As a scientific term, consciousness is used to refer to the relationship that exists between the mind and the world with which it interacts. Consciousness can be defined as one’s awareness of his/her unique thoughts, memories feelings, sensations and environment. Several studies have been done in trying to come up an explanation of he consciousness arises leading to the development of a number of theories. Some of these theories include: Conventional theory of consciousness, representational theory of consciousness, and the neural theory of consciousness. This paper will discuss in depth the conventional theory of consciousness and its explanation to the process of the occurrence of consciousness from the brain.
Theory of Consciousness
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Horizon Research Foundation (2011) has notes that the theory of conventional consciousness has as its central proposition, that it is the neural activity that gives rise to both the mind and consciousness and that consciousness arises from the activity of the brain. Because of its sensitiveness, scientists have come up a number of sub-theories in trying to explain how the processes related to consciousness such as emotions occur. Generally, the conventional theorists have a common position that consciousness basically emerges from the activities taking place in the brain.
Explanation on How Consciousness Arises
According to the Horizon Research foundation (2011), consciousness can arise from certain specific areas of the brain. First are the places at which the brain cells connect. Second instances results whenever the brain cell networks in the brain are involved in a synchronous activity and finally consciousness may also arise as a novel property of the computational complexity among the brain cells. Sternberg (2009) in supporting this theory argued that it is the brain cells and their chemical connections that form the fundamental unit of the information in the brain. According to him, a network of the brain cells has to reach a certain critical level of complexity for a conscious experience to finally be reached.
Velmans (2009) notes that the theory has been supported from the fact that it is generally acceptable that any change in the brain functions like memories and personality is affected by any kind of injury on the brain. Studies have shown that specific head injuries or brain tumors can easily make one to some sense of consciousness. Horizon Research foundation (2011) quoting the findings of studies done using special scanning devices like MRI and PET, argues that there is a possibility of existence of a correlation between the different activities the brain is involved in and an individual’s mental state. Sternberg (2009) added that there is a possibility of brain cells becoming active whenever someone is thinking a bout something very specific. With these kinds of evidences, it has thus been argued that the brain cells provide the intermediary and thus allowing the thoughts to be manifested. What still remains debatable is whether the brain cells can also produce thoughts.
According to the Horizon Research Foundation (2011), a number of scientists have criticized this theory with the major argument being that it can not be used to explain all the observable features of consciousness. The foundation has identified some of the criticisms raised against the theory. The first critique concerns the nature of the subjective experience. This has been raised by scholars who doubt the possibility of thoughts arising from the chemical processes in the brain cells. Second criticism is that different activities of the brain takes place in different parts of the brain and thus it may not be possible to bind the activities into a single conscious state. The argument is that by the fact that the processes involved in consciousness takes place in different part of the brain, they can not be put together into “an object called consciousness”.
The third criticism has been raised by those who argue that the chemical processes being unconscious events can not lead to a conscious state. Sternberg (2009) noted that, according to this group of scholars, the transition from pre-conscious process to the conscious process is just not possible. The last critic concerns the issue of free will. The Horizon Research Foundation (2011) has noted that the opponents who use the argument have casted doubt on the possibility of having free will if all the conscious processes were determined by the activities talking place in the brain cells. Their main point is that it would then be impossible for us to have a free will to choose. Instead all that the human beings are involved in would be premeditated which is not true. This means that every aspect of human lives would completely be determined by the genes and environment. If this would be true, then human beings would not be held accountable for their actions (Horizon Research Foundation, 2011).
These limitations necessitated the need for advanced explanations to the process of consciousness. The Horizon Research Foundation (2011) has reported certain advancements proposed by various scholars. These advancements have been based on results of various clinical studies which have related specific changes in such functions as personality and memory to specific areas of damage in the brain. The damages may be caused by various forms of head injuries or from the effect of stroke. These findings have also been supported by MRI and PET scanning based studies which have also linked the specific parts of the brain to certain specific activities like thoughts and feelings. These further studies established that even if the brain cell networks play an intermediary role in the thought process, it doesn’t make it automatic that the same cells also take part in the production of the thoughts.
In conclusion, it is without any doubt that the need to understand the consciousness and the mind and the way in which each of them relates to the brain still remains a challenge to the scientists today. Further research aiming at establishing how the human sense self awareness and such activities as feelings and emotions arise from the brain is therefore necessary. There is also a need for an experimental model to test the theories. These would finally lead to a better understanding of consciousness.
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