stoney, Ph.D.
Department of Physiology
Medical College of Georgia
(Emeritus)

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"The elimination of original participation involves a contraction of human consciousness from periphery to centre...- a contraction from the cosmos of wisdom to something like a purely brain activity - but by the same token it involves an awakening.  For we awake, out of universal - into self - consciousness." (Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry, Wesleyan University Press, pg. 183-3, 1965/1988)

"To the symbol 'history,' it appears, there must be accorded an amplitude wide enough to accommodate all the theophanic events in which the paradox of reality breaks through to consciousness." (Eric Voegelin, Order and History, Vol. IV. The Ecumenic Age, Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, pg. 259, 1974)

"If, after our best efforts, we cannot squeeze what are, in their essence, first-person phenomena into a third-person 'box', so be it. The alternative is to broaden our theories of mind to encompass first-person phenomena. Once one accepts that first and third-person accounts of the mind are complementary and mutually irreducible, this is easy to do." (Max Vellums, Understanding Consciousness, London: Routledge, pg. 278, 2000)

"The theory that brain function is naturally subdivided into such entities as sensation, perception, motivation, emotion and memory is not consistent with the findings of neuroscientific research." (C.H. Vanderwolf, The behavioral neurobiology of learning and memory: a conceptual reorientation, Brain Res. Revs. 19:264-97, 1994)

"The relationship of emotional states to actions, and indeed to motricity, is all important, for under normal conditions it is an emotional state that provides the trigger and internal context for action." (Rudolfo R. Llinas, The I of the Vortex: From Neurons to Self, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pg. 156, 2001)

"...apparently, the human race cannot bear itself, cannot bear to be reconciled to itself. Paralleling the violence it wreaks on other living things, there is a violence peculiar to humankind, wreaked by itself on itself. It is as if, through this self-inflicted violence, humanity wants to make itself ready from now on to be the survivor of some great impending catastrophe." (Jean Baudrillard, The Vital Illusion, NY: Columbia University Press, pgs. 18-19, 2000)

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I. About the Author

S. David Stoney is a seasoned neuroscientist and educator.  He received his BS degree in Psychology from the University of South Carolina and his Ph.D. degree in Physiology from Tulane University. After beginning his professional career working with Hiroshi Asanuma and Vernon Brooks at New York Medical College in New York, NY, he moved to the Medical College of Georgia where he has been course director for the freshman medical student Neuroscience course at the Medical College of Georgia for nearly 30 years. He is an author of one of the only complete online neuroscience textbook currently available - see Essentials of Human Physiology, http://imc.gsm.com/basicsci.html - and has taught most areas of neuroscience for undergraduate or medical students.  His neuroscientific research has been aimed at achieving a broad appreciation of nervous system function and has included studies of excitation and action potential conduction, organization of motor cortex, neurodevelopment, and plasticity of somatic sensory cortex using intra- and extracellular recording from single neurons. Although not great in quantity, the quality of his work is generally well-received. For example, Sanes & Donoghue (2000) in discussing intracortical electrical stimulation, recently cited one of his early papers: "This influential method, developed by Stoney et al (1968)…" See http://home.earthlink.net/~icedneuron/CVAug2000.htm" for a brief CV. He seeks a publisher who can provide excellent, knowledgeable editorial assistance.

II. Organization of Proposal

  • Prospectus
  • Table of Contents with chapter descriptions
  • Tentative specifications with sample figures
  • References

III. Prospectus

A. Overview. This work will critique the neuralist assumptions of contemporary neuroscience and introduce an alternative, process philosophical approach that solves the mind/body problem. Such an approach offers a more coherent and humanly meaningful description of the role of the brain in human action, perception, and conscious awareness than that provided by classical neural theory. The book will be aimed especially at neuropsychology and neuroscience students, teachers, and researchers, but will be written in a way to make it understandable to any educated person interested in the neurobiology of human consciousness.  The following topics will be addressed:

  • The need for a new conception of human brain function, one that opens doors to alternative futures;
  • The failure of conventional neuroscience to explain conscious action or awareness in a humanly meaningful way;
  • Overview of brain anatomy and evolution;
  • The process philosophical approach to mind/body problem and nervous system function;
  • Action and awareness during experiential events - How prehensive neural networks form the basis for embodied human consciousness;
  • Seeing and touching - Specific examples of how prehensive neural networks provide for perceptual awareness;
  • Speaking - How left hemispheric specialization for abstract language disables its capacity for prehending a left world, thus accounting for the development of anosognosia for left hemiplegia with certain right hemisphere lesions;
  • How the process philosophical approach 'solves' the mind-body problem, avoids the solipsistic dead-end, and accounts for the neural dependence of embodied human consciousness;
  • Advantages of this reconstructive postmodern approach - How bimodal consciousness, which is literally both in the brain and in the world (universe) may help us to avoid sleepwalking into history.

B. Unique Features.  This work will introduce at least three new, large-scale ideas.

  • First, in what I hope will be a full break with creationist ontologies, it will consider the evolution of the human brain, language, and consciousness in the context of earth's climate cycle.
  • Second, it will get hold of the story from the right end and present embodied human consciousness as a extension, a specialization of animal consciousness, which had its beginnings in the fixed action patterns of the earliest creatures.  Obviously, this means that certain data from ethological (comparative animal behavior) studies will be dealt with.  It will be argued that that the development of, first, oral and, then, print and written language, always in the context of socially interacting groups, has been associated with certain changes in brain function.  These changes, and the cultural scaffolding that support them, are what separate us from our animal forebears.  And the changes are necessarily associated with both gains and losses.  The greatest gain, which led, of course, to the postmodern world, is nothing other than self.  The greatest loss is a growing sense of alienation, one that in the extreme case - where participation is denied - leads to serious distortions of consciousness.
  • Third, it will introduce a process philosophical approach to understanding nervous system function and embodied human consciousness.  As far as I know, no practicing neuroscientist has previously attempted to consider contemporary neuroscientific data from a process philosophical perspective.  Classical neural theory, logically incoherent and still implicitly wed to outdated concepts, blocks progress toward a more humane understanding of ourselves and our place in the universe, forcing humanity's trajectory towards more alienation, fragmentation, and vulnerability to abrupt climate change, i.e., toward the 'posthuman.'

C. Competition.  Although some authors have come very close, indeed, and may have inadvertently made use of process philosophical concepts without explicitly acknowledging them, there are, so far as I am aware, no books by neuroscientists that explicitly adopt a process philosophical approach to understanding the neuroscientific bases of embodied human consciousness.  Of course, the notion of embodied consciousness is very popular right now (e.g., see Hurley, 1998; Johnson, 1987; Latkoff, 1987; Latkoff & Johnson, 2000).  This stems partly from the fact that the idea that mind = brain activity is a logical extension of modern thought about the brain, the "most modern" point of view with objectivist leanings.  Its neuroscientifically oriented proponents, whom I refer to as neuralists, believe that victory in the "race for consciousness" (Baars, 1997) is in sight.  Of course, there is another logical approach to embodiedness, one that rescues certain premodern strains of thought and that avoids solipsism.  Alfred North Whitehead addressed this approach to embodiment when he said, "All sense perception is merely one outcome of the dependence of our experience upon bodily functionings" (cited in Griffin, 2000, pg. 171).  My work attempts to expand this idea into a full-fledged panexperiential neuroscience.

