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  Mens Sana Monographs
A Monograph Series Devoted To The Understanding Of Medicine, Mental Health, Man, Mind, Music And Their Matrix
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Year : 2011  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 93-112

What should be the roles of conscious states and brain states in theories of mental activity?

Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL 61820

Correspondence Address:
Donelson E Dulany
Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL 61820

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0973-1229.77429

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Answers to the title's question have been influenced by a history in which an early science of consciousness was rejected by behaviourists on the argument that this entails commitment to ontological dualism and "free will" in the sense of indeterminism. This is, however, a confusion of theoretical assertions with metaphysical assertions. Nevertheless, a legacy within computational and information-processing views of mind rejects or de-emphasises a role for consciousness. This paper sketches a mentalistic metatheory in which conscious states are the sole carriers of symbolic representations, and thus have a central role in the explanation of mental activity and action-while specifying determinism and materialism as useful working assumptions. A mentalistic theory of causal learning, experimentally examined with phenomenal reports, is followed by examination of these questions: Are there common roles for phenomenal reports and brain imaging? Is there defensible evidence for unconscious brain states carrying symbolic representations? Are there interesting dissociations within consciousness?

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