Is Consciousness Only a Property of Individual Cells?
Author: Edwards, Jonathan C.W.
Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 12, Numbers 4-5, 2005 , pp. 60-76(17)
Publisher: Imprint Academic
Abstract:We perceive colour, shape, sound and touch 'bound together' in a single experience. The following arguments about this binding phenomenon are raised: (1) The individual signals passing from neurone to neurone are not bound together, whether as elements of information or physically. (2) Within a single cell, binding in terms of bringing together of information is potentially feasible. A physical substrate may also be available. (3) It is therefore proposed that a bound conscious experience must be a property of an individual cell, not of a group of cells. Since it is unlikely that one specific neurone is conscious, it is suggested that every neurone has a version of our consciousness, or at least some form of sentience. However absurd this may seem it appears to be consistent with the available evidence; arguably the only explanation that is. It probably does not alter the way we should expect to experience the world, but may help to explain the ways we seem to differ from digital computers and some of the paradoxes seen in mental illness. It predicts non-digital features of intracellular computation, for which there is already evidence, and which should be open to further experimental exploration. The arguments given may well prove flawed or the conclusion biologically or physically untenable, but the idea is raised for discussion not least because a formal demonstration that it is invalid may help to identify more fruitful avenues.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 2005