Keywords: consciousness, awareness, mind-brain problem, mind-body problem, attention, selective attention, criteria for consciousness, waking, unconsciousness, neural correlates of consciousness, animal consciousness



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keywords: consciousness, awareness, mind-brain problem, mind-body problem, attention, selective attention, criteria for consciousness, waking, unconsciousness, neural correlates of consciousness, animal consciousness.

Beyond the mind-body problem:
Seven testable criteria for consciousness.

There is no more important quest in the whole of science probably than the

attempt to understand those very particular events in evolution by which

brains worked out that special trick that enabled them to add to the cosmic

scheme of things: colour, sound, pain, pleasure, and all the other facets of

mental experience.
--- Roger Sperry (1968, p. 723)

Bernard J. Baars (*)

The Neurosciences Institute

10640 John Jay Hopkins Drive

San Diego, Calif. 92121

baars@nsi.edu, 1-858-626-2000

Abstract

Many recent brain findings are said to relate to consciousness, but controversy and uncertainty persist about consciousness in fields like memory, attention and perception. One difficulty is that many scientists seem to believe that consciousness as a scientific problem requires a solution to the metaphysical mind-body problem. Instead, this paper suggests a set of seven practical, testable criteria for evidence about consciousness. The criteria are inductive and deliberately side-step philosophical debates. They sketch a path toward understanding consciousness without first overcoming mind-body puzzles.

Taken together, the seven criteria set a high threshold for the validation of brain events underlying consciousness. They imply that consciousness involves a distinctive operating mode of the brain with its own functional architecture (e.g. Baars, 1988, 1993, 1998; Edelman, 1989; Tononi & Edelman, 1998). The criteria point to a core brain anatomy and physiology for sensory consciousness, going back at least 100 million years to early mammals. A key question is how to integrate local neuronal events that can be shown to underlie conscious contents with evidence for their global brain influences. The evidence today shows no support for the "gap" that is often said to exist between the brain and subjective aspects of consciousness.




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