SCP Science Cross-Training Fellowship
Funded by the John Templeton Foundation, the Graduate Cross-Training Fellowship from the Society of Christian Philosophers provides doctoral students in philosophy the opportunity to cross-train in an are of scientific research. The Fellowship provides a stipend of $30,000, plus an additional $2,000 research fund, as well as $2,000 for any University overhead costs.
My fellowship takes place over the Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 semesters. As part of my fellowship, I will work in The Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory in Baylor’s Department of Neuroscience and Psychology with Dr. Gary Elkins and his research team. I will also take graduate level neuroscience courses, and participate at the Annual Center for Consciousness Studies Conference in Sweden.
My Project: Neuroscience, Attention, and the Unity of Consciousness
My project investigates recent neuroscientific research regarding the nature and mechanisms of attention as it pertains to the unity, phenomenality, and intentionality of consciousness. The goal is to gain an understanding of how attention is related to consciousness, its role in explaining rational thought and action, how the phenomenal character of a conscious experience can be modulated by attention, and the details of attention as implemented in the brain. More specifically, I will investigate:
Relations between attention and the unity of consciousness.
The reduction of consciousness to attention.
Attention’s role in the ownership experience of one’s consciousness and one’s body.
How attention unifies consciousness by integrating the perceptual and intellectual, the cognitive and motivational, and the epistemic and practical.
The epistemological significance of consciousness.
In studying these specific issues, I aim to understand the fundamentals of neuroscience pertinent to the philosophy of mind. In doing so, I will analyze the following two theses:
Phenomenal holism: the attentional organization of consciousness shows that the phenomenal parts of a subject’s experience metaphysically depend on her whole phenomenal experience.
Subject holism: phenomenal holism raises the probability that subjects of consciousness are either mereologically simple (are not composed of separable parts, and unified by internal relations) or an irreducible immaterial substance.
The Uniqueness of the Project
Discussions of the relation between attention and consciousness have focused largely on whether attention is sufficient or necessary for phenomenal or access consciousness. Many have explored how self-awareness (attention directed at the self) might offer introspective evidence for certain views of the subject of consciousness. However, I propose a novel research project to explore the implications that the very nature of attention and its relations to the unity of consciousness have for an ontology of the subject of consciousness.