Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology Research

Elementary Sensation Primacy Creating a First to Third Person Gap of Consciousness

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology Research

Elementary Sensation Primacy Creating a First to Third Person Gap of Consciousness

Article excerpt


Consciousness leads to the unsolved "hard problem" of determining the origin of conscious experience (Chalmers 1995). On one hand, it is considered as an absolute, for everybody self-evident entity, which "can by no means be reduced to structure," so that "consciousness is and remains methodologically primary" (Bitbol 2008, p.69). On the other hand, it has to be brought into relation with biophysical matter, since its evolution and functions depend on a healthy brain. Consciousness, as the starting point for the objectification process, has primacy; therefore, Varela suggested a new stance by "embedding phenomenological reports and objective findings within a unique structure" (Bitbol 2008, p.70).

Chalmers (1995) described two different types of brain-consciousness problems, defining them as soft and hard. The soft problem could be solved more easily and pertains to functions such as discrimination, categorization, information integration, access to one's internal states and distinction between wakefulness and sleep. The hard problem is linked to states of conscious experience dependent on perception through different sensory organs, which lead to qualia in consciousness, such as the experience of redness, hearing the sound of an instrument, or smelling a rose (Jackson 1982). As Levine (1983) explained, there is an explanatory gap between subjective experience and brain functions when elucidated via neurobiological processes. The physicist Zeh (1998) confirmed presence of such a gap, since perceived color is not a property of physical light. Therefore, it remains incomprehensible how and why physical wavelengths induce the subjective experience of the color red.

Consciousness can be explored from an introspective first-person view, as well as from a neurobiological third-person view. Philosophically, Chalmers (1995) discriminated two states of consciousness-a more cognitive state with general awareness corresponding to the soft problems and a phenomenal state represented by the experience of perception, defined as the hard problem.

In this article, existence of a special type of "elementary sensation" is proposed, which induces the same properties as the subjective experience of phenomenological consciousness does (Jansen 2014). Elementary sensation corresponds to the interaction of the physical environment with the corresponding sense organs, whereby the neurological signal is transmitted to specialized brain regions, resulting in a sensation that appears to be primary, intense, unchangeable and incommunicable. Conversely, memory imagery derived from elementary sensation is secondary, faint, modifiable, and communicable. Neutral reflection allows objectification to concepts and structural relations. Since elementary sensation is incommunicable to third persons, it creates a first-to-third person gap in consciousness. For each mental function, the different phenomenological qualia correlate with a different location of the brain regions involved in the process. Thus, the phenomenal gap between global perception and memory imagery on the one side and neutral reflection on the other might explain the hard problem by different interconnections of the corresponding brain regions.

2.The Main Mental Functions

Mental activity allows the acquisition of human knowledge on extra-mental reality by a continuous process following three main mental functions, commencing with (I) global perception proceeding to (II) memory imagery and culminating in (III) neutral reflection. The function of global perception can be further subdivided into elementary sensation (Jansen 2014) and stimulated reminiscence that complements it (Figure 1). Elementary sensation is physical bottom-up information transfer from the sense organs to the brain. It is characterized by a chain of uninterrupted physical interactions, such as photons reflected from outside objects entering the eye and depolarizing nerve cells in the retina. …

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