Phenomenology and the physical reality of consciousness

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Quantum physics and consciousness

Title: Phenomenology and the Physical Reality of Publisher: John Benjamins Publishing Company. The predominant positive view among philosophers and scientists alike is that consciousness is something realized in brain activity. This view, however, largely fails to capture what consciousness is like according to how it shows itself to conscious beings. What this work proposes instead is that consciousness is a phenomenon that exists in and throughout the body. Apart from whether or not it involves intentionality and apart from whether or not it involves awareness of the self, consciousness is self-intimating, self-revealing, self-disclosing.

Self-disclosure is the definitive phenomenological character of consciousness in all its forms.

What ‘Science of Consciousness’? A Phenomenological Take on Naturalizing the Mind [1] | IWM

Taking this stance as a point of departure, the book presents a specific account of what bodily field phenomenon consciousness is. In this way, the current stalemate in philosophy over the question of the physical reality of consciousness is broken. Series A. Experts continue to differ considerably over how to interpret his view. But clearly his conception of intentionality, and arguably that of the whole phenomenological tradition he influenced, is dominated by the first strand of thought mentioned in Section 2—intentionality as directedness towards or reference to an object —and whatever difficulties that brings in train.

All intentionality, he holds, involves a presentation Vorstellung in some sense, an appearance of an object including mere imaginings or conceivings of objects. In judgment: one either affirms accepts or denies rejects the presented object. How did Brentano relate consciousness to intentionality? Brentano did not consider it absurd to suppose there are unconscious for him, unperceived mental acts.

But he found inadequate such reasons as had been offered in his time to posit their occurrence. On his view, wherever this is proposed on the grounds of explanatory usefulness, nonmentalistic e. In this connection, he also took seriously the worry that if we hold as he does that all mental acts are conscious, and all conscious acts are objects of consciousness, an infinite regress would erupt. But he thought his theory could handle the problem: the key was to see that, since inner perception is not separate from the object it makes conscious, no regress gets started.

Of these, it was Husserl who was to have the widest philosophical impact on the European Continent in the twentieth century, largely because of his influence on thinkers inspired by his phenomenology to explore existentialist themes—Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Though these are the heirs of Brentano and Husserl on which we will focus here, a full treatment of phenomenological ideas about intentionality and consciousness would need to cast its net much more broadly, covering figures such as: Aron Gurwitsch, Roman Ingarden, Anton Marty, Alexius Meinong, Adolph Reinach, Max Scheler, Edith Stein, Carl Stumpf and Kasimir Twardowski.

First, consider his response to Brentano on intentionality. Husserl thought it a fundamental error to suppose that the object the intentional object of a thought, judgment, desire, etc. At least if I am not hallucinating, the object of my visual experience is not something immanent to my mind, whose existence comes and goes with the experience—but something a box, for example that goes beyond or transcends any necessarily perspectival experience I may have of it, as relative position, lighting, or attention alters.

Husserl held that every intentional act must have both matter and quality. One concerns whether or in what sense perceptual experience ever constitutes a relation to the object experienced.

Phenomenology (philosophy)

In what way, if any, is the conscious subject with its intentionality in essence intelligible apart from objects in the world it inhabits? Clearly Husserl thought that a hallucination would still be intentional, though there exists no object of the experience mentally immanent or otherwise to which it relates the subject. On this interpretation, if instead you have a subjectively indistinguishable snake-hallucination, you may have what is in other respects the same noema, minus the snake constituent. For discussion, see Crowell ; Drummond ; A. Smith ; D. Smith ; Zahavi Husserl claimed it is possible and, indeed, essential to the practice of phenomenology as an a priori discipline, distinct from psychology that one investigate consciousness in a way that withholds certain commitments concerning spatio-temporal particulars.

The methodological aim is just to restrict the scope of concern with these objects and hence the relevant evidence proper to phenomenology: one considers them specifically only as intended i. To this end it is unnecessary to embrace an ontology of experiences that says they could always remain essentially the same, even when detached from such objects altogether. See Mulligan and Hopp for discussion of relevant issues. Husserl holds that the sort of judgments we express in ordinary and scientific language are founded on the intentionality of pre-predicative experience, and that it is crucial to clarify the way in which such experience underlies judgment.

Here we encounter in Husserl the second of the initially announced themes—that of basic forms of consciousness or intentionality. It is disputed how significantly the most well-known philosophers strongly influenced by their study of Husserl—Heidegger, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty—depart from him in their views. Partly this is due to interpretive difficulties just mentioned regarding the detachability of experience from experience-transcending objects, and the basic forms of intentionality or content.

An additional complication comes when we try to consider exactly how attitudes towards consciousness figure into all this. If, as one interpretive approach suggests, Husserl holds consciousness or rather, experience of the sort ordinarily involved in perceptual constancy is intrinsically both relational and intentional, then the sort of consciousness we enjoy will be no more detachable in nature from its transcendent objects than is our intentionality.

