Chapter

Whence the Unity of Consciousness? Attentional Resonance

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/9780195314595.003.0008

Series: Philosophy of Mind Series

Whence the Unity of Consciousness? Attentional Resonance

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This chapter investigates the unity of consciousness. Two conscious states are unified if they are part of the same overarching state. If consciousness is engendered by attention, then two states are part of the same state if they are co-attended. Since attention is implemented by gamma oscillations, this suggests that unity arises when different populations of neurons are phase-locked in the gamma range. Evidence from sensory integration and other sources is brought to bear in defence of this hypothesis. Attention and gamma are also used to explain unity over time. Three durations of the conscious moment are distinguished and related to attention: a minimal conscious instant, a minimal duration or now, and a more extended or specious present. Finally, it is argued that consciousness is not always unified, but appears unified whenever we look for unity, because looking for unity creates gamma coherence.

Keywords: unity of consciousness; attention; sensory integration; time consciousness; the present; gamma synchrony; attentional resonance; binding

Chapter.  14508 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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