Date of Degree

2-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Philosophy

Advisor

Jesse Prinz

Committee Members

Samir Chopra

Angelica Nuzzo

Dena Shottenkirk

Subject Categories

Philosophy of Mind

Keywords

phenomenal consciousness, access consciousness, attention, quantum information, Bayesian, mechanism

Abstract

In this dissertation I defend a theory of perceptual consciousness titled “Quantum Uncertainty Reduction” (QUR[1]) Theory of Attended Access and Phenomenal Consciousness.” Consciousness is widely perceived as a phenomenon that poses a special explanatory problem for science. The problem arises in the apparent rift between an immediate first-person acquaintance with consciousness and our lack of ability to provide an objective/scientific third-person characterization of consciousness.

I begin by reviewing philosophical ideas of Ned Block, David Chalmers and Jesse Prinz whose characterizations of consciousness provide a conceptual framework that the proposed theory aims to satisfy. Block and Chalmers argue that consciousness is a mongrel concept combining two distinct aspects: access and phenomenal consciousness, while Jesse Prinz’s argues for the central role of attention in engendering consciousness.

Since the proposed solution is an aspect of quantum information processing in a mechanism, I discuss and adopt methodological approach of the use of mechanisms in scientific explanations developed by William Bechtel, Carl Craver and others. I outline a mechanism based on Shannon Communication System and enhanced with Bayesian predictive processing developed by Carl Friston, Jacob Hohwy, and Andy Clark as well as Control Theory by Rick Grush. Based on views of Marcin Miłkowski, Gualtiero Piccinini and others on information processing in physical systems, I argue that the suggested mechanism implements physical information processing or computation.

After a brief overview of relevant aspects of quantum theory, I review recent developments that aim to reconstruct quantum theory by using epistemic approach to explain the nature of quantum states vs. the traditional ontic one. I adopt the epistemic approach and argue that by performing a functional analysis of physical computation in the suggested mechanism we can identify a certain process as involving processing/manipulation of quantum and classical information. I further suggest that the central aspect of the process, namely, quantum uncertainty reduction gives rise to qualitative properties of phenomenal and access consciousness.

Further, I compare the suggested information processing formulation of Access and Phenomenal consciousness with those of Block and Chalmers, that are, correspondingly, non-functional and non-physical. I argue that my conceptualization is preferable since it gives a functional and physical account of phenomenal and access consciousness while accommodating thought experiments that Block and Chalmers use to argue for their views on consciousness. Finally, while largely agreeing with the where and when of consciousness of Prinz’s AIR (Attended Intermediate Representations) theory of consciousness, QUR theory offers new arguments for an extended where and more nuanced when of phenomenal consciousness.

[1] Pronounced as “cure.”

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