"Brain-paradox" and "embeddment": Do we need a "philosophy of the brain"?

Brain and Mind 195 (2):195-211 (2001)
Abstract
Present discussions in philosophy of mind focuson ontological and epistemic characteristics ofmind and on mind-brain relations. In contrast,ontological and epistemic characteristics ofthe brain have rarely been thematized. Rather,philosophy seems to rely upon an implicitdefinition of the brain as "neuronal object''and "object of recognition'': henceontologically and epistemically distinct fromthe mind, characterized as "mental subject'' and"subject of recognition''. This leads to the"brain-paradox''. This ontological and epistemicdissociation between brain and mind can beconsidered central for the problems of mind andmind-brain relations that have yet to beresolved in philosophy. The brain itself hasnot been thematized epistemically andontologically, leading to a "brain problem''.The epistemic and ontological dissociationbetween brain and mind presupposes an"isolated'' picture of the brain, characterizedby context-independence (i.e. "isolation'' frombody and environment). We can describe thisview as an extrinsic relationship betweenbrain, body and environment. However, based onrecent empirical findings about body image andphantom sensations, we can no longer considerthe brain as context-independent or "isolated''from its bodily and environmental context.Instead, the brain must be considered"embedded''. Within the context of 'embeddment',brain and bodily/environmental context seemmutually to determine each other, and hence bereciprocally dependent on each other. We candescribe this as an intrinsic relationshipbetween brain, body and environment.Defining the brain as "embedded'' undermines theepistemic and ontological dissociation betweenbrain and mind and consequently resolves the"brain-paradox''. This resolution sheds novellight on problems of mind and mind-brainrelations by relativizing both. It is thereforeconcluded that philosophy should thematizeontological and epistemic characteristics ofthe brain, thereby taking into account the"brain problem'' and developing a "philosophy ofthe brain''. This approach not only opens a newfield in philosophy but also extends the focusof empirical investigation in the neurosciencesto take into account the intrinsic relationshipbetween brain, body and environment
Keywords Brain  Embedment  Paradox  Philosophy  Science
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