Sessions and Events > Keynote Lectures

Keynote Lectures

 
 
Presidential Address
Why Are Mental States Ever Consciousness?
David Rosenthal
Chair: Christof Koch
Thursday June 19, 5:30PM-6:30PM
 
Keynote Lectures
The Phenomenal Self and the First-Person Perspective
Thomas Metzinger
Chair: Victor A. F. Lamme
Friday June 20, 9:00AM-10:00AM
 
Microsaccades: Windows on the Mind
Susana Martinez-Conde
Chair: Jong-Tsun Huang
Friday June 20, 4:30PM-5:30PM
 
Comparative Cognitive Science: Trade-off Theory of Memory and Symbolization in Humans and Chimpanzees
Tetsuro Matsuzawa
Chair: Ralph Adolphs
Saturday June 21, 9:00AM-10:00AM
 
Computational Advantages of Internal Models as Self-Consciousness
Mitsuo Kawato
Chair: Axel Cleeremans
Sunday June 22, 9:00AM-10:00AM
 
 
 
Presidential Address
Thursday June 19, 5:30PM-6:30PM at Alexander Hall

David Rosenthal
Philosophy Program
City University of New York
USA
Email: davidrosenthal@nyu.edu
Website: http://davidrosenthal1.googlepages.com/
Why Are Mental States Ever Consciousness?
Theories of consciousness typically seek to say either what it is for a mental state to be conscious or what the neural correlate is of a state's being conscious. But not all mental states are conscious. So there is a third question, which has received little attention: Why is it that mental states are ever conscious? Answers to the first two questions, I'll argue, do not by themselves provide an answer to the third, and several theories actually preclude giving any informative answer.

Some have urged that states are sometimes conscious because their being conscious has utility for the organism. I'll argue, however, that the utility of thoughts, desires, and perceptions is almost entirely independent of whether those states are conscious.

I'll advance two explanations of why many mental states are conscious, one for perceptions and another for intentional states such as thoughts and volitions. In both cases, the process that leads to states' becoming conscious is beneficial, but the consciousness of the states itself adds little or no utility.

In brief, perceptions come to be conscious when an organism detects its own erroneous perceiving, thereby becoming conscious of itself as being in perceptual states. By contrast, thoughts, which lack qualitative character, become conscious only in creatures with relatively sophisticated linguistic abilities. Many states of nonlinguistic creatures are presumably conscious, but arguably thoughts are not among them. Thoughts come to be conscious when saying something becomes virtually interchangeable with saying that one thinks that thing, as it is in humans. Because saying that one thinks something expresses an awareness of that very thought, such habituated interchangeability brings with it consciousness of many of one's thoughts.
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Keynote Lectures
 
Friday June 20, 9:00AM-10:00AM at Alexander Hall

Thomas Metzinger
Philosophisches Seminar
The Johannes Gutenberg-Universitat
GERMANY
Email: metzinger@mail.uni-mainz.de
Website: http://www.philosophie.uni-mainz.de/metzinger/index.html

The Phenomenal Self and the First-Person Perspective

How can a conscious self emerge from the physical dynamics unfolding within an embodied brain? And how exactly is the appearance of such a conscious self related to the subjectivity of our target phenomenon ¡V to the fact that it seems to be tied to individual first-person perspectives? Self-consciousness is not just another form phenomenal content, and the conscious experience of selfhood is not just one detail problem among many others. If we aim at a comprehensive theory of consciousness which is conceptually coherent and firmly grounded in empirical data, then the phenomenal self will have to be right at the center of our efforts. Why?

Many anti-reductionist arguments take the epistemical asymmetry between first-person and third-person access to consciousness as their starting point. Philosophically, I will argue that it is a mistake to accept the vague metaphor of a ¡§first-person perspective¡¨ as a conceptual primitive, and offer a naturalistic successor concept. I will also show that, metaphysically, no such things as selves actually exist and briefly sketch a theory of the phenomenal self. In support of this claim I will also present new empirical data from an interdisciplinary project in which we try to experimentally generate whole-body illusions and artificial out-of-body experiences in a virtual reality setting. Empirically, I will propose a scientific research program for ¡§minimal phenomenal selfhood¡¨, i.e., a strategy that attempts to isolate the neurofunctional correlates of the simplest form of self-awareness.

