Source of Consciousness Found?

Harvard Researchers say they have found the Source of Human Consciousness. Interesting how this backs up speculative realist notions, in that they discovered the source of consciousness when it was broken, damaged or destroyed:

Those subjects who were unconscious showed damage to a small area of the brainstem known as the rostral dorsolateral pontine tegmentum. “When it is damaged, almost every patient became comatose,” Fox said. Only one of the 24 conscious patients did not see damage to this area of the brainstem. Due to this, researchers established that the tiny region plays a vital role in consciousness. Next, the neuroscientists turned to a map of the human connectome to investigate the connections between regions. They found two areas in the cortex connected to this part of the brainstem. That led them to believe that these three regions make up a neural network from which, consciousness derives.

Where exactly these connections terminate in the cortex is not yet known. One ends at a part called the left, ventral, anterior insula (AI). The other concludes in the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (pACC). Both areas are associated with awareness. But this is the first time they have been implicated in a neural network, never mind one which creates and maintains consciousness. In a follow-up segment, researchers examined the brains of 45 patients in a coma or vegetative state with an fMRI. They found in all the patients that these three regions were out of commission.


5 thoughts on “Source of Consciousness Found?

  1. Therapeutically speaking, this is an incredibly important finding. Otherwise, calling it the ‘source of consciousness’ is rather like calling the drive-shaft the source of driving. The hype this story is getting (I’m talking to you, BigThink) is getting way ahead of its actual significance.

    We’ve always used pathology as a way to isolate biological function, so I’m not clear what it has to do with spec-realism in particular.


    • Always the dig… in rebuttal it seems the eternal skeptic will always turn in the circle of questions and more questions. I didn’t call it the source of consciousness, they did… as for spec realism in its non-intentional forms (i.e., scientific realism…) confronts the real in what breaks down, so that yea whether they found this due to some “therapeutically speaking” form is besides the point. The parallel is there and one can deny it as in your eternal war against philosophy in all forms. As for me, not being a scientist I read, I think, I ponder… if it’s naught, so be it; yet, in the end what else do we have but this mind to reflect upon the ignorance within us and outside us. If it’s a useless circle of ignorance as you suggest over and over it’s all we have. Long ago Socrates admitted as much, and for him philosophy was admitting our own ignorance and allowing others to be educated to the point that they, too, would acknowledge ignorance is the only universal. Your own critiques and essays continually harp on this main message that philosophy is a dead enterprise. Granted. Yes, it is, and yet I am not dead, and I have a mind and am bound by my cultural inheritance, and until we have an actual post-intentional form of thought within which to think and speak I’m stuck with what I have unless I decide to go silent.

      To sit back and wait for science to hand us our truths seems to say: “Just stay ignorant, quit thinking, quit reflecting, quit philosophizing…”. In the end that is a prescription for absolute zombification. I read the sciences for facticity, yet once the facts are in the sciences are like any other strategy they must either interpret the facts or not. As you’ve shown over and over on your critiques of various scientists it seems that even scientists are bound by philosophical conceptual frameworks that fall into error. And, as you suggested in a recent essay we are all caught in the trap of cognitive biases. We could probably develop a therapy to clear that up which seems like an endless task since one will probably always find some new bias. But what in the end would that be but Freud’s interminable therapeutics under a new guise of freeing us from our cognitive deceptions. How would this produce new knowledge? How would this help us interpret the data the various sciences are uncovering? In the end even our linguistic world of language is fallacy prone and a habitual folk world of misconceptions. Shall we all speak in mathematics like physicists? How speak to each other beyond the cognitive biases of our kind? Shall we always be bounded by a narcissistic world of self-deception and smoke mirrors?

      Over and over you point to the fact of our ‘medial neglect’, our blindness and ignorance, but where is the path out of this error prone circle? So far all I’ve seen from you is the critique and diagnosis, is there no cure? Will we have to wait for the sciences to cure us of our human thought? Even in your latest essay on the semantic apocalypse we are in the midst of it only ever provides us the diagnosis but not the cure. You have yet to provide a post-intentional framework beyond the already obsolete intentionalism of Continental or Analytical philosophy. So where too? Shall we just enter this final apocalypse of meaning in defeat or triumph? What does it all come to if not a complete muddle of the human project? Some like Land will affirm that yes, the human project is mute – caput; our species is no longer needed, that our progeny the machinic phylum and intelligences of the future will accomplish what we ourselves could not due to our mental deficiencies – our evolutionary cul de sac. So far your narrative ends in the black hole of semantic apocalypse, is this the final word? Can you go no farther? Is this it?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry, Stephen. I was referring to BigThink, who were among the first to break this on the web. They have a bad habit of hyping findings, I find. I apologize for the perceived dig: I wasn’t referring to you at all!

        By ‘therapeutic’ I mean the very real clinical dilemma of determining whether nonresponsive patients are actually conscious or not. This has been the primary impetus behind a great deal of consciousness research.

        I’m not sure I understand your explanation of the relation between pathology as a diagnostic tool and speculative realism.

        I also don’t understand your critique: it simply follows that the obsolescence/breakdown of human intentional cognition means that human intentional cognition cannot take us beyond the obsolescence/breakdown of human intentional cognition. The attempt to think the post-intentional beyond of this event will be post-intentional. The bulk of my positive project consists in thinking beyond the ‘semantic apocalypse’ in this sense.


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