Watzl "The Subjectivity and Unity of Consciousness Unified. Attention and Phenomenal Unity"

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Watzl "The Subjectivity and Unity of Consciousness Unified. Attention and Phenomenal Unity"

  1. 1. + The Subjectivity and Unity of Consciousness unified. Attention and Phenomenal Unity Sebastian Watzl
  2. 2. + Overview  Conscious Experiences  Phenomenal Unity of Consciousness  Towards the Attention Account of Unity  Holism  Unity or Disunity of Attention (Systems)
  3. 3. + Conscious Experience
  4. 4. +  When you are listening to music, when you are looking at the scene in front of you, when you are smelling the scent of a rose, when you are tasting a a bitter chocolate, when you feel a cramp in your thigh, when you are deliberating about what to do this summer, when you feel a rush of anger, ...  There is something it is like for you. Conscious Experience
  5. 5. +  Conscious experiences = events/processes where there is something it is like to undergo or engage in them  “Something it like”  a first person quality (conscious subjects have an “inside”)  a point of view or subjective perspective on the world.  Conscious experiences = events/processes that instantiate phenomenal properties (properties that make a difference to what it is like) Conscious Experience
  6. 6. +  Is the phenomenology of conscious experience an un- analyzable “feel”, an internal “qualitative glow”? Subjective Perspectives
  7. 7. + Appearance Reality Subjective Perspectives
  8. 8. +  By having conscious experiences, you appear to inhabit a certain world.  This world is the world of appearance, it is characterized by how things appear to the subject of the experience.  Because conscious experience presents appearances, we can ask: is the world how it appears to me in my experience or is it different? Subjective Perspectives
  9. 9. + You Various appearances = contents of consciousness = qualities of consciousness What makes those appearances appear to you = subjectivity of consciousness Subjective Perspectives
  10. 10. + The Phenomenal Unity of Consciousness
  11. 11. + Phenomenal Unity Experiences e1 … eN are phenomenally unified iff there is an experience E that subsumes e1 … eN  Phenomenal Condition on Phenomenal Unity If E subsumes e1, then what it is like to have E and e1 is what it is like to have E. Phenomenal Unity
  12. 12. + Questions about Phenomenal Unity  Are experiences unified?  The Unity Thesis Necessarily, all experiences of a single subject are phenomenally unified.  The Restricted Unity Thesis In almost all non-pathological cases all experiences of a single subject are phenomenally unified.  The Disunity Thesis The experiences of most subjects under most normal circumstances are not phenomenally unified.  Given that some experiences are phenomenally unified, can we provide a substantial account of what that unity consist in?  Can we explain why experiences are unified when they are?
  13. 13. + Questions about Phenomenal Unity  Are experiences unified?  The Unity Thesis Necessarily, all experiences of a single subject are phenomenally unified.  The Restricted Unity Thesis In almost all non-pathological cases all experience of a single subject are phenomenally unified.  The Disunity Thesis The experiences of most subjects under most normal circumstances are not phenomenally unified.  Given that some experiences are phenomenally unified, can we provide a substantial account of what that unity consist in?  Can we explain why experiences are unified when they are?
  14. 14. + Locating Phenomenal Unity  Phenomenal Unity might be located in:  Facts about the contents of consciousness (Content Views of Unity)  The contents form a spatially unified world (spatial relations connect all contents of consciousness)  The contents form a logically unified world (logical relations connect all contents of consciousness; e.g. conjunction)  Facts about the subjectivity of consciousness (Subjectivity Views of Unity)
  15. 15. + Against Content Views of Unity  Phenomenally unified experiences arguably may not present a unified world  A subject might have phenomenally unified experiences that are structured around spatially disconnected bodies(Dainton, Bayne)  The contents need not form a spatially unified world
  16. 16. + Against Content Views of Unity  Phenomenally unified experiences arguably may not present a unified world  A subject might have phenomenally unified experienced in fundamentally different modalities (“kinds of experience”), like perception, conscious thought, emotion, or action-awareness (Bayne)  The contents need not form a logically unified world.
