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ConsciousnessCreeping up on the hard problem$
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Jeffrey Gray

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780198520917

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198520917.001.0001

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From Cartesian theatre to global workspace

From Cartesian theatre to global workspace

(p.149) Chapter 11 From Cartesian theatre to global workspace

Jeffrey Gray

Oxford University Press

The chief preoccupations of the neuroscientists have been, at bottom, correlational. A general pattern has been the following. A neuroscientist first proposes that certain functions are critical for consciousness. But, in doing so, he bases his specific postulates upon data and concepts taken, not from neuroscience itself, but from experimental psychology, cognitive science or just plain ‘folk psychology’. He then searches in the brain for those regions and systems that ‘mediate’ the critical functions. Since no specifically neuroscientific argument is used to justify the initial postulate, this approach adds nothing theoretically to its functionalist starting point. The same essential logic can also proceed in reverse. A neuroscientist first observes experimentally that a particular brain region or system discharges a particular function; he considers the function to be one which, in normal human experience, is associated with consciousness; so, he concludes, this region or system plays an important role in consciousness. But, in whichever direction the logic proceeds, the validity of the conclusion is entirely dependent upon the assumption that a particular function is critical for, or critically dependent upon, conscious experience. All the neuroscientist adds is a location in the brain (human or animal) where the putatively critical function is discharged. Location throws little light on the problem of consciousness. The neuroscientific trail then, at least as at present trodden, leads at best to a three-way set of correlations: between functions, brain regions or systems that mediate the functions, and conscious experiences. This chapter explores this terrain in a little more detail.

Keywords:   consciousness, conscious experience, neuroscience, Cartesian Theatre, global workspace, brain

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