The Location of the Conscious Mind

Where is the Mind?

  • In the brain?
  • In the body?
  • Neither of the above?
  • Not sure?

Where do you end?

  • Where my brain ends?
  • Where my body ends?
  • Neither of the above?
  • Not sure?

Johannes Vermeer- Woman in blue reading a letter

johannesvermeer_womaninbluereadingaletter This is a mysterious and enigmatic painting illustrating a trivial domestic scene, we the viewers, question what is going on in the painting, in her mind, in the letter, no one will ever know. This fact gives this painting power making you think about these mental things that have a significance. We question where her mind is mentally however in reality she is just made up of coloured mud on a canvas, but we as the audience believe she is a being when she is not really there at all. This woman having a conscious experience, where is this in the paint? In this post derived from a lecture will explore how works of art have mental properties when they are just chunks of matter.

If the consciousness is in the brain, then where is it?

if the consciousness is not in the brain, then where is it?

There is nothing physical within the brain- when we have vivid experiences they have no physical correlate within the brain.


The idea that the mind is in the brain.

There are no colours, smells, tastes or even objects “out there” in the world; these appearances are essentially subjective- Helmholtz.

William James- The mind is in the brain

“The physical world is utterly different from the mental world.”

“Mental activity depends on brain activity.”

It is a scientific truth that knowledge can give us a better understanding of the world

The search for the “neural correlates of consciousness”


The awareness of a thought, specific neurons correlates the experience.

Crick and Koch- Our subjective world of qualia, There is a small area of the brain those nerve cells are, our conscious being, a fraction of what is occurring within the brain.

Brain Decoding

Brain Movies

There is a new type of scanner that can scan your brain when you are having a visual experience. The computer can work out what people are seeing and thinking.

Ack Gallant- This is a major leap toward re-constructing internal imagery. We are opening a window into the movies in our minds.

When you imagine something rather than see it the machine will still pick it up because imagining is the same reaction in the brain as seeing.

necker_bwHaynes and Rees (2006)-  They did this experiment with the cube drawing seeing how people perceived the cube. Here the subjective experience changes while the image stays the same. With using the scan they could see which visual experience the person was having, predicting conscious perception.

Gillard et al (2009)- When something was occurring in the brain every part of the brain was functioning. You will never find a specific part of consciousness, it is amount of brain patterns going through the brain, consciousness can be all over.

Current state of scientific knowledge is that there is no specific area where consciousness occurs within the brain.


The idea that the mind is not in the brain.

O’Regan and Noe (2001)- How we react to the world, consciousness is an activity not a state of being, the outside world, governing the laws of sensory.

Change Blindness venice cbbunny2


These Images there is one thing that changes through each flash. This is proof that we can only observe a fraction of the world and seeing and what you are aware of are completely separate. You imagine you are seeing everything however you are not.

The world is there to interact with, to sense the world is its own form of memory when we need it e.g. for directions, however when we don’t need it we ignore it.

The observation test- Daniel J Simons

Within this video 60% of people do not see the gorilla, Inattentional blindness, this is when your eyes are taking in the important information. When you are asked to count how many times the ball was passed you brain filtered out all unneeded information in order for you to complete the task of counting. When we close our eyes we can imagine what was once there and build fractions of the picture we seen before we shut our eyes, but we don’t have this internal representation as we can’t have a vivid experience with closed eyes.

Is it the more you concentrate the less you see ? – depending on the question asked will depend on how you view the image. You could look at the same thing but have a completely different conscious experience. Our direction of attention is drawn to what we perceive as important information. We see what we want to see.

Clark- Technology, looking up in your phone is no different than looking it up in your brain. By using technology, we are spreading our minds through the world into technology. There is no difference between a external map and an internal map. Using your imagination, the world around you reminds you where you are by a feedback mechanism. Cognition leaks out of the body into the world.

Stelarc- This is an artist who uses a machine that extends him to technology. He is a performance artist who gets his pieces of machinery wired up to his nervous system, controlling it with his bodily functions. A brain is not a brain without a mobile and manipulate body.

Rupert Sheldrake – Vision is a projecting force, extending beyond the brain. Vision is rooted in the activity of the brain but is not confined to the inside of the head. The sense of being watched.

Radin (2006)- He did experiments with people making them imagine moving the direction of a beam of light and through this, it in fact altered the direction of the beam of light. The effect was real. The science shows something interesting happening and from a scientific perspective need more attention for further understanding.

