What are the theories of consciousness surveys worth?

Beyond the appearences

Reading a new survey of theories of consciousness, from a computational point of view, I am amazed by the number of a priori which, without seeming to be so, are hidden in the middle of the text. This type of work, however, strives, with meticulousness, to get rid of postulates and ambivalences in terms. It takes care of course to specify the different meanings of consciousness and related notions, intelligence, free will, extends the perspective by searching in quantum mechanics for the possible seeds of consciousness. It gives pride of place to integrated information theory (IIT), the most computational of the competing theories, but does not forget to study all the competitors, and is interested in applications in artificial intelligence. Isn’t this a complete work in every aspect of the subject?

Ostensibly. Like other surveys of the same type, they talk about emergence on every page. There we find many diagrams of superpositions and encompassings, from processes to self-observation, from undifferentiated computational agents to the higher conscious agent. All of these references allude to the same topic: complexity. Subject which is never mentioned.

From the divine point of view

Is emergence a recognized, identified, explained physical mechanism? Absolutely not. Neither in science, nor even in philosophy. Each discipline deals with complexity in its own way. It is therefore rather surprising to see it used in general theories spanning the physical as well as human sciences, as if it were a well-known transcendental mechanism.

This is not the only hidden flaw in this type of investigation. Consciousness is examined from the “divine point of view”, as if the investigator had escaped from reality and was reading papers on consciousness from another universe, with an intelligence completely independent of that of the human brain, even to pronounce an objective opinion. No. The investigation is circular. Logic is judged by its own axioms. The minimum, during such work, is to choose two different points of view, foreign enough to each other so that they take a contradictory look, thus understanding the subject a little better.

Academic confinement

But no. By striving to adhere closely and exclusively to scientific precepts —which are a creation of this studied consciousness— the authors abandon any chance of leaving the divine point of view and integrating themselves into their subject, the only choice truly monist, and epistemologically honest.

Neither Stratium nor Surimposium are mentioned, of course. Works too confidential. Which leads to a sad verdict: academicism locks up thought, and consciousness, between the bars of its hidden a priori, instead of helping our minds to escape them.


Survey of Consciousness Theory from Computational Perspective, Ding Zihan, Wei Xiaoxi, Xu Yidan, 10.48550/arXiv.2309.10063

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