Prof. Axel Cleeremans, Université Libre de Bruxelles
While in Japan, Axel Cleeremans joined us for Cross Roads #4, to present 'Being Virtual'.
Consciousness remains a formidable challenge. Different theories of consciousness have proposed vastly different mechanisms to account for phenomenal experience. In this presentation, I give an overview of the four major competing proposals – Global Workspace Theory, Higher-Order Theories, Social Theories, and Predictive Processing – and integrated them into a novel framework in which consciousness is viewed as something that the brain learns to do.
The brain continuously and unconsciously learns to redescribe its own activity to itself, and in doing so, develops systems of metarepresentations that qualify target first-order representations. Experiences only occur in experiencers that have learned to know that they possess certain first-order states and have learned to care more about certain states than others. Consciousness is the brain’s (unconscious, embodied, enactive, non-conceptual) theory about itself. A theory that is gained through its interactions with itself, with other people, and with the world. In this sense, our conscious mind is a virtual recreation of what it's like to be a human agent.
Thank you to Axel, everyone who attended on a national holiday, and to Cross Compass for both sponsoring and hosting the event.