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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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A survival value for consciousness?

A survival value for consciousness?

(p.75) Chapter 7 A survival value for consciousness?

Jeffrey Gray

Oxford University Press

Any account of the survival value of conscious experience must respect its lateness relative to the behaviour it accompanies. Most existing proposals as to the functions of consciousness ignore this constraint. In consequence, they posit in this role functions which, on the evidence, are discharged unconsciously — before consciousness comes into play. This chapter focuses on the author's hypothesis published in an article in The Behavioral and Brain Sciences in 1995, which explicitly takes the lateness of conscious experience as its point of departure. According to this account, the principal function discharged by conscious experience is that of a ‘late error detector’. This account explains the purpose that is served by having conscious experience occur after on-line behaviour has already taken place. The chapter outlines the hypothesis from three points of view. It first presents the proposed function of conscious experience: late error detection. It then outlines the comparator mechanism required to discharge this function. Finally, it situates the comparator mechanism in the broader perspective provided by a general theory of the nature of conscious perception, as distinct from unconscious sensory detection.

Keywords:   consciousness, conscious experience, late error detection, comparator system, conscious perception, colour vision

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