Recommended reading
(2003). Being No One. The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
(2007). Self Models. Scholarpedia, p. 24066 http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Self_Models
(2008). Empirical perspectives from the self-model theory of subjectivity: A brief summary with examples.
_______In Rahul Banerjee and Bikas K. Chakrabarti (eds.), Progress in Brain Research, 168: 215-246.
_______Amsterdam: Elsevier.

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Friday June 20, 4:30PM-5:30PM at Alexander Hall
Susana Martinez-Conde
Barrow Neurological Institute
USA
Email: smart@neuralcorrelate.com
Website: http://www.neuralcorrelate.com/smc_lab/index.php
Microsaccades: Windows on the Mind
Our visual system contains a built-in contradiction: when we fixate our gaze on an object of interest, our eyes are never still. Instead we produce, several times each second, small eye movements of which we are unaware, called "microsaccades", "drifts" and "tremor". If we eliminate all these eye movements in the laboratory, our visual perception of stationary objects fades, due to neural adaptation. When our eyes move across the image once again, visual perception reappears. Due to their role in counteracting adaptation, fixational eye movements are an important tool to understand how the brain makes our environment visible. Moreover, because we are not aware of these eye movements, they can also help us understand the underpinnings of visual awareness. For the last decade, my laboratory and others have recorded the neural activity generated by microsaccades ¡Vthe largest and fastest fixational eye movement- at different stages of the visual pathway. This presentation will review these discoveries and their implications for visual awareness. I will also discuss the contribution of microsaccades to bistable perception, and the role of microsaccades as indicators of the spatial location of covert attention.
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Saturday June 21, 9:00AM-10:00AM at Alexander Hall
Tetsuro Matsuzawa
Primate Research Institute
Kyoto University
JAPAN
Email: matsuzawa@pri.kyoto-u.ac.jp
Website: http://www.pri.kyoto-u.ac.jp/koudou-shinkei/shikou/staff/matsuzaw/index.html
Comparative Cognitive Science: Trade-off Theory of Memory and Symbolization in Humans and Chimpanzees
The present study is an effort to know the evolutionary basis of human mind. Human mind does not remain in the fossils. To know the evolution of intelligence, emotion, and consciousness, we have to compare those of humans and other living organisms. Three mother-offspring pairs learned the sequence of Arabic numerals from 1 to 9, using a touch-screen monitor connected to a computer. A memory task was then introduced at around the time when the young became 5 years old. In this test, after touching the first numeral, all other numerals were replaced by white squares. In general, the performance of the three young chimpanzees was better than that of the three mothers and human adults: Young chimpanzees were good at memorizing details at a glance. A symbolic matching task was then introduced at around the time when the young became 6 years old. In this test, the subjects learned to match a Color (red, yellow, or green) to the corresponding two visual symbols (Kanji and Lexigram). All of the six possible combinations of Color, Kanji, and Lexigram were simultaneously introduced. The results showed that the establishment of the stimulus equivalence or the symmetry rule was difficult in chimpanzees. Our data can be interpreted according to a ¡§trade-off hypothesis of memory and symbolization¡¨ from both developmental and evolutionary perspectives. Developmental trade-off would mean that young individuals can perform better in immediate memory tasks but may not be as able at other cognitive tasks such as those involving symbolic relationships. This may be due to the difference in the speed of myelinaization of neurons in each part of the brain. Evolutionary trade-off suggests that the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees may have possessed an extraordinary memory capability. At a certain point in evolution, because of limitations on brain capacity, the human brain may have acquired new functions of symbolization in parallel with losing immediate memory.
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Sunday June 22, 9:00AM-10:00AM at Alexander Hall

Mitsuo Kawato
Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International
JAPAN
Email: kawato@hip.atr.co.jp
Website: http://www.cns.atr.jp/~kawato/

Computational Advantages of Internal Models as Self-Consciousness
Internal models are neural networks that can simulate dynamic behaviors of some processes inside or outside of the brain. 10 years ago, I postulated that self-consciousness could be an internal model that roughly approximates dynamic behavior of the brain. An internal model is doomed to be approximate, superficial and erroneous, as recently demonstrated by many experiments. In this talk, I discuss computational advantages of internal models as self-consciousness. They could involve fast computation, long-term planning, generating internal rewards and intrinsic motivations.
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