Meanwhile, the last two decades has seen a huge increase in new, important neuroscientific data (e.g., see Kandel et al, 2000; Gazzaniga, 2000) and a surfeit of books speculating on possible relationships between consciousness, the nervous system, and mind.  Since the notion of neurons as prehenders has not previously been developed, my book will "compete" with all the current  books. I recognize, however, that the "massive facticity" of the physicalist/materialist approach to neuroscience leads to an almost religious faith that neuralism is the only answer to the 'problem' of consciousness.  It also deflects awareness from the two false premises that underlie the neuralist's confidence.  These are, first, that conscious awareness depends on special arrangements of matter in the brain, and, second, that the capacity of awareness is an emergent property of evolution, i.e., that consciousness "winks in" (Chalmers, 1996, pg. 297) at some arbitrary level of material complexity.  I refer to this set of assumptions, including the notion of mind = brain activity and that the brain must somehow form 'internal' representations of an 'external' world, as classical neural theory (CNT).  CNT is a holdover from the Newtonian worldview and, except for simply being wrong, is, like classical physical theory, just fine.

The recent books concerning consciousness are too numerous to take on one-by-one, so I shall here consider only a few of the more outstanding ones that relate more-or-less closely to my effort. Of the books below, those by Chalmers, Damasio, Rychlak, Hurley, Thelen & Smith, and Llinas probably come closest to agreeing with my perspective; Chalmers proposes his own brand of panexperientialism and Damasio even cites Whitehead.  Llinás comes closest to explicating the motorsensory theory of awareness.  However, none of the other authors cite any process philosopher, other than William James, nor do any of them explicitly make use of the notions of prehension, nonsensory perception, or panexperientialism.

1. Chalmers, D. J. (1996), The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory, NY: Oxford University Press - Charmers' book has been an inspiration and I have tried to heed his call for not giving up on an explanation of consciousness and the need for "new eyes:"

"The possibility of explaining consciousness nonreductively remains open.  This would be a very different sort of explanation, requiring some radical changes in the way we think about the structure of the world." (pg. 122)

Chalmers advances a "naturalistic dualism" that is very close to being panexperiential point of view. "Perhaps," he says, "we might take experience itself as a fundamental feature of the world, alongside space-time, spin, charge, and the like" (pg. 126).  He suggests that "consciousness supervenes naturally on the physical...natural supervenience without logical supervenience" (pg. 124), and that "Experience is information from the inside; physics is information from the outside" (pg. 305).  He concludes (pg. 357) that he "... would bet fairly confidently that experience is fundamental."  His notion of awareness, which he defines as a capacity to utilize information in the control of behavior, and which he sees as always accompanying consciousness (but not vice versa [pg. 123, but c.f. pg. 242, where this distinction is contradicted]) is close to my own way of thinking.  We also share a dislike for the term "panpsychism" since it can easily be misconstrued to mean that inanimate objects like chairs are conscious or have a soul or psyche.  I believe a more coherent story can be presented by letting a capacity for experience (a capacity for feeling of feelings) be fundamental.  This most primitive level compounds into episodes of awareness, which, in the presence of a central nervous system becomes awareness of awareness, i.e., episodes of awareness coalesce into embodied conscious experience (e.g., Griffin, 1998; Seager, 1995).  Although Chalmers discusses (pgs. 115-18, 238-42) the shortcomings of neurobiological explanations of consciousness, noting that they depend on "assumption," he does not discuss the basis of the neural dependence of embodied human consciousness in light of the universality of a capacity to experience.  Instead, he pursues a more abstract argument, postulating that a "bridging principle" can link physical processes to experience.  He recommends "... the coherence between consciousness and awareness: when a system is aware of some information, in the sense that the information is directly available for global control, then the information is conscious" (pg. 237).  While I fully agree that there indeed is coherence between consciousness and awareness, I am still working on what this means in neural space-time.

2. Johnson, M. (1987) The Body in Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason, Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press - Johnson is a philosopher and has little or no reason to suspect that neuralists' claims to have proven that mind = brain activity are baseless.  I am very sympathetic with Johnson's reconstructive postmodern critique of the "objectivist" (God's eye view) approach to knowledge.  The realization that what science is about is the generation of models of aspects the nature of things according to preconceived theoretical and conceptual frameworks (see his Chapter 11, "'All This and Realism, too!'") is an important advance with which I am in complete agreement.  I am also in complete agreement with the way he demolishes the argument that that the world will, if knowledge and consciousness are embodied, necessarily spin into a hell of relativism.  In addition, I expect to neuralize his concept of "image schema" as I show how action and intent shape perception and consciousness.  Although Johnson cites neither James, Whitehead, Hartshorne, or Griffin, he seems, nevertheless to tacitly express, albeit at a more philosophical level, what I mean when I refer to a fundamental, nonlocal interconnection between subject and object that accounts for nonsensory perception. Two examples, "To sum up: as animals we have bodies connected to the natural world, such that our consciousness and rationality are tied to our bodily orientations and interactions in and with our environment.  Our embodiment is essential to who we are, to what meaning is, and to our ability to draw rational inferences and to be creative" (pg. xxxviii) and "The environment as a whole is as much a part of the identity of the organism as anything 'internal' to the organism" (pg. 207).

Well, where does Johnson stand vis-ŕ-vis solipsistic neuralism? He is certainly a realist, as can be seen by his sympathy with Putnam: "'Objects' do not exist independently of conceptual schemes.  We cut up the world into objects when we introduce one or another scheme of description" (italics added).  However, because he is unaware of the reality of nonsensory perception, his is a mediated realism that appears all too compatible with neuralism's surreptitious dualism: "How we carve up the world will depend both on what is 'out there' and independent of us, and equally on the referential scheme we bring to bear, given our purposes, interests, and goals... we are in touch with our world but always in a mediated fashion" (pg. 202, italics added).  So, while he notes the importance of a correspondence theory of truth, he, in the end abandons his concern and confesses his "theoretical" realism: "Our realism consists in our sense that we are in touch with reality in our bodily actions in the world, and in our having an understanding of reality sufficient to allow us to function more or less successfully in that world" (pg. 203).  I am considering calling this suicidal realism since it seems to be designed to keep us from attending to the need to begin to adapt to the rapidly intensifying climate crisis.  It is the realism that develops when one's culture acquiesces to fear and becomes stuck in mistaking a particular set of abstractions (in this case matter, time, and space in the Newtonian incarnations) for actualities, for it means an arbitrary halt at a particular point of possible advance.  But who knows, perhaps I am wrong, perhaps Catherine Hayles (1999), who said, "The posthuman is not the end of humanity... What is lethal is not the posthuman as such but the grafting of the posthuman onto the liberal humanist view of the self" (pg. 286-7), is correct and what we really need to do is just abandon the idea of an autonomous self all together.  Well, at least that way we can all pretend to be happy as we feed, right up to the 'unexpected' end, at the trough where the world is being devoured.

3. Edelman, G.M. (1992) Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On The Matter of the Mind, NY: HarperCollins - Like Globus (see below) and other neuralists, Edelman's physicalist conditioned thinking leads him astray.  He claims to be addressing the issue of "How is the mind embodied?" (pg. 265), hitting very close to one of my major objectives, which is to explicate "how mind is embodied."  The difference here - one little "the" - may seem small, but it is actually huge.  It represents the difference between a dualistic (explicit or implicit) position and an interactionist position such as exemplified by the process philosophical approach.  For the latter, a living human being's mind is naturally and ordinarily - although not exclusively - embodied and my intention is to describe how that comes about in my book.  For neuralists like Edelman, "mind is a special kind of process depending on special arrangements of matter" (pg. 7).  This reification of mind into something to be found in the brain is a box from which there is no escape and requires the invocation of magic, in Edelman's case the magic of "re-entrant connections," to account for the emergence of conscious awareness.  Globus' critique (see The Postmodern Brain, pgs. 140-2) of the coherence of the notion of "re-entrant signaling" is a telling argument against this baseless, obfuscatory appeal to "special" circuitry.  What seems astounding to me is that otherwise smart, deep thinkers can fool themselves into believing that, if they take one side of the dualistic premise, "matter," and then ground "the mind" exclusively in the 'special... matter' of the brain, they have avoided dualism.  Nonsense!  A monotheistic faith in matter is no different than a monotheistic faith in a transcendent god.  And, since such a faith requires that consciousness magically "wink in" (Chalmers, 1996), it is just as dualistic, albeit in a surreptitious fashion.

