Dr. Bernard Baars
Consciousness and Cognition
525 B Street, Suite 1900
San Diego, CA 92101-4495
February 8 2002
Dear Dr. Baars,
Please find enclosed three copies of my paper "The Function of Conscious Experience: An Analogical Paradigm of Perception and Behavior", which I resubmit for publication in Consciousness and Cognition.
You may recall that the two reviewers both complained of a large literature that was not discussed in the paper, and certain standard philosophical positions that were not mentioned. That ommision has now been rectified with a whole new section in the paper called "A History of the Epistemological Debate". The epistemological question is a very old problem in philosophy, and remains to this day unresolved, so a history of the problem is necessarily somewhat lengthy, since I review that history from the indirect realist perspective (which is not often heard), so the review section has extended the paper by thirteen new pages. This is exactly why I had originally decided not to include a review of the problem when presenting my new theory. I hope the reviewers will not now complain that the paper is too long!
Reviewer #1 makes a disturbing comment in his review. He decries "the tortuous attempts that people make (including Lehar) to try and show that brain events and phenomenal events are really identical when it is perfectly obvious that they are as unalike as they could be. Leibnitz's law states that if A and B are identical then they must have identical properties, which nerve nets and sensations singularly fail to exhibit." It is perfectly true that phenomenology is inconsistent with contemporary concepts of neurocomputation. That either means that consciousness is a complete illusion with no direct neurophysiological correlate, or it means that contemporary concepts of neurocomputation are fundamentally in error, because they offer no evidence of the volumetric colored pictures in the brain that we know so well from phenomenal experience. For my part I decry the tortuous attempts that people make (probably including this reviewer) to try and show that consciousness can somehow exist independent of neurophysiology, and that the volumetric spatial properties of the external world enter directly into conscious experience without leaving any impression in the representational mechanism of the brain. Both alternatives are incredible, as I have explained, and therefore this issue should not be decided on the basis of "perceived incredibility", but on sound logic and the factual evidence.
I hope the reviewer has recognized that this is a paradigmatic issue, i.e. it is a question of the foundational assumptions with which one comes to the debate in the first place. I do not expect the reviewer to be personally convinced by my arguments. History has shown that in the case of paradigmatic debates, people are very rarely swayed by the evidence (Kuhn 1970) because paradigmatic issues are not so much a matter of evidence, as they are about the foundational assumptions behind a science. Every alternative paradigmatic hypothesis deserves at the very least to be exposed to the larger community to allow them to make up their own minds on the facts of the case. Even an erroneous paradigmatic hypothesis, for example Gibson's absurdly naive theory of direct perception, serves a very useful purpose in the literature by demonstrating the absurd implications to which the initial hypothesis inevitably leads. In this case the reviewer should rejoice that I have made more explicit than ever before, the incredible and seemingly absurd consequences of taking an indirect realist view of perception. Others can be warned against representationalism because it inevitably leads to Lehar's absurd world-in-your-head conclusion. But the apparent absurdity of indirect perception is balanced by the apparent absurdity of direct perception, so by rejecting representationalism, the reviewer is implicitly subscribing to direct realism or projection theory. I have made this point much more clearly in the new version of the paper.
Finally, I am also somewhat disturbed by your own comment that "even if your hypothesis is true, I'm not sure that it tells us about the function of consciousness, as the title claims." I presume that by this you mean that my theory says nothing about the experiential, or "what it is like" aspect of consciousness, as opposed to its structural, or representational aspect. In the first place, the structural or representational aspect of conscious experience is totally invisible, or transparent, when viewed from the naive realist perspective, so the benefit of the indirect realist view is to reveal the existence of a structural representation in the brain in the first place, a fact which is commonly overlooked. Secondly, the structural, or representational aspect of consciousness is every bit as much an essential part of conscious experience as is the subjective experiential component, so even demonstrating a functionality for the structural aspect of conscious experience is a demonstration of the function of conscious experience. This point is now made much more clearly in the new version of the paper, particularly in the conclusion.
I have attended to all of the criticisms raised by the reviewers, and made reference to all of the material they have suggested. I have also deposited an electronic version of this paper in Microsoft Word format at the Consciousness & Cognition home page as instructed, under the filename "lehar1.doc".
With thanks in advance for your kind consideration,