The Tripartite Model Of Consciousness

Last Thursday we made what I felt were some necessary emendations to the cerebro-centric consciousness hypothesis (CCH). Today we’ll do the same for its primary competitor.

By consciousness I refer to a base set of abilities, including but not limited to expression, intuition, volition, emotion, and intellect. Here we introduced the CCH’s primary competitor as the immaterial consciousness hypothesis, with the basic premise being that consciousness can exist outside of a physical body. After much thought, I’ve decided to do away with that name in favor of the tripartite model of consciousness (TMC), with the basic premise being that consciousness is not an exclusively biological or cerebro-centric phenomenon. Under the TMC, three distinct yet overlapping elements merge to create human consciousness: spirit, soul, and body.

Unlike the CCH which states that everything related to consciousness emanates from the brain, the TMC states that spirit, soul and body each play their respective roles in human consciousness. As the light emitted by a lightbulb can be altered either by interrupting the current or damaging the bulb, perturbations in either spirit or body likewise alter soulical expression. Under the CCH, the brain bears resemblance to an unmoved mover of sorts, in that all activity is purported to proceed from it. Under the TMC, the brain remains an integral part of the equation, but assumes a more symbiotic or integrative function in the overall picture.

I believe this formulation accomplishes everything the previous immaterial consciousness hypothesis was intended to accomplish, with the added benefits of beginning without the assumption that consciousness is immaterial, not to mention superior compatibility with the Bible.

The TMC is actually the first idea I offered in response to Ebonmuse’s A Ghost in the Machine (AGITM):

Under the tripartite model, soul is the product of the union between spirit and body, and perturbations in either spirit or body can and often do lead to perturbations of soul. As the light needs both a conduit and an impetus to shine, a human needs both a body and spirit to have soul. Electricity (spirit) needs scaffolding (body) through which it can flow to produce any singular instance along the spectrum of electromagnetic energy we call light (soul). Also, light (soul) can either extinguish via damage to the scaffolding (body) through which electricity (spirit) flows, and equally when electricity (spirit) is disconnected from the scaffolding (body). cl, The Biblical Distinction Between Soul & Spirit

I can often hear objections from skeptics while I write. This is good, as we must also ruthlessly examine the TMC for any inherent disadvantages. No hypothesis is without them. I fully expect atheists and skeptics to object more strongly to the TMC than traditional Cartesian dualism. After all, their chief complaint about Cartesian dualism is that it adds what they merely assert to be an unnecessary component into the explanation of consciousness, so their initial reaction will likely be that this tripartite model adds even another unnecessary component. We will address this when we return to the biblical distinctions between soul and spirit in greater detail.

The ability to cast useful predictions is perhaps the litmus test of all hypotheses. Historically, the CCH has produced testable predictions galore, such that going into them would be an unnecessary review. The journals abound with published papers from the fields of neurology, and Ebonmuse’s AGITM covers the CCH’s base predictions in extensive detail, strongly supporting them with empirical evidence (for example the case of Phineas Gage). Ebonmuse really did an excellent job in supporting the CCH (specifically the sCCH) with empirical evidence; where I submit that he’s failed is in the blatantly selective presentation of said evidence. Not one paragraph of AGITM devotes itself to an honest evaluation of anomalous evidence. IOW, anything that would seemingly falsify the sCCH is completely ignored. Hence my work in this direction.

Though different in the range of phenomena each are willing to permit, both the strong cerebro-centric hypothesis (sCCH) and the weak cerebro-centric hypothesis (wCCH) ultimately posit that consciousness and the full sum of mental phenomena that come with it are biological phenomena. This means they are products of biology, which means by extension that consciousness cannot exist outside of a biological component. As a general predictive starting point, I submit that even a single instance of consciousness existing outside a body effectively falsifies both versions of the CCH. If you disagree — that is, if you think an instance of non-embodied consciousness would not falsify both versions of the CCH — by all means, please speak up.

If anybody would like to offer their own predictions for the sCCH, wCCH or TMC, feel free. If not, now that we’ve finally hit the point where I think the competitors are ready to start slugging it out, the focus will turn to evaluating some real-world case studies to see which hypothes(es) they prefer.

 

9 Comments

  1. Steve Bowen says:

    that is, if you think an instance of non-embodied consciousness would not falsify both versions of the CCH — by all means, please speak up.

    If repeatable, I’m sure it would falsify the CCH hypothesis. Do you have a verified, repeatable instance of such?

  2. cl says:

    Do you have a verified, repeatable instance of such?