Here, and later (see A Universe of Consciousness below), Edelman postulates two varieties of consciousness, "primary" and "higher-order," the later including the former, but not vice-versa, and both dependent on the magic of "reentry."  Creatures with only primary consciousness can "construct a mental scene."  Animals, he asserts, who lack language are primarily conscious, but only languaged beasts like ourselves have a true "self" capable of knowing of our perceptual awareness, of experiencing qualia.   This animal-human animal distinction is, in my opinion, not only false, but also unsuitable to a 21st century view of the nature of embodied consciousness.  It smacks of creationism.  This is not to say that language is unimportant for embodied human consciousness, it is.  In fact, language has its neurobehavioral costs, which may have led to limits on certain aspects of our consciousness. Having said this, I need to quickly point out that I am not claiming that nonhuman animal consciousness is the same as human consciousness.

4. Edelman, G.M. and G. Tononi (2000) A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination, NY: Basic Books -  Well, judging from the title is appears that Edelman may have made some progress during the intervening years.  Could he and Tononi be implying that in some way or aspect a capacity for awareness of awareness is universal or does he still demand special matter in special neural circuits in a solipsistic brain?   Alas, no imaginative turn.  This is easily ascertained from the dust jacket: "Why do physical events that occur inside a fistful of gelatinous [sic, "waxy" yes, "gelatinous," no!] tissue give rise to a universe of conscious experience, a universe that contains everything we feel, everything we know and everything we are?"  In fact, Edelman's ambitions seem to have grown: "...we examine what kind of neural processes actually explain the fundamental properties of consciousness, rather than merely correlate with them." (pg. 19)  Presumably he will therefore be able to explain how the activity of certain "privileged" neurons "...suddenly imbues the possessor of that brain with the flavor of subjective experience,...with qualia?"

In fact, he is unable to accomplish this feat.  This outcome is not surprising from a process philosophical point of view since a miracle is required (Griffin, 1998, pg. 72; Chalmers, 1996, pg. 117).  Edelman hides his miracle under multiple coats of a rather opaque concept called "reentry."  "Reentry," he says, "plays the central role in our consciousness model, for it is reentry that assures the integration that is essential to the creation of a scene in primary consciousness... At a higher level, binding must take place among different distributed maps, each of which is functionally segregated or specialized."  Primary (nonhuman animal) consciousness requires "...mapping of by the brain itself of the activity of the brain's different areas and regions."  Of course, since the scene is in the animal's head, it would be atemporal unless contemporary inputs were mapped, via "massively reentrant connectivity"  to "value-category memory."  This poses a potentially severe computational load on the brain, for, somehow, current inputs must be categorized, conceptualized, and integrated with past experience before the illusory scene blossoms into conscious awareness.  And, even then, another dose of reentry is necessary for the emergence of higher-level consciousness, which requires language.  "No simple combination of the maps that are reentrantly interactive to yield perceptual categorizations can lead to [words].  What is required is higher-order mapping by the brain itself of the categories of brain activity in these various regions" (pgs. 104-5).  Huh?  I think that what he is saying here is that categories of categories require higher-order reentrant signaling.  Well, I should hope so, but what on earth does such a statement mean in terms of being an explanation for anything.  Just how does a brain remap itself?  It is, in fact, not an explanation of anything; it is a nicely done word picture involving different levels of discourse (i.e., different categories of abstraction) the transition between which is blurred by means of a concept called "reentry."  Nice try, you guys, I hope I can write as nice a picture as yours.

Well, maybe Edelman and Tononi are correct, but I don't think so.  They remain adamantly solipsistic: "In our theory of brain complexity, we have removed the paradoxes that arise by assuming only the God's-eye view of the external observer and, by adhering to selectionism, we have removed the homunculus.  Nevertheless, because of the nature of  embodiment, we still remain, to some extent, prisoners of description, only somewhat better off than the occupants of Plato's cave.  Can we get around this limitation - this qualification of our realism?   Not completely, but we return to the extravagant thought that we may transcend our analytical limits by synthetic means." (pg. 220)  Hmmm.  If such means are available why not use them?  If the course of one's argument leads to a nonsensical conclusion, one possibility, aside from faulty argumentation, is that the premises contained an error.

5. Globus, G.G. (1995) The Postmodern Brain, Amsterdam: John Benjamins - My views are, with one very major exception, quite compatible with those of Gordon Globus who very nearly succeeds in extricating himself from the dualistic trap.   He gets about as close as one can to the solution, but without seeing it, when he criticizes Natsoulas' attempt to improve on J.J. Gibson's notions.  He faults Natsoulas for not specifying "[w]hat makes brain resonance at some level 'special' so that the inside can get outside." (pg. 158, note 23).  However, he himself admits that his conception of the brain, like that of Maturana and Varela (1980) is "monadic" (pg. 159, note 29) and solipsistic: we "cannot see outside but know only whether or not our hypotheses are confirmed, while isolated from whatever it is that confirms the hypotheses." (pg. 20).  In this way he subscribes, perhaps unknowingly, to the surreptitious dualism of neuralism.  I agree with his consideration that the brain's "double embeddedness" is significant.  This will, in fact, be an important waypoint towards an explanation of why having a brain that prehends the (rest of the) body, as well as the world, grounds human consciousness to the body-in-the-world.  He says, for example, that "The brain machine is doubly embedded, first in the body which is, in turn, embedded in a physical energy sea " (pg. 11) and that "to be," i.e., to be consciously aware, is to "participate" with said brain in its "attunement" with the world.  If he could have brought himself to accept the reality of prehensions (the feeling the feelings) between his own dominant occasion of experience and those associated with the experiential events of the world in which he is embedded and participating, and if he could have recognized that neural electrical activity signals prehensions, he would have basically written major parts of my book.  Fortunately (for me) he, was unable to sufficiently suspend his physicalist indoctrination that the ultimate stuff of the universe is matter with simple location and was thus forced to the "only logical" (Lorenz, 1973) conclusion, even while rejecting the notion of an information-processing, external-world-representing brain in favor of a dynamic-oscillating-electromagnetic-system that links one's conscious awareness to the world.  In short, he himself fails to transcend his criticism of Natsoulas.  I intent to argue that, absent magical emergence, there is no basis, other than wishful thinking, for attributing either real or illusory conscious awareness of the world to brain states that are "autopoietic, autorhoetic, self-organizing, self-tuning," or having "massive reentrant connectivity," or anything else.  There are, in fact, only two possible alternatives to dualism: idealism or interactionism.  Neuralism is a path of false consciousness.

6. Damasio, A.R. (1999) The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, NY: Harcourt Brace & Company - He presents a subtlety nuanced neuroscientist/clinical neurologist's perspective that is eerily processual and which seems to avoid the neuralist's dilemma.  Damasio hones in on the importance of "feelings" for consciousness and even seems to allude to the possibility of a shaping influence from a Whiteheadian style supraordinate occasion of experience, which he refers to as "Call it the spirit of the form and spirit of the function" (pg. 144).  He cites Whitehead's Process and Reality, as well as the work of Susan Langer, Whitehead's student.  In arguing against the possibility that artifacts may develop a human-style conscious awareness he says, "... without the help of the nonverbal vocabulary of feeling, the knowledge would not be expressed in the manner we encounter in humans and is probably present in so many living species.   Feeling is, in effect, the barrier, because the realization of human consciousness may require the existence of feelings.  The 'looks' of emotion can be simulated, but what feelings feel like cannot be duplicated in silicon.  Feelings cannot be duplicated unless flesh is duplicated, unless the brain's actions on flesh are duplicated, unless the brain's sensing of flesh after it has been acted upon by the brain is duplicated." (pgs. 314-5).  Now all of this is, I suggest, very similar to what a neuroscientist holding a process philosophical point of view would have to say.  He even images the constant flickerings of becomings, linked by memory, that constitute the lived duration of the concrete present when he says, "...now that the memory of so many becomings has created the persons we are..." (pg. 315).  I am in complete agreement that the "high" cost of consciousness is "... the loss of innocence about... existence" and that "...knowing will help being."  I also share his hope that "...understanding the biology of human nature will help a little with the choices to be made" to improve human existence.

