Frederick Peter’s 2008 paper, “Consciousness as Recursive, Spatio-Temporal Self-Location” has figured it out (almost).
“At the phenomenal level, consciousness can be described as a singular, unified field of recursive self-awareness, consistently coherent in a particular way; that of a subject located both spatially and temporally in an egocentrically-extended domain, such that conscious self-awareness is explicitly characterized by I-ness, now-ness and here-ness.”
This is consistent with both Chomsky and Lakoff. It passes the cog-sci test.
It is also consistent with Dennett, Nagel, and Searle. It passes the philosophy test.
It is consistent with religion, meditation, and spirituality. It passes the Erickson test.
It is consistent with all narratives offered by disciplines that I am aware of.
“The psychological mechanism underwriting this spatiotemporal self-locatedness and its recursive processing style involves an evolutionary elaboration of the basic orientative reference frame which consistently structures ongoing spatiotemporal self-location computations as i-here-now. Cognition computes action-output in the midst of ongoing movement, and consequently requires a constant self-locating spatiotemporal reference frame as basis for these computations. Over time, constant evolutionary pressures for energy efficiency have encouraged both the proliferation of anticipative feedforward processing mechansims, and the elaboration, at the apex of the sensorimotor processing hierarchy, of self-activating, highly attenuated recursively-feedforward circuitry processing the basic orientational schema independent of external action output. As the primary reference frame of active waking cognition, this recursive i-here-now processing generates a zone of subjective self-awareness in terms of which it feels like something to be oneself here and now. This is consciousness.”
Most importantly, this theory is consistent with DESCARTES.
*Queue dramatic music*
The 2005 paper, “Space, Self, and the theatre of Consciousness” answers back Dennett and defends a Kantian conception of synthetic a priori truths.
“Over a decade ago, I introduced a large-scale theory of the cognitive brain which explained for the first time how the human brain is able to create internal models of its intimate world and invent models of a wider universe. An essential part of the theoretical model is an organization of neuronal mechanisms which I have named the Retinoid Model. This hypothesized brain system has structural and dynamic properties enabling it to register and appropriately integrate disparate foveal stimuli into a perspectival, egocentric representation of an extended 3D world scene including a neuronally tokened locus of the self which, in this theory, is the neuronal origin of retinoid space. As an integral part of the larger neuro-cognitive model, the retinoid system is able to perform many other useful perceptual and higher cognitive functions. In this paper, I draw on the hypothesized properties of this system to argue that neuronal activity within the retinoid structure constitutes the phenomenal content of consciousness and the unique sense of self that each of us experiences.”
Also, if you still think Dennett’s functionalism is salvigable, you should read my Professor Jay Atlas’ paper in response to Sweet Dreams where he destroys Dennett’s horrifically inadequate theory. In this paper, Atlas explains why Qualia are important, useful, and exist. He points out major problems in Dennett’s logic that are endemic to close-minded functionalist accounts.
Abstract: In his recent (2005) book “Sweet Dreams: philosophical obstacles to a science of consciousness,” Dennett renews his attack on a philosophical notion of qualia, the success of which attack is required if his brand of Functionalism is to survive. He also articulates once again what he takes to be essential to his notion of consciousness. I shall argue that his new, central argument against the philosophical concept of qualia fails. In passing I point out a difficulty that David Rosenthal’s “higher-order thought” theory of consciousness also faces in accounting for qualia. I then contrast Dennett’s newest account of consciousness with interestingly different conceptions by contemporary neuro-scientists, and I suggest that philosophers should take the recent suggestions by neuro-scientists more seriously as a subject for philosophical investigation.
In other words, we should prefer the new neuroscience studies that show that a self exists, and also that qualia exists, to the naive, close-minded functionalism of Dennett that fails to explain :
“—The human conceptual system and the nature of human rationality
—Human language and communication
—The human sciences, especially psychology, anthropology, sociology, and linguistics
—Moral and aesthetic value
—Scientific understanding, via the human conceptual system
—Any way in which the foundations of mathematics have a basis in human understanding”
We should reject naive functionalism, and pragmatism, because they are fundamentally outdated philosophies that have not even begun to take into account the (at the very least) theoretical models of Kant, Lakoff or Heidegger.
As Richard Rorty says, in his last published work, The Fire of Life,
“In an essay called “Pragmatism and Romanticism” I tried to restate the argument of Shelley’s “Defense of Poetry.” At the heart of Romanticism, I said, was the claim that reason can only follow paths that the imagination has first broken. No words, no reasoning. No imagination, no new words. No such words, no moral or intellectual progress.
On his deathbed, Rorty gave one piece of advice. If you respect my ideas, read and write poetry. It, combined with a thorough understanding of philosophy, grants access to life’s most important lessons.
“I now wish that I had spent somewhat more of my life with verse. This is not because I fear having missed out on truths that are incapable of statement in prose. There are no such truths; there is nothing about death that Swinburne and Landor knew but Epicurus and Heidegger failed to grasp. Rather, it is because I would have lived more fully if I had been able to rattle off more old chestnuts — just as I would have if I had made more close friends. Cultures with richer vocabularies are more fully human — farther removed from the beasts — than those with poorer ones; individual men and women are more fully human when their memories are amply stocked with verses.”
Rorty’s argument isn’t that Truth doesn’t exist.
Rorty’s argument isn’t that Philosophy isn’t worth studying.
His argument is that both Philosophy and Poetry are important.
Poetry, though, is the most important because it makes you more human.
As Lakoff argues in More Than Cool Reason:
“It is commonly thought that poetic language is beyond ordinary language–that it is something essentially different, special, higher, with extraordinary tools and techniques like metaphor and metonymy, instruments beyond the reach of someone who just talks. But great poets, as master craftsmen, use basically the same tools we use; what makes them different is their talent for using these tools, and their skill in using them, which they acquire from sustained attention, study, and practice.”
And as we all (should have) read in English junior year,
“What I am pointing out is that unless you are at home in the metaphor, unless you have had your proper poetical education in the metaphor, you are not safe anywhere . Because you are not at ease with figurative values: you don’t know the metaphor in its strength and its weakness. You don’t know how far you may expect to ride it and when it may break down with you. You are not safe with science; you are not safe in history.”
But, like all talents, they cannot be forced upon you. A desire must exist within the individual. A hunger for writing must persist. As Rilke says,
“In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write. And look deep into your heart where it spreads its roots, the answer, and ask yourself, must I write?'”
This echoes the claims of Robert Frost:
“I want to add one thing more that the experience of poetry is to anyone who comes close to poetry. There are two ways of coming close to poetry. One is by writing poetry. And some people think I want people to write poetry, but I don’t; that is, I don’t necessarily. I only want people to write poetry If they want to write poetry. I have never encouraged anybody to write poetry that did not want to write it, and I have not always encouraged those who did want to write it. That ought to be one’s own funeral. It is a hard, hard life, they say.”