A Deeper Look at the "Neural Correlate of Consciousness"

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A main goal of the neuroscience of consciousness is: find the neural correlate to conscious experiences (NCC). When have we achieved this goal? The answer depends on our operationalization of “NCC.” Chalmers (2000) shaped the widely accepted operationalization according to which an NCC is a neural system with a state which is minimally sufficient (but not necessary) for an experience. A deeper look at this operationalization reveals why it might be unsatisfactory: (i) it is not an operationalization of a correlate for occurring experiences, but of the capacity to experience; (ii) it is unhelpful for certain cases which are used to motivate a search for neural correlates of consciousness; (iii) it does not mirror the usage of “NCC” by scientists who seek for unique correlates; (iv) it hardly allows for a form of comparative testing of hypotheses, namely experimenta crucis. Because of these problems (i–iv), we ought to amend or improve on Chalmers's operationalization. Here, I present an alternative which avoids these problems. This “NCC2.0” also retains some benefits of Chalmers's operationalization, namely being compatible with contributions from extended, embedded, enacted, or embodied accounts (4E-accounts) and allowing for the possibility of non-biological or artificial experiencers.
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