7. Rychlak, J.F. (1997) In Defense of Human Consciousness, Washington: American Psychological Association - Rychlak's spirited defense of human consciousness, where he recognizes the need for complementary approaches, is admirable.  He suggests that what is at stake in the 'consciousness wars' is "our understanding of human nature" (pg. 27), but I would go further and say that what is at stake is human nature.  Neuralism is part of the postmodern problem, not part of a solution.  Unless we develop and manifest in our behavior a model of human consciousness that fosters appreciation of the reality of abrupt global climate change, i.e., real contact by real people with the real world, we shall almost certainly revert, yet again, to a tribal mentality with the next glacial-interglacial transition.  To avoid that fate, we need a model of human consciousness that validates all our tools, including reason, science, and religion.  His approach, which he has developed and sought to support with experimental results over 30 years, grounds human consciousness in "Logos, the patterned order (and disorder) of experience" (pg. 23).  He considers consciousness to have to do with "people ... intentional organisms, behaving for reasons that are either consciously or unconsciously affirmed.  People are accepted as agents, capable of free will" (pg. xiv).  His approach, called Logical Learning Theory, is, of course, compatible with a process philosophical approach that recognizes the primacy of the self-conscious, responsible human agent with access to universal creativity.  Thus, although he does not cite any process philosophers, he seems to come very close to the notion of prehension with his pivotal concept of embodied "predicational process," which involves an extension of meaning from a subject to a target: "This joining of predicate to target is not a linking of free-standing meanings.  It is an extension of one meaning to the other, engulfing and enriching the latter by the former" (pg. 38, italics added).

8. Thelen, E. and L.B. Smith (1994) A Dynamic Systems Approach to the Development of Cognition and Action, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Thelen & Smith, who claim to have "erased" (pg. 341) dualistic boundaries, are, with regard to brain mechanisms of perception and action, followers of Edelman and Freeman (see commentaries above).  They note, for example, a "striking convergence between his [Freeman's] dynamics of perception and the ontogeny of cognition and action" (pg. 134) and are much taken with Edelman's theory of neuronal group selection.  That their view of mind is, nevertheless, quite compatible with a process philosophical approach is shown in the following, "We are not building representations of the world by connecting temporally contingent ideas.  We are not building representations at all! Mind is activity in time - the real time of real physical causes...dynamic systems theory constitutes a radical restructuring of how we conceptualize cognition and mind... Our theory suggests that explanations in terms of structures in the head - 'beliefs,' 'rules,' 'concepts,' and 'schemata' - are not acceptable; acceptable explanations will ground behavior in real activity." (pgs. 338-9).  I anticipate a productive interchange between their data and the process philosophical approach.

9. Hurley, S.L. (1998) Consciousness in Action, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.  This meticulously reasoned labor of love appeals for a recognition of the dynamic interdependence of action and perception.   Hurley's consideration of split-brain monkeys and humans, as well as patients with anosognosia for hemiplegia, will provide some fine tests for the ecological neuroscientific approach.  I think, but am not yet quite sure, that Hurley's appeal to dynamism and the importance of movement will place her close to the position of Thelen & Smith (see above).  She is aware, as clearly as any of the authors I have encountered, that the idea of internal, content determining neural ensembles generates a dualistic boundary between inside and outside.  She also appreciates that knowing the world 'inside' via some representation or knowing it 'outside' via dynamic relations present exactly the same problem: "...it is hard to understand how relational states of persons could determine content.  But the difficulties of understanding how their intrinsic physical states could determine content are at least as great" (pg. 282).   She notes that the "...dynamic systems approach... appeals to causal spread and erodes internal/external boundaries" and goes on to assert that the "... assumption that there must be a boundary such that content... is fixed by physical states within it may be a symptom of the Input-Output picture" (pg. 283).  Hurley's notion of "dynamic singularity" (e.g. pg. 334) may be equivalent to what in process philosophical terms is called "experiential event."

10. Llinás, R.R. (2001) I Of The Vortex: From Neurons To Self, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Before obtaining a copy of this book I commented that Llinas had suggested that the perceptions the brain provides for conscious awareness are independent of the environment (Llinás & Paré, 1996) and that I looked forward to seeing how he dealt with the issue of solipsism. Finally getting a copy of the book, I must say that it is excellent, particularly with regard to his integration of the notion of fixed action patterns (FAPs, "instinct") into his consideration of feelings (emotional states). No consideration of consciousness that purports to be scientific can avoid consideration of fixed action patterns, the emotional states that trigger them, and issue of "how" conscious and "of what" the creatures that perform FAPs are. Some recent books on comparative animal behavior and the issue of (nonhuman) "animal minds" are useful in this regard (Lorenz,1973, 1996; Donald Griffin, 2001; see also Shepard, 1966). Failure to discuss FAPs and the extent to which human beings have achieved emancipation from them and the feelings that antecede them reflects, I believe, a subtle, perhaps unconscious variety of creationism. Llinás' book is a must read for anyone interested in a scientific approach to the possible evolution of and neurobiological bases of consciousness. He notes that "... mind did not just suddenly appear at some point fully formed" (pg. 11) and that there is a close link between having a nervous system and being an "actively moving creature" (pg. 17). Now, for many creatures, much of their behavioral repertoire consists of FAPs that are "released by" specific stimulus configurations with Gestalt features. Human beings, however, have achieved some emancipation from instinct and have developed a more flexible behavioral repertoire, less tied to FAPs and more tied to experience and learning. Nevertheless, Llinás is on the right track in postulating a primitive origin for consciousness closely linked to motricity: "Although the thalamocortical system is capable of activating cognition and consciousness, cognition and consciousness probably evolved from the emotional states that trigger FAPs" (pg. 168). He proposes that FAPs can be dropped or lost during evolution so that only a "sensory FAP" remains. Later (pgs. 201-212) he seems to differentiate consciousness from "qualia," by which he means "subjective experience of any type" and suggests, admitting the possibility that it is "coming from left field," that the capacity for phenomenal conscious experience may be present in single-celled creatures: "If we are allowed to consider that qualia represent a specialization of such primitive sensorium, then it is a reasonable conceptual journey from there to a multicellular phenomenon of 'corporate feelings' manifested by higher organisms. If this is something we can live with, then we will understand that qualia must arise from, fundamentally, properties of single cells, amplified by the organization of circuits specialized in sensory functions."  An early evolutionary origin for the basics of consciousness has also been proposed by Sheets-Johnstone (1999).  According to the quantum physicist, Henry P. Stapp (In Press), this perspective appears to be compatible with the nature of the known universe:

"... psychical realities, in the sense considered here, [could] be present in the simplest life forms, and [could] predate life."

