The University of Sussex

Functions of Consciousness

Anil Seth

We begin with reviewing the possibility that consciousness does not have a function and dealing with ambiguities in the meaning of 'function' and of 'consciousness'. We then consider in detail a range of putative functions for consciousness, covering both cognitive perspectives and proposals grounded in neural dynamics. We start with the intuitively appealing ideas that consciousness functions to initiate voluntary behavior and/or to mediate rational actions, before turning to more recent candidates, for example that consciousness functions to integrate information or to mediate planning and flexible behavior in response to novelty. Finally, we consider the possibility that consciousness, as a constellation concept may have multiple functions.

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