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Abstract: When he formulated the program of neurophenomenology, Francisco Varela suggested a balanced methodological dissolution of the hard problem of consciousness. I show that his dissolution is a paradigm which imposes itself onto seemingly opposite views, including materialist approaches. I also point out that Varela's revolutionary epistemological ideas are gaining wider acceptance as a side effect of a recent controversy between hermeneutists and eliminativists. Finally, I emphasize a structural parallel between the science of consciousness and the distinctive features of quantum mechanics. This parallel, together with the former convergences, point towards the common origin of the main puzzles of both quantum mechanics and the philosophy of mind: neglect of the constitutive blindspot of objective knowledge
Abstract: This paper is an edited transcription of a talk at the 1997 Montreal symposium on "Consciousness at the Frontiers of Neuroscience". There's not much here that isn't said elsewhere, e.g. in "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness" and "How Can We Construct a Science of Consciousness?"]]
Abstract: First-person and third-person perspectives are different items of human consciousness. Feeling the taste of a fruit or being consciously part of a group eating fruits call for different perspectives of consciousness. The latter is about objective reality (third-person data). The former is about subjective experience (first-person data) and cannot be described entirely by objective reality. We propose to look at how these two perspectives could be rooted in an evolutionary origin of human consciousness, and somehow be connected. Our starting point is a scenario describing how evolution could have transformed a non self-conscious auto-representation into a conscious self-representation (Menant 2006). The scenario is based on the performance of inter-subjectivity existing among non human primates (Gardenfors 2006). A key item of the scenario is the identification of the auto-representation of a subject with the representations that the subject has of her conspecifics, the latter feeding the former with the meaning: “existing in the environment”. So during evolution, pre-human primates were brought to perceive their auto-representation as existing in the environment. Such process could have generated the initial elements of a conscious self-representation. We take this scenario as providing a possible rooting of human consciousness in evolution. We develop here a part of this scenario by expliciting the inward and outward components of the non self-conscious auto-representation. Inward components are about proprioception and interoception (thirst, pain, …). Outward components cover the sensory information relative to the perception of the body (seen feet, … ) and of its effects on the environment. We consider that the initial elements of a conscious self-representation have been applied to both inward and outward components of the auto-representation. We propose that the application to inward components made possible some first-person information, and that the application to outward components brought up third-person information. Relations between the two perspectives are highlighted. Such approach can root first-person and third-person perspectives in the same slot of human evolution. We conclude by a summary of the above and introduce a possible application of this approach to the concepts of bodily self and of pre-reflexive self-consciousness (Legrand, 2006)
Abstract: In order to distinguish the conscious state itself from its aspects and contents we need an answer to the question "if there is something it is like to be conscious, what is it?" A succinct answer to this question is provided in the form of a common denominator of all conscious states. This characterization of the conscious state has implications for the systematic study of consciousness through its bearing on a number of concrete issues connected with the nature of consciousness and its relation to the biology of brains and their evolution. These are discussed with a view to delineating the characteristics of consciousness, suggesting the primary functional role of consciousness in the total economy of brain functions, and exploring the tractability of the problem of consciousness from the standpoint of ordinary science. 1997
Abstract: The study of consciousness in modern science is hampered by deeply ingrained, dualist presuppositions about the nature of consciousness. In particular, conscious experiences are thought to be private and subjective, contrasting with physical phenomena which are public and objective. In the present article, I argue that all observed phenomena are, in a sense, private to a given observer, although there are some events to which there is public access. Phenomena can be objective in the sense of intersubjective, investigators can be objective in the sense of truthful or dispassionate, and procedures can be objective in being well-specified, but observed phenomena cannot be objective in the sense of being observer-free. Phenomena are only repeatable in the sense that they are judged by a community of observers to be tokens of the same type. Stripped of its dualist trappings the empirical method becomes if you carry out these procedures you will observe or experience these results - which applies as much to a science of consciousness as it does to physics