Although Llinás cites no process philosophers, some of his ideas are quite in accord with the process philosophical approach where, for complex, prehensive societies experience is "compounded" out of feeling and awareness. Consider, for example, the the importance of "feeling" for both Llinás (above with regard to the necessity to motivate FAPs) and for Charles Hartshorne:

"In psychology action means behavior, and there is but one kind of quality which, just in itself, suggests a particular mode of behavior, namely feeling tone. Feeling alone is intrinsically an incitement to act, the direction of action varying according as the feeling is pleasant or unpleasant..." (Hartshorne, pg.14, 1934)
Llinás (pg. 218) even borrows an argument often used by process philosophers against the neuralist doctrine of the evolutionary emergence of conscious awareness, "... if a single cell is not capable of having a modicum of qualia, how then can a group of cells generate something that does not belong to a given individual?" Yes, exactly, but the same argument applies to the case of the single cell's "primitive sensorioum," and this means that we have to go all the way back to the beginning. Events (formerly known as "matter") must, absent a miracle, have material and experiential aspects, experience supervenes on matter. In the end, Llinás comes very close to some of the points that a processural approach to nervous system function will make. Because of his failure to follow the logic of his argument to its natural end, he remains wed to the idea that mind has to somehow be in the brain. This seems to lead to some inconsistancies. His position is, however, complex and subtle: "Qualia represent judgments or assessments at the circuit level of the information carried by sensory pathways, or sensations. And these sensations, the integration product of the activation of internal sensory FAPs, represent the ultimate predictive vectors that recycle/re-enter into the internal landscape of the self. They are the 'ghost' in the machine and represent the critically important space between the input and the output, for they are neither, yet a product of one the drive for the other. And all the while they are simplified constructs on the part of the intrinsic properties of the neuronal circuits of our brains" (pgs. 221-2). I'm looking forward to reading his section on how FAPs and prosody relate to language function.

11. Walter, Henrik (2001) Neurophilosophy of Free Will: From Libertarian Illusions to a Concept of Natural Autonomy, translated by Cynthia Klohr, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.  This book, which discusses mind-body theories in light of contemporary neuroscience, flirts with excellence, but in the end seems to reject the princess for a frog.  Walter states that it is high time that philosophers embraced the wealth of contemporary neuroscientific information.  Unfortunately for our understanding, Walter accepts neuralism and its accompanying solipsism, consistently sticking to the path proscribed by a non-realist position.  He recognizes (pg. 300) the importance of each individual having a self concept:

"We need the backgrounds or our individual biographies in order to acquire more and more authenticity.  Taken together, control, meaning, and authenticity are properties that must unfold, such that an individual possesses them as an individual..."

Nevertheless, he accepts the reality of a deterministic universe that entails the loss of a 'real' self with free will.  To his credit, Walter struggles mightily to regenerate a sort of virtual 'real' self by means of his concept of "natural autonomy," which he claims is "...even possible in a completely determined world."  Well, whether we have a "completely determined world" or not, or whether there is one or millions of angels on the head of that pin, is not my concern.  Such questions are fun, but pointless except as demonstrations of intellectual agility, always requiring argument from a monotheistic base that has been fixed by the systematic, arbitrary exclusion of alternative perspectives.  The problem with absolutist approaches such as this one is that, in the end, they must fail in their attempt to integrate mind and body.  As Andy Clark (1997), who apparently doesn't read much about quantum theory, said, "Like Humpty Dumpty, brain, body, and world are going to take a whole lot of putting back together again."  The fundamental problem is in accepting modern language and the subject-object dichotomy as a suitable basis to understand embodied human consciousness.  It just won't work because the modern 'word' has, forgetting its participatory origins, become thing-like, frequently as inauthentic as a plastic bauble (Ong, 1988; Poerksen, 1996). 

Walter's omission of panexperientalism from his list of mind/body/brain theories is even more shocking than is his characterization of Whitehead as an idealist.  However, that omission ever so clearly points to the conceptual deficit under which deconstructive postmodernists and their neuralist allies must labor, i.e., a failure to appreciate the "fallacy of misplaced concreteness."

"The conception of subject and object in careless discussion covers two distinct relations.  There is the relation of the whole perceiving consciousness to part of its own content, for example, the relation of a perceiving consciousness to an object of redness apparent to it.  There is also the relation of a perceiving consciousness to an entity which does not exist in virtue of being part of the content of that consciousness.  Such a relation, so far as known to the perceiving consciousness, must be an inferred relation, the inference being derived from an analysis of the content of the perceiving consciousness." (Whitehead, 1929)

Because of their insistence on neuralism and the mind's classical body with distinct boundaries between outside and inside, deconstructive postmodernists, good intentions aside, must speak metaphorically when they speak about the mind's locus as not being restricted to the body/brain.  For example, consider Walter's statement that "The mind is not dictated by the physical boundaries of the brain or of the skin, because the way it works already includes outside things and circumstances" (pg. 237).  Here, of course, he is not talking about the 'real' brain-bound mind, but rather he is speaking metaphorically about a concept of mind, an 'as if' mind, that must be imagined in order to account for our 'real,' somewhat successful encounter with the world.  His 'real' brain-bound mind knows only "representations," which are "realized in neural maps" and function to "participate in mediated inferences."  Mind cannot, according to classical neural theory (i.e., brain = mind) be both in and not in the body, or can it!?  All arguments that begin with the premise that we are naught but "bags of genes and chemicals" should be destined, quite deservedly, for obscurity and impotence.  This follows from the fact that it takes a deliberate act of masochism for a more-or-less 'normal' individual to subject him- or herself to two or three hundred pages of argument that ends up saying that it is all right, after all, to ignore the premise. Such exercises in mental masturbation are like a teacher saying, at the beginning of a course, that all the students are too dumb to learn the material, but that he expects them to pretend to learn it anyway.  Why bother?

12. Other important books that I plan to take into account:

Baars, B.J. (1997) In the Theater of Consciousness: The Workspace of the Mind, NY: Oxford University Press.

Clark, A. (1997) Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and World Together Again, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Griffin, D.R. (1998) Unsnarling the World Knot: Consciousness, Freedom, and the Mind-Body Problem, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Griffin addresses the mind-body problem in detail, providing a devastating critique of physicalist/materialist presuppositions, and the role of neurons in the brain in general, showing how a brain comprised of insentient neurons requires a miracle to produce consciousness.  This will be one of my principle sources for process philosophical points of view.

Ramachandran, V.S. and S. Blakeslee (1998) Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind, NY: William Morrow.   Ramachandran seems to be committed to neuralism.  His remarkable case studies of patients with anosognosia for hemiplegia, Capgras syndrome, and perception of phantom limbs will have to be explicable according to ecological neuroscience.

Sheets-Johnstone, M. (1999) The Primacy of Movement, Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing.  Sheet-Johnstone clearly appreciates the importance of embodiment and action.  She seeks, but fails, to avoid the need for a neuralistic miracle, by presuming the emergence of sentience with the first living creatures.  Nevertheless her entertaining, wide-ranging work is a must read for those who are sufficiently conscious to appreciate that the brain did not evolve for conscious perception.  Sheets-Johnstone's consideration of certain phenomenological thinkers (Merleau-Ponty, in particular) will be a useful foil against which I can exercise my own understanding of the relationship of the phenomenological (e.g., see Petitot et al, 1999) and process philosophical approaches.  Progress in this large and potentially rich arena of inquiry may require that those of the phenomenological school become more familiar with the basics of the process approach.  With regard to the phenomenological approach, I have reservations that, starting with the "Cartesian subject," which Husserl did, one can - no matter how much twisting and turning one does - avoid a "breach between affection and action," i.e., a surreptitious dualism (Petitot et al, 1999).  In my judgment, the subject-object dichotomy is simply not the right place from which to begin a consideration of consciousness (e.g., see Barfield, 1988)

Sewall, Laura. (1999) Sight and Sensibility: The Ecopsychology of Perception, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam. The compatibility of the process philosophical approach with the ecopsychology movement is quite strong. I am not certain how much, aside from passing references, I shall be able to devote to the works of J. J. Gibson and his followers (e.g., Reed,1996), but Gibson was certainly on a track very compatible with process philosophy in The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems (1966).  I very likely will make use of the concept of "affordances" - that the things we (or any other creature) perceive are the aspects of the environment that afford opportunities for action - since this concept is so compatible with the fact that goal-directed movements produced by the brain are what trigger episodes of awareness. This aspect of things is aptly described by the following quotations:

"Affordances are the possibilities for use, intervention and action which the physical world offers a given agent and are determined by the 'fit' between the agent's physical structure, capacities and skills and the action-related properties of the environment itself." (Clark, 1999, pg. 346)

"What makes a creature animate is its ability to regulate its relationship with its surroundings so as to take advantage of available resources...the resources encountered by an animal [are] the affordances of its environment... Behavior is inseparable from awareness. To enter into a relationship with the affordances of one's environment requires at least some awareness of that affordance." (Reed, 1996, pgs. 17, 97)

IV. Table of Contents

  • Preface - David Ray Griffin will be asked to write a short preface (~10 pgs.).
  • Acknowledgments
  • Section I - Taking Stock. (~60 pgs.)  This section will be introduced with quotations from Alfred North Whitehead, "stopping at a particular set of abstractions," Abraham Lincoln, "If we knew where we are, and whither we are trending, we would better know what to do and how to get there," and Henri Bergson, "brain not for representations...."

