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1.6e. The Function of Consciousness (The Function of Consciousness on PhilPapers)

See also:
Baars, Bernard J. (1988). The functions of consciousness. In Bernard J. Baars (ed.), A Cognitive Theory of Consciousness. Cambridge University Press.   (Annotation | Google)
Banks, William P. (1996). How much work can a quale do? Consciousness and Cognition 5:368-80.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Barham, James (2003). Thoughts on thinking matter. Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design 2 (3).   (Google | More links)
Bechtel, William P. & Richardson, Robert C. (1983). Consciousness and complexity: Evolutionary perspectives on the mind-body problem. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (December):378-95.   (Cited by 1 | Annotation | Google | More links)
Bering, Jesse M. (2004). Consciousness was a 'trouble-maker': On the general maladaptiveness of unsupported mental representation. Journal of Mind and Behavior 25 (1):33-56.   (Google)
Bickhard, Mark H. (2001). The Emergence of Contentful Experience. In T. Kitamura (ed.), What Should Be Computed to Understand and Model Brain Function? World Scientific.   (Cited by 11 | Google | More links)
Abstract: There are many facets to mental life and mental experience. In this chapter, I attempt to account for some central characteristics among those facets. I argue that normative function and representation are emergent in particular forms of the self-maintenance of far from thermodynamic equilibrium systems in their essential far-from-equilibrium conditions. The nature of representation that is thereby modeled
Black, David M. (2001). Psychoanalysis and the function of consciousness. In Anthony Molino & Christine Ware (eds.), Where Id Was: Challenging Normalization in Psychoanalysis. Disseminations, Psychoanalysis in Contexts. Wesleyan University Press.   (Google)
Block, Ned (ms). On a confusion about a function of consciousness.   (Cited by 567 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Consciousness is a mongrel concept: there are a number of very different "consciousnesses." Phenomenal consciousness is experience; the phenomenally conscious aspect of a state is what it is like to be in that state. The mark of access-consciousness, by contrast, is availability for use in reasoning and rationally guiding speech and action. These concepts are often partly or totally conflated, with bad results. This target article uses as an example a form of reasoning about a function of "consciousness" based on the phenomenon of blindsight. Some information about stimuli in the blind field is represented in the brains of blindsight patients, as shown by their correct "guesses," but they cannot harness this information in the service of action, and this is said to show that a function of phenomenal consciousness is somehow to enable information represented in the brain to guide action. But stimuli in the blind field are BOTH access-unconscious and phenomenally unconscious. The fallacy is: an obvious function of the machinery of access-consciousness is illicitly transferred to phenomenal consciousness
Block, Ned (1995). On a confusion about the function of consciousness. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 18:227--47.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Consciousness is a mongrel concept: there are a number of very different "consciousnesses." Phenomenal consciousness is experience; the phenomenally conscious aspect of a state is what it is like to be in that state. The mark of access-consciousness, by contrast, is availability for use in reasoning and rationally guiding speech and action. These concepts are often partly or totally conflated, with bad results. This target article uses as an example a form of reasoning about a function of "consciousness" based on the phenomenon of blindsight. Some information about stimuli in the blind field is represented in the brains of blindsight patients, as shown by their correct "guesses," but they cannot harness this information in the service of action, and this is said to show that a function of phenomenal consciousness is somehow to enable information represented in the brain to guide action. But stimuli in the blind field are BOTH access-unconscious and phenomenally unconscious. The fallacy is: an obvious function of the machinery of access-consciousness is illicitly transferred to phenomenal consciousness
Bogen, Joseph E. (2001). An experimental disconnection approach to a function of consciousness. International Journal of Neuroscience 111 (3):135-136.   (Google)
Bolton, Thaddeus L. (1909). On the efficacy of consciousness. Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 6 (16):421-432.   (Google | More links)
Boodin, John E. (1908). Consciousness and reality. . Consciousness and its implications. Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 5 (9):225-234.   (Google | More links)
Bringsjord, Selmer & Noel, Ron (1998). Why did evolution engineer consciousness? In Gregory R. Mulhauser (ed.), Evolving Consciousness. John Benjamins.   (Cited by 4 | Google | More links)
Cole, David J. (2002). The function of consciousness. In James H. Fetzer (ed.), Consciousness Evolving. John Benjamins.   (Cited by 1 | Google)
DeLancey, Craig (1996). Emotion and the function of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 3 (5-6):492-99.   (Cited by 8 | Google)
Dretske, Fred (1997). What good is consciousness? Canadian Journal of Philosophy 27 (1):1-15.   (Cited by 11 | Google)
