What is the Cartesian theatre? Can consciousness be explained without it?

The Cartesian Theater takes up a certain vision of the brain as an assembler of perceptions, producing a kind of entertainement played continuously. For which « I » viewer? Silence. This is a critique of dualism consciousness / neural networks. However, there is a surprising distance between neural excitations and conscious sensations. How to reconcile dualism and monism?

The brain is a complex system with inputs and outputs. The sensory inputs are very little codified (pulse sequences corresponding to photons received by the retina, etc …). Motor outputs, while reflecting complex intentions, do not in themselves contain complex code. They are also sequences of impulses corresponding to precise muscular stimuli, from which it would be very difficult to extract the complex abstractions that sometimes motivated them. Between inputs and outputs: a staggering coding of entries creating concepts of increasing sophistication, with the underlyings organized and back-controlled by the over-under. Each level can be at the origin of an action, modulated by the upper levels. Thus we have a conceptual pyramid in which the exchanges are bi-directional, with at its summit the space of integration bringing together all the mental productions in their most evolved organization: consciousness. (This is a quick summary)

The Cartesian Theater is a vision containing false and true. The false is to believe that a simple representation such as an object and a complex representation such as a close person would be at the same level in the mental hierarchy, that they would be comparable patterns and only located in different centers. No, the image of the person is higher, recruiting many more sub-concepts and biographical memories. It is a much more acting representation than that of the object, in that it is associated with a personal power and a wide range of possible behaviors, contrary to the object. During the construction of the Cartesian Theater, the spectators are arranged at the same time as the story. Everyone is perfectly in place when running real life. Even the critics are present, since the external opinions on our Self and our destiny are also the object of representations.

The truth is that consciousness is indeed an evaluative process of its own structure, of what is proposed to it. Initiation of acts is subconscious, judgment is conscious. This process goes back down the organizational pyramid. In the words of the Cartesian Theater, the consciousness level is the most intelligent homunculus that evaluates the effectiveness of the immediately subconscious level. This is the slightly more rough homunculus that evaluates the effectiveness of its own underlying level. And so on until the rather stupid homunculus that only evaluates the good coordination of muscle bundles or other basic functions. By reducing the intelligence of the homunculus according to its position in the pyramid, we can this time make the connection between the “non-intelligence” of sensory inputs (and motor outputs), and the intelligence of the conscious homunculus. This one is simply the assembly of active and particularly sophisticated concepts that flutter in the space of conscious integration. It involves specifically a surprisingly low number of neurons, most of the work being done by the underlying structure. This explains why intelligence is not measured in a species by the number of neurons or the size of the brain, but rather by the number of strata in their organization. This also explains that the vivacity of conscious impressions and their variety are not connected with intelligence. Regardless of the number of strata forming the intelligence of each mental task, the space of conscious integration is equally diversified among everybody, including all these tasks.

Science does not yet know how to make stratification measurements by studying neural interactions, but a more classical method works very well: inject calibrated inputs and collect outputs. Ask questions and analyze the answers… an excellent evaluation of this « deep intelligence ».

2 thoughts on “What is the Cartesian theatre? Can consciousness be explained without it?”

  1. As far as I have read, you explain consciousness in relation to brains, but all sentients, even those without brains, i.e. bacteria, enjoy conscious subjective experience within their perspective to interact with their environment. How do you explain that?
    If you’ve already explained it, just share the link to it.


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