Sensory Integration and the Unity of Consciousness

Sensory Integration and the Unity of Consciousness

David J. Bennett
Christopher S. Hill
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 424
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  • Book Info
    Sensory Integration and the Unity of Consciousness
    Book Description:

    In this volume, cognitive scientists and philosophers examine two closely related aspects of mind and mental functioning: the relationships among the various senses and the links that connect different conscious experiences to form unified wholes. The contributors address a range of questions concerning how information from one sense influences the processing of information from the other senses and how unified states of consciousness emerge from the bonds that tie conscious experiences together.Sensory Integration and the Unity of Consciousnessis the first book to address both of these topics, integrating scientific and philosophical concerns.A flood of recent work in both philosophy and perception science has challenged traditional conceptions of the sensory systems as operating in isolation. Contributors to the volume consider the ways in which perceptual contact with the world is or may be "multisensory," discussing such subjects as the modeling of multisensory integration and philosophical aspects of sensory modalities. Recent years have seen a similar surge of interest in unity of consciousness. Contributors explore a range of questions on this topic, including the nature of that unity, the degree to which conscious experiences are unified, and the relationship between unified consciousness and the self.ContributorsTim Bayne, David J. Bennett, Berit Brogaard, Barry Dainton, Ophelia Deroy, Frederique de Vignemont, Marc Ernst, Richard Held, Christopher S. Hill, Geoffrey Lee, Kristan Marlow, Farid Masrour, Jennifer Matey, Casey O'Callaghan, Cesare V. Parise, Kevin Rice, Elizabeth Schechter, Pawan Sinha, Julia Trommershaeuser, Loes C. J. van Dam, Jonathan Vogel, James Van Cleve, Robert Van Gulick, Jonas Wulff

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31927-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. I Mainly on Sensory Integration
    • 1 Bayesian Modeling of Perceiving: A Guide to Basic Principles
      (pp. 3-14)
      David J. Bennett, Julia Trommershäuser and Loes C. J. van Dam

      We begin with a simplified example concerning the perception of surface slant from sensitivity to texture information (cf. Knill, 2003, 2007 ). The basic, perception-science version of Bayes will fall out naturally and intuitively.

      In our toy model, suppose that it is assumed that surface texture elements are circular (see figure 1.1).¹ Suppose a perceiver views a surface head on, looking straight at a circular texture element. We’ll say that at “upright,” the slant of the surface is 90 degrees. That circular element will project to a circle on a flat projection plane, which approximates a sensory surface.

      The height-to-width...

    • 2 The Multisensory Nature of Perceptual Consciousness
      (pp. 15-36)
      Tim Bayne

      Philosophical reflection on perceptual consciousness has typically adopted a modality-specific perspective as its point of departure. According to this approach, an account of perceptual consciousness as a whole will simply fall out of an account of each of the various perceptual modalities. In this chapter, I argue against one manifestation of this atomistic approach to perceptual experience: the decomposition thesis. According to the decomposition thesis, a person’s overall perceptual experience can be identified with the sum of his or her modality-specific experiences. If the decomposition thesis is correct, then perceptual experience can be exhaustively factored into modality-specific states. Modality-specific ways...

    • 3 The Long-Term Potentiation Model for Grapheme-Color Binding in Synesthesia
      (pp. 37-72)
      Berit Brogaard, Kristian Marlow and Kevin Rice

      The phenomenon of synesthesia has undergone an invigoration of research interest and empirical progress over the past decade. Studies investigating the cognitive mechanisms underlying synesthesia have yielded insight into neural processes behind such cognitive operations as attention, memory, spatial phenomenology, and intermodal processes. However, the structural and functional mechanisms underlying synesthesia still remain contentious and hypothetical. The first section of the chapter reviews recent research on grapheme-color synesthesia, one of the most common forms of the condition, and addresses the ongoing debate concerning the role of selective attention in eliciting synesthetic experience. Drawing on conclusions from the first half, the...

