The everyday 'being conscious', or having subjective awareness; taking conscious notice, of whatever we may experience subjectively
Loosely to be described as
'a state of the mental system in which the organism itself has, from within,
a notion, a knowing or a sensation of some processes and events
in which it is directly involved at the same moment'.
Characteristics that may appear together with the phenomenon, but not necessarily
Characteristics that are not necessarily always
related to consciousness.
These features may or may not occur together with the phenomenon, and vice versa.
They are optional, or facultative.
Thus, they cannot serve to recognize or detect the phenomenon beyond doubt.
E.g., 'blond' is a disjunct feature of people.
Disjunct features related to neurophysiological functions and processes
Features related to neuro-physical processing.
These features are to be counted as a specific class of order states: intrinsic
They may be used for an explanation of consciousness through causal analysis: a
For a valid causal analysis of a phenomenon two proofs have to be furnished:
Explanation out of causes.
Detecting the 'origin' of an event.
That is, tracing causes (causae efficiens) in the past (retrospective).
I.e. retrodiction, backward mapping.
E.g. for the purpose of causal reduction, etiology, diagnosis.
Through (causal) abduction, induction, attribution.
Pitfall: On the basis of specific, incidental cases, prematurely deriving a general rule.
E.g. under-determination of disjunct factors.
(Fallacy: fallacia secundum quid, fallacia (a dicto) secundum quid (ad dictum
simpliciter) (Hamblin, 1970);
violation of representativeness heuristic; over-generalisation
Requires proving a necessary condition; avoiding alternative explanations; proving
unique or exclusive attribution.
Through 'zero measurement' (pre-test), of control group (comparision group) in
control condition (baseline condition).
With absence, minimal value, isolation, constancy/ fixation, of disjunct
/additive causes (of type accidental,
parallell cause, or common cause).
Predicting of effects.
Forecasting the consequences of an action or event.
That is, estimating effects
in the future (in prospective).
I.e. prediction, forward mapping.
E.g. for the purpose of anticipation, prognosis.
Through (causal) deduction, derivation.
Pitfall: Prematurely applying a general rule on specific, incidental cases.
E.g. under-determination of conjunct factors.
(Fallacy: fallacia simpliciter, fallacia (a dicto) simpliciter (ad dictum secundum
quid) (Hamblin, 1970); argumentum a priori; non sequitur;
Fehlschluss; in politics: doctrinary reasoning).
Requires proving a sufficient condition; avoiding inadequate causes; proving
dependent/ autonomeous contribution.
By means of 'afterward measurement' (post-test), van experimentele groep
in experimental condition (treatment condition).
With presence, variation activity, maximal level, (exposure, intrusion) of supposed
Some examples of neuronal
correlates of consciousness.
Global internal states of the organism.
 Waking state (W), which mainly constitues active functioning (arousal,
active waking, AW) and keen attention (alertness);
 Conscious dreaming, which mainly takes place during so-called REM sleeping
episodes, also called active sleep or paradoxical sleep (PS).
Activity of special functional systems of the nerve system.
In particular the system for active functioning, the ortho-sympathicus
(so-called effort systeem, Sympathetic-Nerve Activity, SNA);
and more specifically and central, the control system for alertness, the
Ascending Reticular Activating System (ARAS)
Activity of certain neuro-anatomical areas.
In particular the formatio reticularis, a netwise shaped system of nuclei and
trajectories in the brain stem (truncus cerebri);
The nuclei raphei (NR) in the inner extended marrow (medulla oblongata,
centralis): which produces Serotonine (5-HT).
The nuclei reticulari pontinis medialis (FRPM) in the pons (pontis
varolis, in particular the area peribrachium):
these produce Acetylcholine (ACh).
The locus coeruleus (LC) in the midbrain (tegmentum mesencephali):
this produces Noradrenaline (NA).
The substantia nigra (SN) in the midbrain (tegmentum mesencephali):
these produce Dopamine (DA).
Activity of specific neuronal cell types.
In particular 'Principal neurons', in particular the so-called pyramid cells:
relatively large neurons in the neocortext,
in particular in the deeper, so-called inner pyramid layer (cortical layers V and VI,
These work activating (excitatory), fast, and fire their signals in strong bursts
Activity of specific neuro-transmitters.
