RE: COMP & Self-awareness

From: Colin Hales <>
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2006 13:08:27 +1000

> -----Original Message-----
> From: [mailto:everything-
>] On Behalf Of Brent Meeker
> Sent: Wednesday, July 26, 2006 1:39 AM
> To:
> Subject: Re: COMP & Self-awareness
<snip, sorry>

> I'd say it's the other way around. Self-awareness can't appear without
> consciousness. My dog is
> conscious in that he knows his name and he knows he's different from my
> wife's dog, whose name he
> also knows. But I don't think he has the reflexive self-awareness of a
> human being, an "inner
> narrative". I don't see how you could have self-awareness without being
> conscious, but I'm often conscious without being self-aware.
> Brent Meeker

The obscuring factor here is of the two sorts of self awareness that might
benefit from elaboration.

First is the collection of phenomenal fields (the visual field, for
example). The scenes they provide in our head are centered on us as
cognitive agents. The emotion of thirst, for example, is an Omni
directional, isotropic, homogenous scene (you don't get thirsty in front or
behind!, its uniform and spherically delivered.). The visual scene is highly
anisotropic and inhomogenous.

The 'self' in phenomenal scenes is implicit in that the scene is constructed
to appear to be centred on us. But beyond that _within_ the scene can be a
representation of our own body, once again appropriately delivered centred.
Out of body experiences are when the scene centering system gets moved. We
may then get an entirely different depiction of our complete self and still
know (in the sense to follow below) that it is 'me', my 'self'.

Secondly, completely separate to the phenomenal scenes, but generated from
them via the action of extracting perceived regularities (what the brain
does really well) is knowledge. This knowledge is only made apparent in
behaviour - even such simple behaviour as the reporting of a belief (such as
recognition of a name). Within the complete collection of beliefs (which are
entirely devoid of phenomenal content) is a set of beliefs about "self" to
an arbitrary level of complexity.

a) Phenomenal awareness (experience inclusive of a self model)
b) Psychological awareness (knowledge inclusive of a self model)

The latter is derived from the former.
Call them primary and secondary self awareness? Dunno.

As to what 'consciousness' might be?

I'd say that if a cognitive agent has (a) at all then consciousness is
present, regardless of the self-representation and regardless of the extent
of (b).

Conversely, no matter how complex a cognitive agent's (b) is and regardless
of the complexity of the self model.... a creature devoid of (a) is a
zombie.... deserved of the status of a household appliance. No matter how
complex a self model there is in (b) the creature has zero internal life. It
does not know it is anywhere. It may to some extent be able to act 'as-if'
it had an internal life, but it's just acting - an attribution bestowed by a
non-zombie with some (a).

By the way...the physiological evidence for this division is summarised
nicely in a 'consciousness studies' context in a recent book by Derek Denton
which tracks primordial emotions out of the neo-cortex into small neural
cohorts in the ancient basal brain structures. Primordial emotions are the
emotions of internal body life-support such as breathlessness, hunger etc.
Creatures without a neo-cortex can have (a) with minimal (b) and therefore
have experiences and are conscious, just not very conscious. No self model
necessary, just minimal reflex behaviour.

Derek Denton, The Primordial Emotions:
The dawning of consciousness, Oxford University Press. 2005
(Bruno: it came out first in French!)

That help?

Colin Hales

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Received on Tue Jul 25 2006 - 23:10:39 PDT

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