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2003 - Volume 24, Number 2, Spring

Altered States and the Study of Consciousness — The Case of Ayahuasca 

The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Spring 2003, Volume 24, Number 2, Pages 125–154, ISSN 0271–0137

This paper is part of a comprehensive research project whose aim is to study the phenomenology of the special state of mind induced by the psychoactive Amazonian potion ayahuasca. Here, I focus on those aspects of the ayahuasca experience that are related to basic features of the human consciousness. The effects of the potion are discussed in terms of a conceptual framework characterizing consciousness as a cognitive system defined by a set of parameters and the values that they take. In various theoretical contexts, these values have been assumed to be basic, paradigmatic properties of human consciousness. The phenomenological data pertaining to ayahuasca indicate that the features at hand can be modified. Following earlier suggestions by William James and Aldous Huxley, I conclude that any general theory of consciousness should be based not only on the study of so-called ordinary consciousness, but also on that of non-ordinary states.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Benny Shanon, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, The Hebrew University, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel.

Schema, Language, and Two Problems of Content 

The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Spring 2003, Volume 24, Number 2, Pages 155–168, ISSN 0271–0137 

Human cognition is often taken to be a rule-governed system of representations that serve to guide our beliefs about our actions in the world around us. This view, though, has two problems: it must explain how the conceptually governed contents of the mind can be about objects that exist in a non-conceptual world, and it must explain how the non-conceptual world serves as a constraint on belief. I argue that the solution to these problems is to recognize that cognition has both empirical and apriori elements. While neither approach can function in isolation from the other, the empirical approach resolves the first of these problems while apriori structures of rational cognition overcome the second. Taken together, these two views offer a promising solution to the two problems of mental content. 

Requests for reprints should be sent to Deborah K. Heikes, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama 35899.

Intrinsic Theory and the Content of Inner Awareness 

The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Spring 2003, Volume 24, Number 2, Pages 169–196, ISSN 0271–0137 

Consciosuness is the property mental-occurrence instances have when the subject has immediate awareness of them. According to intrinsic theory, this immediate awareness is intrinsic to the conscious4 mental-occurrence instance, whereas according to appendage theory, it forms a separate mental-occurrence instance. Assuming, rather than arguing for, the correctness of intrinsic theory, this paper investigates a number of theses about the specific intentional content of the immediate awareness built into conscious4 mental-occurrence instances. These theses are mostly drawn from work conducted within the framework of appendage theory, especially by David Rosenthal. After transposing them into the conceptual framework of intrinsic theory, we discuss the merits of each of these theses. 

Requests for reprints should be sent to Uriah Kriegel, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, Brown University, Box 1918, Providence, Rhode Island 02912.

Agent Causation, Functional Explanation, and Epiphenomenal Engines: Can Conscious Mental Events Be Causally Efficacious? 

The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Spring 2003, Volume 24, Number 2, Pages 197–228, ISSN 0271–0137 

Agent causation presupposes that actions are behaviors under the causal control of the agent’s mental states, its beliefs and desires. Here the idea of conscious causation in causal explanations of actions is examined, specifically, actions said to be the result of conscious efforts. Causal–functionalist theories of consciousness purport to be naturalistic accounts of the causal efficacy of consciousness. Flanagan argues that his causal–functionalist (neural correlate) theory of consciousness satisfies naturalistic constraints on causation and that his causal efficacy thesis is compatible with results of Libet’s (readiness potential) experiments on conscious causation. First, the notions of conscious effort and conscious causation are analyzed with respect to the project of naturalizing the mind, that is, the attempt to assimilate folk-psychological explanation (explanation by belief and desire) to the causal model of explanation in the natural sciences. It is argued that a serious obstacle for any naturalist program is that mental states are individuated by their (non-causal) semantic content, not the mechanistic, physical properties of their neural state instantiations. In particular, it is argued that explanation by reference to mental state content yields not a causal but an interpretive or rationalizing account of action in which the question of causal efficacy is irrelevant. Then, Flanagan’s causal–functionalist theory of consciousness is critically assessed; specifically his interpretations of Libet’s negative experimental results on the causal efficacy of consciousness are diagnosed and disputed. It is contended that Flanagan misinterprets the results of Libet’s consciousness experiments and that his functionalist concept of consciousness fails to yield an adequate explanation of the alleged causal efficacy of consciousness. Finally, his thesis is countered with other experimental results that appear to favor an epiphenomenalist view over the causal efficacy account of consciousness. 

Requests for reprints should be sent to Stuart Silvers, Department of Philosophy and Religion, 206 Hardin Hall, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina 29634–0528. Email: sstuart@clemson.edu or silv8002@bellsouth.net

What Is This Autonoetic Consciousness? 

The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Spring 2003, Volume 24, Number 2, Pages 229–254, ISSN 0271–0137

As Tulving argues, concepts shape psychologists’ thinking and determine how the end products of research are recorded. Currently in prominent use is not only Tulving’s concept of episodic memory but also his allied concept of autonoetic consciousness. And because, too, of the growing attention by psychologists to aspects of their subjects’ consciousness streams, I explore Tulving’s concept of autonoetic consciousness: to help improve the exercise of consciousness concepts in psychology generally. Two special topics among others are discussed: (a) the “flavor” Tulving claims characterizes recollective experience and corresponds to the warmth and intimacy James proposes consciousness states possess, and (b) whether the autonoetic-consciousness concept applies to a brain-damaged man said to lack, probably, any capability for autonoetic awareness. 

Requests for reprints should be sent to Thomas Natsoulas, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis, California 95616–8686. Email: tnatsoulas@ucdavis.edu


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