In particular the neuro-transmitters that have a fast, activating effect (an
For waking state and arousal these are mono-amino acids, among which catecholamines like
Adrenaline/ Epinephrine, Noradrenaline/ Norepinephrine (NA) and Dopamine (DA);
and the fastest transmitter in the brain, Glutamate.
For the REM-sleep, the typical transmitter is Acetylcholine (ACh).
Certain post-synaptic (dendronal) receptors.
In particular Post-synaptic receptors of the relatively fast, NMDA-activated type (NMDA =
In the dendronal synapses of pyramid cells; activated by pre-synaptic release
of fast neuro-transmitters like Glutamate.
Specific brain activity.
Brain activity during (full) conscious waking state.
The discharging rhythm (fire speed, frequency of action-potentials) is relatively fast;
lies during active, intense functioning in the ranges called Bèta (abt. 15-35 Hz) and
gamma (abt. 35-85 Hz), with low signal power (abt. 2-20 uV);
in calm and relaxed state in the range of alpha (abt. 7-15 Hz), with
higher amplitude (ca. 20-50 uV).
In active waking state neurons respond on their specific input signals, highly
independently of each-other
As a consequence, the cortical EEG shows irregular, so-called desynchronized behavior.
Global stimulation during conscious episodes of waking state.
During conscious episodes the activity of the cortex is globally
modulated by constant stimulation from neurons within
in particular the brain stem (especially the serotonergic nuclei
raphae) and the mid brain (especially the noradrenergic nuclei locus
During waking (W) this involves PS-off cells, and during REM-sleep, PS-on cells.
Their characteristic signals are tonical:
they show a flat, plateau-shaped signaling pattern, resulting from a long-lasting hightened
They possibly attribute to a higher signal-to-noise ratio of brain
waves in thalamus and cortex,
by which perhaps more markedly, therefore deterministic signaling patterns
Selective activation during conscious episodes of waking state.
Specific stimulation causes signal-transmission to go together with
fast, excitatory, synaptic transmission.
In the presence of strong, deviating or fluctuating sensory stimuli like they
occur during task-performing
the EEG shows typical event-related discharges (event-related
potentials, ERP's, see Flohr, 1992).
The signal thereby has a high power (amplitude),
and a wave length (frequency) of abt. 40 Hz., which falls within the
high-frequency range of 35-85 Hz.,
that is characteristic of so-called gamma waves (see Crick & Koch,
1990; also 1995; 1998).
It is found in various sensory modalities.
Brain activity during conscious dreaming (especially in REM
The waking-sleeping rhythm, the circadyanic rhythm, is centrally regulated by
an area in the hypothalamus:
the nucleus suprachiasmaticum (or supraopticus, NSC). The
internal 'clock' of this nucleus is set on basis of variations of light in
with use of information from the retina through the facial nerve tract (tractus opticus).
The NSC sends its circadyanic signals through two descending projections to motor
neurons of sympathic and parasympathic pathways.
From there, noradrenergic (NA) fibres connect with the Pineal Gland (glandula pinealis,
Thus through this route, the NSC activates the hypophysis. The latter contains serotonine.
Intake of carbohydrates contributes to a higher serotonine level in the hypophysis.
Responding on signals of the NSC the hypophysis causes the transposition of
serotonine into the monoamine neuro-hormone melatonine.
(Like also happens in the nucleus raphae).
Melatonine is an important factor in the induction of sleep.
Next, the hypophysis excretes more melatonine into the blood stream.
At the end of the waking state the supply of norepinephrine/ noradrenaline
(NA) to the hypophysis decreases,
and with that the excretion of melatonine by the hypophysis.
The final sleep stage is that of so-called REM sleep.
During this the brain waves show characteristics that strongly resemble those
during 'normal' waking state: high frequencies,
mainly in the Bèta range (abt. 15-35 Hz), low voltages (ca. 10-20 uV)
and asynchronic behavior.
Activity of secundary cortex.
In particular Visual areas in the occipital-parietal areas and auditory areas in the front brain
Specific global circuits.
In particular characteristic waves of abt. 2 mV, that originate in the pons
and follow a pontar-(thalamo-)genicular-occipital (PGO) route.
