A Bestiary of Consciousnesses
Consciousness only accesses a minuscule fraction of the brain’s overall processing load, raising the question of how it is ‘positioned.’ The Positioning Problem is the question of how our intuitive sense of ‘sufficient centrality’ compares to the actual informatic topography of conscious experience. What follows is a taxonomy of various possibilities, which I call a ‘bestiary’ to simply remind the reader that it is prescientific, and so speculative in the extreme.
Hard Strategic: Evolutionary exigency seems to suggest that consciousness has a function. Likewise, manifest intuition seems to suggest 1) that consciousness is ‘central,’ that it drives action and cognition; and 2) that it is ‘sufficient,’ that it generally accesses everything required to drive action and cognition. Though few subscribe to it today, hard strategic consciousness is the dominant position of the tradition, philosophical or otherwise. It takes the apparent sufficient centrality of consciousness to action and cognition as largely accurate, assuming more than asserting the reality of original intentionality.
Truncated Strategic: Consciousness is strategic, but faces problematic constraints on informatic access, or ‘information horizons’; it is ‘truncated,’ admitting the possibility of problematic mischaracterizations and structural distortions. Intuitive sufficiency may be illusory, but experience remains synoptic, accessing enough to warrant attributing cognitive and practical efficacy to consciousness. Intentionality is real and phenomenology is possible, only complicated by the need for remedial rationalizations.
Tangled Strategic: Consciousness is strategic, but disorganized or ‘tangled,’ admitting the possibility of problematic gaps between manifest intuition and neural actuality. (Perhaps volition simply accompanies or follows behaviour; perhaps certainty has no systematic relation to reason; perhaps motivational explanation is largely theoretical and confabulatory; perhaps peripheral visual information is assumptive; and so on.) Intuitive centrality is problematic, but obtains in this or that crucial respect, obviating the need to ‘eliminate’ some manifest staple, such as epistemic normativity, etc. Intentionality is real and phenomenology is possible, only complicated by the need for remedial rationalizations.
Coarse Strategic: Consciousness is strategic, but low-resolution or ‘coarse,’ admitting the possibility of problematic oversimplications and structural distortions. As with truncation, the deceptiveness of intuitive sufficiency is acknowledged, but experience is still considered synoptic, accessing enough to warrant attributing cognitive and practical efficacy to consciousness. Intentionality is real and phenomenology is possible, only complicated by the need for remedial rationalizations.
Coarse, Truncated, and Tangled Strategic (Soft Strategic): Consciousness is strategic, but coarse, truncated, and tangled, thus increasing the need for substantial remedial rationalization, while admitting the conservation of some manifest staple, typically epistemological (given philosophers’ fondness for their claims).
Inadvertent: In addition to the above, evolutionary exigency also seems to suggest that consciousness is largely ad hoc. Inadvertent Consciousness assumes that the actual function of consciousness massively contradicts our manifest intuitions, that given the drastic nature of its coarseness, truncation, and tangling it is neither central nor sufficient. Intentionality is not real and phenomenology, as traditionally understood, is not possible, simply because we do not possess the consciousness we think we do.