The Psychule

The psychule is a proposed model for the fundamental unit of the mind/sentience/consciousness. The term “psychule” is meant to be analogous to the term “molecule” as the fundamental unit of a substance, except that a psychule is not a substance but a process. ¬†Specifically, a psychule is a task/process/event as described by the Framework with a particular set of constraints on the Input and/or Mechanism and/or Output. What are those constraints? The answer is: it depends.

The constraints on a task/process/event that make it a psychule depend on the Philosopher asking the question. Some will require particular constraints, others will require additional constraints, and yet others may require alternate constraints.

Below is a hierarchy of levels of constraints. At the bottom level there are no constraints. At each higher level new constraints are added. I should point out that the choice of levels is not determinative, i.e., there could possibly be intermediary levels. I am simply choosing levels that seem to correspond to known theories of consciousness. Proponents of that theory would, or should, designate that level as the psychule. At the appropriate level I will give my proposal for the psychule.

So here we go:

Level 1. No constraints. Associated theories: panpsychism, Hoffman’s Conscious Agent’s

Level 2. Mechanism was created to serve a purpose, such that Output serves as a valuable response to the Input. The “purpose” here could be natural, via natural selection, or it could be intentional, a goal created by a more advanced mind. Associated theory: Functionalism

Level 3. [Psychule] Same as level 2 with the addition that the input constitutes symbolic semantic information and the Output is a valuable response to the object/referent of the semantic information. Associated theory: the “Hard Problem”

Level 4a. Same as level 3 with the addition that the Output constitutes a memory of the Input.

Level 4b. Same as level 3 with the addition that the Output constitutes the generation of a concept.

Level 4c. Same as level 3 with the addition that the Mechanism includes the ability to choose from among a large number of potential Inputs. Associated theory: Graziano’s Attention Schema

Level 5. Same as level 4b with the addition that the Input constitutes multiple concepts and the Output constitutes a concept which is a combination of the input concepts. Associated theory: Global Workspace Theory.

We’ll stop there.

As indicated, I would designate level 3 as the psychule. (Note: a previous version of this page would have designated level 2. I was briefly a Functionalist.) I originally derived these constraints from the assumption that consciousness was information processing. Now level 1 describes an “information process” (or “information integration”). The Input constitutes information, i.e., a set of data that is recognized, and the appropriate Output is produced in response. However, the “information process” I thought we should care about was a process that served some sort of purpose, and that would put us at level 2. But then I wanted the psychule to be able to explain the “hard problem”, and that turned out to require that the information in the Input be a symbolic reference, and the Output be a valuable response to the object of that reference.

[more to come]