There May Be Many NCCs

On the definition above, an NCC is a system whose activity is sufficient for certain states of consciousness. This allows for the possibility of multiple NCCs in at least two ways. First, different sorts of conscious states may have different corresponding NCCs; there may be different NCCs for visual and auditory consciousness, for example, and perhaps even for different aspects of visual consciousness. Second, even for a particular sort of conscious state (such as pain), we cannot rule out the possibility that there will be two different systems whose activity is sufficient to produce that state.

Of course it could turn out that there is only a small number of NCCs, or perhaps even one. For all that I have said here, it is possible that there is some central system which represents the contents of visual consciousness, auditory consciousness, emotional experience, the stream of conscious thought, the background state of consciousness, and so on. Such a system might be seen as a sort of "consciousness module,'' or perhaps as a "Cartesian theater'' (Dennett 1991) or a "global workspace'' (Baars 1988), depending on whether one is a foe or a friend of the idea (see Chalmers 1998 for some discussion). But it is by no means obvious that there will be such a system, and I think the empirical evidence so far is against it. In any case, the matter cannot be decided a priori, so our definition should be compatible with the existence of multiple NCCs.

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