Flanagan, Owen J. & Polger, Thomas W. (1998). Consciousness, adaptation, and epiphenomenalism. In James H. Fetzer (ed.), Consciousness Evolving. John Benjamins.   (Google)
Flanagan, Owen J. & Polger, Thomas W. (1995). Zombies and the function of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 2 (4):313-21.   (Cited by 20 | Annotation | Google | More links)
Gomes, Gilberto (2005). Is consciousness epiphenomenal? Comment on Susan Pockett. Journal of Consciousness Studies 12 (12):77-79.   (Google)
Gregory, Richard L. (1996). What do qualia do? Perception 25:377-79.   (Cited by 8 | Annotation | Google | More links)
Guzeldere, Guven; Flanagan, Owen J. & Hardcastle, Valerie Gray (2000). The nature and function of consciousness: Lessons from blindsight. In Michael S. Gazzaniga (ed.), The New Cognitive Neurosciences: 2nd Edition. MIT Press.   (Cited by 6 | Google)
Hilbert, David R. (ms). Why have experiences?   (Cited by 1 | Google | More links)
Abstract: In _An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision_ George Berkeley made the claim that,
Himma, Kenneth E. (2004). Moral biocentrism and the adaptive value of consciousness. Southern Journal of Philosophy 42 (1):25-44.   (Google)
Hodgson, David (2002). Three tricks of consciousness: Qualia, chunking and selection. Journal of Consciousness Studies 9 (12):65-88.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Abstract: DAVID HODGSON Abstract: This article supports the proposition that, if a judgment about the aesthetic merits of an artistic object can take into account and thereby be influenced by the particular quality of the object, through gestalt experiences evoked by the object, then we have free will. It argues that it is probable that such a judgment can indeed take into account and be influenced by the particular quality of the object through gestalt experiences evoked by it, so as to make it probable that we do have free will. The proposition is supported by reference to two basic tricks apparently involved in conscious processes, which I call the qualia trick and the chunking trick; and it is suggested that these tricks make possible and indeed probable the existence of a third trick, which I call the selection trick
Humphrey, Nicholas (2000). The privatization of sensation. In Celia Heyes & Ludwig Huber (eds.), The Evolution of Cognition. MIT Press.   (Cited by 11 | Google | More links)
Abstract: It is the ambition of evolutionary psychology to explain how the basic features of human mental life came to be selected because of their contribution to biological survival. Counted among the most basic must be the subjective qualities of conscious sensory experience: the felt redness we experience on looking at a ripe tomato, the felt saltiness on tasting an anchovy, the felt pain on being pricked by a thorn. But, as many theorists acknowledge, with these qualia, the ambition of evolutionary psychology may have met its match. Everyone agrees that a trait can only contribute to an organism's biological survival in so far as it operates in the public domain. Yet almost everyone also agrees that the subjective quality of sensory experience is (at least for all practical purposes) private and without external influence. Then, maybe we must either concede that the subjective quality of sensations cannot after all have been determined by selection (even if this is theoretically depressing) or else demonstrate that the quality of sensations is not as private as it seems to be (even if this is intuitively unconvincing). No. I believe neither of these solutions to the puzzle is in fact the right one. I argue instead that the truth is that the quality of sensations has indeed been shaped by selection in the past, despite the fact that it is today effectively private. And this situation has come about as a result of a remarkable evolutionary progression, whereby the primitive activity of sensing slowly became "privatized" - that is to say, removed from the domain of overt public behavior and transformed into a mental activity that is now, in humans, largely if not exclusively internal to the subject's mind
Humphrey, Nicholas, The uses of consciousness.   (Cited by 15 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Reflexive consciousness evolved in the context of early human social life, as a means by which 'natural psychologists' could develop working models of their own and others' minds
Huss Parkhurst, Helen (1920). The obsolescence of consciousness. Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 17 (22):596-606.   (Google | More links)
James, William (1885). On the function of cognition. Mind 10 (37):27-44.   (Cited by 9 | Google | More links)
Johnston, Mark (2006). Better than mere knowledge? The function of sensory awareness. In T.S. Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Perceptual Experience. Oxford University Press.   (Cited by 6 | Google | More links)
Kim, Jaegwon (2007). The causal efficacy of consciousness. In Max Velmans & Susan Schneider (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. Blackwell.   (Google)
Kirkpatrick, E. A. (1908). The part played by consciousness in mental operations. Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 5 (16):421-429.   (Google | More links)
Kraemer, Eric Russert (1984). Consciousness and the exclusivity of function. Mind 93 (April):271-5.   (Annotation | Google | More links)
Kriegel, Uriah (2004). The functional role of consciousness: A phenomenological approach. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 3 (2):171-93.   (Cited by 5 | Google | More links)
