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Philosophy of Consciousness | Philosophy of Consciousness

Infographic – Hierarchical Construct Theory

As a primary task it should not be difficult to promote the thesis that understanding how and why consciousness emerged entails understanding the evolution of a hierarchy of systems-constructs. Why? If not irrefutable, it is at least commonly held that:

i) systems can be self-organising and self-sustaining; ii) over the evolutionary history of the universe, systems-structures have increased in complexity and sophistication; and iii) while there has evolved physical complexities, so too has there evolved (on earth at least) increasingly sophisticated characteristics that we broadly associate with consciousness.

All things being equal, the three points above require us to take Read on. . .

Intentionality and non-mental representation – Michael Tye’s Ten Problems of Consciousness

William Lycan‘s (2008) introductory statement on intentionality for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy begins as follows:

Intentionality is the power of minds to be about, to represent, or to stand for, properties and states of affairs” (Representational Theories of Consciousness, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

It is generally the assumption that the defining attribution of intentionality is its relation to mental phenomena. Michael Tye’s position on intentionality is consistent with this assumption. But Tye qualifies his stance as ‘unorthodox’, distinguishing it from that of Colin McGinn (1982 – The Character of Mind), John Searle (1983 – Intentionality), and Ned Block Read on. . .

Intentional States – John Searle vs Mother Nature

John Searle’s book entitled ‘Intentionality’ could otherwise be entitled ‘The principles and conditional characteristics of conceptual representation’. I say this because his irreducible stance on Intentionality is tightly restricted to and fixated on conceptually confined modes of analysis of mental representation expressible as a function within a “circle of Intentional concepts”.

there is no nonintentional standpoint from which we can survey the relations between Intentional states and their conditions of satisfaction. Any analysis must take place from within the circle of Intentional concepts. p.79

Outside of this “circle of Intentional concepts” which he calls “the Network”, all other components of Read on. . .

Intentional Stance: Dennett’s 1 vital error is Searle’s 1 critical omission

Through impartial analysis of Daniel Dennett’s ‘The Intentional Stance’ (1987), I identify several inconsistencies in his position on intentionality. Then, I reveal a fatal flaw in the stance, but rather than throw the baby out with the bath water, make some suggestions as to how failings can be redressed. For ease of referencing, quotations have been colour coded to help identify their source. There are 3 main parts to this article. Sections 1 to 6 are a series of detailed analyses with figurative illustrations that are intended to identify, what might be called, a creeping augmentation of meaning. Sections 7 Read on. . .

Michael Tye on Do fish have feelings?

Michael Tye is of the view that the problem as to whether fish have feelings or not, is best addressed epistemically than metaphysically. At his lecture at King’s College London yesterday entitled ‘Do fish have feelings?’, he compiled and appraised the available empirical research and made his important conclusions. I would have preferred him to merely assert that science has demonstrated fear, anxiety and pain responses in many species of fish – both reactive behaviours and adapting responsive behaviours – and then to have moved swiftly on by exploring philosophical questions such as, ‘do these fear, anxiety, and pain responses Read on. . .

Aesthetics, Afferent Processing Mechanisms, and the Categories of Conflation

There is an aspect to aesthetics that takes it beyond the bounds of coherent conceptual analysis. It shares this characteristic with consciousness itself. There is something about aesthetic experience that evades objective study and yet it is immediately accessible and experienced by all – Nobody needs to be taught what it is to appreciate or sense pleasure in things or to understand the apportioning of ‘beauty’ to certain objects of experience. The sense of the aesthetic seems to emerge, as does consciousness, without fail and without any prompting or training for all human individuals.

What is the intrinsic nature of Read on. . .

Dynamics in Action by Alicia Juarrero: Hermeneutic Wholes?

Section 1 of 4 – Ali the particle physicist: “covering-laws” and the hermeneutic approach

Consider Ali, the particle physicist. Unlike a physicist in the real world, he has no concept of the contained entity we call “the atom”. Imagine that Ali has identified and interpreted the dynamic interactive characteristics of subatomic particles, and yet still knows nothing of the existence of atoms. He informs us that these previously unknown mechanisms underlying subatomic dynamics are very complex. Despite having no knowledge of the atom, he is able to deduce that things called “atoms” might exist under certain specific dynamic subatomic arrangements. Read on. . .

