Psychoneural Isomorphism: From Metaphysics to Robustness

In Marco Viola & Fabrizio Calzavarini (eds.), Neural Mechanisms: New Challenges in the Philosophy of Neuroscience. Springer (2020)
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Abstract

At the beginning of the 20th century, Gestalt psychologists put forward the concept of psychoneural isomorphism, which was meant to replace Fechner’s obscure notion of psychophysical parallelism and provide a heuristics that may facilitate the search for the neural correlates of the mind. However, the concept has generated much confusion in the debate, and today its role is still unclear. In this contribution, I will attempt a little conceptual spadework in clarifying the concept of psychoneural isomorphism, focusing exclusively on conscious visual perceptual experience and its neural correlates. Firstly, I will outline the history of our concept, and its alleged metaphysical and epistemic roles. Then, I will clarify the nature of isomorphism and rule out its metaphysical role. Finally, I will review some epistemic roles of our concept, zooming in on the work of Jean Petitot, and suggest that it does not play a relevant heuristic role. I conclude suggesting that psychoneural isomorphism might be an indicator of robustness for certain mathematical descriptions of perceptual content.

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Alfredo Vernazzani
Ruhr-Universität Bochum

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