Chapter 1. Introduction. (~20 pgs.) A description of the rationale for and scope of the work, along with its overall aims.

1. Rationale:

a. The failure of conventional neuroscience to achieve a coherent scheme for explaining perception and consciousness in a humanly useful way. "Solipsism of the present moment," the logical outcome of the modern approach (e.g., see Llinás & Paré, 1996; Freeman, 1995), is not a satisfactory outcome.

b. The urgent need for a new conception of what it means "to be human," one that avoids the dragon's (in John Gardner's Grendel) deconstructive posthuman cynicism: "My advice to you, my violent friend, is to seek out gold and sit on it."

c. Sleepwalking into history: How, in the context of the reality of abrupt global climate change (Alley et al, 2002; Alley, 2000; Calvin, In Press; Fagan, 2000; Imbries & Imbries, 1979), the teachings of contemporary neuroscience, which implicitly denigrates the need and capacity for responsible human agency, threatens the survival of science and the modern variety of embodied human consciousness.

2. Scope: A complete revision of contemporary neuroscience according to process philosophical concepts is far too large a project for one book. Fortunately, however, the notion of neuronal prehension greatly simplifies the task of achieving a fledgling understanding of how the brain contributes to conscious awareness. A very brief summary of the book's sections will be included here.

Chapter 2. Failure of Conventional Neuroscience. (~20 pgs.) This chapter will critique the "representationist" doctrine as well as certain aspects of contemporary neuroscience (including aspects of "cognitive neuroscience" [e.g., see Gazzaniga, 2000]) as they are presumed to relate to human perception and conscious self-awareness. The sensationist (neuralist; identist: mind = brain activity) doctrine, which leads irrevocably to "solipsism of the present moment," will be challenged as a failure. I shall note the performatory contradiction (i.e., the contradiction between theory and practice, which I shall develop as a variety of 'bad faith' or 'false consciousness') required by that approach, its extreme arbitrariness, and its surreptitious invocation of process philosophical concepts. Arbitrariness will be highlighted with special regard to the absence of any criteria for deciding which neurons do or do not contribute to conscious awareness, in conjunction with the broad tuning of CNS neurons to inputs and for outputs. The requirement, if any form of representationist brain model is to be correct, for spatiotemporal 'binding' of activity patterns of spatially separate neural populations, not to mention the consilience of their 'represented information' into a unitary perception, will be noted as an unacknowledged appeal to process philosophical concepts, especially "prehension."

Contact sensitive receptive fields (RFs) of first and third order neurons of the somatic sensory system in conscious animals will be described. RFs of neurons in the visual system will also be described. In addition, the more complex RFs of neurons in Brodmann's area 2 and 5 that appear to be more "feature selective," such as those exhibiting directional sensitivity will be described. At about here, at least the following points will be made.

  • None of these neurons can be said to "represent" (in the sense of 'forming an image of') anything. It is clear that only certain limited stimulus features, including intensity, are signaled by the firing of any one neuron.
  • Each neuron is broadly tuned. Neurons with the simplest RFs confound stimulus location and stimulus intensity. Neurons with complex RFs have vigorous responses to a range of stimulus features. (The "representation problem.")
  • If these neurons contribute to object recognition, then there will have to be a way for the 'information' encoded in the activity patterns of many neurons to be integrated into a unitary percept. (The "binding problem.")

Then the work of Nicolelis' group (Ghazanfar et al, 2000; Nicolelis, 1995) and others (perhaps W.J. Freeman's work on the olfactory system?) will be introduced to show how neurons at all levels of a sensory system begin to fire synchronously during a experiential event. The point will also be made that strictly "corticalist" approaches to understanding brain function will not suffice.

Another problem with classical neural theory is the embarrassingly low rates of firing of cortical neurons during periods of time that they should be doing maximum data processing associated with conscious perception (e.g., deCharms & Zador, 2000, figure 4).  In fact, Stoney (1990) has demonstrated that branch points of myelinated and unmyelinated axons seriously limit their maximum effective frequency of firing.  This strongly suggests that a frequency code, until recently the mainstay of most theories of representation, may very well not work.  The demise of classical neural theory, and with it the neuralist perspective (sensationism), creates a genuine crisis for neuroscience. If we do not know the world indirectly by means of internal representations, then how is it that we come to know the world at all?

I am preparing a talk that focuses on the demise of classical neural theory for the Towards a Science of Consciousness meeting in Tucson, AZ, in April, 2002, and an abstract of the talk should be available by October 15, 2001.

Chapter 3. Introduction to process philosophy and concepts. (~20 pgs.) Several excellent introductions are already available and I shall draw heavily from them (e.g., Griffin, 1993, 1997, 1998; Nobo, 1986; Rescher, 1996; Jungerman, 2000).Consideration of actual occasions (a.k.a. experiential events), prehensions, concrescence of dominant occasions of experience, and dual modes of perception, etc. that will be important for appreciating neurons as prehenders, their recruitment into prehensive networks, and the blossoming of embodied consciousness from overlapping episodes of awareness.

  • Section II. Alternative Perspective on Neurons and the Brain. (~80 pages)  This section will be introduced with quotations from R.W. Sperry, "output of thinking machine nothing but patterns of motor coordination," Milner & Goodale, "brain did not evolve for the purpose of conscious perception."

Chapter 4. An overview of functional brain anatomy.  (~30 pgs.) A description of the brain as a complex coalescence of functionally related sets of neurons into functional neural systems. This will be done in quite broad strokes, somewhat as in Llinas, 2001.  Since the brain is first and foremost a motor control device, the brain's motor systems will be used as a skeleton on which to hang (and organize) neural systems essential for feeling, perceiving, and remembering.

Chapter 5. Evolution of the brain and behavior. (~20 pages)  Also in broad strokes, with an emphasis on the quite different, perceptual, consciousness of most vertebrates compared to the conceptual consciousness of human beings.  For human beings, the shift from the compact consciousness of the early interglacial phase to the differentiated consciousness (e.g., Voegelin, 1974) that has led to the current postmodern condition will be noted. The importance of the brain for fixed action patterns (i.e., goal directed movement) and the obligatory linkage of feelings to fixed action patterns will be stressed.  With the limited emancipation of human beings from instinct, flexible learning, and with it culture and language, became possible (Mayr, 1997).  Perception remains linked to and is limited by movement, but only weakly to any particular movement, i.e., to a particular fixed action pattern.  Civilization building may be considered a human fixed action pattern.  The issue of what factors may have led to the partial emancipation of our earliest human ancestors from instinct will be briefly considered (c.f., Stanley, 1996), taking Mayr's position that behavioral change is "the pacemaker of evolution" (Mayr, 1988).

