Consciousness the radical plasticity thesis

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Consciousness the radical plasticity thesis

The radical plasticity thesis: How the brain learns to be conscious Axel Cleeremans http: Cleeremans argues that processing of information, such as levels of temperature, is just a fact about the thermostat. The device has no way of knowing that it is sensitive to temperature, in the way that humans have systems in their brain which tell them that they have such sensitivity.

It is clear that thermostats have no such mechanisms for sensing internal states, but only switches etc. Thus information processing often takes place without consciousness, both in the brain and in modern computer systems.

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This means that consciousness is something over and above computation. Cleeremans goes on to look at definitions of consciousness.

Organisms are implied to have systems for having feelings like this while stones do not. Along with such internal states, they experience the external world in the feel of such properties as redness or the depth of the visual field.

Cleeremans compares a human seeing a red patch and a camera taking a picture of the same red patch. The difference is that the camera has only one response, which is to record the particular shade of red.

Beyond this single function, the redness does not do anything to the camera, or produce anything resembling an emotional response. This is because it does not have any additional mechanism to change its internal state, wheras human consciousness can experience a whole range of associations stored in memory that are related to that redness.

The author further considers that knowledge of internal states, plus internal representations of external states and their related emotional values are what constitutes consciousness. What is interesting is that Cleeremans has the idea that consciousness involves some form of preference.

While this might seem obvious to the lay observer, the idea of conscious preference can cause astonishment and indignation in modern consciousness circles. Cleeremans further proposal that the brain learns to be conscious is more debatable.

There are instances of conscious experience that may not involve learning. Some fears may be hard-wired. Laboratory rats that are 20 generations away from the wild are still afraid of the silhouette of a cat.


There is also the problem of dementia where consciousness remains unimpaired despite the destruction of memory and learnt material.

A further problem is the lack of a change in the processing of either neuronal assemblies or individual neurons, by which these would go from unconscious processing to conscious processing.

Learning looks to be necessary for most conscious experience, but the lack of a method for physically altering the neurons involved in consciousness suggests that it may not be sufficient. Cleeremans would also like to find an experiencer to have the experience of redness, visual depth etc.

This is again debatable. It is something that it quite easy to analyse, as being the narrative memory plus the distinction between body and environment, and from this to claim to have explained consciousness.

Cleeremans does not go down this naive route, but there is nevertheless a tendency to avoid coming face-to-face with consciousness, by proposing that there has to be some kind of Cartesian entity to experience the consciousness rather than accepting that consciousness in parts of the brain is the end product: Whereas there is now evidence for subjective processing in the brain, there is no evidence for an experiencing entity separate from the neurons involved in consciousness.

Cleeremans tries to co-opt the fashionable higher order HOT theories to support his own more interesting ideas.

Consciousness the radical plasticity thesis

HOT basically suggests that if one thing thinks about or observes another it becomes conscious, This appears to make no sense in scientific terms. The modern world is full of devices that observe or communicate with one another, but as Cleeremans himself has pointed out, there is no reason to believe that such technologies have consciousness.

The simple act of observing or even problem solving is just that without an additional mechanism to be aware of what is going on.

Moreover the HOT theories do not make suggestions as to how communication between the two orders would lead to a physical change from unconscious to conscious state on the higher-order side. In the case of the Cleeremans system, it is important that at least the higher-order side is conscious, but again there is no suggestion of how the act of one side observing the other would produce consciousness.Aarhus University (AU) offers interdisciplinary study programmes within a wide range of academic fields, covering basic research, applied research, strategic research and research-based consultancy.

Women's string-figure depicting "menstrual blood of three women", illustrating the Yolngu people's tribal mythology of menstrual synchrony Arnhem Land R "We Yolungu are a jealous people and have been since the days we lived in the bush in clans.

Cleeremans does not go down this naive route, but there is nevertheless a tendency to avoid coming face-to-face with consciousness, by proposing that there has to be some kind of Cartesian entity to experience the consciousness rather than accepting that consciousness in parts of the brain is the end product: the buck stops here.

John Broadus Watson and Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist. Robert H. Wozniak Bryn Mawr College. John B. Watson () was born near Greenville, South Carolina in The son of a ne'er-do-well father, against whom he harbored life-long resentment, and a devoutly religious mother, was Watson spent much of his boyhood in the relative isolation and poverty of rural South.

The radical plasticity thesis: how the brain learns to be conscious Axel Cleeremans* Consciousness, Cognition and Computation Group, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Belgium In this paper, I explore the idea that consciousness is something that the brain learns to do rather than an intrinsic property of certain neural states and not others.


Consciousness the radical plasticity thesis

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