Pim Van Lommel- He was a heart surgeon who observed the phenomenon of heart patients dying and are dead for 15 minutes and then revived back to life. When people become dead, many have said they were having a floating conscious experience looking down at their own body. The evidence of death was clear as the heart stopped beating and blood stopped getting to the brain. There was consciousness after someone really had died, when the body is cold? When no blood is entering the brain they are clinically dead.

Point of Death- Why are they able to report other things going on in the room which you couldn’t see with living normal vision minutes even hours later? There is no reason for these people to lie they just reported what happened to them in this conscious state.

Hydrocephalus- A man of 26 years of age, a degree in physics, normal intelligence and social behaviour, married and had children. He was diagnosed with hydrocephalus which is water causing a massive ventricular enlargement within the brain. He had no problem functioning, however the doctor told him he basically had no brain.

_58042975_013765778-1Things being lodged within the brain.

There has been a report of a man who had a nail lodged in his head by a friend putting a nail gun to his head. He couldn’t feel any pain only mild headaches a couple of days after. The brain has no sensation within it causing the man to not feel any pain. Operations can occur while you are still awake, there is no feeling of pain that occurs.

There is no evidence that a brain can generate consciousness automatically. No one has yet identified where in the brain subjective experience might be located or how it might be supported. (failure of neuroscience).

Early neurologists went to observe executions by a guillotine and did experiments with the heads straight after execution and some responded when off the body, some were even observed opening their eyes.

There are 100 million neurons in the stomach (more than the nervous system)- the stomach can be conscious.

Internalism and externalism are both supported with strong scientific evidence.

  • Do we have to choose between them
  • Only if we assume there is a boundary between the internal and external

To be inside and outside there has to be a boundary between them.


Leonardo Da Vinci- Boundary, surface, medium interposed between the air and the body. But the boundary is of invisible thickness.

What is the boundary of a tooth?- The enamel? When we zoom into the tooth or any object for that matter on an atomic level between the atoms there is gaps and within the atoms there are gaps of nothingness. On closer inspection it has no definitive boundary.

Kinds of Boundaries

Is the boundary between a liquid and the air made of liquid or air?

There is air and water, where does it end, water?, The last water molecule?

Is the boundary between a black circle and a white background black or white? Is it both a black and white boundary? there is but is it visible? does it have a physical reality?

Smith and Varzi- there are two kinds of boundaries.

Fiat Boundaries- e.g. Boarder between England and Wales, this is a non-physical thing with no physical marker.

Bona Fide Boundaries- e.g. dry land and wet land, Wales and the Irish sea, separating land from sea.

Does the boundary between England and Wales belong to England or Wales? Can there be fiat (made up) and bona fide (real) boundaries. Our minds hold the boundary between England and Wales. There is no specific location. It is the product of our minds who believe in it.

The edge of the coast- The sea bleeds into the sand and the tide comes in and out making it not clear where the boundary is. We can imagine the boundary, it is not specific to any part of the world.

A bona fide boundary is widely distributed between time and space.

“O painter, do not surround your boundaries with lines” – Leonardo da Vinci 

Where do objects end?

Do we have separations from each other? A hunter has to suppress his odour as deer can smell their scent from 1km away they can smell your presence. Your odour is a part of you, you are spreading all over the world and animals are aware of this as they have a higher accuracy of different senses from us.

Dogs know when their owners are coming home, animals can detect their owners on the other side of the world.

Skin- Is the interface between yourself and the world, connecting you to the world. It is a permeable membrane and a connection the world. We give out radiation, heat radiation we are emitting out into the world.

Quantum Physics

The Newtonian world view: Deterministic and finite – ” It seems probable that most of the grand underlaying principles have been firmly established  and that further advances and to be sought chiefly in the rigorous application of these principles to all the phenomena that come under out notice”- Michelson 1894.

Nature operates according to deterministic casual laws.

Objects occupy a discrete and fixed location in time and space

Two decades later after Michelson said this “The Relativity Theory” and “Quantum Mechanics” came about

Quantum Indeterminacy

Within the nucleus of the atom there is behaviours going on we cannot predict, there is no way of measuring without interfering and changing its state while trying to measure. On the subatomic level it is indeterminate as we will never know we just have to predict as the act of observation makes it collapse.

Uncertainty relation- Heisenberg- on the subatomic level we can only predict probability but we could never know its condition.