Chapter 6. Neurons as Prehenders - (~30 pgs.) A review of excitation, conduction, and synaptic transmission with the introduction of the notion that neurons do not "encode" stimulus information destined to form internal "representations." Instead they act as electromagnetic oscillators - which gives rise to their important role in "perception in the mode of presentational immediacy" - and as channels for nonsensory prehensions - which provides for "perception in the mode of causal efficacy" (see Whitehead, 1925). Neurons will thus be described as channels for two modes of perception: a nonsensory mode involving a "feeling of feeling" and a sensory one in which electromagnetic signaling predominates. Neurons that are "feeling each other's feelings" fire synchronously and form prehensive neural networks. Brain function results from the continuous formation and 'perishing' of prehensive neural networks, which, as progressively accumulating constituents of mind, provide the neural locus of embodied conscious awareness.  I am preparing a talk that focuses on neurons as prehenders for the Towards a Science of Consciousness meeting in Tucson, AZ, in April, 2002, and a rough draft of the talk should be available by October 15, 2001.

  • Section III. Prehensive Neural Networks in Action. (~80 pgs.) This extensive section will show how the formation of prehensive neural networks in various portions of the brain leads to preconscious and conscious action and awareness. The focus will be on somatic motor control, somatic sensibility, and sight. This section will be based on the premise that, for movement and for consciousness the principle business of the brain is the formation of prehensive neural networks. Since rapid action is the paramount concern of the brain, it follows that sensory perception and cognition must, to some extent, be limited or shaped by aim or intent and be yoked to movement. Data from contemporary neuroscience (i.e., neuronal responses, MRI and other imaging technologies, and cognitive experiments) will be presented and it will be shown how well such data is explained according to a process approach.  That is, the data will be reinterpreted in terms of prehensive neural circuits, which, when active lead to action and embodied conscious awareness.

Anosognosia for hemiplegia will be explained as a dysfunction due to disruption of nonsensory neural prehensions.  This approach introduces the idea of a neural and cognitive "cost" for development of language, a key point for understanding some of the limitations of embodied human consciousness, not the least of which is a tendency to be unable to perceive or conceive of the global climate cycle.

Chapter 7. Action and Awareness During Experiential Events - An overview. (~20 pages) The key to understanding the process philosophical approach to neural function is to recognize that the brain did not evolve for the purpose of conscious perception (e.g., Lorenz, 1974, 1996; Milner and Goodale, 1995; Sheets-Johnstone, 1999; Llinas, 2001). Mirror neurons of the premotor cortex will be discussed from the perspective that their activity signals a kind of imitation of intent (Rizzolati et al, 1996; Skoyles), i.e. a sharing of feelings that facilitates production of similar movements.  Location and role of limbic lobe structures whose activity levels decrease with initiation of action (Raichle, 2000) will also be considered.

Chapter 8. Visuosomatic Networks: Do Consciousness Neurons Exist?  The complex "bimodal+" RFs of neurons in the dorsal and ventral visual streams, i.e., the inferior & superior parietal lobules and the inferotemporal cortex will be described. Here, the bimodal+ terminology refers to the necessity of the tactile portion of the RF of the limb being within the visual RF component in order for it to appear. The concept of "gain fields" and their possible relationship to attentional factors, response selection, or memory (Stowe et al, 2000) will be introduced. The similarities of RFs for dorsal and ventral stream neurons will be contrasted with the quite different contributions to behavior (visuomotor function for dorsal stream neurons) and conscious awareness (ability to consciously identify objects and faces by sight) made by these two brain areas. Differences in the afferent and efferent connectivities of the two regions (especially involving the superior colliculus & pulvinar thalamic nucleus and the premotor vs. limbic cortex) will be noted. The work on binocular rivalry (e.g., Leopold et al, 1996; Sheinberg & Logothetis, 1997) will be introduced and the broad tuning of neurons putatively identified as contributing to conscious awareness will be noted. The points made in the Chapter critiquing the representationist position will be reiterated. The additional point will be made that, according to the conventional approach, the experience of various neurons during certain epochs must be tied up and felt together in order for perceptual awareness to occur. Although the neuroscientists who have developed this point of view do not realize it, this very accurately describes a neural experiential event.

Chapter 9. Anosognosia and the Cost of Language.   Spatial neglect in human beings arises from lesions, in particular but not exclusively, to the superior temporal lobe of the right hemisphere (Karnath, 2001).  In the left hemisphere this region is specialized for language functions. This chapter will develop and support the thesis that left hemispheric language function is a neural correlate of differentiated human consciousness that appeared in about 500 BCE.  That there were gains to this variety of consciousness are obvious - just look around - but these gains were not accomplished without neural and behavioral costs.  In particular, the development of left hemisphere language function, which somewhat emancipates words from the emotional control of the right hemisphere, cost the left hemisphere its ability to integrate both pure modes of perception, causal efficacy and presentational immediacy.  This leads, in human beings, to a condition of left-sided spatial neglect and denial of left hemiplegia (anosognosia) in human beings who have right hemispheric lesions.  This condition is, in the absence of considerable ad hoc hypothesizing, inexplicable according to classic neural theory.  

  • Section IV. Conclusions. (~30 pgs.)  Some significant advantages of the process philosophical approach will be summarized. Not the least of these is the fact that it solves the mind-body problem   Another major advantage is that by emphasizing experiential events and the coinherence of mind in brain, body, and world during conscious perception, we are able to break free of the solipsistic prison bars of neuralism. I shall argue that, once again present in the world as responsible agents in the world, we can begin to address the critical issues

Chapter 10. The Mind/Body Problem Solved. (~10 pgs.) This occurs as follows (e.g., see Griffin, 1993, 1998).  According to the process approach, "mind" is the dominant occasion of experience of the human organism.  Mind is coincident with brain, body, and world.  Mind compounds the experience of all the subordinate occasions of experience that unite to constitute it. Qualia, naturally limited by the bandwidth and sensitivity of the nervous system arise as a result of our experiencing things from both the inside (causal efficacy) and the outside (presentation immediacy).  During an experiential event, the mind is, via nonsensory prehension, coextensive with the body/brain and the world.  By virtue of feeling the feelings of the world, the body's cells - including its neurons, which are also feeling the feelings of each other - awareness of awareness from an embodied perspective arises.  By stressing the importance of nonsensory prehensions for brain function, this approach makes explicit what is, in fact, implicit in the contemporary notion that quasi-synchronous neural activity somehow solves the "binding problem." (Engel & Singer, 2001).

Chapter 11. Welcome Home!. (~20 pgs.) How the notion of neurons as prehenders, and the understanding of embodied human consciousness that it provides, aids in the return of human beings to their rightful, natural, and meaningful place in their bodies, in nature, in the world (universe). By emphasizing the fundamental character of experiential events and the coinherence of mind, body, and world during conscious perception, we are able to break free of the solipsistic prison bars of neuralism.  Reality's paradoxical character is found to be matched by a bimodal consciousness, partly in the brain and partly in the universe.  After all. a quantum universe that requires a "quantum brain" (Stapp, In Press) would seem to require a quantum consciousness.  And that is precisely what we have: discrete episodes of awareness with duration sum up (compound) to produce the illusion (in the same sense that solid matter is an 'illusion') of a fixed and continuous stream of consciousness.  When experience of the universe's wholeness intrudes into egoic consciousness, it may be experienced as a "peak experience" (Maslow, 1970/1994) or, if not legitimated by one's society and not recognized as a natural aspect of reality, as an episode of schizophrenia (e.g., Naudin et al, 1999). I shall argue that enhanced awareness and experience of participation (universal interconnection) is necessary for the appreciation of humanity's solidarity and that, when we are once again present in the world as genuine agents, we shall better be able to address its critical issues.  The consciousness equals awareness cubed (C = A3) model of consciousness will be presented as providing an adequate depiction of the natural history of embodied human consciousness, from prehuman, to ancestral, to contemporary, and, possibly to postcritical (Stoney, 1998). The choice between working toward a posthuman (Hayles, 1996; Baudrillard, 2000) vs. a postcritical mind will be presented as necessarily mediated by acknowledgment of the earth's global climate cycle (Alley, 2000; Calvin, In Press; Fagan, 2000; Imbries & Imbries, 1979).

