Neural correlates of consciousness reconsidered

Consciousness and Cognition 21 (2):681-690 (2012)

Abstract

It is widely accepted among philosophers that neuroscientists are conducting a search for the neural correlates of consciousness, or NCC. Chalmers conceptualized this research program as the attempt to correlate the contents of conscious experience with the contents of representations in specific neural populations. A notable claim on behalf of this interpretation is that the neutral language of “correlates” frees us from philosophical disputes over the mind/body relation, allowing the science to move independently. But the experimental paradigms and explanatory canons of neuroscience are not neutral about the mechanical relation between consciousness and the brain. I argue that NCC research is best characterized as an attempt to locate a causally relevant neural mechanism and not as an effort to identify a discrete neural representation, the content of which correlates with some actual experience. It might be said that the first C in “NCC” should stand for “causes” rather than “correlates.”

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Joseph Neisser
Grinnell College

References found in this work

What is It Like to Be a Bat?Thomas Nagel - 1974 - Philosophical Review 83 (October):435-50.
Toward a Neurobiological Theory of Consciousness.Francis Crick & Christof Koch - 1990 - Seminars in the Neurosciences 2:263-275.

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