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Why the mind is not a radically emergent feature of the brain

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In this article I will attempt to refute the claim that the mind is a radically emergent feature of the brain. First, the inter-related concepts of emergence, reducibility and constraint are considered, particularly as these ideas relate to hierarchical biological systems. The implications of radical emergence theories of the mind such as the one posited by Roger Sperry, are explored. I then argue that the failure of Sperry's model is based on the notion that consciousness arises as a radically emergent feature ‘at the top command’ of a non-nested neurological hierarchy. An alternative model, one that avoids the dualism inherent in radical emergence theories, is offered in which the brain is described as producing a nested hierarchy of meaning and purpose that has no ‘top’ or ‘summit’. Finally, I will argue there remains a non-reducible aspect of consciousness that does not depend upon radical emergence theory, but rather on the mutual irreducibility of the subjective and objective points of view. This irreducible aspect of consciousness can be understood as the non-mysterious result of brain evolution and normal neural functioning.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Beth Israel Medical Center, Fierman Hall, 317 East 17th Street, New York, NY 10003, USA. Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2001-09-01

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