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Consciousness as Control and Controlled Perception - A Perspective

Consciousness has been under intense scrutiny by researchers and philosophers for countless centuries and yet it remains mysterious. It is still not clear what consciousness is or what it is for. A fundamental problem that may be hampering substantial progress in consciousness studies is the lack of a clear understanding of the nature of the brain. It is unremarkable to suggest that consciousness is related, in some way, to brain activity, so without an authentic appreciation of what that activity is, it is improbable that an accurate and coherent articulation of consciousness will be delivered. In this paper, Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) is offered as a solution to the puzzle of the brain. From the perspective of PCT, the brain is a control system. The organization and functioning of this control system architecture is described and then the implications for the way in which we consider consciousness are discussed. Some current ideas about consciousness are overturned while others are preserved but integrated and synthesized into a coherent framework with negative feedback control as the unifying phenomenon. By recognizing consciousness as both, a phenomenon created by a massively interconnected network of sophisticated control systems that can, among other things, produce language, imagine, plan, and contemplate, and a property of this massive network, PCT provides us with the opportunity to rethink concepts as fundamental as: causation; stimulus and response; and objectivity and subjectivity.

Author(s): Timothy A. Carey

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