  17. 17. + What Unifies Perspectives?  In virtue of what do the various experiences – that might be of different kinds and that might not present a unified world – still form a single, unified perspective?  Is it a brute fact that one set of experiences forms a whole that subsumes them while another one does not?  Or can a substantial account of the unity-making relations be provided? + +
  18. 18. + Towards the Attention Account of Unity
  19. 19. +  In other work (Watzl 2011, under review), I have argued that the phenomenal contribution of attention is not exhausted by how attention affects appearances (how the world looks, sounds, smells, etc. to the subject).  My central argument was the counterpart argument. Here is a rough restatement:  Attention experiences have appearance replicas that present exactly the same appearances without attention.  The phenomenology of attention experiences is different from their appearance replicas.  So, the phenomenology of attention experiences is not exhausted by appearances.  To capture the missing aspect of phenomenology I have suggested Structuralism. Background
  20. 20. + Attention structures the subject‟s stream of consciousness so that some of its parts are more central than others Structuralism
  21. 21. + Auditory experience of the saxophone Auditory experience of the piano Conscious emotion (anxiety about musical skills) Building Experiences
  22. 22. + + + + Mereology E = e1 + e2 + e3 + … Building Experiences
  23. 23. + Higher attentional priority Structure E = e1 < e2 < e3 <… = experiencing 1 more centrally than 2 ... Building Experiences
  24. 24. + … is peripheral to …(converse: … is more central than …) experience of the piano experience of the saxophone Phenomenal Structure Conscious emotion (anxiety about musical skills)
  25. 25. + PhenomenalQuali ties explained by appearances Phenomenal Structure
  26. 26. + PhenomenalStructure not explainedby appearances Phenomenal Structure
  27. 27. + A holistic feature of conscious experience. Characterizing you complete perspective PhenomenalQuali ties explained by appearances PhenomenalStructure not explainedby appearances Phenomenal Structure
  28. 28. +  What about a form of intentionalism where phenomenal character supervenes on content and attitude (attitude intentionalism)  Two constraints on a proper development of such a view (against Speaks 2010, Pautz 2010, Wu 2011).  Inseparability  looking at something ≠ seeing + attending  attentively thinking about something ≠ thinking + attending  Distribution  (almost) everything in the visual field is attended to some degree. An Atomistic Alternative
  29. 29. + Atomistic AdverbialismAttention (adverbially) modifies experiential attitudes (experiencing x more or less attentively) [Chalmers: think of this as “degrees of experiential presence”]  E = experiencingA=.9 (content) + experiencingA=.2 (content) + ...  The “contents” here can‟t be propositional (since you attend to features, objects, states of affairs and not propositions).  Because of that Atomistic Adverbialism probably will be committed to local holisms (e.g. since you can‟t experience redness without shape)  Atomistic Adverbialism and Structuralism in some ways are close siblings. Their relationship mirrors the one between utilities first views (~ Part-Modification Views) vs. preference rankings first views (Structuralism)  They differ crucially, though, with respect to the questions central to our present topic: structuralism is a holistic theory of (an essential aspect of) the phenomenology of attention; adverbialism is an atomistic theory. Mereological building! An Atomistic Alternative
  30. 30. + Reasons to prefer structuralism over atomistic adverbialism  Fits better with the intuitive contrastive conception of attention on which attending to one thing implies for other things to recede into the background: no absolute levels of conscious attentiveness.  Fits better with what is scientifically known about attentional processing: attentional processing prioritizes one things over others: no absolute levels of attentive processing. An Atomistic Alternative
  31. 31. + Objection  But can‟t attention be split equally between to perceived items or between two tasks? Isn‟t there, in fact, empirical evidence suggesting that, for example, visual attention works quite independently (and hence does not interfere with) auditory attention? (Mole 2010 referring e.g. to Allport, Antonis and Reynolds 1972) Reply  Splits of attention are compatible with structuralism: the topology of attentional structure might be more complex than the “stack model” I used to get the idea started would suggest (see below).What we need is only that some parts of experience are experienced peripherally whenever some are experienced centrally.  Several independent attention systems are also compatible with structuralism, provided that each has the structure I suggested. I will return to the issue about the unity of the attention system below. An Atomistic Alternative