Einstein thought that everything should be able to be recorded saying- “God does not play dice with the universe”.

With a small particle you can detect its position or speed, you can measure one of these factors but not the other. This is described as the unknown part of reality in Heisenberg’s Indeterminacy Principle.


Quantum Non-locality– The EPR experiment. This was designed to measure both position and momentum of a particle at the same time. On the left is Alice and on the right is Bob- The momentum position. Joining data you get a full picture of the subatomic level.

After Einstein had died this experiment was done proving that Einstein was wrong. The particle that was paired, what happened on a single particle happened to the paired. It was impossible to find out the velocity as every particle is connected to each other.

Non-Locality Effect- A particle is everywhere in the universe at the same time, it is here and everywhere else at the same time. By observing it here you can observe it over there.

Through the theories of quantum you impact on everything.

John Bell- he accepted that he was wrong and what happens in one place happens in another.

Bernard d’Espagnat- Non-separability is now one of the most certain and general part of quantum physics.

Nadeau and Kafatos- Non-locality at the factual condition of the entire universe ( may be able to support religious ideas).

Quantum effects: On a Macro Scale. Using a Micrograph of a mechanical resonator demonstrates quantum superposition behaviour at near visible scales. This challenges the boundary between the macro and quantum worlds.


All objects have extended (non-local) dimensions, but we normally acknowledge only a fractional part of their true extent because of constraints inherent in our perceptual apparatus and the coercive effect of time. Rather than regarding discernible objects in the world as integral and discrete we must recognise that they and their repercussions extend indefinitely through time and space. Having an infinite number of dimensions.

images (2)For example a £1 coin- This is a hard physical object, it is a unique separate thing within the world. The handling of the pound coin means that particles spread and it is said that in a 1000 years it will disappear. Heat is put into the pound coin by you handling it by internal chemical processes happening within you. The original material used to make up the pound coin was made at the beginning of the universe ad the big bang theory spread all these elements and materials right across the universe. The symbolic and historical meaning of the pound coin, it has the queens head on it not by accident the pound has a financial meaning. Gravity is exerting a gravitational force on the pound coin. The pound coin is exerting a gravitational force on Venus as the pound coin is pulling a gravitational force on Venus and Venus is exerting a gravitational force on the pound coin.

Buddhism- Dependent origination – Nothing has a separate existence one being relies on another to exist.

Brain- Larger set of processes going on in the world, the lump of flesh within your head is not a brain.

Where is the boundary between the mind and the world or between the brain and the body.

Once the boundary is gone it is easier to think nothing is discrete or separate to be about local, no boundary between the inside and the outside.

Where is an object when it is perceived? – And how can this help us understand art?

johannesvermeer_womaninbluereadingaletterBack to the painting of a woman in blue reading the letter by Vermeer. There is no letter, no woman there. It is just there because we are projecting it onto the paint. Where is the letter? Is it really there? The painting is there but where is the letter when it is perceived?

The Realist View: A distinct object, separate and distinct, we perceive within the brain, distinction the letter exists when everyone was there to observe it. Separation of physical space the woman views the letter, her brain responds to it.This letter is brought into memory through the act of observation this works solely within your brain. There is two letters, the real physical letter and the mental representation of the letter in the brain completely separate. Anything we see has a double existence in the mental and the physical. The realist view is not to be misinterpreted as the dualist view. There is two letters but she is never has contact with the “real” one. She never sees the letter she only sees the reflection of the light from the window bouncing off the surface of the page into her eye, she never sees the letter.

She doesn’t see the light. The light only goes into the eye and hits a light sensitive material which undergoes an electrical reaction. Electrical impulses get turned into neuro-chemical reactions which she can’t see any of this. Visually she never has any contact to the letter. Touch and smell and all the senses, she never feels the paper the skin reacts electro-chemically to the feel. This mysterious process no one understands, she can never touch it or smell it.

The Extensionist view

There is separations and boundaries. The fact she is seeing the light from the sun they are not apart from one another. The sun and letter are connected. The sun is 93 million miles away but it isn’t, it is here. The night sky you can see stars billion of years ago but you can see it now. It has to be here on earth for us to observe. The sun is here it is not remote from the earth. The letter and the sun are not separate. She is connecting thoughts with another being on the other side of the world. One letter spreads throughout the world. (letters have emotion in them).

Where is the sun?- Infinite, it doesn’t have a size it is everywhere at the same time. the extensionist way of thinking is hard to grasp. You never see the moon, it is the sun, therefore you cannot separate the sun from the moon. E.g. the letter.