Lau, Hakwan, Volition and the function of consciousness.   (Google)
Abstract: What are the psychological functions that could only be performed consciously? People have intuitively assumed that many acts of volition are not influenced by unconscious information. These acts range from simple examples such as making a spontaneous motor movement, to higher cognitive control. However, the available evidence suggests that under suitable conditions, unconscious information can influence these behaviors and the underlying neural mechanisms. One possibility is that stimuli that are consciously perceived tend to yield strong signals in the brain, which makes us think that consciousness has the function of such strong signals. However, if we could create conditions where the stimuli could yield strong signals but not the conscious experience of perception, perhaps we would find that such stimuli are just as effective in influencing volitional behavior. Future studies that focus on clarifying this issue may tell us what the defining functions of consciousness are
Lehar, Steven (online). The function of conscious experience: An analogical paradigm of perception and behavior.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: The question of whether conscious experience has any functional purpose depends on a more fundamental issue concerning the nature of conscious experience. In particular, whether the world of experience is the external world itself, as suggested by direct realism, or whether it is merely a virtual- reality replica of that world in an internal representation, as in indirect realism, or representationalism. There is an epistemological problem with the notion of direct realism, for we cannot be consciously aware of objects beyond the sensory surface. Therefore the world of experience can only be an internal replica of the external world. This in turn validates a phenomenological approach to studying the nature of the perceptual representation in the brain. Phenomenology reveals that the representational strategy employed in the brain is an analogical one, in which objects are represented in the brain by constructing full spatial replicas of those objects in an internal representation
Levy, Neil (online). Are zombies responsible? The role of consciousness in moral responsibility.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Compatibilists often think they can afford to be complacent with regard to scientific findings. But there are apparent threats to free will besides determinism. Robert Kane has recently claimed that if consciousness does not initiate action, all accounts of free will go down, compatibilist and incompatibilist. Some cognitive scientists argue that in fact consciousness does not initiate action. In this paper I argue that they are right (though not for the reasons they advance): as a matter of fact consciousness does not initiate action. But, I contend, Kane is wrong in thinking that it follows that we have no free will. I sketch how we might have free will in spite of the finding that consciousness does not initiate action, and remark on the implications for several well-known accounts of responsibility, include Clarke's agent-causal theory and Fischer and Ravizza's reasons-responsiveness account
Levy, Neil (2008). Restoring control: Comments on George Sher. Philosophia 36 (2).   (Google)
Abstract: In a recent article, George Sher argues that a realistic conception of human agency, which recognizes the limited extent to which we are conscious of what we do, makes the task of specifying a conception of the kind of control that underwrites ascriptions of moral responsibility much more difficult than is commonly appreciated. Sher suggests that an adequate account of control will not require that agents be conscious of their actions; we are responsible for what we do, in the absence of consciousness, so long as our obliviousness is explained by some subset of the mental states constitutive of the agent. In this response, I argue that Sher is wrong on every count. First, the account of moral responsibility in the absence of consciousness he advocates does not preserve control at all; rather, it ought to be seen as a variety of attributionism (a kind of account of moral responsibility which holds that control is unnecessary for responsibility, so long as the action is reflective of the agent’s real self). Second, I argue that a realistic conception of agency, that recognizes the limited role that consciousness plays in human life, narrows the scope of moral responsibility. We exercise control over our actions only when consciousness has played a direct or indirect role in their production. Moreover, we cannot escape this conclusion by swapping a volitionist account of moral responsibility for an attributionist account: our actions are deeply reflective of our real selves only when consciousness has played a causal role in their production
Libet, Benjamin W. (2003). Can conscious experience affect brain activity? Journal of Consciousness Studies 10 (12):24-28.   (Cited by 10 | Google | More links)
Mackie, J. L. (1981). The efficacy of consciousness: Comments on Honderich's paper. Inquiry 24 (October):343-352.   (Google)
McGinn, Colin (1981). A note on functionalism and function. Philosophical Topics 12 (1):169-70.   (Cited by 1 | Annotation | Google)
Menant, Christophe (ms). Performances of self-awareness used to explain the evolutionary advantages of consciousness (2004).   (Google)
