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Libet, B. (2000). Conscious and Unconscious Mental Activity: Commentary by Benjamin Libet. Neuropsychoanalysis, 2:21-24.

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(2000). Neuropsychoanalysis, 2(1):21-24

Conscious and Unconscious Mental Activity: Commentary by Benjamin Libet

Benjamin Libet

Crick and Koch are to be commended for their valiant attempts to develop an understanding of the neuronal correlates of consciousness. But some of their treatment of the issues may be reconsidered.


On the question of the fundamental nature of conscious experience Crick and Koch (1998) make the good assumption that all the different aspects of consciousness (for example, pain, visual awareness, selfconsciousness, and so on) employ a basic common mechanism or perhaps a few such mechanisms. But they do not follow through on this important point.

Libet has proposed that subjective awareness should be regarded as the fundamental feature of consciousness. The various “forms” or aspects of consciousness are accountable in the different contents added to the single phenomenon of awareness (e.g., Libet, Pearl, et al., 1991; Libet, 1993a). For example, Crick and Koch “emphasize that it is qualia that are at the root of the problem.” (The hard problem, of course, refers to the designation by Chalmers [1995] for the question of how it is that conscious subjective experience can emerge from the activities of neurons, even if the neuronal correlates of consciousness were to be fully discovered.) Qualia are usually taken to mean the experiences of pain, colors, and other special qualities of conscious sensations that cannot be described simply by the correlative neuronal activities. But the hard problem must include all phenomena of subjective

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