Simmons, A. (2011): Leibnizian Consciousness Reconsidered

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Two kinds of consciousness (p. 201)

External world consciousness

  • requires sensation
  • may be present in animals
  • animals have a conscious mental life but they are not conscious of it
  • requires both distinctness and memory

Reflective self-consciousness

  • involves “reflection and apprehension of the inner”
  • object is not external objects but one’s own self and its states

Memory & distinctness (p. 210)

Option A:

a sufficient echo of the perception in working memory renders the perception more distinct, and a sufficient amount of distinctness constitutes its being conscious.

Option B:

only sufficiently distinct perceptions create an echo in memory long enough to be heard, and that echo in memory constitutes consciousness.

Option C:

a perception’s being sufficiently distinct constitutes its being conscious and that makes it likely to be remembered in a quite ordinary sense of the term, viz., it is more likely to be consciously recalled later on.

Simmons advocates option C.

Memory & unity

Consciousness is essentially temporally extended or diachronic, hence memory is a necessary condition of consciousness because of the issue of keeping what is extended in such a way “together.”

Working memory and connection

I suggest that working memory involves the drawing of perceptual connections as well. In particular, it forges connections among the most distinct of our present perceptions, stitching them together into a unified conscious experience of the world. Distinctness makes some of our perceptions stand out, and so apt to be drawn into our conscious experience, but we do not have a unified conscious experience of an external world until they are stitched together. And this is a process that takes time. Working memory, if this is right, is not simply a matter of holding an especially distinct perception in place; it also involves linking that perception with other co-present perceptions to constitute a single experience of the world. (213)

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