    By all means, stay tuned. If you don’t mind, what I’m interested in hearing from you at the moment is, are you only willing to believe in that which can be repeated? I presume the answer is “no,” which means I’ll need a more detailed explanation of your epistemological position.

  3. Steve Bowen says:

    Well if the example cannot be repeated I would say that it either falls into the category of anecedote or mis-interpretation of the data. Some might say “miracle” was also a possibility but that is question begging.Epistemologically I don’t accept gnostic explanations either, because they are not falsifiable. Also if an example is not repeatable, at least in theory how do you verify it?

  4. cl says:

    Well if the example cannot be repeated I would say that it either falls into the category of anecedote or mis-interpretation of the data.

    Neither the Big Bang nor the Gettysburg Address can be repeated; are they both anecdote or misinterpretation of the data?

  5. Steve Bowen says:

    Well the Gettysburg address is anecdote, albeit an anecdote that could be recounted by many people contemporaneous to the event and with a deal of circumstantial evidence, including transcripts, to support it. The big bang is neither, it is a theory, which, if correct, has implications for the structure and composition of the universe. So far observations of the universe are in concordance with that theory. I do not believe in the big bang per se but recognise it as a working model which may (probably?)be refined or superceded. Epistemologically a better example would be the existence of say, electrons. We all talk about them as if they are “things” with a real existence, but of course we can’t see them, plus they are sometimes particles and sometimes waves and sometimes both at the same time. We can however see the effects of them and predictions about their behaviour are consistantly met. Rationally it makes sense for us to behave as if they really are things that exist as we conceive them, even if in fact they don’t.
    Non corporeal consciousness however isn’t the same thing. When someone describes, for example, out of body experience or premonition or telepathy or whatever the ancedote has no external support, no circumstantial evidence to rule out delusion or lying or wishful thinking. The phenomenon does not allow predictions (of the more mundane variety) to be made and experimental tests are impossible after the event.

  6. cl says:

    I also treat the TMC as a “working model” which may be refined or superseded.

    Well the Gettysburg address is anecdote, albeit an anecdote that could be recounted by many people contemporaneous to the event and with a deal of circumstantial evidence, including transcripts, to support it.

    So you do accept anecdotes, then? If yes, is “recounted by many people contemporaneous to the event and with a deal of circumstantial evidence, including transcripts” the full sum of the criteria you require to accept an anecdote? If I can support an anecdote for the TMC with “recounts by many people and a deal of circumstantial evidence” you’ll accept it with equal certainty as the Gettysburg address?
    If no, what would enable to accept an anecdote for the TMC with equal certainty as you accept the Gettysburg address, and how do you explain the higher standard for the TMC?

  7. Steve Bowen says:

    If I can support an anecdote for the TMC with “recounts by many people and a deal of circumstantial evidence” you’ll accept it with equal certainty as the Gettysburg address?

    To quibble, I didn’t say I did accept the Gettysburg address, merely that is was an anecdote, albeit a well supported one. However, taking a Bayesian approach to the “Gettysburg Hypotheses” the sum of the probabilities would seem to suggest that an event similar to that described did take place at that time and location. There is a photograph which appears to show Lincoln at the scene, newspaper reports of the event were widely accepted at the time (although specifics of the content of the address seem to differ). On balance then I will accept, subject to strong evidence to the contrary that the event was a real one with some reservations about the specifics.

    If I can support an anecdote for the TMC with “recounts by many people and a deal of circumstantial evidence” you’ll accept it with equal certainty as the Gettysburg address?

    In principle yes with the same standard of evidence.

  8. dguller says:

    I think that one must make an important distinction here.

    Let us take the example of the Gettysburg Address. The Gettysburg Address is a historical event whose veracity is well documented by multiple historical lines of evidence.

    An anecdote is an event that purports to demonstrate an underlying principle or causal pattern. So, the Gettysburg Address would be an anecdote if it was cited as evidence of the power of oratory to uplift a war-ravaged population. Without the attempt to tie the event to some underlying principle, it is just an event and not an anecdote.

  9. dguller says:

    Let us continue the previous thought to the paranormal. Say someone has an OBE. That is an event in which someone has the subjective experience of being outside of their body. That does not make it an anecdote, but only an event in the world.

    However, when one begins to use that OBE to justify immaterial consciousness and the possibility of conscious awareness independent of the brain, THEN it becomes an anecdote and limitations by the multiple liabilities and difficulties that anecdotes are prey to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *