Macquarie University
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How does integration of sensory-substitution-devices (SSDs) into the body-schema provide information to generate a theory of the mechanics of the ‘self’ and its role in consciousness?

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posted on 2022-03-29, 03:17 authored by Hugo Rodriguez
The main purpose of this thesis is to offer grounds for a possible theory of the self and consciousness based on research on sensory-substitution-devices (SSDs) – devices that convert signals from one bodily sense, vision for example, into signals that can be read in a different modality, such as tactile vibrations. A main problem of traditional views of the self has been conflating the experiencer with the experienced and I propose, as a possible solution, the existence of two selves, an observer-self that emerges from the synergetic sum total of brain/body functioning, and an observed-self, the unconscious house of our perceptions, personal identity and history. I suggest that this is possible because the selves can be thought of as essentially processing-sensors with the former being the ontological first-person ‘I’, converting biological information into phenomenology, and the latter converting sensorial inputs into biological information. The research method I adopted is philosophical. It comprises literature review to critically deduce how incorporation of SSDs into the body-schema transforms the observed-self of the user. The process involves four main factors, which when viewed together indicate that SSDs generate a novel sense. I differentiate the body-schema and the body-model and I identify four stages of SSDs integration, which changes the feeling of body ownership. Integration creates the separateness of ‘attributions to oneself’, that is, our observed-self, from ‘distal attributions’, which we perceive as non-self. I then propose a schematic representation of consciousness that shows consciousness as a full-spectrum (including unconsciousness) and how brain activity generates our field-of-conscious-awareness, with effectors marking the boundaries of the observed-self. The schema depicts information as travelling unidirectionally; afferent downward signals from the environment (global-to-local), and efferent local-to-global upward output generated by our thoughts and intentions. SSDs modify the observed-self because they act as sensoria inputs as part of the downward process. I close the thesis by suggesting that further research should explore how theories such as autopoiesis and emergentism can assist in explaining and completing the model of consciousness outlined here.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter 1. The concepts of consciopusness and the 'self' -- Chapter 2. Sensory-substitution-devices and the observed-self -- Chapter 3. The mechanics of SSD integration into the observed-self -- Chapter 4. Theoretical foundations for a theory of consciousness and the observed-self based on SSD research -- Glossary -- References.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 62-68

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Philosophy

Department, Centre or School

Department of Philosophy

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Richard Menary


Copyright Hugo Rodriguez 2018. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (68 pages)

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