Consciousness as an Emergent Causal Agent in the Context of Control System Theory

  • E. M. Dewan


The relationship between the inner awareness called consciousness and the externally observable neurophysiology of the brain is an enigma that seems to defy comprehension. Quite recently, however, a novel and enlightening viewpoint has been proposed which may well be the first sizable step toward a real understanding of this relationship. This theory, due to R. Sperry (1969), is perhaps best summarized in his own words, namely that consciousness is:

… interpreted to be a direct emergent property of cerebral activity, is conceived to be an integral component of the brain process that functions as an essential constituent of the action and exerts a directive holistic form of control over the flow pattern of cerebral excitation.

… although the mental properties in brain activity, as here conceived, do not directly intervene in neuronal physiology, they do supervene.... The individual nerve impulses and associated elemental excitatory events are obliged to operate within larger circuit-system configurations of which they as individuals are only a part. These larger functional entities have their own dynamics in cerebral activity with their own qualities and properties. They interact causally with one another at their own level as entities. It is the emergent dynamic properties of certain of these higher specialized cerebral processes that are interpreted to be the substance of consciousness.


Performance Index Adaptive Control Differential Game Emergent Property Feedback Device 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. M. Dewan
    • 1
  1. 1.LexingtonUSA

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