Problems with the "out of body" model of consciousness

deludedgod's picture

It makes no sense in terms of causal structure. A causal structure entails the causal relationship between mental and physical events. There is no causal structure here to speak of, the proposition is nonsensical. Certain causal structures are naïve, like epiphenomenalism (mental dead-ends) but at least have established relationships between mental and physical states. The causal structures that we can establish as necessary antecedents to functioning perception fly in the face of the hypothesis in question. For one, physical events which are part of the immediate experience have a temporal causal effect on mental events that they precede. If the causal structure in this case implies that mental events are not localized, ie, are not emergent from the brain, but rather some other hitherto unestablished source, it doesn’t actually mean anything to speak of a causal structure between the physical immediate world and the mental events. Yet clearly, regardless of position, such a correlation clearly exists. I burn my finger (physical event), experience pain (mental event), exude outward symptoms (physical event). There are numerous different causal structures from functionalism, epiphenomenalism, interactionalism non-reductive physicalism and reductionism. However, all causal models between neuronal events entail a necessary causal structure between physical events and mental events. In this case, no such causal structure can exist, since mental events do not derive from any immediate causal structure. This entails that the idea of an out of body consciousness is complete and utter nonsense. I cannot experience a first person ontology without experiencing some thing. Yet this in turn entails a causal relationship between my immediate world (empirical) and mental events. It literally makes no sense to speak of “consciousness” being amputated from the experience which has causal structure necessarily preceded by immediate experience.

Consciousness by nature refers to experience.  The thing being experienced cannot be amputated from consciousness, whether that thing being experienced be external or internal, or both, a causal structure entails that (a) a first person ontology being a first person experience of a world which is characterized by its locality to the brain, ie my immediate perception of the world around me. Yet in this case, such an experience cannot exist, it makes no sense to speak of a causal structure between the immediate world and the mental events that come from this antecedence. It means nothing to speak of an experience which is anteceded by an immediate causal structure between the physical and the mental to be generated by “something” which has no causal structural relationship with either of these things. The proposition is not coherent.

Another way to consider the causal structure is to consider how we normally experience the causal structures. Presuming the existence of other first-person ontologies, then a normal pattern of causal interaction in, say, a conversation can entail in S1 (subject 1) and S2 (subject 2), the following pattern of interaction;

Stimulus => S1 (physical

Brain (S1) => (physical causality) neuronal network response and processing of stimulus

Mental causality (S1) => Thought process

Mental causality (S1) => Thought process entails referencing to neuronal networks

Physical causality (S1)=> Entails the activation of other neuronal networks via this causal relationship

Physical causality (outward exuding) (S1) => Communication

Stimulus => S2 (physical)


Now, obviously, applying this particular model to the entire mental causal process is called analytical functionalism. And I do not think that analytical functionalism is MSF is a sufficient account of the mind, for one, it is not only true that exterior stimulus can induce mental causality (or that physical states being induced by such), because mental causality can in turn cause other mental processes, or rather, physical processes underlying those mental process such that there is an action-reaction between neuronal networks and thoughts, emotions (and the associated neurotransmitter), sense data (physical stimuli causality). But the problem is that in the model being discussed, there is no relationship between experience and physical causality and hence the physical processing of the world, and the conscious awareness does not entail any active causality between the neuronal networks and the conscious experience, because “consciousness” does not proceed from the local object upon which the experience is acting (the brain). That being the case, being that there is no computational relationship between experience and physical causality, but this is gibberish because the being the case, we wouldn’t be experiencing anything. Regardless of whether or not analytical functionalism is a sufficient account of the mind, it is definitely a contigent truth to say that. to some degree,  mental states are defined by their functional states relative to physical states and other mental states (it is also possible to argue that  the idea of a single "mental state" is not). However, I have never accepted functionalism always remaining a staunch type physicalists ((mental events are defined by their physical correlates). For reasons of the fact that mental states can be realized in non-human brains and also non-human experiences, I rejected strong type physicalism in favor of token type physicalism, which accounts for what I described above, called Multiple realizibility. At any rate, the thing to take away is that the "consciousness being broadcast" nonsense (a) has no model of interaction and (b) does not account for qualia, the subjective nature of consciousness localized to the physical occupance of the thing experiencing the first person ontology, ie the feel of the pain when one burns their finger. It is not coherently established how "consciousness" being broadcast would account for this given that this would entail that consciousness is a "thing" which exists independently of  the experiencing first person ontology and its extended body.

To consider my own position further, I am a specific subset of identity type theorists called an anomolous monist.


 So, to me, although there is no bridge of reductionist subsets, mental states still have their necessary antecedants in neuronal networks, and constellations of such give rise to neuronal networks. I settled on this particular model several years ago, after realizing that (a) Epiphenominalism was nonsense because it has causal dead ends on mental events (something I discuss in my paper on multiple realizability) and (b) Machine state functionalism could not account for the person understanding the Chinese language as opposed to Searle's Chinese Room machine, and I did not want to bite the bullet of functionalism by admitting that Ned Block's Chinese Nation-Mind state entity could be a functioning mind. Emergentism appealed to me because Token types entail multiple realizability, as shown:

Returning to the model being propagated here. It necessarily entails due to the lack of causal structure, anomolous dualism, that there are no laws governing the mental-physical relationship, and they are two different substances (mental events are then not causally effacious of physical ones, or other mental events). This is problematic.

By the fallacy of rheification being occurred here, it is impossible to turn consciousness into a “thing” or a property that exists extant and external to the causal structure of the brain, since by its nature it is intertwined the local causality but it is unclear how a wholly non-local causality with no interaction whatsoever to the local causality would play a part in the equation. It is very unclear what we mean to speak of consciousness by itself (lest we commit a rheification fallacy), and even less meaningful to assert it as an entity per se could have properties independant of those processes which we (from our neuroscientific process) understand to be those processes responsible for mental events.


"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.


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