Chapter

Why Are We Conscious? Action without Enaction

Jesse J. Prinz

in The Conscious Brain

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780195314595
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979059 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195314595.003.0006

Series: Philosophy of Mind Series

Why Are We Conscious? Action without Enaction

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Theories differ in how they relate consciousness to action. At one extreme, enactivists argue that perceptual consciousness essential involves motor responses or a representation of motor action. At the other extreme, inactivists argue that systems associated with visually guided action are entirely unconscious. This chapter critically reviews the evidence for both extremes. It argues that motor responses are not necessary for consciousness or even consciously experience. But it also argues against the claim that perception divides into two streams, a conscious stream for recognition and an unconscious stream for action. In place of these views, the chapter argues that action is related to the function of consciousness, rather than the content of consciousness. Conscious states present a menu for action: intermediate-level representations present the world from an action-relevant point of view, and attention allows us to bring such representations into working memory for practical decision making.

Keywords: enactivism; dorsal and ventral streams; motor systems; function of consciousness; action

Chapter.  21228 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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