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The emergence of Consciousness

 

 
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The emergence of consciousness Richard A. Sieb, Department of Neuroscience, University of Alberta Abstract Consciousness is the primary aspect of our lives. The true nature of consciousness (its subjectivity and intentionality) has resisted scientific explanation for centuries. This has important implications for scientific understanding and progress, as well as for the study and treatment of […]

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Posted December 7, 2004 by thomasr

 
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The emergence of consciousness

Richard A. Sieb,

Department of Neuroscience, University of Alberta

Abstract

Consciousness is the primary aspect of our lives. The true nature of consciousness (its subjectivity and intentionality) has resisted scientific explanation for centuries. This has important implications for scientific understanding and progress, as well as for the study and treatment of medical disorders, most of which involve some element of consciousness. In this paper, a basic nonlinear emergent mechanism (responsible for a large number of natural phenomena) is described. This mechanism produces nonlinear explicit states that have all the same properties as consciousness and hence the two may be identical. This mechanism might be applied to explain the generation of human consciousness. There is an intimate relation between consciousness and voluntary (by choice, free will) new or novel intentional (goal-directed) action-any action or action sequence (whether muscular movement, ocular movement, speech, thought, emotion) created anew by choice to achieve some goal. Consciousness always accompanies the production of such action (conscious action). Thus, a physical mechanism utilizing the basic type of nonlinear emergence (positive feedback between release and dissipation events, inhibition, formation of an explicit state, effects produced in other systems) was suggested for the production of voluntary new or novel intentional action from perception. This mechanism agrees with a large amount of research data for the production of such action. The nonlinear explicit states produced by the nonlinear mechanism from perception appear to have identical properties to human consciousness. Hence consciousness is natural, material, and functional; not something mysterious, nonmaterial, and epiphenomenal as has often been portrayed. It has evolved in humans for the creation of adaptive action. This means that consciousness can be explained and studied scientifically and medical disorders involving consciousness treatable by basic clinical treatment (psychiatric, medicinal, psychological). This theory also provides possibilities for the explanation of many puzzling questions: What brain structures are involved in producing consciousness. How these effects may be produced, manipulated, or complemented. That other animals may be conscious. That machines may be built to be conscious. That certain natural systems may have a degree of consciousness. That paranormal phenomena may be explained via these principles.

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