Might we regard him as still speaking of consciousness, but only by other, allegedly less theory-burdened names? In the first case there is no concrete experience that would remain once the ashtray is subtracted in thought, so as to constitute an ashtray hallucination. Our understanding of defective, illusory and hallucinatory cases rests on an analogy with ordinary cases of visual consciousness understood in an essentially relational manner.

Merleau-Ponty [] —, —, — When it comes to the question of whether ordinary perception and action involve a kind of intentionality distinct from that of conceptual judgment, it seems fair to say this about Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. They took up the theme of an intentionality that is distinct from and makes possible the kind involved in judgments that posit and predicate properties of objects, and they gave this, each in his own way, a strongly pragmatic cast.

This is a kind of directedness that belongs to our everyday practical engagement with our surroundings. Merleau-Ponty [] developed a related view, influenced not only by both Husserl and Heidegger, but by his study of Gestalt psychologists who were themselves influenced by the Brentano school and by Husserl , in which he defends a conception of perceptual consciousness as a kind of bodily understanding.

Partly on the basis of contrasts drawn with case studies of pathologies of perception and action due to brain damage, he argues that, in normal sensory perception, our exploratory and goal-directed movement itself constitutes a way of being conscious of things—and a form of understanding what is perceived—not derived from activities of conceptual categorization and inference which belong properly to the intellect.

Relatedly for Merleau-Ponty: the organization and adjustment of movements involved in bodily understanding, though norm-guided, and experienced, must not be regarded as always chosen— your moves are objects of personal choice only when specifically endorsed for reasons. This may convey some central aspects of phenomenological conceptions of intentionality and its relation to consciousness. But what can be said about the general nature of consciousness?

How did conceptions of this develop in the wake of Brentano?

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And here we can see how the third of the initially identified themes—that of reflexivity, the relation of consciousness and self-consciousness—became elaborated in phenomenology. An experience in this sense is necessarily experienced erlebt. But, contra Brentano, this does not mean that experiences continually appear as objects of some inner perception.

When, for example, a sensation is felt, the sensation is not some object of which the feeling is an appearance; the sensation simply coincides with feeling it. Husserl did, however, affirm that some kind of reflexivity is essential to consciousness. Crucial to this view was a certain conception of time-consciousness Husserl You are thus in a sense primitively conscious of your own experience in retaining and anticipating it, even though you do not thereby make it into an intentional object , as you do when, in reflection, you think and make judgments about your experience.

Consciousness is, for Husserl, in this way necessarily reflexive without necessarily being reflective. Sartre answered this question in the negative. Husserl earlier, in the first edition of Logical Investigations , affirmed a similar view. Figuring centrally in this shift was his desire to recognize an aspect to experience through which one is active in making commitments e. There is a kind of consciousness of self in experience, which, while evident to phenomenological reflection, does not itself consist in reflectively attributing to oneself some property.

We may now identify three distinct ideas found in phenomenological thinking about the alleged reflexivity of consciousness. First, there is the idea that necessarily, whenever there is a conscious state, there is, in some sense, consciousness of it. Second, one finds the notion that it is, however, only occasionally , and only in reflection , that a conscious state is simultaneously an intentional object for the one whose state it is. With these distinctions in mind, we can see that to speak of the phenomenological view of these matters risks eliding significant differences. For philosophers in this tradition differed interestingly with respect to the three theses just named.

Brentano would maintain the first, deny the second, and seems to have been silent on the third. Husserl, however, eventually affirmed all three—with the first two importantly grounded in a view of time-consciousness, and the third in the idea that we experience ourselves as active understanding subjects. Sartre, meanwhile, affirms only the first two theses, and embraces the second on different grounds from Husserl. This may be taken to commit Heidegger also to the idea that consciousness involves some kind of reflexive, but non- reflective , consciousness of self as subject.

But it does so only on the assumption that, when something is uncovered to me in my use of it, I experience it or am somehow conscious of it, and that, in being disclosed to myself though my activity, I am somehow self-conscious.

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However, notably, Sartre bases his own quasi-Heideggerean interpretation of authenticity in Being and Nothingness on his way of combining this with the second notion. All three notions are endorsed in Merleau-Ponty. For Heidegger, see Blattner and Crowell For Merleau-Ponty: Siewert a. This overview of consciousness and intentionality in the Brentano-Husserl tradition brings to light several broad areas of discussion.

Closely related to general concerns about how to interpret either of these two notions, three interrelated themes have emerged. A second concerns how to distinguish basic forms of consciousness and intentionality—and in particular whether, distinct from the activity of the intellect or of a properly conceptual understanding, we should recognize something equally intentional on which it based, manifest in perception and action.

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Finally, there is the theme of the reflexivity of consciousness: is consciousness somehow essentially bound up with a kind of self-consciousness—either consciousness of itself , or of the self as subject? As we shall see, these themes have become important—somewhat later, and largely independently—in analytic philosophy. However, in comparing phenomenological treatments of intentionality to those found in the analytic tradition the following should be kept in mind.

Thus, in the phenomenological tradition, the discussion of intentionality is thoroughly enmeshed with that of experience or consciousness from the start.