Valerie Hardcastle:

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(Copyright © 2000 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

After reviewing data from neurophysiology and psychology, The American philosopher Valerie Hardcastle makes two main claims: 1. that consciousness arises from activation of one of Tulving's four types of memory, semantic memory (i.e., a conscious thought corresponds to the activation of an item of semantic memory); 2. that mind-brain binding is due to "higher order patterns of bifurcation in an attractor phase space". In other words, the human brain instantiates multiple memory systems, and memory contents are conscious when they are active in semantic memory. Hardcastle points out that the contents of Tulving's four memory systems are accessed in different ways. When someone can recall only an aspect of the world, it usually means that one of the four memory systems cannot be accessed properly. This also means that there is a "place" for consciousness in the brain, a place where the conscious experience is assembled, i.e. that Hardcastle believes in space-based binding as opposed to time-based binding.
Overall, the book is much more interesting for the foundations that it lays down. Hardcastle is one of the first scholars who first tries to decide "what" has to be studied and "how", as opposed to jumping directly to "here is how consciousness works". For example, Hardcastle frames her program as a search for the major psychological and neurophysiological differences between conscious states and unconscious ones (apart from the tautological fact that the former are conscious and the latter are not). Neurobiologists search for the "neural correlate" of consciousness, which is basically the same thing.
The book exhibits the typical weakness of philosophical works in an age in which philosophers are rapidly being left behind by science.

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