Foundations of Science

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 67–99 | Cite as

The Role of Conscious Attention in Perception

Immanuel Kant, Alonzo Church, and Neuroscience
  • Hermann G. W. BurchardEmail author


Impressions, energy radiated by phenomena in the momentary environmental scene, enter sensory neurons, creating in afferent nerves a data stream. Following Kant, by our inner sense the mind perceives its own thoughts as it ties together sense data into an internalized scene. The mind, residing in the brain, logically a Language Machine, processes and stores items as coded grammatical entities. Kantian synthetic unity in the linguistic brain is able to deliver our experience of the scene as we appear to see it. Uniquely, the brain records its own history, synthesizing a Movie-in-the-Brain, called the Noumenal Cosmos. Attempting thereby to represent the actual Universe, this makes for a sovereign brain that governs itself. The brain is domicile of an Ego, with its selfhood at stake at all times. Yet, it can know itself only by its actions, in which it appears as an actor in its own movie. Phenomena enter garbled, as confused apparitions, and must be put in good form using top–down feedback control by Ego, so that each movie frame makes rational sense within the overall context of the Noumenal Cosmos. A stack of frames is processed typically in 40 Hz rhythm with 300 ms process time each, for about 12 in the stack at any time. Successive neural centers are processing the stack in the brain assembly line, based on data from increasingly global receptive fields. Ego stitches together the movie frames, but only the top frame is in consciousness for 25 ms. The top frame contains the whole scene where the Ego makes an appearance as the actor that imposes Kantian synthetic unity on the scene, merely an assembly of grammatical texts, in a system-internal coded process language, fitting the scene into the Noumenal Cosmos. But Ego observes Ego only to the extent permitted by the objectivity rule, only what it does and thinks, not its true face. From the Noumenal Cosmos, the Ego receives grammatical messages in the internal sense code. They are integrated into a whole in the reaction of the Ego to the momentary scene. The voluntary nature of Ego’s decisions is explained, based on its ability to code in advance its own actions sequentially in time, as it sees fit with a view to an orderly Noumenal Cosmos, records of code being arranged spatially in neural structures.


Perception Phenomena Inner sense Affect self Percept Transcendental ego Synthetic unity Unitary consciousness Unity of apperception = transcendental unity of self-consciousness Prefrontal cortex PFC Medial PFC MPFC Parietal cortex PC Temporal cortex TC Top–down processing Bottom–up processing Default network DN Environment E \({\subset}\) universe U U-data stream Language L Language system LS (more or less identical with L) Noumenal cosmos NK\({\subset}\) LS, (both L, NK, are thought to be dualistically opposed to U) Pre-linguistic structures Historical records Conceptual–categorical apparatus CA Memory bank MB World map = NK. Working Memory WM~ a kind of precursor or older version of world map 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MathematicsOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA

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