The following ideas and arguments were central to my dissertation work, and are now published as an article in Philosophical Studies. I include them below in a much shortened format for those readers short on time, but high on interest (but hopefully not literally).
The ultimate claim of this work is that top-down attention is necessary for conscious perception. (I argue elsewhere that attention is not necessary for conscious experience, in general.) That is, we might ask the question: what is the contribution of attention to perceptual experience? Within cognitive science, attention is known to contribute to the organization of sensory features into perceptual objects, or object-based organization. I argue something else: that attention enables the perceptual system to achieve the most fundamental form of perceptual organization: subject-based organization. That is, I argue that subject-based organization is brought about and maintained through top-down attention. Thus, top-down attention is necessary for conscious perception in so far as it is necessary for bringing about and maintaining the subject-based organization of perceptual experience.
Following an excellent post on cochlear implants by Teresa Blankmeyer Burke over at Feminist Philosophers is a comment pointing the reader to this interview, which may be of interest to NewAPPS readers. Of particular interest is William Mager's attempt to describe his experience of sound with the new implants. Here are a few key passages:
“It’s not sound. It’s beeping. But It doesn’t feel like sound. It feels like some kind of electronic trigger is going on in your brain.” (at around 4:27)
I don't often attempt to fly when walking across campus, but yesterday I gave it a try. I was going to the science library to retrieve some books on dreaming. About halfway there, in the wide-open mostly-empty quad, I spread my arms, looked at the sky, and added a leap to one of my steps.
My thinking was this: I was almost certainly awake -- but only almost certainly! As I've argued, I think it's hard to justify much more than 99.9% confidence that one is awake, once one considers the dubitability of all the empirical theories and philosophical arguments against dream doubt. And when one's confidence is imperfect, it will sometimes be reasonable to act on the off-chance that one is mistaken -- whenever the benefits of acting on that off-chance are sufficiently high and the costs sufficiently low.
"The problem with panpsychism is not that it is false; it does not get up to the level of being false. It is strictly speaking meaningless because no clear notion has been given to the claim. Consciousness comes in units and panpsychism cannot specify the units." John Searle, NYRB, 10 January, 2013, 55, reviewing Christof Koch, Consciousness: Confessions of A Romatic Reductionist.