    • 4 Intermodal Binding Awareness
      (pp. 73-104)
      Casey O’Callaghan

      It is tempting to hold that perceptual experience amounts to a co-conscious collection of visual, auditory, tactual, gustatory, and olfactory episodes. If so, each aspect of perceptual experience on each occasion is associated with a specific modality. This chapter, however, concerns a core variety of multimodal perceptual experience. It argues that there is perceptually apparentintermodalfeature binding. I present the case for this claim, explain its consequences for theorizing about perceptual experience, and defend it against objections. I maintain that just as one thing may perceptually appear at once to jointly bear several features associated with the same sense...

    • 5 The Unity Assumption and the Many Unities of Consciousness
      (pp. 105-124)
      Ophelia Deroy

      The unity of consciousness is taken to reflect a special fact about the holistic or seamless aspect of our conscious experience. As I hear the whistle of the kettle while I am writing this line, I am conscious of the kettle’s whistle, but I am also conscious of the screen in front of me. These two elements are unified in my conscious experience, even though the visual and auditory features are not experienced as belonging to one and the same object. They are experienced as copresent, that is, as being experienced at the same time, by the same conscious subject....

    • 6 Multimodal Unity and Multimodal Binding
      (pp. 125-150)
      Frédérique de Vignemont

      For a long time, most research has addressed each sensory modality in isolation. This is in line with a modular conception of perception according to which the first levels of sensory processing are encapsulated, isolated from the influence of any other kind of information. However, recent literature has emphasized the importance of multisensory interaction, which has sometimes been taken as evidence that perception is “beyond modularity” (Driver & Spence, 2000). It is now well known that sensory modalities can influence each other. For example, in the famous ventriloquism effect, the observation of lip movements displaces the apparent location of speech sounds....

    • 7 Can Blue Mean Four?
      (pp. 151-170)
      Jennifer Matey

      When we perceive by means of the eyes as causal aids, the liquidity of water, the coldness of ice, the solidity of rocks, the bareness of trees in winter, it is certain that other qualities than those of the eye are conspicuous and controlling in perception. And it is as certain as anything can be that optical qualities do not stand out by themselves with tactual and emotive qualities clinging to their skirts. If we hear a rich and haunting voice, we feel it immediately as the voice of a certain kind of personality.¹

      These observations anticipate two concerns at...

    • 8 Establishing Cross-Modal Mappings: Empirical and Computational Investigations
      (pp. 171-192)
      Pawan Sinha, Jonas Wulff and Richard Held

      If the world of a newborn is indeed a “blooming, buzzing confusion,” as William James suggested, how does it eventually acquire coherence? Perhaps this question presupposes a fallacy; maybe the sensory world is not chaotic, but rather, ordered and coherent right from the outset. These fundamental issues were thrust into prominence with the formulation of Molyneux’s famous question. After having remained tantalizingly open for over three centuries, the question is now beginning to yield. Empirical data from a humanitarian effort in India that provides sight to congenitally blind children suggest that shape representations across sensory modalities are initially disparate, but...

    • 9 Berkeley, Reid, and Sinha on Molyneux’s Question
      (pp. 193-208)
      James Van Cleve

      Molyneux’s question, posed over three centuries ago and still debated today, is whether a man born blind and made to see would be able to recognize by sight alone the shapes of objects he formerly knew by touch. Berkeley, in company with Molyneux and several others among the first wave of thinkers to discuss the problem, saidno. Reid, a critic of Berkeley in many matters, saidyes. Until recently, the empirical evidence bearing on the question was equivocal, but thanks now to Pawan Sinha and his collaborators at Project Prakash, we are starting to get more direct empirical evidence...

    • 10 Modeling Multisensory Integration
      (pp. 209-230)
      Loes C. J. van Dam, Cesare V. Parise and Marc O. Ernst

      When we move through the world, we constantly rely on sensory inputs from vision, audition, touch, etc., to infer the structure of our surroundings. These sensory inputs often do not come in isolation, and multiple senses can be stimulated at the same time. For instance, if we knock on a door, we see our hand making impact on the door, we hear the resulting sound, and we feel the movement of our arm and our hand making contact (see figure 10.1 ). How does our sensory system make sense of all these different inputs if, for example, we need to...