Terrence Deacon’s Incomplete Nature – Identifying the thermodynamic homunculus

1. Intro – Incomplete Nature is Deacon’s Hierarchical Systems Model

Although not explicitly expressed as such, Terrence Deacon’s ‘Incomplete Nature’ is a hierarchical model for explaining, through emergent process, how mind arises from matter. Deacon states,

Our ultimate scientific challenge is to precisely characterize this geometry of dynamical forms which leads from thermodynamic processes to living and mental processes, and to explain their dependency relationships with respect to one another. p.44 [in other words to identify forms of dynamic processes and show how they relate hierarchically]

At some point in this hierarchy, the causal dynamics of teleological processes do indeed Read on. . .

What is knowledge? – Answers by Edna the alien and Massimo Pigliucci

What is knowledge? Knowledge can be defined as a type of information construct that has evolved from a reflective discourse with the environment such that it enables the extension of that construct’s temporal existence through its functions and actions. Consequently, knowledge is not limited by mental activity – It is not the preserve of human thinking, neural mechanisms, intelligence, or understanding.

[Read this post, ‘What is Knowledge?‘ as a pdf Read the ‘Edna the Alien’ thought experiment as a pdf Read the “What is Knowledge” dialogue between Mark Pharoah and Massimo Pigliucci as a pdf]

In contrast, this is what Read on. . .

The Hierarchical Theory of Moral Philosophy and how it relates to Efferent Neural Information Processing

Abstract: Hierarchical Systems Theory dictates a particular theory of moral philosophy. This hierarchical moral philosophy provides a link with the evolution of efferent information processing. In other words, the key to this theory of moral philosophy is in the proposition that connects morality with those neural mechanisms and processes that assimilate, evaluate and determine behavioural action – there is an hierarchical structure to an evaluative process ranging from innate behavioural needs to conceptually grounded ideologies, which in their totality, come to determine what actions are best suited to what purpose.

Read ‘The Hierarchical Theory of Moral Philosophy and how Read on. . .

Hierarchical Construct Theory vs Dispositional Higher-Order Thought theory of consciousness

ABSTRACT: Through the utilization of a descriptive illustration and detailed referencing of Carruthers (2000 – Phenomenal Consciousness), a comparison of Hierarchical Construct theory (2007 – On the Origins of Life, Consciousness, and Personal Identity) with Dispositional Higher-Order Thought theory of consciousness identifies and reinforces their complementary status. However, this also determines some key distinctions, particularly with regard to the conclusions each make regarding the mentality of animals and the autistic, and regarding the moral consequences of these conclusions. Read ‘Hierarchical Construct Theory vs Dispositional Higher-Order Thought theory of consciousness’ as a PDF

Hierarchical Construct theory (HC theory) (Pharoah, 2007) and Read on. . .

Phenomenal vs Noumenal Consciousness and the problem of Personal Identity

If there is Phenomenon of conscious experience, what could Noumenal Consciousness be?

ABSTRACT: The phenomenon of our experience is the property we identify as consciousness, which is why a reductive explanation of phenomenal experience would seem to explain consciousness – Indeed, Chalmers (1995) has described the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ as the problem of experience. However, the specificity of our conscious identity as distinct from conscious experience in general, tells us that following a reductive explanation of phenomenal experience, questions must remain regarding personal identity and why each of us happen to be the individual we are, rather than anyone Read on. . .

The Emergence & the Evolution of Consciousness – Hierarchical Construct Theory

ABSTRACT: This philosophy article provides a reductive explanation of ‘phenomenal experience’ and in doing so, provides an explanation for the emergence and evolution of human consciousness. The explanation demonstrates compliance with philosophical criteria. It does this by describing and explaining the relationship between a hierarchy of complex constructs. In doing so, it closely relates the development of emergent mind states to the evolution of biological structure and behaviour. The article focuses on those aspects of the reductive explanation that provide insight into unique human characteristics, specifically in relation to social behaviours, emotion, the philosophy of language, and creativity. Finally, the Read on. . .


Alexander, S. (1920). Space, Time, and Deity. London: Macmillan.

Armstrong, D. (1968). A Materialist Theory of the Mind. London: Routledge.

Armstrong, D. (1984). Consciousness and causality. In D. Armstrong & N. Malcolm (Eds.), Consciousness and Causality (pp. 103-191). Oxford: Blackwell.

Barab, S., Cherkes-Julkowski, M., Swenson, R., Garrett, S., Shaw, R.E., & Young, M. (1999). Principles of self-organization: Learning as participation in autocatakinetic systems. The Journal of Learning Sciences, 8, 349-390.

Bateson, M. (2002). Context-dependent foraging choices in risk-sensitive starlings. Animal Behaviour, 64, 251-260.

Batterman, R (2001). The Devil in the Details: Asymptotic Reasoning in Explanation, Reduction, and Emergence. Oxford: Oxford Read on. . .