The Emperor Cometh

Very happy to say that Hakwan Lau and I have completed our jointly authored paper The Emperor’s New Phenomenology?: The Empirical Case for Conscious Experiences without First-Order Representations which is forthcoming in a Festschrift for Ned Block edited by Adam Pautz and Daniel Stoljar (MIT Press). The book is slated to have a response from Ned which I am very much looking forward to!


  1. Hi Richard,

    From your abstract: “Specifically, these cases suggest that (I) recurrent feedback loops
    to V1 are most likely not the neural correlate of first-order representations for conscious
    experience, (II) first-order views seem to have a problem accounting for the phenomenology in
    these cases, and either (III) a version of the ambitious higher-order approach is superior in that it is the simplest theory that can account for all results at face value, or (IV) a view where
    phenomenology is jointly determined by both first-order and higher-order states. In our view (III)
    and (IV) are both live options and the decision between them may ultimately be an empirical
    question that cannot yet be decided.”

    I agree with I and IV. In your opinion, is the sheer unanalyzed phenomenal experience of being located (i.e., here in a space) a first-order or higher order state?

  2. Here is an interesting study reported in *Consciousness and Cognition* that touches on several aspects of phenomenal consciousness:

    Synaesthetic perception of colour and visual space in a blind subject: An fMRI case study

    Valentina Niccolai, Tessa M. van Leeuwen , Colin Blakemore , Petra Stoerig

    A b s t r a c t

    “In spatial sequence synaesthesia (SSS) ordinal stimuli are perceived as arranged in peripersonal space. Using fMRI, we examined the neural bases of SSS and colour synaesthesia for spoken words in a late-blind synaesthete, JF. He reported days of the week and months of the year as both coloured and spatially ordered in peripersonal space; parts of the days and festivities of the year were spatially ordered but uncoloured. Words that denote time-units and triggered no concurrents were used in a control condition. Both conditions inducing SSS activated the occipito-parietal, infero-frontal and insular cortex. The colour area hOC4v was engaged when the synaesthetic experience included colour. These results confirm the continued recruitment of visual colour cortex in this late-blind synaesthetes. Synaesthesia also involved activation in inferior frontal cortex, which may be related to spatial memory and detection, and in the insula, which might contribute to audiovisual integration related to the processing of inducers and concurrents.”

    The perception by a blind synaesthete of ordinal stimuli that are phenoemenally ordered by color in peripersonal space is particularly interesting. I wonder if Richard Brown would agree that the peripersonal space in which the stimuli are ordered by the blind subject must exist as a mental state prior to the perception of the ordered stimuli. What do others here think about this finding?

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