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19. The Intermediate Level Theory of Consciousness


Subject Mind and Cognitive Science » Philosophy of Mind
Cognitive Psychology » Psychology of Consciousness

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405120197.2007.00020.x


In 1987, Ray Jackendoff published Consciousness and the Computational Mind . In it, he posed an important Where question: Where, in the flow of information, does consciousness arise? Most cognitive scientists agree that the mind is, in some sense, a computer. It is a device that processes information by transforming representations in accordance with rules. Computational devices decompose into various interconnected subsystems, each of which performs some aspect of a complex task. Given such a decompositional analysis, we can ask: in which subsystems does consciousness arise? If we depict the mind as a vast flow chart, and highlight the boxes whose rules and representations are conscious, which boxes should we mark? Jackendoff's answer is simple and elegant. He noticed that many of our mental capacities, including our senses and our language systems, are organized hierarchically. In each of these hierarchies, it makes sense to talk about low-, intermediate-, and high-level processing systems. We break down tasks into stages. Appealing to prevailing models of these stages, Jackendoff observed that the intermediate level seems to be privileged with respect to consciousness. Consciousness seems to arise in intermediate-level processing systems and not elsewhere. If Jackendoff is right, this is a very important discovery. I have defended the intermediate-level hypothesis (hereafter ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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