Artificial Consciousness/Neural Correlates/Functional Models/Will and Volition
Will and Volition
Folk Psychology has it, that Will is the seat of Volition, the Cause of volitional acts. If will was easily translated into a signal this would be great. But we don't have signals for will, instead we have signals that block volitional action, until just before the action. This is confusing, but worse, the earlier stages of action don't involve anything like will either. They are pure intention, and have a basis in effect. We do things, it seems because the DorsoLateral PFC determines during the search stage that they will meet more needs than the other alternatives. So where does the idea of Will come from?
Will is actually the result of a reflexive process. In essence the brain likes causes to happen before its effects, so it postulates a cause for intentional effects, and inserts it into the story about what happened. It's pure confabulation, but our minds don't know that, they just assume that because there was a label for the cause, that the cause existed. this is why causal theories are considered poor philosophy. The mechanism that tells us that there is a cause is often lying.
This means that Will is an illusion created by our need to find causes for everything. The DorsoLateral PFC does not report to itself on its own decisions, that comes from the log of the processes it triggers, so in order to answer the question it asks itself about the cause of the actions, the brain answers with a feeling of self. If the self is reported as the cause, then there must be some causative factor called Will that triggers the action right? wrong!
The DorsoLateral PFC makes decisions by selecting strategies of operation, that in turn result in actions. The DorsoLateral PFC responds to processes set into motion by other parts of the brain, in order to make its selections. The first statement implies it is a cause the second statement implies it is an effect, and philosophers love to argue about the difference. However since we know that causes are not always accurate, we should probably look with less jaundice at the effect theories.
If Will is an illusion, then what is Volition? The illusion of choice? In my understanding Volition is a further processing step that involves a feedback loop that we see as the illusion of awareness. Notice I am not getting into consciousness yet. A volitional act is an act that we are aware of making. We are aware we made the act, because we told ourselves we were making the act, in much the same way that we told ourselves that we knew something, in Declarative Memory and there is a sort of feeling of doing, that goes with volition. We don't feel we are doing something when it is a pure intentive act, but the same act done with volition, requires that we feel we have done something. It is for this reason that skill memory is effortless, there is no feeling of doing anything and no feeling of how hard it was when we become aware again at the end of the skill.
If Volition is this easily explained then what about consciousness? Well one thing you can be sure of is scientists have been looking for the seat of consciousness for a long time, and if it were really complicated we would have found an area of the brain that was needed to achieve it. Instead, it has been a real anticlimax because as far as we can tell there is no extra part of the brain required, In fact my own theory is that Consciousness is just a reflexive log of Volitional acts, needed for higher order processing. Because it is a log of Volitional acts it includes the Awareness log, and thus is "Aware" of being aware, which is pretty close to William James definition of Consciousness.
And that, is the secret to consciousness that has kept philosophers working for centuries This is what they have been arguing about. A second order reflexive logging system. But oh the attributes that we imbue it with after the fact. Take it from me, they are mostly illusions.