Vol. 42, Number 1, Winter 2021

The Mind/Brain State
Jason W. Brown, New York University Medical Center

The minimal mind/brain state is the completion of one cycle of actualization that entails a passage over evolutionary growth planes from instinctual drive to the world surface, from a subjective core to an appearance of external reality. An isolated mental state is an abstraction, not only because it is fleeting and replaced but because a series of states is necessary for intra-psychic content. The state is not a content, a feeling, a statement, or qualia that can be isolated and compared to contents in other minds. Rather, it enfolds a diachronic and recurrent underpinning of actual or virtual contents that arise in the realization of acts and objects. The mind/brain is not a circuit board but an organism, and the process of realization is a becoming-into-being. The endpoint of the state, the configuration that arrives at the motor and perceptual cortices, submits to an adaptive sculpting that transforms endogenous potential to a diversity of world objects. Mental states overlap; they are not concatenated in causal chains. The transition is from potential to actual, category to member, or whole to part. The specious or illusory present arises in the overlap of mental states and the incomplete revival of their predecessors. Incompleteness is the key to recall as fading states lapse to successive planes of short- and long-term memory. The present arises in the forgetting of perceptions, or the passage of perceptual to memorial content, as the disparity between the floor of the mental state — the endpoint of withdrawal beneath recall — and conscious revival — the ceiling of the mental state — and the final actuality. This disparity is converted to an epoch of duration. Consciousness is the relation over segments from core self to perceived object. In dream, the absence of agency, the foreshortened, egocentric, and palpable space and fluid image boundaries point to a contracted present in which the state does not fully actualize. The river of Heraclites is not a flow that goes on but a fountain that recurs, with the present a brief suspension of succession in the endless passage of nature.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jason W. Brown, M.D., 66 E 79th Street, New York, New York 10075. Email: drjbrown@hotmail.com

Towards Resolving the Hard Problem: A Synergistic Network Account of Consciousness
Roderick J. Orner University of Lincoln, United Kingdom and Janet Galpin, Spalding, United Kingdom​

To resolve the hard problem of consciousness, we propose a systems-level theory of synergistic processes to account for sentience, consciousness, and mind. Subjectivity arises from interactive network processes within and between nature’s entangled, relational, and iterative elements. Searches for the physical cause or locus of consciousness and subjectivity are misguided given that consciousness emerges from processes with no single source. To account for the evolution and phenomenology of mind, our synergistic network account of consciousness (SNAC) dispenses with mind–body dualism, it weakens boundaries between the material and the non-material, between the internal and the external, and emphasises synergistic processes and functionalities over outcome. The theory challenges psychology to abandon its cause–effect categorisations and implied mind–body dualism in favour of functional systems-level analyses to better account for relational processes and functions which unfold synergistically within and sustain nature’s complex networks of entangled elements.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to R J Orner, Ph.D., Community and Health Research Unit, Sara Swift Building, University of Lincoln, Lincoln LN6 7TS, United Kingdom. Email: rorner@lincoln.ac.uk

Cognitive Science Models: An Aristotelian–Thomistic Appraisal
James M. Stedman, University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio

Cognitive science models emerged in the 1950s with the advent of computers and today have three versions: classical, connectionist, and embodiment (see Dawson, 2013 for an extensive review). Classical and connectionist models focus on the brain as explanatory of all cognitive phenomena but go further to claim that these cognitive phenomena can be replicated by computers, a field now labeled Artificial Intelligence. This essay will explore the claims of the classical and connectionist models and their strengths and weaknesses. I introduce the classical realism of Aristotle and Aquinas (the A–T model) and argue that the A–T model can incorporate classical and connectionist theory and findings, solve most of the weaknesses of both models, and add better causative explanations of higher cognitive phenomena, such as concept formation and thought. The presentation ends with a brief discussion of implications for cognitive psychology.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to James M. Stedman, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Health Science Center, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive,  San Antonio, Texas 78229–7792. Email: Stedman@uthscsa.edu

