Part II: From the Proto-phenomenal To Phenomenality

Surrogates For Sensory Causes, Proxies For Locally Bounded Information

Encode-able patterns convey band-passed structure and dynamics, discarding fine-grained information.
Fortunately, for conscious beings, in light of assumption

b)Proto-phenomenal manifestation is a low order-of-scale, natural microphysical phenomenon, locally and temporally bounded …

fine-grained information that cannot penetrate the sensory perimeter, or that can be represented only in proximity to it – that is “non-relational” by definition – may be made available to the agent by means of surrogates for the various sensory causes;- subjective proxies for the lost information, with distinctive characteristics.
By extension any locally bounded information may be similarly shared.

Proto-phenomenal “Micro Contributors” To Experience

A thorough discussion of the notion of proto-psychism is not in scope for this presentation, but an extremely short and informal explanation of the intended meaning of the term, in context, is called for.

The view adopted here considers consciousness to be a composite that comes about through a dynamical spatiotemporal (relational) arrangement of proto-phenomenal “micro-contributors”. Each of these contributors provides essential support to the generation of a reflexive expression of some natural mode of interaction over a physical span.

A contributor carries the potential to anchor and essentially take part in a manifestation of (some) subjective experience, when set in a system that provides whatever other complementary elements that may be required to bring about phenomenal manifestation.

In an experiencing system proto-phenomenal “micro-contributors” inseparably support both modal-quality and subjectivity of experience, as sensed over a small physical span.

As surrogates for non-relational content (from a system perspective) proto-phenomenal “micro-contributors” do not intrinsically support any experience of relational configuration. They carry only the potential to effect, when appropriately related, an inscrutable,  unitary, opaque experience. Conceivably they may, however, in varying circumstances, partake in a manifestation of distinct phenomenal features, to convey multiple characterizations of sensed environmental conditions.

To clarify:

  • No position is implied with regards to the question whether the experiential potential is realized in-and-of-itself by each of these postulated contributors or through complementary dynamical arrangements of the system’s constituents.
  • The notion of a proto-phenomenal micro-contributor is only a useful conceptual abstraction. It should not be seen to carry any implication regarding physical (natural) implementation.
    The notion can be compatible with diverse ideas regarding the physical substrate giving rise to experiential potential, be these on a sub-microscopic or macro-system scale or involving scale free dynamics.
  • The view is neutral with regards to the order of scale of minimal phenomenal manifestation, proposing only that it should be “sub-microscopic”
  • The view is neutral on the question of discrete expression (“atomism”) vs. a continuum of micro-subjectivity, save for postulating
    • Partially overlapping plurality of expressive sources in the discrete case (“dense activity”)
    • A ‘grain’ of modulation imposed by the computational network (Part I and below)

The view is compatible with a notion of Integrated Information as a fundamental enabler, if not the basis of phenomenality, although the author is inclined to favor a more involved account.

Correlated “Micro Contributors” ; Combination Not A Problem

“Micro-Contributors” know no context nor do they experience (intrinsic) structure.
They do not support an experience of boundaries, and thus can “coalesce” in a “bound” experience.

Relational context is organized by the computational  aspect of the system, which traces correlating world lines of proto-phenomenal “micro-contributor” manifestations. The resulting patterns function as iconic filters (or generators).

By this view a patterned set of expressive “micro-contributors”, complemented by some operational structure of system, constitutes an “island” of experience. What kind of arrangement would impose a relational constraining structure upon a “soup” of independently manifesting proto-phenomenal sources, to bring out (i.e. isolate) a unified and ordered phenomenal experience?

Following the proposed representation scheme of Part I, an integrated active pattern representation consists of concurrent activity of an information-poor aspect and an iconic construct, both of which could be correlated with manifesting “micro-contributors”.

==> The complete phenomenal expression of the represented pattern may synchronously include a vague sense of  invariant whole, intertwined with a sense of fully differentiated detail, throughout the duration of activation.

Key here are the notions that

  • Experience is effectively temporally contiguous (smearing is required)
  • Isotropic activity configurations are phenomenally equivalent

Proto-phenomenal “micro-contributors” correlated with the isotropic aspect of composite experience could

  • Originate in spontaneous sensory noise
  • Originate in sensory responses to generated (tonic or modulated) motor activity
  • Be correlated with the diffuse complement of proto-phenomenal expression throughout the agent (originating anywhere in the agent’s sensorium)
  • Somehow be generated for purpose to manifest experience of the isotropic complement of activity

The bi-faceted nature of experience so composed suggests how islands of experience may combine into a phenomenally rich composite experiencing a diachronically stable sense of ‘I’.