Cosmopsychism and Consciousness Research: A Fresh View on the Causal Mechanisms...

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Cosmopsychism and Consciousness Research: A Fresh View on the Causal Mechanisms Underlying Phenomenal States

Joachim Keppler, Itay Shani


Quote:Despite the progress made in studying the observable exteriors of conscious processes, which are reflected in the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC), there are still no satisfactory answers to two closely related core questions. These are the question of the origin of the subjective, phenomenal aspects of consciousness, and the question of the causal mechanisms underlying the generation of specific phenomenal states. In this article, we address these questions using a novel variant of cosmopsychism, a holistic form of panpsychism relying on the central idea that the universe is imbued with a ubiquitous field of consciousness (UFC). This field is understood as a foundational dual-aspect component of the cosmos, the extrinsic appearance of which is physical in nature and the intrinsic manifestation of which is phenomenological in nature. We argue that this approach brings a new perspective into play, according to which the organizational characteristics of the NCC are indicative of the brain’s interaction with and modulation of the UFC. Key insights from modern physics suggest that the modulation mechanism is identical with the fundamental mechanism underlying quantum systems, resulting in the conclusion that a coherently oscillating neural cell assembly acquires phenomenal properties by tapping into the universal pool of phenomenal nuances predetermined by the UFC, or more specifically, by entering into a temporary liaison with the UFC and extracting a subset of phenomenal tones from the phenomenal color palette inherent in the basic structure of the UFC. This hypothesis is supported by a substantial body of empirical evidence.



Quote:...Consider now the restriction of the spectrum of possible causal mechanisms underlying macro-scale phenomenal consciousness. One sense in which cerebral chauvinism is ill-advised is evinced in the accumulation of evidence suggesting that the bounds of consciousness in the living world may far exceed cranial circumscription. To begin with, some highly intelligent creatures such as octopuses and other cephalopods are endowed with large neural ganglia on their arms, supporting sophisticated forms of sensing and moving with significant degree of autonomy from the octopus’ brain (Hanlon and Messenger, 1996; Godfrey-Smith, 2013). More radically still, there is growing evidence for the existence of complex behavior in organisms lacking brains altogether. An intriguingly broad array of cognitive abilities is being progressively unveiled in simple eukaryotes, prokaryotes, and plants. Variegated forms of perception and behavioral plasticity, information processing, anticipation, memory, learning, valence, problem solving, communication, and cooperation are attributed to various brainless organisms from slime molds (Nakagaki et al., 2000; Reid et al., 2012), to bacteria (Ben-Jacob et al., 2006; Lyon, 2015), to plants (Trewavas, 2014; Gagliano, 2017).

In congruence with such studies, there is also a growing tendency to view neuronal networks as but one special case (albeit particularly powerful) of a general network dynamics whose fundamental principles are exemplified throughout the entire spectrum of biological life (Lyon, 2015; Baluŝka and Levin, 2016). In other words, many cognitive functions which in creatures such as Macaque monkeys, bees, or humans, are mediated through cerebral activity appear to be manifest, to some degree, in different forms of life (such as plants, slime molds, or bacteria) using alternative types of informational networks: be it methylation DNA networks, root systems, cytoskeletal elements, non-neural bioelectricity, calcium signaling, and so on...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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Cosmopsychism and Consciousness Research: A Fresh View on the Causal Mechanisms...
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