The anatomy of consciousness
Last week I said that a mind is first and foremost subjective. But I also stated implicitly that subjectivity is not enough of an explanation for what a mind is.
Consciousness is the second of the four defining properties of a mind. In order for something to have a mind, as well as subjectivity, it must be sentient; it must be able to feel to be conscious.
Next we need an objective criterion for determining whether a being is capable of consciousness.
Scientific approaches aim to be entirely objective and consequently exclude consideration of subjective things. I am looking to the brain in order to ascertain the existence of a mind but I am not reducing the mind to the brain. I use the term neuropsychoanalysis, to emphasise that I’m speaking about a combination of brain science with subjective experience.
So, how do we find an objective criterion for determining consciousness? One approach is to correlate mental and bodily states to understand the functions of different brain mechanisms. Finding the part of the brain that correlates with the subjective experience of feeling something enables us to identify the part of the brain that is necessary for consciousness. This allows us to do ordinary scientific experiments, using this objective criterion for determining whether another being is conscious or not. The part of the brain that is responsible for consciousness is the extended reticular activating system - and all vertebrates have this part of the brain.
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