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Humphrey, N. (2000). Now You See It, Now You Don't: Commentary by Nicholas Humphrey. Neuropsychoanalysis, 2(1):14-17.

(2000). Neuropsychoanalysis, 2(1):14-17

Now You See It, Now You Don't: Commentary by Nicholas Humphrey

Nicholas Humphrey

Those of us who have been arguing for some years for the position that Francis Crick and Christof Koch arrive at in this paper, namely, that phenomenal consciousness occurs only at the level of sensation, and that higher mental processes (including thinking and perception) have no conscious phenomenology at all, have made singularly little impact on the current debate.

In 1992, in A History of the Mind (Humphrey, 1992), I summarized my own views as follows:

1.   To be conscious is essentially to have sensations: that is, to have affect-laden mental representations of something happening here and now to me.

2.   The subject of consciousness, “I,” is an embodied self. In the absence of bodily sensations “I” would cease. Sentio, ergo sum—I feel therefore I am.

3.   All sensations are implicitly located at the spatial boundary between me and not-me, and at the temporal boundary between past and future: that is, in the “present.”

4.   For human beings, most sensations occur in the province of one of the five senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste). Hence most human states of consciousness have one or other of these qualities. There are no nonsensory, amodal conscious states.

5.   Mental activities other than those involving direct sensation enter consciousness only in so far as they are accompanied by “reminders” of sensation, such as happens in the case of mental imagery and dreams.

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