These 'PGO' signals are typically phasic:
they have a short-lived, high signal, that is peak-shaped (burst mode
They start from - mainly cholinergic - 'PGO-on' cells, located in the regio
peribrachium of the pons (in particular the
nuclei tegmentis meso-pontinis, lateralis dorsalis)
and in the midbrain (in particular the nuclei tegmenti pedunculo-pontinis,
The efferent fibres (axons) of these nuclei project to the front brain (prosencephalon),
in particular respectivally thalamus (in particular nucleus
genicilatum lateralis) and visual cortex (lobus occipitalis).
The PGO-signalen seem to arrange for a selective stimulation
of secundary visual and auditory areas in the front brain.
It may be supposed that they can therefore contribute to the typical, 'movy-like' dream imagery
that people experience during REM sleep.
It is assumed that through these specific REM activity in the brains a kind of
'pseudo-waking state is created,
in which life experiences can be consolidated, in a way in vitro, say virtually.
Moreover, during REM sleep there are in the hippocampus autonomous, short-lived, tonic
in wases with slower theta rhythms (4-7 Hz).
Organisation patterns of brain processes in 'higher' brain areas.
• A certain degree of localization of functions and processes in the nervous system:
Functions at 'macro-levels' appear to be accountable to 'specialized' elements
and processes at 'micro-levels' of the nervous system;
clusters, networks and circuits of neurons organized in nuclei, organs and fibres.
'Local' activatiin of 'fixed' specialized neuronal units creates physical
order patterns at a 'micro-level'
that can be viewed as 'information' (abstract order patterns) at
Clusters of neurons (cell assemblies) function as
information-processing units in the nervous system (D.O. Hebb, 1980).
• Flexible relocation of functions and processes in the nervous system.
e.g. after laesis, defect, enz. (there is no fixed anchoring).
• Dynamic organization of order patterns involving information processing.
Under stronge symmetrical variation of neuronal firing patterns interspersals
of brain waves appear (interferences).
These lead to temporary concentrations of electro-chemical brain activity that are called
'attractors': patterns to which neighbouring patterns converge.
(See: Abraham & Gilgen, 1994; Basar, 1990; Freeman, 1995; Pribram, 1995;
Robertson & Combs, 1995; tevens Mandell & Selz, 1997).
In seemingly chaotice neuronal activity, the top correlations between wave patterns
lead to selective amplification of signals and associations of
micro-elements within neuronal networks
(see D.O. Hebb, 1949, 1980; Karl Pribram, 1971).
Because of this, signal patterns can be constantly adapted and fine-tuned with
variable input en feedback effects.
As a consequence, 'intelligent' automatic self-organization emerges
(see e.g. Freeman, 1991; Kahn & Hobson, 1993; Pribram, 1995; Varela,
Thompson & Rosch, 1991).
• Dynamic locality of information processing.
As a result, we can speak of dislocalized intelligence. (see also
Non-linear systems theory, a.o. Brian Goodwin, 1995).
• Far-reaching division of tasks (modularity)
of functions and processes in the nervous system.
As a consequence of complex neuronal interaction, 'spontaneous'
self-organization and 'information spread' a huge division, distribution and
spreading of tasks over clusters of neurons becomes possible (also called
'agents', or 'multiple homuncili, see a.o. Marvin Minsky,
Because of this, it is proposed that a kind of 'dissemination' of the
experiencing subject may occur over time and space a so-called 'spatial
and temporal smearing of the observer's point of
view' (Daniel Dennett).
Disjunct features related to information patterns and processing
Features related to information processing.
These features are to be counted as a specific class of ordered states: abstract
They may only be used for an explanation of consciousness through deductive analysis: a
To have a fully valid logical analysis of a phenomenon two kinds of proof are needed:
No contingency: sufficient
At least one disjunct
(sufficient) condition for the end conclusion has been satisfied. This means, All
conditions for the end conclusion have been satisfied. (i.e.
Consistency: no counter-indications.
is no situation in which the end conclusion containing a contradiction,
leading to a contradiction, or constituting a contradiction with at least one
external condition (a counter-example) (that is provably true).
• Representation, reflection, registration of coding;
Order patterns refering to objects or referents
or at least content of subjective experience from sensory perception, body
feeling, memory, phantasy, dreaming.
• A - seemingly - inherent coherence of content elements of subjective experience (the
• A high degree of organization of complex content of consciousness (the
• Cognition, conceptualizing and modeling.
• Self-reflexive perception.
• Self-reflexive cognition.
Self-reflexivity, which may possibly lead to infinite recursion (the Homunculus
• Self-representation: 'self-image', concept of self, or self-model (or
'autobiographical self', see A. Damasio, 1994).