  • V. Chapter notes and references (~30 pgs.)
  • VI. Bibliography (~10 pgs.)
  • VII. Subject and author index (~6 pgs.)

V. Tentative Specifications

Total text pages: ~ 306
Figures & Tables : ~ 50
Earliest estimated completion date: Summer, 2003
Unusual expenses: Certain concepts can best be presented in pictorial form. Services of an illustrator will be required. Below are a few examples.

1. The global climate cycle:

CyclicClimatePattern4.jpg (20818 bytes)

Cyclic climate pattern of alternating cold, dry glacial periods and warm, wet interglacial periods. This pattern has prevailed during the current ice age, which has lasted for three million years. Transitions between glacial and interglacial phases may occur within as short a period of time as a decade. Marked variations in sea level occurred near the end of the last two interglacial periods. Upward slope of interglacial phase temperatures reflect the progressive decrease in earth's albedo as the polar ice caps shrink. Insert shows rapid fluctuations in temperature that occurred during the last glacial phase.

2. Expected interglacial phase population dynamics:

DesiredPopulationPatterns2.jpg (10434 bytes)

Three varieties of interglacial phase population growth that might occur in societies that were aware of the cyclic pattern of global climate and the reality of abrupt global climate change.  To achieve any one of the three varieties of interglacial phase population dynamics illustrated will require different degrees of knowledge, acceptance, and action on the part of a culture or society. Type A, which most closely resembles the population pattern that results when there is no conscious knowledge of the cyclic climate pattern ("Nature's Call"), is the most passive and fatalistic. It is the pattern that would result from a willful lack of acceptance, i.e., denial. It also could result if a society's leaders were to say something like, "Yes, the climate does cycle, but we cannot take any action that would disturb the status quo until we are certain of the exact timing of the next cycle," and were then caught by surprise. The Type A pattern, in a society that was aware of the cyclic pattern of abrupt global climate change, could reflect a "business as usual" or "me first" attitude. Such failure to act in the face of the truth about the earth's climate could lead to incalculable human misery and lock us into a cyclic pattern of consciousness from which there would be little chance to escape.  Types B & C would result in societies that deliberately chose to limit population growth and minimize population down-sizing that would otherwise accompany a rapid transition to the glacial phase.  Higher glacial phase (baseline) populations will be possible for those societies that successfully plan for such rapid transition.

3. The gradual development of embodied human consciousness in conjucntion with increasing brain size.

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This view recognizes three principal modes of consciousness, beginning with animal consciousness, which must have existed, in some form or another, since the appearance of the vertebrates or before.  Archaic and compact varieties of consciousness are considered transitional forms associated with the onset of orality and literacy, respectively. The modes of consciousness with which we are most familiar all occurred during the current interglacial period. The archaic brand of consciousness can be thought of as a bridge between our animal (non-languaged) and our ancestral (languaged) pasts.  I think that there was a sea change in consciousness during this period and that with it came orality, the capacity to speak and utilize word sounds to represent things.  Certainly, all groups of human known in the historic era used language.  Where, exactly, orality’s horizon lies is disputed, but it may have been as far back as 400,000 years ago or more.  Tool use goes back even further - millions of years – and upright posture even further than that.   Upright posture, tool use, and language all imply separation, a distancing of the locus of awareness (i.e., the protohuman) from that with which he or she was involved.  I would not expect however, that a full-blown awareness of awareness (much less self awareness), such as most of us take for granted today, suddenly emerged.  Instead, I expect there was a gradual and episodic appearance of greater degrees of self-awareness as packs of hunters and gatherers became tribes of hunter-gatherers.  For the emerging ancestral mind there must have been a disconcerting coalescing of new inklings of freedom and responsibility, in the context of the appearance of a barely discernible, new, mysteriously powerful, capriciously dangerous entity, the world, together with a very powerful remembrance of harmony just beyond consciousness’ horizon.  On top of this, releasing stimuli would from time to time cause bouts of orchestrated, but uncontrolled behavior (fixed action patterns) that would jerk the emerging humans around like marionettes on strings.  What a bewildering, uncertain time compared to the harmonious peace of animal existence, never uncertain of their place in things, always in the moment, and knowing – without doubt and beyond a capacity to describe - the unity of the universe.  I would expect that, at times, ancestral humans must have felt that they had been expelled from a paradise.  Without doubt, the transition from the ancestral to the differentiated mind was accompanied by the development of literacy.  I shall mark the appearance of the differentiated (i.e., contemporary) mind as the time at which language function settled in the left hemisphere and left to right script writing became the norm.  I postulate the possibility of a "postcritical" variety of differentiated consciousness wherein the individual, while having achieved unitive knowledge of the ultimate ground of being, maintains his or her egoic focus sufficient to address tasks at hand for self and neighbors.   Achieving a postcritical world and mind appears to require that we extend 'history' at least back into the last glacial phase ("ice age"). 

4. Mind-body theories:

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Varieties of theories concerning the mind and the body.  Although many seem to believe that a neuralistic stance avoids the dilemmas of dualism, it appears that neuralism invokes a strict dualism between inside and outside, not to mention between brain and body, thereby denying the interconnected, quantal nature of reality.

  5. Episodes of awareness:

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The motorsensory theory of awareness.  Every brain-originated goal-directed movement initiated by the organism triggers an episode of awareness with a duration appropriate to the intent(s) with which the movement is associated.  As an illustrative example, consider the period of clock time a few seconds long, schematically represented as a timeline in the figure.  Tic marks show the onset times for the neural specification of each movement.  A number of episodes of awareness are indicated by the horizontal lines (1 – 8).   Since any brain-caused movement of skeletal muscle will serve to trigger awareness, including those associated with postural adjustments and saccadic eye movements, each second’s worth of experience can be expected to contain many movements and many overlapping episodes of awareness.  Movements occurring during a short period of clock time will ordinarily be governed by the same intent and will thus produce episodes of awareness of about the same duration, e.g., 1 – 4. Episodes of awareness triggered by movements governed by different intent will be of different duration, e.g., 5. Just as the individual movement components coalesce into a goal directed action, experience takes shape as the summation of overlapping episodes of awareness.  Short episodes of awareness (e.g., 1-5) may be subordinate to longer episodes of awareness that began in the past and which will end in the near future, e.g., 6. In general, the saliency of episodes of awareness tends to fade, insofar as embodied human consciousness is concerned, the greater the temporal distance from the present, e.g., 7, 8.  Experience constantly increases, like a long string being rolled up into a ball.   We tend to lose track of the things that began near the beginning of the string: “Things fade.”

6.  The Natural History of Embodied Human Consciousness

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Natural History of Embodied Human Consciousness. A representation with implicit temporality. Perhaps heterosexual males tend to arc upwards, experiencing greater alienation before moving downwards towards the postcritical as they become more aware of universal participation.  Heterosexual females may arc more toward the origin, experiencing less alienation, but, initially, less individuation and self-awareness, especially if they choose or are forced to choose a maternal role.  High self-awareness corresponds to a state of postcritical mind where one comes to appreciate that understanding is the recognition of the I in the thou. In this state, ego consciousness is minimized as conscious awareness of participation (universal interconnectivity) increases. Denial of the participation axis is equivalent to denial of any right hemisphere contributions to consciousness.  Ego consciousness then depends most strongly on the existing cultural milieu for its support and definition. Under these conditions, there is a tendency for life trajectories to maintain an upward motion that must lead, I believe, to a "posthuman" condition.

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