Abstract: The question about evolution of consciousness has been addressed so far as possible selectional advantage related to consciousness ("What evolutionary advantages, if any, being conscious might confer on an organism ? "). But evidencing an adaptative explanation of consciousness has proven to be very difficult. Reason for that being the complexity of consciousness. We take here a different approach on subject by looking at possible selectional advantages related to the performance of Self Awareness that appeared during evolution millions of years before consciousness as we know it for humans. The interest of such an approach is that the analysis of selectional advantage is done at an evolution step sigificantly simpler that the step of Human Consciousness. We analyse how evolutionary advantages have resulted from this specific Self Awareness step. This is done by taking into consideration the possibility for a subject to identify with a conspecific at this level of evolution. We use the results made available by Mirror Neuron researchs where intersubjectivity and some level of identification with conspecifics have been evidenced for non human primates. Selectional advantages related to Self Awareness are analysed two ways: - Reformulating the performances of imitation and of development of language. - Showing that Self Awareness within group life can naturaly produce an important increase in fear/anxiety for a subject, and that the means implemented by the subject to overcome this fear/anxiety can act as significant evolution advantages opening the road to Human Consciousness. Such approach brings new elements supporting the view that consciousness is grounded in emotions. It also proposes some more evolutionist explanations to the widely dicussed subject of Empathy (S. Preston & F. de Waal) in terms of specific behaviour implemented to limit fear/anxiety increase. This approach also provides some explanation for limited anxiety within dolphins and introduces a basis for a possible phylogenesis of emotions
Moore, A. W. (1906). The function of thought. Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 3 (19):519-522.   (Google | More links)
Morsella, Ezequiel; Krieger, Stephen C. & Bargh, John A. (2009). The primary function of consciousness: Why skeletal muscles are voluntary muscles. In Ezequiel Morsella, John A. Bargh & Peter M. Gollwitzer (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Human Action. Oxford University Press.   (Google)
Mott, Peter (1982). On the function of consciousness. Mind 91 (July):423-9.   (Cited by 1 | Annotation | Google | More links)
Oatley, Keith (1988). On changing one's mind: A possible function of consciousness. In Anthony J. Marcel & E. Bisiach (eds.), Consciousness in Contemporary Science. Oxford University Press.   (Google)
O'Regan, Kevin J.; Myin, Erik & No, (2001). Toward an Analytic Phenomenology: The Concepts of "Bodiliness" and "Grabbiness". In A. Carsetti (ed.), Seeing and Thinking. Reflections on Kanizsa's Studies in Visual Cognition. Kluwer.   (Cited by 30 | Google | More links)
Abstract: In this paper, we present an account of phenomenal con- sciousness. Phenomenal consciousness is experience, and the _problem _of phenomenal consciousness is to explain how physical processes
Pauen, Michael (2006). Feeling causes. Journal of Consciousness Studies 13 (1-2):129-152.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Abstract: According to qualia-epiphenomenalism, phenomenal properties are causally inefficacious, they are metaphysically distinct from, and nomologically connected with certain physical properties. The present paper argues that the claim of causal inefficacy undermines any effort to establish the alleged nomological connection. Epiphenomenalists concede that variations of phenomenal properties in the absence of any variation of physical/functional properties are logically possible, however they deny that these variations are nomologically possible. But if such variations have neither causal nor functional consequences, there is no way to detect themanot only in scientific experiments, but also from the first-person perspective. Since neither third- nor first- person evidence can rule out the actual occurrence of such dissociations, the alleged nomological connection between phenomenal and physical properties cannot be established, in principle. As a consequence, the distinction between logical and nomological possibility breaks down and it cannot be ruled out that such dissociations occur in an unlimited number of cases
Perlis, Donald R. (1997). Consciousness as self-function. Journal of Consciousness Studies 4 (4-5):509-25.   (Cited by 15 | Google)
Pierson, Lee & Trout, Monroe (ms). What is consciousness for?   (Google | More links)
Abstract: What is Consciousness For? Lee Pierson and Monroe Trout Copyright © 2005 Abstract: The answer to the title question is, in a word, volition. Our hypothesis is that the ultimate adaptive function of consciousness is to make volitional movement possible. All conscious processes exist to subserve that ultimate function. Thus, we believe that all conscious organisms possess at least some volitional capability. Consciousness makes volitional attention possible; volitional attention, in turn, makes volitional movement possible. There is, as far as we know, no valid theoretical argument that consciousness is needed for any function other than volitional movement and no convincing empirical evidence that consciousness performs any other ultimate function. Consciousness, via volitional action, increases the likelihood that an organism will direct its attention, and ultimately its movements, to whatever is most important for its survival and reproduction
