Neurobiology and phenomenology: Towards a three-tiered intertheoretic model of explanation

Journal of Consciousness Studies 15 (3):34-58 (2008)
Abstract
Analytic and continental philosophies of mind are too long divided. In both traditions there is extensive discussion of consciousness, the mind-body problem, intentionality, subjectivity, perception (especially visual) and so on. Between these two discussions there are substantive disagreements, overlapping points of insight, meaningful differences in emphasis, and points of comparison which seems to offer nothing but confusion. In other words, there are the ideal circumstances for doing philosophy. Yet, there has been little discourse. This paper invites expanding discourse between these two philosophical traditions. The first part briefly describes the existing literature which works across the analytic- phenomenology divide, situating my work within it as a focus on analytic physicalism and phenomenal explanation. In the longer second part, I sketch a model for explanation embedded simultaneously in both traditions. Hopefully, a theoretical framework emerges that the unlikely combination of Maurice Merleau- Ponty and Patricia Churchland could accept. In the third part, I apply the three-tiered model to a discussion of plasticity and suggest that the model both reflects existing research across three levels of analysis and can be a fruitful way to approach future research. My suggestion for a three-tiered model is quite tentative. Much less tentative is my claim that constructive dialogue between phenomeno- logical and physicalist study of consciousness is long-overdue, illuminating, and practical.
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