Thomas Metzinger wrote an outline of his book, ‘Being No One’, which puts his theory of consciousness in a very brief, compact form. He puts forward a list of constraints that any system must have to be conscious. The first three constrains gives a simple form of consciousness which he then elaborates with further constrains. Less than the first three will not produce conscious experience.
Constraint 1 is globality: all the contents of consciousness are found in the form of a single globally available integrated world-model. Constraint 2 is presence: the experience of consciousness is as a present ‘now’ in a flow of time. Our experience is being now in the world. Constraint 3 is transparency: consciousness does not include awareness of the process that created it; the mechanism is transparent.
“the most elementary form of conscious experience conceivable: The presence of a world. The phenomenal presence of a world is the activation of a coherent, global model of reality (Constraint 1) within a virtual window of presence (Constraint 2), a model that cannot be recognized as a model by the system generating it within itself (Constraint 3)… Phenomenal selfhood … it is a function realized by a lack of information.We do not experience the contents of our self-consciousness as the contents of a representational process, but simply as ourselves, living in the world right now. ”
It is the transparency that makes the experience seem to be direct when it is very indirect. It does not feel like the ‘world’ is constructed; that the ‘now’ is constructed; that the ‘self’ is constructed.
Here is a philosopher that has successfully turned his back on introspection as a source of knowing about the nature of consciousness. I cannot state too strongly how satisfying this theory is to me. It fits so well with what I think about consciousness and I will return to it in future posts.
It is worth reading this precis but be warned – this is a German philosopher writing in English and condensing an extremely long book. There are some hum-dingers of sentences.
Note: original link was wrong and has been corrected. Also, there is an alternative link in comment from helpful reader – thanks.
Thomas Metzinger (2005). Precis of – Being No One Psyche – An Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Consciousness, 11 (5)