Place, Ullin T. (2000). The causal potency of qualia: Its nature and its source. Brain and Mind 1 (2):183-192.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: There is an argument (Medlin, 1967; Place, 1988) whichshows conclusively that if qualia are causallyimpotent we could have no possible grounds forbelieving that they exist. But if, as this argumentshows, qualia are causally potent with respect to thedescriptions we give of them, it is tolerably certainthat they are causally potent in other morebiologically significant respects. The empiricalevidence, from studies of the effect of lesions of thestriate cortex (Humphrey, 1974; Weiskrantz, 1986;Cowey and Stoerig, 1995) shows that what is missing inthe absence of visual qualia is the ability tocategorize sensory inputs in the visual modality. This would suggest that the function of privateexperience is to supply what Broadbent (1971) callsthe evidence on which the categorization ofproblematic sensory inputs are based. At the sametime analysis of the causal relation shows that whatdifferentiates a causal relation from an accidentalspatio-temporal conjunction is the existence ofreciprocally related dispositional properties of theentities involved which combine to make it true thatif one member of the conjunction, the cause, had notexisted, the other, the effect, would not haveexisted. The possibility that qualia might bedispositional properties of experiences which, as itwere, supply the invisible glue that sticks cause toeffect in this case is examined, but finallyrejected
Polger, Thomas W. & Flanagan, Owen J. (online). Explaining the evolution of consciousness: The other hard problem.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Recently some philosophers interested in consciousness have begun to turn their attention to the question of what evolutionary advantages, if any, being conscious might confer on an organism. The issue has been pressed in recent dicussions involving David Chalmers, Todd Moody, Owen Flanagan and Thomas Polger, Daniel Dennett, and others. The purpose of this essay is to consider some of the problems that face anyone who wants to give an evolutionary explanation of consciousness. We begin by framing the problem in the context of some current debates. Then we
Polger, Thomas W. (1995). Zombies and the function of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 2 (4):313-321.   (Google | More links)
Popper, Karl R. (1978). Natural selection and the emergence of mind. Dialectica 32:339-55.   (Cited by 66 | Google | More links)
Ramachandran, Vilayanur S. & Hirstein, William (1998). Three laws of qualia: What neurology tells us about the biological functions of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 4 (4-5):429-57.   (Cited by 40 | Google | More links)
Rosenthal, David (online). Consciousness and its function.   (Google)
Abstract: MS, under submission, derived from a Powerpoint presentation at a Conference on Consciousness, Memory, and Perception, in honor of Larry Weiskrantz, City University, London, September 15, 2006
Rosenthal, David (online). The function and facilitation of consciousness.   (Google)
Shaw, Robert & Kinsella-Shaw, Jeffrey (2007). The survival value of informed awareness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 14 (1):137-154.   (Cited by 1 | Google)
Abstract: Various hypotheses about the importance of psycho-neural concomitants are reviewed and their implications discussed for the 'easy' and 'hard' problems of consciousness -- especially, as viewed by cognitive and ecological psychology. In Ecological Psychology, where the subjective-objective dichotomy is repudiated, these concepts are without foundation, and are replaced by informed awareness, which is argued to play an important, perhaps, indispensable role in goal- directed actions and thus to have survival value. The significance of informed awareness is illustrated in several real- world goal-directed tasks
Shanon, Benny (1998). What is the function of consciousness? Journal of Consciousness Studies 5:295-308.   (Cited by 10 | Google)
Tye, Michael (1996). The function of consciousness. Noûs 30 (3):287-305.   (Cited by 10 | Annotation | Google | More links)
van Gulick, Robert (1994). Deficit studies and the function of phenomenal consciousness. In George Graham & G. Lynn Stephens (eds.), Philosophical Psychopathology. MIT Press.   (Cited by 9 | Google)
van Gulick, Robert (1989). What difference does consciousness make? Philosophical Topics 17 (1):211-30.   (Annotation | Google)
Velmans, Max (1991). Is human information processing conscious? [Journal (Paginated)] 14 (4):651-69.   (Cited by 162 | Annotation | Google | More links)
Abstract: Investigations of the function of consciousness in human information processing have focused mainly on two questions: (1) where does consciousness enter into the information processing sequence and (2) how does conscious processing differ from preconscious and unconscious processing. Input analysis is thought to be initially "preconscious," "pre-attentive," fast, involuntary, and automatic. This is followed by "conscious," "focal-attentive" analysis which is relatively slow, voluntary, and flexible. It is thought that simple, familiar stimuli can be identified preconsciously, but conscious processing is needed to identify complex, novel stimuli. Conscious processing has also been thought to be necessary for choice, learning and memory, and the organization of complex, novel responses, particularly those requiring planning, reflection, or creativity