  32. 32. +  Let e 1 > e2 and e 1 > e3. Then e3 is more peripheral than e2 just if e 2 > e3.  Can be applied intermodally as well as intramodally. Some Developments
  33. 33. +  a is the focus of attention in attention scenario α =Def it is not the case that in α there exists an item x such that x a and ex > ea.  e is at the center of a subject‟s mental life in attention scenario α =Def it is not the case that in α there exists a part ex of α such that ex e and ex>e.  not every experience need to have a center/focus. E.g.:  Attention is equally split between a and b in attention scenario α =Def it is not the case that in α: (ea >ebor eb> ea)and for all items x: (if x a and x b then ex > ea and ex >eb) an object, event, property, process, ..a part of experience Some Developments
  34. 34. +  e is at the fringe of a subject‟s mental life in attention scenario α =Def it is not the case that in α there exists a part ex of α such that ex e and e > ex. (the dual of the center)  prob. every mental life has a fringe.  Center and fringe need not differ in appearances (though in most actual cases they will).  Attentional priority is correlated with a variety of effects on appearances (see above). But it does not consist in those effects.  Being central, peripheral or at the fringe are structural (and hence holistic) features of the field of consciousness. One cannot specify what it is to be at the fringe of consciousness without mentioning how one part of experience is related to all the other parts). Some Developments
  35. 35. + The phenomenology of an attentionally structured complex E consisting of parts e1 … eN does not supervene on the monadic phenomenal properties of e1 … eN, but includes phenomenal relations (such as the peripherality relation) between the parts. Phenomenal Entanglement
  36. 36. + An experiential episode E is peripherality connected =Def for all e1 and e2: if e1 is a part of E and e2is a part of E, then there is a peripherality path between e1 and e2. Peripherality connected (though with attention split symmetrically) Not Peripherality connected Peripherality Connectedness
  37. 37. + Let‟s call an experiential episode that is peripherality connected an attention system. One attention system Two attention systems Attention Systems
  38. 38. + Sufficiency If e1 … eN form an attention system, then e1 … eN are phenomenally unified.  Why? If e1 …eN form an attention system, then there is a phenomenal episode E = {e1 …eN}> such that what it is like to undergo E and e1 (same for e2 …eN) is what it is like to undergo E.  For example: E = experiencing the background peripherally to both piano and saxophone. Sufficiency
  39. 39. +  If we also had the following, we would have a substantial account of the unity of consciousness. ? Necessity e1 … eN are phenomenally unified, only ife1 … eNform an attention system.  Note:  In the Jazz example, the piano is experienced as accompanying the saxophone and hence relevant to it (it‟s experience is thematically unified with the experience of the saxophone). Thematic Unity is obviously not necessary for phenomenal unity. But thematic unity is also not required for forming an attention system. A background experience might be peripheral to a foreground experience and yet completely irrelevant to it. Necessity?
  40. 40. + ? The Attention Account of Unity e1 … eN are phenomenally unified iff (and because) e1 … eN form an attention system. The Attention Account of Unity
  41. 41. +  The attention account of unity is compatible both with the unity thesis, the restricted unity thesis and the disunity thesis  Given the attention account of unity, which of these thesis is true will depend on whether subjects necessarily,in almost all non-pathological cases, or hardly ever have a unified attention system. The Attention Account of Unity
  42. 42. + Holism
  43. 43. + Holism? Before we answer whether forming an attentional system is necessary for phenomenal unity, let‟s ask some questions about those attentional systems. In particular, I want us to look at the following interconnected set of questions:  Is (some form of) phenomenal holism true of attentional systems?  How should we think of the peripherality relation and what it relates (is peripherality an internal or an external relation)?  Would the parts be conscious experiences, if they would not be not part of some attentional system?
  44. 44. + Holism? Phenomenal Holism (Lee) The experiential parts exist in virtue of the experiential whole.  Phenomenal Holism arguably implies: Modal Dependence Necessarily, the parts exist only if the whole exists.  Notes:  As Lee notes, the parts (and the whole) here need to be understood as particular token events, not as types (a blue experience, the type, of course can exist without being part of the specific whole of which it is actually a part).
