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Author & Title: Giorgio Marchetti, A Theory of Consciousness (Giorgio Marchetti Copyright 2001)



In this article I try to give an answer to some of the fundamental questions concerning consciousness. How is it possible to conciliate and explain the apparent contradiction present in the metaphor of the stream of consciousness as something flowing uninterruptedly, but which is, nevertheless, composed of single pulses of consciousness? How is attention involved in the formation of conscious perception? How can we explain the phenomenal quality of our conscious perceptions?
     To answer these questions, I resort to two basic concepts: the perceptual system and the schema of self. The perceptual system makes it possible for an organism to be conscious, whereas the schema of self provides the rules that make an organism perceive, move, act, behave, and live in general. The stream of consciousness arises from the uninterrupted interaction of the schema of self and the perceptual system. Every conscious perception affects the schema of self, modifying and updating it. Every modification of the schema of self implies a new particular instruction to the perceptual system, and in general to the organism. The uniqueness of each single pulse of consciousness is determined by the particular instruction that each time the schema of self gives to the perceptual system.
     Attention, which can be considered as the core part of the perceptual system, is not only responsible for the selective aspect of consciousness, but also for its phenomenal quality. The organ of attention can be seen as the source of the organism’s nervous energy, and attention as the nervous energy that gives the organism the possibility of performing actions capable of directly affecting the organism’s state of energy. The attentional activity performed by the organism involves a variation in the state of the nervous energy. It is this variation that constitutes the phenomenal aspect of consciousness. When acting, the organism can experience and feel directly its actions and the results of its actions, thus making possible the delimitation and emergence of the subject.
      The schema of self, once it has learnt and embodied the notion that the organism, by means of conscious perceiving, is able to affect the course of its own actions, provides the organism with a new degree of freedom that gives it the possibility of directly controlling itself. The schema of self, whose main goal is to keep the organism operating, thus succeeds in equipping the organism with the capacity to self-regulate itself, and consequently find by itself the best ways and means to assure its survival and create new strategies and aims. This constitutes the fundamental passage from consciousness to self-consciousness.

 Keywords: stream of consciousness, perceptual system, schema of self, attention, state of nervous energy, conscious experience, language, self-consciousness



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Send your contributions, proposals for collaboration and research projects - in English, possibly in a doc, rtf or pdf file format - to Giorgio Marchetti at info@mind-consciousness-language.com

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