Dissertation, Uppsala University (2019)

The present dissertation starts from the general claim that neuroscience is not neutral, with regard to theoretical questions like the nature of consciousness, but it needs to be complemented with dedicated conceptual analysis. Specifically, the argument for this thesis is that the combination of empirical and conceptual work is a necessary step for assessing the significant questions raised by the most recent study of the brain. Results emerging from neuroscience are conceptually very relevant in themselves but, notwithstanding its theoretical sophistication, neuroscience is not sufficient to provide a complete interpretation or an appropriate understanding of their impact. Consequently, the present thesis starts from the need for an interdisciplinary and hybrid field of research, i.e. fundamental neuroethics. Within this framework, the thesis takes consciousness and related disorders and the addicted brain as illustrative cases of the potential fruitful collaboration between empirical and conceptual investigations. The general goal of the thesis is to contribute to the overall development of bridging the gap between empirical and conceptual understandings of consciousness. The first paper sets the theoretical framework, providing an empirically-based description of the brain with significant philosophical implications for an understanding of consciousness. The last three papers of the thesis try to apply the theoretical framework to illustrative cases. Papers II and III analyse the possible application of science and technology for an easier detection and clinical care of patients with disorders of consciousness, with particular attention to communication mediated by neurotechnology and the simulation of the conscious brain, respectively; paper IV provides a potentially new ethical analysis of addiction within the elaborated general conceptual framework. The conclusion of the thesis is that the impact of neuroscientific results needs that a dedicated conceptual approach reveals and investigates their conceptual meaning. This conceptual analysis is not exclusive but integrative and complementary to the empirical science. The case of consciousness, analysed from both an ethical and conceptual point of view, is highly illustrative in this respect. In the end, a conceptual/linguistic work of clarification is urgently needed.
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On a Confusion About a Function of Consciousness.Ned Block - 1995 - Brain and Behavioral Sciences 18 (2):227-–247.
A Cognitive Theory of Consciousness.Bernard J. Baars - 1988 - Cambridge University Press.
Consciousness Explained.Daniel C. Dennett - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (4):905-910.

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