The projective theory of consciousness

from neuroscience to philosophical psychology


  • Alfredo Pereira Junior



Projection, Consciousness, Cognitive, Non-Conceptual, Feeling


The development of the interdisciplinary areas of cognitive, affective and action neurosciences contributes to the identification of neurobiological bases of conscious experience. The structure of consciousness was philosophically conceived a century ago (HUSSERL, 1913) as consisting of a subjective pole, the bearer of experiences, and an objective pole composed of experienced contents. In more recent formulations, Nagel (1974) refers to a “point of view”, in which qualitative experiences are anchored, while Velmans (1990, 1993, 2009, 2017) understands that phenomenal content is composed of mental representations “projected” to the space external to the brains that construct them. In Freudian psychology, the conscious mind contains a tension between the Id and the Ego (FREUD, 1913). How to relate this bipolar structure with the results of neuroscience? I propose the notion of projection [also used by Williford et al. (2012)] as a bridge principle connecting the neurobiological systems of knowing, feeling and acting with the bipolar structure. The projective process is considered responsible for the generation of the sense of self and the sense of the world, composing an informational phenomenal field generated by the nervous system and experienced in the first-person perspective. After presenting the projective hypothesis, I discuss its philosophical status, relating it to the phenomenal (BLOCK, 1995, 2008, 2011) and high-order thought (ROSENTHAL, 2006; BROWN, 2014) approaches, and a mathematical model of projection (RUDRAUF et al., 2017). Eight ways of testing the status of the projective hypothesis are briefly mentioned.


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Biografia do Autor

Alfredo Pereira Junior

Professor at São Paulo State University (Unesp), Botucatu, SP – Brasil.


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Recebido: 15/11/2018

Aceito: 15/11/2018


2018-12-28 — Atualizado em 2023-02-10

Como Citar

Pereira Junior, A. (2023). The projective theory of consciousness: from neuroscience to philosophical psychology. TRANS/FORM/AÇÃO: Revista De Filosofia, 41(Special Issue), 199–232.



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