The Theory

Given the Framework described here, we can describe the basis of the Psychule Theory as follows:

Psychule

I claim that all statements about consciousness are statements about interactions of an agent with its environment, and all such interactions can be described in terms of [Constructor/Mechanism/Agent] tasks. As described in the Framework, mechanisms can be combined to form higher-order mechanisms. Under certain circumstances, these more complex mechanisms can give rise to tasks which have particular emergent properties associated with their inputs and outputs. As the complexity of mechanisms increases, new emergent properties become possible.

I define the term “psychule” as any task which has the minimal emergent properties required to be considered as constituting a conscious event or experience. 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, or, more specifically, a task associated with a mechanism. The fact is that different philosophers will have different requirements for consciousness, and thus they will recognize different tasks as being the most basic, aka, the psychule. The following describes some possible levels associated with specific emergent properties.

Existence

At the bottom level we consider “interaction with the environment” to be the sole necessary property for consciousness. This position would be supportive of the panpsychism view that everything that exists has some level of consciousness. However, few if any people are willing to accept this criterion as sufficient for consciousness. They may, however, accept this property as a necessary precursor to consciousness, thus supporting panprotopsychism.

Purpose

Probably the first emergent property that some might find sufficient for consciousness is natural purpose. Natural purpose arose with the advent of life, and more specifically, the advent of natural selection. In mechanistic terms, we say we have reached this level when the output of a task can be explained to be a valuable response to the input, value being relative to a given purpose. Chemotaxis is (probably?) the most often used paradigm for natural purpose, wherein the input is a spatial gradient of some nutrient in the environment and the output creates movement in the direction of the increase in the gradient. This level supports Functionalism.

Communication and Information Processing

With the development of more complex single-celled organisms, and especially with multi-celled organisms, it became valuable for the organism to generate a response at a significant distance from the site where input is recognized. Thus it became valuable for the output of a mechanism to be a signal intended (sub-purpose/natural intention?) to be input for a subsequent mechanism. This output constitutes semantic information as defined in the Framework. The (natural) meaning of this information is simply that the particular input was recognized, thus becoming part of the causal history of subsequent tasks.

The necessary partner for the task just described is the task which takes semantic information as input and generates output which is valuable not because of the specific form of the input but because of the meaning of the input. This partner task, wherein the input constitutes semantic information and the output produces value relative to the meaning of the input, is my preferred candidate for the psychule. This is the level of the neuron, Nature’s general purpose consciousness Agent. At this level the nature of the input is essentially fixed (semantic information) and the only thing to add at higher levels are types of output. Note that subsequent higher level emergent features may or may not be hierarchical and/or mutually exclusive.

Memory

Probably the next most important emergent feature is memory, i.e., a task where the output constitutes memory, however that may be described. Many people might agree that there is no experience if there is no memory of it. It is also probable that memory is required for an experience to be reportable.

Concepts

[work to be done here]

Arbitrary concepts

[work to be done, to include abstractions and contradictory concepts]