SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

IIT and the Science of Consciousness
(Philosophy of Mind, English)

My talk is divided into four parts and is driven by one main question: is Integrated Information Theory (IIT) (Oizumi et al. 2014) what we expect as a proper scientific theory of consciousness? In the first part, I explore both some of the most important proposals within the literature about the science of consciousness, and the philosophical troubles they have to deal with. Therefore, after a brief summary of the Crick and Koch's theory (Crick & Koch 1990), Global Neuronal Workspace Theory (Dehaene et al. 1998), and Neural Darwinism (Edelman 1987), I present some philosophical problems stemming from these accounts, in particular, the knowledge argument against physicalism (Jackson 1986), and the hard problem of consciousness (Chalmers 1995). After that, a brief introduction of IIT will be provided. But why should IIT succeed where other (neuro)scientific theories have, according to the above-mentioned philosophers, failed? The second part of the talk is concerned with this question, and I shall argue that IIT's strength consists in three points: i) it individuates a clear explanandum, structured in the theory's axioms; ii) it tries to define what consciousness is via a mathematical method, by considering both the quality and the quantity of it; iii) it has informed the delineation of a practical method (Perturbational Complexity Index) for measuring the capacity of consciousness in a brain, since this index hinges upon two conceptual pillars of IIT, namely integration and differentiation.
Nevertheless, in the third section, I consider the philosophical troubles with IIT, arguing that the main problem lies in the assumption that consciousness is identical to an informational structure. This starting point would lead the theory towards a form of panpsychism and a very controversial account of the link between mind and life. Instead, I suggest that, even though IIT's epistemological structure is what we want from a scientific theory of consciousness, its ontological assumptions do not allow the theory to explain consciousness. Then, in the fourth and conclusive part, I propose considering consciousness not as an intrinsic property of the matter, but as a biological phenomenon. Exploring the notion of information integration only within a biological context, I suggest, would be a decisive improvement in the science of consciousness.

Chalmers D.J. (1995) "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness" in Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2, 3, 200-219.
Crick F. e Koch C. (1990) "Towards a Neurobiological Theory of Consciousness" in Seminars in the Neuroscience, 2, 263-275.
Dehaene S., Changeaux J.P., Kerszberg M. (1998) A Neuronal Model of a Global Workspace in Effortful Cognitive Tasks, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 95, 14529-14534.
Edelman G. M. (1987) Neural Darwinism. The Theory of Neuronal Group Selection, New York, Basic Books.
Jackson F. (1986) "What Mary Didn't Know" in The Journal of Philosophy, 83, 5, 291-295.
Oizumi M., Albantakis L., Tononi G. (2014) From Phenomenology to the Mechanisms of Consciousness: Integrated information Theory 3.0, PloS Comput. Biol., 10, 5.

Chair: Giulia Lorenzi
Time: 12:00-12:30, 14 September 2018 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.003

Niccolò Negro 
(University of Milan, Italy)

I studied philosophy at the University of Siena, at the University of Milan, and, as an exchange student, at Central European University, Budapest. I am interested in philosophy of mind and neuroscience. In particular, I am focused on consciousness and its relation to the physical world. I am also interested in general philosophy of science and in neuroaesthetics.

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