  45. 45. + Holism? So we should ask  Do the parts of an attention system exist in virtue of the attention system existing? The “Experiential Arithmetic” Conception (term by J. Campbell) Attentional Systems = Experiences plus Structure. Subjects have experiences, and then attention adds (more) structure between them.  On this conception, the answer is pretty clearly: no. Peripherality relations are external relations. Their holding is not essential for the parts of such systems to be what they are.  The experiential arithmetic conception, though, is not required and indeed it is not very plausible. Just to get us started:  Phenomenally, it seems plausible to say that it is essential to that experience of the piano that it was peripheral.
  46. 46. + Holism? Phenomenally:  Quite appealing to say that the parts of an attention episodes would have been different experiences in a different attention system (even though, of course, those other experiences would have instantiated the same phenomenal qualities). [see also Chudnoffon Gurwitsch]  This is, I think, a substantial point: the holding of these phenomenal relations makes a difference to what each part is like.
  47. 47. + Holism? Content Atomism and Consciousness Holism  Lee discusses views that separate the specific contents of an experience from the fact that this experience is conscious. Higher-order-representation theories, obviously, are of that kind.  In such cases, Lee suggests, the contents of consciousness (e.g. color, shape, etc.) might be atomistic properties, while fact that they are consciously experienced might primarily be a property of the whole (and only derivatively a property of the parts).  If attentional processes are “what brings a stimulus to consciousness” (Mack and Rock) and if they do so (in part) by creating attentional structure, then we might here have a plausibly version of a view of this kind: contents are not conscious unless attention captures them.  See also Prinz on Co-attention, phase-locked firing and neural resonance.
  48. 48. + Holism? The Systems First Conception The neural systems that realize attention systems and those that make suitable neural representations conscious are the same systems.  Can allow unconscious attention if certain representations aren‟t suitable.  Evidence (just the evidence that is discussed as evidence for attention being necessary for consciousness):  Hemi-neglect: a neurological disorder where attention is unable to reach into one hemifield: neural representations of that hemi-field, though otherwise suitable, seize to be conscious (consciousness can be recovered if a salient stimulus draws some attention to that hemi-field).  Subjects tend to seize to be conscious of stimuli as their attention is withdrawn (see Cohen et al. 2012)
  49. 49. + Holism! Summary:  It is phenomenally plausible that their place in an attention system is part of the nature of the parts of that system.  It is scientifically plausible that the neural structures that realize attention systems and those that realize consciousness are the same structures.  Given that, it is plausible that holism is true of attention systems.
  50. 50. + Is Attention Unified (When Experience is)?
  51. 51. +  We don‟t yet know how big the attention systems are:  If they are as big as phenomenally unified experiences, then the attention account of unity is plausible. How “big” are attention systems?