• Zelf-reflexieve herkenning.
• Self-communication; Internal dialogue, so-called inner talk or
self-talk (a term used in e.g. Rational-Emotive Therapy, RET),
dialogue (used within e.g. Neuro-Linguïstic Programming, NLP),
'conversations', 'speakings of the brain' (Daniel Dennett);
• Possible contributions to 'higher' levels of intelligence.
Characteristics that always come along with the phenomenon, being indispensable ingredients;
that deliver a unique contrabution, but are not bound to the carrier
Characteristics that are necessarily always
related to consciousness.
These features always occur with the phenomenon - but possibly also with something else.
(a) Thus, when a thing is present, then we know for sure that at least all its
inherent feautres are present.
Inherent features are thus necessary conditions (or ingredients, components) for a thing.
(b) Inherent feautures however don't need to be unique in it's being connected to a phenomenon.
In effect, the presence of a single inherent feature of a thing doesn't say anything about the fact
that the thing itself is or isn't present, or could be.
E.g., 'having a beak' an inherent feature of birds is among animal species - but also of platypus.
And 'having a skeleton' is an inherent feature of vertibrates
- but also of various human constructions, like cars, houses, and the like.
The inherent features of consciousness will therefore always be present
and play an active role in relation to consciousness.
Consciousness is not really immaginable without these characteristics (or
only in a seriously flawed version).
Inherent features related to neurophysiological functions and processes
Inherent features of consciousness that are physically and
('Pseudo-physical' features of consciousness).
Further, there are properties that seem to be inherent to consciousness,
and at the same time, indirectly associated with neuronal phenomena.
Moreover, they are constitutive in ordering relations and shape aspects of the
conscious content of experience.
In this regard, they can be viewed as information related features.
• A high degree of continuity, stability and constancy of the conscious
state during the day (waking consciousness);
• High sensitivity to the primary signal system of the psychic system;
in particular 'alarm signals' like hunger, thirst, pain, fear, etc..
• Strong liability to the end result of psychic processes;
in particular rationalisations based on 'emotional conclusions'.
(higher-order representations, of HOR's; see Flohr, 1991, 1992 and
• Conscious processes are concentrated and focussed in conscious attention.
• Variations in conscious attention: degrees of convergence, flexibility
(volubility), division, constancy (stability) and 'manageability'.
Inherent features related to information patterns and processing
Characteristics related to content of information.
• Subjective point of reference (first person point of view, agent's
perspective, ontological subjectivity).
• Referential capacity,
• Internal interrelatedness (coherence),
• Meaning content; amount of data, information volume (i.e. distinctions,
e.g. object-to-background contrast).
• Clarity, sharpness and detail of representation (resolution,
i.e. distinctions per size-unit of the carrier).
Characteristics that exclusively occur with the phenomenon, thus are sufficient indicators
Characteristics that are exclusively
related to consciousness.
These always indicate the presence of the thing itself - and never anything else.
(a) Thus, whenever any one unique characteristic is presence, we know that the
entire phenomen is also there - including at least all it's inherent features.
Unique characteristics are thus sufficient indicators
for the presence of a thing.
(b) A unique feauture of a thing need however not always occur with the thing itself,
it may e.g. be dependent of inherent feautures, disjunct feautures
or extraneous factors outside the thing.
Thus, when no unique feauture of a thing appears,
that does not necessarily mean that the entire thing itself will also be
Whenever a phenomenon appears to have no unique feauture whatsoever,
then apparantly it doesn't belong to a separate category in reality.
E.g., 'having two pairs of wings' is in the realm of animals a unique feature of insects
(but not of spiders, birds or dogs).
The unique feautures of consciousness are never present without
the same consciousness being present.
They can't at the same time, in any extent,
count for any unconscious, pre-conscious or extra-conscious phenomena.
Etiological problem; also called 'Mind-Body problem', or 'Mind-Brain
problem', or 'the Hard Problem'
in philosophy of consciousness, psychology and neuro-sciences.
(see a.o. W.S. Robinson, E. Mills, B. Libet, J. Shear, G.H. Rosenberg,
F. Varela, 1995; D. Chalmers, 1996).
Unique features which are inherent and involve conscious perception
Characteristics that are exclusively
and necessarily always
related to consciousness, of perceptual nature.
