The Hidden Spring: A Journey to the Source of Consciousness

External Event - 30th Nov 2021

Time: 4pm - 5.30pm (GMT)

Online Event


I will start by rehearsing the critique by Chalmers and others of the functionalist approach to consciousness. Then I will argue that although this critique may hold for cognitive functions like memory and perception – which are not intrinsically conscious processes – it doesn’t hold for the affective function of feeling. How can you explain the function of feeling without accounting for its subjective phenomenology? Then I will argue that feeling is generated not by the cortex but by the brainstem structures that modulate cortical processes and thereby render them conscious. In other words, I will argue that cortical (cognitive) consciousness is contingent upon brainstem (affective) arousal. In this sense, cortical consciousness is secondary, a derivative of brainstem processes. I will close with some reflections on the implications of this conclusion for our understanding of the fundamental nature of consciousness.

Speaker: Dr Mark Solms

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