  52. 52. +  What drives the intuition that spatially or attitude-ionally disconnected experiences are nevertheless phenomenally unified:  Bayne (an others): subsumed by a single “phenomenal perspective”  I “get” the intuition when I think of phenomenal perspectives in terms of focus and periphery (as attention systems): when I focus on the visual world in front of me, my conscious thoughts, emotions, action-awareness recede into the background. When I focus on my conscious thoughts, the visual world recedes into the background. Intuitive Considerations
  53. 53. +  Attention systems have the intuitive characteristic of a perspective:  They have foreground and background.  They have boundaries (the “fringe”)  Very natural to say of two people who focus on different things or in different ways as having different “outlooks” or perspectives. Intuitive Considerations
  54. 54. +  Do we “get” the idea of a single phenomenal perspective, if we imagine not just spatially disconnected experiences, but experiences that do not form a single attention system? Suppose that you focus hard on consciously planning how to balance the various parts of your life over the next weeks: friends, family, work, spare time activities. At the same time you also focus intensely on the visual world in front of you. Objects there capture your attention, you are as vividly aware of them as you can be. Yet that has no effect on the intensity of your planning thoughts. Not just do both of these activities go smoothly, but they both are – completely unrelated – foregrounds of your awareness.  I submit not to get the intuition of a unified phenomenal perspective in such a scenario. If this were how things are, I would think of two streams of consciousness within a single subject. Thought Experiment
  55. 55. +  Do split-brain patients have unified or dis-unified streams of consciousness?  I won‟t attempt to answer this question!My interest rather: which considerations bear crucially on answering this question. Split Brains
  56. 56. +  Bayne, Levy, Gazzaniga, etc.:  „Attention remains largely integrated in the split-brain patient‟ (Gazzaniga 1987), hence split brain patients have a unified stream of consciousness.  „Inter-hemispheric activation will march in step with changes in the subject‟s attentional focus‟ (Bayne 2009, p. 294)  Attentional disunity in the split-brain would provide strong evidence for phenomenal disunity (cf. Bayne 2012, p. 215)  Suggestion: attentional disunity is strong evidence for phenomenal disunity because it is constitutive of it. Split Brains
  57. 57. +  Some data have been taken to suggest that the neural attention systems aren‟t very well unified.  On the basis of such data and commitment to something close to the attention account of unity, Prinz 2012 suggests the phenomenal disunity of consciousness.  But the same data and commitment to (at least) the restricted unity thesis might be used to undermine the attention account of unity. How Unified is Attention?
  58. 58. +  Two types of questions:  Is attention a unified kind? Or is “attention” rather a label for a number of fundamentally disunified phenomena?  Do all so-called attention-paradigms in the empirical literature study a single phenomenon?  Unified Kind Question  Is there a single “resource” shared by all “attention-demanding” tasks?  Is attention in X independent from attention in Y (where X and Y: visual and auditory modality; left and right hemisphere; tasks that rely on distinct neural architecture)?  Unified Systems Question How Unified is Attention?
  59. 59. +  The unified kind question is, in a sense, more fundamental:  If attention is not a unified kind, then the question about the unity of attention systems cannot even be coherently formulated globally: we will first have to specify which phenomenon we are discussing before we can ask whether there is one or several independent systems with respect to that phenomenon.  In another sense, though, a complete answer to the unified kind question might not be necessary for the purposes of today‟s discussion:  As long as there is one phenomenon that matters for conscious experience in the way I have suggested, it would not matter if there are also phenomena labeled “attention” that have nothing to do with it.  Might take structuralism as providing an account of what the unified phenomenon is. The Unified Kind Question
  60. 60. +  The unified systems question is what matters most directly for present concerns. Some evidence suggesting dis-unified attentions systems:  Between the Hemispheres: Alvarez and Cavanagh 2005 for multiple object tracking.  Not observed in other attention demanding tasks like visual search (Luck et al. 1989). Specific to multi-focal spatial attention (Alvarez et al. 2012).  Data most consistent with a single attention system whose specific shape and capacity shows hemispheric dependence (dividing attention between the hemispheres makes local spatial suppression easier, but not visual search) The Unified Systems Question Alvarez et al. 2012 Alvarez and Cavanagh 2005
  61. 61. +  Between audition and vision: Allport et al. 1972 “Disproof of the single channel hypothesis”: performance in Auditory Speech Shadowing does not interfere with performance in Sight-reading of piano music.  A lot of work on crossmodal interference (e.g. crossmodalstroop task) certainly undermines the idea that there is one auditory and one visual attention system.  The view with the strongest support seems to be that there are brain regions (e.g. anterior cingulate cortex) dedicated to monitoring for conflict between a variety of systems and biasing competition in line with task demands and goals. Arguably just part of a single attention system.  Data (again) most consistent with a single attention system whose specific shape and capacity shows dependence on the systems it is engaged with (dividing attention between modalities e.g. makes stimulus detection easier, but not identification. See e.g. Bonnel and Hafter 1998) The Unified Systems Question
  62. 62. +  Intuitive and scientific support for the attention account of unity.  No clear evidence for disconnected attention systems.  [Design argument for a single attention system. See e.g. Allport 1984, Neumann 1984] Summary
  63. 63. + The End

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