December 5, 2009
I made a chart to help visualize and clarify key concepts in our current discussion on consciousness. By no means is this chart intended to be exhaustive, but I think we’ve covered the basic categories of so-called AMP (anomalous mental phenomena), alternatively delta phenomena or psi. A red X indicates an alleged point of incoherence or contradiction between the respective phenomena (represented by rows) and model of consciousness (represented by columns). A green checkmark indicates an alleged point of coherence or support for the respective model of consciousness.
My definitions of the phenomena are more or less in line with those offered by the Cognitive Sciences Laboratory and Pacific Neuropsychiatric Institute. My very modest attempt at defining consciousness is here, with the individual models (sCCH, wCCH, TMC) introduced here, then elaborated on here and here. Recall that there are two general categories of consciousness model being compared here:
This model comes in both a weak and strong variety. Though different in the range of phenomena each are willing to permit, both the weak cerebro-centric hypothesis (wCCH) and the strong cerebro-centric hypothesis (sCCH) ultimately posit that consciousness and the full sum of mental phenomena reduce to neurobiological phenomena. This means they are products of brains and biology, which means that consciousness should never be found to exist outside of a neurobiological component. As a general predictive starting point, I submit that even a single instance of consciousness existing outside of a neurobiological component effectively falsifies both versions of the CCH.
The basic premise of this model is that consciousness is not an exclusively neurobiological 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.
If the weakness of sCCH is its rigidity, the weakness of the TMC is its permissibility. In general, it is seen as a sign of weakness when a hypothesis can seemingly explain anything, and I realize that’s the impression the TMC admittedly conveys at this point. After all, there’s not a single phenomenon on the chart that it can’t explain. Yet, there has to be some theory that can account for all the data, so we might as well start somewhere, and the exclusion of inadequate hypotheses seems as logical a place as any.