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Making Sense of Causal Interactions Between Consciousness and Brain

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Abstract:



My target article (henceforth referred to as TA) presents evidence for causal interactions between consciousness and brain and some standard ways of accounting for this evidence in clinical practice and neuropsychological theory. I also point out some of the problems of understanding such causal interactions that are not addressed by standard explanations. Most of the residual problems have to do with how to cross the 'explanatory gap' from consciousness to brain. I then list some of the reasons why the route across this gap suggested by physicalism won't work, in spite of its current popularity in consciousness studies. My own suggested route across the explanatory gap is more subterranean, where consciousness and brain can be seen to be dual aspects of a unifying, psychophysical mind. Some of the steps on this deeper route still have to be filled in by empirical research. But (as far as I can judge) there are no gaps that cannot be filled -- just a different way of understanding consciousness, mind, brain and their causal interaction, with some interesting consequences for our understanding of free will. The commentaries on TA examined many aspects of my thesis viewed from both Western and Eastern perspectives. This reply focuses on how dual-aspect monism compares with currently popular alternatives such as 'nonreductive physicalism', clarifies my own approach, and reconsiders how well this addresses the 'hard' problems of consciousness. We re-examine how conscious experiences relate to their physical/functional correlates and whether useful analogies can be drawn with other, physical relationships that appear to have dual-aspects. We also examine some fundamental differences between Western and Eastern thought about whether the existence of the physical world or the existence of consciousness can be taken for granted (with consequential differences about which of these is 'hard' to understand). I then suggest a form of dual-aspect Reflexive Monism that might provide a path between these ancient intellectual traditions that is consistent with science and with common sense.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2002

imp/jcs/2002/00000009/00000011/1311
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