Artworks as extended objects? Why are artworks special?

Every city and origin of wealth buy art and lots of money is spent on acquiring works of art.

What makes it special?- There are more than the sum of the material that makes the artwork. Putting it together the highly precise way the materials are arranged can make the most meaningful artifacts on the planet.

Art- The way they interact with our minds.

890px-Las_Meninas,_by_Diego_Velázquez,_from_Prado_in_Google_EarthLas Meninas -Diego Velázquez 1656

This painting is said to be one of the best paintings ever made. It is one of the most widely discussed painting because of what it is telling us and how it is reacting with our consciousness. This painting is a portrait of the ruler of Spain showing the king and queen’s domestic setting. There has been an industry built on what this picture means. There has been controvacy with the mirror where the king and queen are seen in. There is a spot in the gallery you can stand facing the painting at the exact spot and exact position you would be reflected in the painting, you would be standing in the exact position of there the king and queen were standing. Or we are seeing the reflection of the portrait he is painting, if this is so the king and queen cannot be there as if a mirror was there for the artist to paint from the king and queen cannot be there. There is an elegant ambiguity within this piece.

Where are the King and Queen?

Where is the painting?

Where is the viewer?

Where is the artist?

You would be the artist as you and the artist become the same viewer. There is a feeling of being observed by a living things but in reality is it just a load of mud on cloth, however it has such a powerful sensation of living things observing you. Everything is looking outward this area of the painting is brought into question.

Consciousness- Mental properties are shared between the viewer and those within the painting. This implys tyour own presence as we ourselves are seen.

The Flat plain space that we occupy, that we look in creating a sphere.

Steinberg- Intensified multiple acts of perception, conscious transformation.

Is the painting self aware? Paintings embody mental properties. The artist’s thoughts are in this painting, he is very skillful, he is in the painting as real as he was, as his mind was.

Rembrandt_self_portraitRembrandt-self portrait with beret. This painting is in its self more than a painting it is as if you are meeting Rembrandt himself it is a human being encoded into the fabric of this painting. Where is Rembrandt ? In this piece he comes out into your space in the same as how living things protrude. We can consciously respond to him even though he is dead, it is a picture he made of himself it is apart of him and it gives us access to parts of his mind as it is embedded within the painting. Within Rembrandt’s work, the paintings are not an image of the world but an interpretation of being within the world.

Artists are Externalists

Artists give matter intelligence and materials intelligence and have the understanding that the mind and consciousness can be encoded in other pieces.

Within the Rembrandt self portrait is an embodiment and a resurrection. He had to work hard on his work as he had to put core emotion into this work. The paint takes on a form with innate emotion within it.

$$$-JOB REF 14329-0Cezanne- Francois Zola Dam 1877. It was clear how he understood art. Combining reality out there with the reality within his head. Nature in head and out there- Landscape becomes conscious within him, making works of art as they come together.

the-studio-v-1949Braque- Studio V 1949- An object cannot exist without something else, it appears within itself it is a painting of a painting. He painted a painting of a painting that appears within itself.

mondrian_rybMondrian- No critiques refer to his writings. He was very spiritual and mystical understanding that the external and internal reality are together. New consciousness- universal equilibrium. the lines represented the reconciliation of opposites, unity of those two things and the nature of reality.

_57447467_jex_1270565_de27-1Brabara Hepworth- She was an important artist who created sculptures as part of a landscape. Moving over the contours. She is not an external viewer but she is apart of, showing a form that you interact with as a way to view the world.

What Mental properties do artworks have ?

icono_sala_meninas.jpg_1306973099Diego Velázquez room of the Prado- In this room Clark says There is an uncanny awareness of human response to the paintings as they appear to have an awareness. You have a real presence of the room even though they are not highly realistic paintings.

Francis-Bacon-Three-Studies-for-a-Self-PortraitExplanatory Value of externalism – E.g. Francis Bacon recording as close to his nervous sensations through painting.

Is is not that you have a brain observing, united within the pieces you are joined within artworks value- Be in there presense, they embody and convey emotion.


  • Internalism is counter intuitive.
  • Externalism needn’t deny role of the brain in the mind, but mental life arises through the reciprocal relationship between the brain- located.
  • nothing is local or bounded.
  • brain,body and world form a continuum.
  • Works of art embody properties of the mind.

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