Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception - CNRS UMR 8158
Université Paris Descartes
The problem of consciousness is sometimes divided into two parts: An "easy" part, which involves explaining how one can become aware of of something in the sense of being able to make use of it in one's rational behavior. And a "hard" part, which involves explaining why sensations feel like something, or have a kind of sensory presence, rather than having no feel at all. The hard part is considered hard because there seems logically no way physical mechanisms in the brain could explain such facts. For example why does red look red, rather than looking green, or rather than sounding like a bell. Indeed why does red have a feel at all? Why do pains hurt instead of just provoking avoidance reactions?
The sensorimotor approach provides a way of answering these questions by appealing to the idea that feels like red and pain should not be considered as things that happen to us, but rather as things that we do. I shall show how the idea can be applied to color, touch, pain, and sensory substitution. In addition to helping understand human consciousness, the approach has applications in virtual reality and in robotics.