  5. II Primarily on the Unity of Consciousness
    • 11 A Unity Pluralist Account of the Unity of Experience
      (pp. 233-254)
      David J. Bennett and Christopher S. Hill

      We don’t know how to carve or classify experiences in any theoretically satisfying way. We can’t tell you how many experiences you are having right now, or what their fundamental kinds are. We do suspect that such assessment is not an entirely arbitrary matter. Or at least that it ideally shouldn’t be. Perhaps a mature perception science will provide guidance. Pending the arrival of that happy day, the following observations still suffice to get an interesting exploration started.

      An element of informed common sense is that some experiences of a subject at a certain time occur independently of other experiences...

    • 12 Unity, Synchrony, and Subjects
      (pp. 255-286)
      Barry Dainton

      Brentano’s discussion of the unity of consciousness in Part II, section IV of hisPsychology from an Empirical Standpoint(1874) is in a number of respects very much in keeping with much contemporary thinking on this topic. Although Brentano himself very likely believed (much of the time) that mental states belong to mental substances, he also subscribed to F.A. Lange’s project of developing a psychology without a soul. Irrespective of whether souls exist, we know that mental states and episodes exist, and that there “is a certain continuity of our mental life here on earth” (1995, 17). Brentano argued that...

    • 13 Experiences and Their Parts
      (pp. 287-322)
      Geoffrey Lee

      Intuitively, your overall conscious experience at a given time has a complex structure. For example, you might simultaneously have experiences in more than one sensory modality, and your experience within a single modality might involve awareness of a complex of different features of a stimulus, of multiple stimuli, or of relations between stimuli. You might also simultaneously have both perceptual and nonperceptual experiences such as thoughts or conscious emotions; these states have their own structure—for example, a thought might involve using an array of different concepts—and their existence contributes to the overall structure of your conscious state.


    • 14 Unity of Consciousness: Advertisement for a Leibnizian View
      (pp. 323-346)
      Farid Masrour

      It is common to hold that our conscious experiences at a single moment are often unified. But when consciousness is unified, what are the fundamental facts in virtue of which it is unified? On some accounts of the unity of consciousness, the most fundamental fact that grounds unity is a form of singularity or oneness. I call these Newtonian accounts of unity because of their similarity to Newtonian views of space according to which the most fundamental fact that grounds relations of co-spatiality between various points (or regions) of a space is the fact that these points (or regions) are...

    • 15 Partial Unity of Consciousness: A Preliminary Defense
      (pp. 347-374)
      Elizabeth Schechter

      Under the experimental conditions characteristic of the “split-brain” experiment, a split-brain subject’s conscious experience appears oddly dissociated, as if each hemisphere is associated with its own stream of consciousness. On the whole, however, split-brain subjects appear no different from “normal” subjects, whom we assume have only a single stream of consciousness. The tension between these impressions gives rise to a debate about the structure of consciousness: the split-brain consciousness debate.¹

      That debate has for the most part been pitched between two possibilities: that a split-brain subject has a single stream of consciousness, associated with the brain (or with the subject)...

    • 16 E pluribus unum: Rethinking the Unity of Consciousness
      (pp. 375-392)
      Robert Van Gulick

      Etymology is not always a reliable guide to meaning and even less so to truth, but perhaps there is something to be learned from the fact that the word “conscious” derives from the Latin verb “conscio,” which literally translates as “know together” (con + scio). Indeed, in one archaic use, it could mean knowledge shared among different people. TheOxford English Dictionary(2nd edition, 2000) defines this obsolete use as “sharing knowledge with another” and cites Thomas Hobbes inLeviathan(1651, I. vii. 31) where he wrote, “When two, or more men, know one and the same fact, they are...

    • 17 Counting Minds and Mental States
      (pp. 393-400)
      Jonathan Vogel

      A number of people have undergone surgery that severed the principal connection between the left and right hemispheres of their brains. Their subsequent behavior raises puzzles about what their mental lives are like. These puzzles lead to broader questions about the metaphysics of experience and the structure of consciousness itself.¹

      Let’s suppose that, ordinarily, the mental life of a human being comprises one unified “stream of consciousness.” The elements of that stream are individual experience tokens with various contents. To fix terminology, experience tokenseande' areunifiedjust in case they belong to the same stream. Another important...

  6. Contributors
    (pp. 401-402)
  7. Index
    (pp. 403-410)