Mindmelding: Connected Brains and the Problem of Consciousness

Mens Sana Monographs 6 (1):110-130 (2008)
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Abstract

Contrary to the widely-held view that our conscious states are necessarily private (in that only one person can ever experience them directly), in this paper I argue that it is possible for a person to directly experience the conscious states of another. This possibility removes an obstacle to thinking of conscious states as physical, since their apparent privacy makes them different from all other physical states. A separation can be made in the brain between our conscious mental representations and the executive processes that manipulate them and are guided by them in planning and executing behaviour. I argue here that these executive processes are also largely responsible for producing our sense of self in the moment. Our conscious perceptual representations themselves reside primarily in the posterior portions of the brain's cortex, in the temporal and parietal lobes, while the executive processes reside primarily in the prefrontal lobes. We can imagine an experiment in which we sever the association fibers that connect the posterior regions with these prefrontal regions and, instead, connect the posterior regions to the prefrontal regions of another person. According to my hypothesis, this would produce in the latter person the direct experience of the conscious perceptual states of the first person.

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