Psychology and the Legacy of Hobbesianism: Egoism, Motivation, and the Death of Meaning
Edwin E. Gantt and Richard N. Williams, The Wheatley Institution, Brigham Young University

This paper contends that contemporary psychology has frequently deployed, often without explicit historical awareness or attribution, an essentially Hobbesian approach to the conceptualization and explanation of human behavior. This approach offers an account of behavior that reflects an underlying presumption of psychological egoism. The conceptual legacy of Hobbesian egoism is the discipline’s frequent reliance on motivational concepts grounded in and guided by the presumption of a fundamental and powerful individual self-interest manifested as an innate and inescapable desire for the maximization of personal pleasure. We argue, however, that the Hobbesian tradition of accounting for behavior in terms of self-interest and the quest for pleasure is unable to adequately account for meaning and intentionality in human behavior because it obviates both meaning and intentionality — except in the crassest operational terms. Indeed, we will argue that because of this, explanations of human action that reflect a philosophical commitment to Hobbesian egoism ultimately entail nihilism, and, therefore, the death of meaning and purpose. The paper briefly argues for an approach in which human beings are understood not as entities impelled by inescapably egoistic motivational forces, but rather as moral agents genuinely capable of intentional action and meaningful social engagement.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Edwin E. Gantt, Ph.D., 1086 KMBL, Department of Psychology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602. Email:  ed_gantt@byu.edu

Cognitive Penetration Is an Instance of Experimental Confounding — Due to the Operationalization of Perception as a Magnitude Estimation (Rather than as a Category Identification)
Nagireddy Neelakanteswar Reddy, Ahmedabad, India

Cognitive penetration is the assumption that non-sensory factors influence sensory perception at the core level of sensory processing, thus generating or modifying the contents of perception. However, the experimental instances of cognitive penetration can be argued to be instances of experimental confounding that occur due to the operationalization of perception to be a magnitude estimation activity rather than as a category identification task. The magnitudinal stimuli can confound the experiments as they tend to generate perceptual fuzziness and thus lead to non-veridical overestimations as well as underestimations of those stimuli. And, these non-veridical estimations or approximations fail to be distinguishable whether they are (sensory) perceptual errors or (non-sensory) response biases per se. Moreover, the typical cognitive-penetration-like effects will not be observed if the perception is operationalized as a category identification activity, as the categorical stimuli are not fuzzy and do not lead to response biases. Thus, the purported instances of cognitive penetration can be argued to be mere instances of experimental confounding, and thus, cognitive penetration is not a valid psychological phenomenon.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Nagireddy Neelakanteswar Reddy, Ph.D., L1104, Casa Vyoma apartment, Sarkari vasahat road, Vastrapur, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, PIN code: 380015. Email: nagireddy.neel.reddy@gmail.com

Book Review

Sensitive Soul: The Unseen Role of Emotion in Extraordinary States
Book Author: Michael A. Jawer
Reviewed by Steven M. Rosen, College of Staten Island/City University of New York

The central thesis of Michael A. Jawer’s engaging and lively book, Sensitive Soul: The Unseen Role of Emotion in Extraordinary States, is that the many dimensions of human feeling and sensitivity can be understood in terms of an underlying continuum of emotional energy. The primacy of emotion is extended to the non-human domain as the author demonstrates through anecdotes and scientific research that interactions among organisms, and between organisms and the environments in which they dwell, are mediated by the flow of feelings. In bringing home his point, Jawer draws attention to exceptional individuals and extraordinary experiences — the experiences of savants, people with synesthesia and autism, prodigies, those who have suffered from PTSD, and those who appear to display remarkable psychic abilities. Jawer suggests that all such individuals possess “heightened physical and emotional sensitivities” (p. 2).

Correspondence concerning this review should be addressed to Steven M. Rosen, Ph.D., 104-2890 Point Grey Road, Vancouver, B.C., V6K 1A9, Canada. Email: stevenrosen@shaw.ca

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