• Conscious awareness.
• Conscious noting something (on grounds of difference).
• Degree of global intensity of consciousness.
• Subjective sensations (sentiency).
• Quality aspects of experiences (qualia).
• Clarity, sharpness and detail of experience (lucidity).
• Dynamics of experience (vividness).
• Degree of specific intensity of experience (impressiveness).
• Sense encountered (pregnancy).
• Meaning perceived (intensionality).
• Overall experience of quality (happiness, subjective contentment, gratification, fulfillment
The ability of subjectively experienced freedom of choice
The faculty of conscious freedom of choice, or 'free will'.
The faculty of conscious freedom of choice, or 'free will',
is, if taken in it's literal meaning,
even more mysterious than the phenomenon of subjective consciousness.
If it really exists, in a literal sense,
it logically requires a number of elements and processes
that are of rather complex nature and often hard to understand.
Some aspects of 'free will' are e.g.
• Firstly, required at forehand is a certain mental representation of
a range of available options for responding: a margin of free
This cognitive structure will be derived of the 'ad hoc' model that is
created by the psychic system of the present situation.
In a logical sense, it contains items in disjunction.
Because of this, it comprises a state of contingency.
In a psychological sense, it establishes a phase of ambivalence).
• It involves a conscious perception of options avaliable for choice.
• This construct has to be consciously accessible.
It is thus dependent on the presence, the content and
condition of subjective consciousness.
• It comprizes however at most a limited part of conscious experience at any point in time.
• It offers a space of conscious freedom of choice (search space).
This space of free choice is primarily subject-determined, and strictly
private, exclusively connected to the conscious subjective experience
of the individual.
Furthermore, it is of an incidental nature, momentaneous.
It will vary strongly in time with fluctuating conditions like
psychological content, cognitions and emotions, mental and physical fitness,
social and material context.
Thus we don't have an 'all-mighty' free will, but rather a certain limited, subjective '
space of conscious freedom of choice'.
• It involves a search process for some preferable option, including
anticipating and measuring out of various response options in consideration
In this process subjective evaluation and appraisal takes place of these options.
The aim is to determine ones conscious favour (preference).
• Further required is selection and conceptualizing of intended action or
• A final 'preparatory step' is the formation of conscious resolve,
or intent to actually perform the option of preference.
• Resulting in will decision, or 'free choice' (voluntarism).
• Involves exercising 'will-power'.
• Implies conscious self-steering of internal and external responses.
• This would at least require that a certain impact can be exercized on
neuro-physiological processes in the brain that are active at that moment.
(1) The first effect of conscious choice may probably largely consist of changing
direction of mental processes, mainly on a subconscious level,
in the Short Term Memoryn (STM) that are already ongoing (conscious
'real-time self-correcting'). This backward effect
(feedback) may involve
selective attention, selective retrieval from memory, and cognitive operations
(like e.g. reasoning, calculating or creative phantasy).
(2) Further, there may be more indirectly a forward effect (feed forward).
This may exist in activating or changing processes
in central and peripherical nervous system,
and in this way, on viscerals, glands and muscles, resulting in visceral,
emotional, sexual and behavioral responses.
Taken in a literal sense, free will thus 'breaks
through' causal chains in the physical nervous system.
Thus viewed this phenomen wpuld therefore be inconsistent with deterministic
causality. Whether such an immediate, more or less 'semi-causal' or mechanical impact on
organic factors really takes place, - a true mind over
matter event -
is completely unclear, and is in general disputed in science.
• Self-reflexive feedback-control on choices made.
When sufficient simularity shows
between desired outcome (the chosen action) and outcome obtained (the process
actualized) this gives a conformating of the effectivity of
the intended steering (a 'certificate').
That will strengthen the belief that the activity produced
(henceforth) is of a voluntary, controllable kind.
• In this way, the subjective sensation of exercizing free-will may
reinforce ones general notion - and feeling - of self-control and sense of
There is a real possibility of course, that such sensations, and with it the
entire concept of free will, would be entirely based on illusion.
However, even then it is clear that in subjective experience,
it can make a huge difference for practical purposes
whether processes in a given context are, to some extent, 'voluntary)',
or they are completely 'involuntary'
and thus beyond reach of any conscious control.
• It is a necessary precondition for abilities like self-determination,
overall competence and mental sanity,
and with that, responsibility and accountability.