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Durham University

Durham Emergence Project

Fellowship


Is consciousness emergent or merely reducible to the base level, structural property?

Participants

Mihretu Guta


Project Description

The purpose of this project was to address the following research questions:

1. Is consciousness emergent or merely reducible to the base level, structural property? If it is an emergent property, is it strongly or weakly emergent?

2. What does the activity of the brain have to do with consciousness? Is brain activity the source of phenomenal consciousness, or is its relation to the brain merely intimate correlations?

Mihretu pursued my research in two phases. In phase one: he did an extensive assessment of the existing literature on issues related to the nature and the emergence of consciousness. In light of this, he developed his own novel way to think about the nature and the emergence of consciousness, which was a non-causal account of the spontaneous emergence of phenomenal consciousness. It was within the framework of this theory that he tried to address the questions in (1) and (2) above. In this case, his investigation led me to believe that phenomenal consciousness is a strongly emergent property for which the activity of the brain only plays a significant but a subsidiary role. (The complexity of the nervous system is a necessary condition for the emergence of phenomenal consciousness but not its actual cause.) Since the research convinced him that making progress in our understanding of the nature and the emergence of consciousness is contingent on having the right kind of understanding of the ontology of the self, Mihretu also looked at what role the ontology of the self plays for our understanding of the nature of consciousness.

On March 26, 2015, Mihretu organized a one-day workshop on the Metaphysics of Consciousness which took place at Durham University. The speakers at this event were John Heil, Eric Olson, Alex Carruth, Henry Taylor and Mihretu himself.


Publications:

• ‘Consciousness, First-Person Perspective and Neuroimaging’, in Mihretu P. Guta and Sophie Gibb (eds.), Insights into the First-Person Perspective and the Self: An Interdisciplinary Approach, A Special Issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies, 11-12 (2015): 218-45.

• ‘Editorial Introduction’ in Mihretu P. Guta and Sophie Gibb (eds.), Insights into the First-Person Perspective and the Self: An Interdisciplinary Approach, A Special Issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies, 11-12 (2015): 8-19.

• Mihretu P. Guta and Sophie Gibb (eds.), Insights into the First-Person Perspective and the Self: An Interdisciplinary Approach, A Special Issue the Journal of Consciousness Studies, 11-12 (2015).

• ‘Objects, Dispositions and Lockean Person-Making Properties with Implications for the Emergence of Consciousness, APPRAISAL The Journal of British Personalist Forum 4-11 (2016).

• 'A Non-Causal Account of the Spontaneous Emergence of the Phenomenal Consciousness’ in Mihretu P. Guta (ed.) Consciousness and the Ontology of Properties (2019).


Presentations of funded research:

Mihretu gave these presentations in 2015 -

• ‘Consciousness, Emergence and Spontaneity’ at the Durham Emergence Project Seminar, Durham University and also at the Talbot Philosophical Society, Biola University, California

• ‘Consciousness, First-Person Perspective and Neuroimaging’ at the workshop on the Metaphysics of Consciousness, Durham University.

• A paper on the panel 'Towards the Science of Consciousness', at the 21st International Interdisciplinary Conferences, University of Helsinki in Finland.

• 'Consciousness, First-Person Perspective and Neuroimaging’ at the Cognitive Science Lecture Series at the University of Vienna, Austria.

• ‘Consciousness, First-Person Perspective and Neuroimaging’ at the Annual Ustinov College Interdisciplinary Conference at Durham University.

• ‘Objects, Dispositions and Lockean Person-Making Properties with Implications for the Emergence of Consciousness’ at the 13th International Conference on Persons, Boston University, Massachusetts.