Gilbert Wesley Purdy, May 19, 2010
I intend here to forward a Theory of Consciousness. The first step in developing this theory will invert the approach generally used to this point. Attempts to this point have generally begun with intuitions of limited scope checked against the brain’s processing of sensory data, or against widely acknowledged qualia (what we collectively acknowledge is felt by us as conscious beings, such as a “sense of self”), and have tried to piece together, in this way, some preliminary picture of consciousness. I submit that this approach makes unacknowledged assumptions about consciousness, assumptions which, being incorrect, have led to misinterpretation of data.
It is true that, while the aforementioned attempts have gone under the banner of Theory of Consciousness, they have clearly been attempts to comprehend only certain aspects of consciousness. Nevertheless, lacking a nominal definition of “Consciousness” to provide a touchstone against which to compare experimental results and/or deductions inevitably a provides great deal of data and very little effective interpretation. I submit that, without a definition of Consciousness this situation promises to continue for a very long time.
The following, then, is an attempt to recount the process I have followed in order to arrive at a predicative nominal definition of Consciousness which will allow one to discriminate what is and is not specifically in the realm of Consciousness with a considerable and increasing degree of precision. I have since had many occasions to test this definition against the results of formal experiments undertaken by others, and less formal observations by myself and others, and the results seem almost uniformly to support the definition.
I intend, then, to provide a predicative nominal definition of Consciousness-qua-Consciousness in order to provide a viable touchstone against which to interpret data. I intend to do this beginning with seven simple axiomatic truths:
1. Reflexive neural action exists
2. Reflexive neural action resides entirely in proto-brains and/or in neural networks
3. Instinct exists
4. All brains exhibit instinct
5. Some or all of instinct resides in the brain
6. Consciousness exists
7. Some or all of consciousness resides in the brain
I will combine these axioms with a reformed-Macleanian overview of the evolution of the brain [Maclean, 1990], and, in particular, the morphologically normal human brain. By “normal,” I refer to a human brain with all brain areas and interconnections intact, of appropriate weight, orientation, and neuronal density, orientation and function, as determined by valid statistical methods.
While Maclean’s theory of human brain evolution has been shown to be too simplistic to satisfy the data since generated by experiments and observations in the field of neurology, the base concept remains intact. It is widely acknowledged that the layers of the human brain, upward and outward from the brain stem, represent a temporal evolutionary progress arriving at the brain’s present state in human beings.