In Measuring the Immeasurable Mind: Where Contemporary Neuroscience Meets the Aristotelian Tradition, Matthew Owen argues that despite its nonphysical character, it is possible to empirically detect and measure consciousness. -/- Toward the end of the previous century, the neuroscience of consciousness set its roots and sprouted within a materialist milieu that reduced the mind to matter. Several decades later, dualism is being dusted off and reconsidered. Although some may see this revival as a threat to consciousness science aimed at measuring (...) the conscious mind, Owen argues that measuring consciousness, along with the medical benefits of such measurements, is not ruled out by consciousness being nonphysical. Owen proposes the Mind-Body Powers model of neural correlates of consciousness, which is informed by Aristotelian causation and a substance dualist view of human nature inspired by Thomas Aquinas, who often followed Aristotle. In addition to explaining why there are neural correlates of consciousness, the model provides a philosophical foundation for empirically discerning and quantifying consciousness. En route to presenting and applying the Mind-Body Powers model to neurobiology, Owen rebuts longstanding objections to dualism related to the mind-body problem. With scholarly precision and readable clarity, Owen applies an oft forgotten yet richly developed historical vantage point to contemporary cognitive neuroscience. (shrink)
Neural correlates of consciousness (NCC) are neural states or processes correlated with consciousness. The aim of this article is to present a coherent explanatory model of NCC that is informed by Thomas Aquinas’s human ontology and Aristotle’s metaphysics of causation. After explicating four starting principles regarding causation and mind-body dependence, I propose the Mind-Body Powers model of NCC.
The causal pairing problem allegedly renders nonphysical minds causally impotent. This article demonstrates how a dualist view I call neo-Thomistic hylomorphism can circumnavigate the causal pairing problem. After explicating the problem and hylomorphism, I provide an account of causal pairing that appeals to a foundational tenet of hylomorphism. Subsequently, I suggest that a prominent view of consciousness in theoretical neuroscience—the integrated information theory—can learn from hylomorphism and likewise account for causal pairing.
A leading contemporary theory of consciousness in theoretical neuroscience apparently shares significant common ground with a philosophical system of thought from Antiquity. Although chronologically disparate, the integrated information theory of consciousness and Aristotelian metaphysics seem to be akin with regards to fundamental ontology, epistemic priority, and causal powers. In this article, I explore these areas of common ground. Additionally, I consider an apparent dissimilarity regarding panpsychism and suggest that an Aristotelian understanding of powers provides a natural way for IIT to (...) reasonably regulate its ascription of consciousness. (shrink)
Neural correlates of consciousness (NCC) are neural states or processes correlated with consciousness. The aim of this article is to present a coherent explanatory model of NCC that is informed by Thomas Aquinas’s human ontology and Aristotle’s metaphysics of causation. After explicating four starting principles regarding causation and mind–body dependence, I propose the Mind–Body Powers model of NCC.
It is often thought that contemporary neuroscience provides strong evidence for physicalism that nullifies dualism. The principal data is neural correlates of consciousness (for brevity NCC). In this chapter I argue that NCC are neutral vis- à-vis physicalist and dualist views of the mind. First I clarify what NCC are and how neuroscientists identify them. Subsequently I discuss what NCC entail and highlight the need for philosophical argumentation in order to conclude that physicalism is true by appealing to NCC. Lastly, (...) the simplicity argument for physicalism that appeals to NCC is presented, analyzed, and found wanting. (shrink)
Neural correlates of consciousness (for brevity NCC) are foundational to the scientific study of consciousness. Chalmers (2000) has provided the most informative and influential definition of NCC, according to which neural correlates are minimally sufficient for consciousness. However, the sense of sufficiency needs further clarification since there are several relevant senses with different entailments. In section one of this article, we give an overview of the desiderata for a good definition of NCC and Chalmers’s definition. The second section analyses the (...) merit of understanding the sufficiency of neural correlates for corresponding consciousness according to three relevant types of sufficiency: logical, metaphysical, and physical. In section three, a theoretical approach to consciousness studies is suggested in light of the sense in which NCC are sufficient for consciousness. Section four addresses a concern some might have about this approach. By the end, it will become apparent that our conception of NCC has important implications for research methodology, neuroethics, and the vitality of the search for NCC. (shrink)
The aim of the present work is to demonstrate that physicalism and a priori knowledge are epistemologically incompatible. The possibility of a priori knowledge on physicalism will be considered in the light of Edmund Gettier’s insight regarding knowledge. In the end, it becomes apparent that physicalism entails an unavoidable disconnect between a priori beliefs and their justificatory grounds; thus precluding the possibility of a priori knowledge. Consequently, a priori knowledge and physicalism are epistemologically incompatible.
Joanna Leidenhag’s research monograph Minding Creation: Theological Panpsychism and the Doctrine of Creation argues that theologians should seriously consider and perhaps even support panpsychism. In light of rekindled interest in panpsychism amongst philosophers of mind and a noteworthy minority of cognitive neuroscientists, which comes in the wake of physicalism’s faltering, Leidenhag’s thesis is timely. This work briefly analyzes some key aspects of Minding Creation.
Classical Trinitarians claim that Jesus—the Son of God—is truly God and that there is only one God and the Father is God, the Spirit is God, and the Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct. However, if the identity statement that ‘the Son is God’ is understood in the sense of numerical identity, logical incoherence seems immanent. Yet, if the identity statement is understood according to an ‘is’ of predication then it lacks accuracy and permits polytheism. Therefore, we argue that there (...) is another sense of ‘is’ needed in trinitarian discourse that will allow the Christian to avoid logical incoherence while still fully affirming all that is meant to be affirmed in the confession ‘Jesus is God.’ We suggest a sense of ‘is’ that meets this need. (shrink)
Mental causation is vitally important to the integrated information theory (IIT), which says consciousness exists since it is causally efficacious. While it might not be directly apparent, metaphysical commitments have consequential entailments concerning the causal efficacy of consciousness. Commitments regarding the ontology of consciousness and the nature of causation determine which problem(s) a view of consciousness faces with respect to mental causation. Analysis of mental causation in contemporary philosophy of mind has brought several problems to the fore: the alleged lack (...) of psychophysical laws, the causal exclusion problem, and the causal pairing problem. This article surveys the threat each problem poses to IIT based on the different metaphysical commitments IIT theorists might make. Distinctions are made between what I call reductive IIT, non-reductive IIT, and non-physicalist IIT, each of which make differing metaphysical commitments regarding the ontology of consciousness and nature of causation. Subsequently, each problem pertaining to mental causation is presented and its threat, or lack thereof, to each version of IIT is considered. While the lack of psychophysical laws appears unthreatening for all versions, reductive IIT and non-reductive IIT are seriously threatened by the exclusion problem, and it is difficult to see how they could overcome it while maintaining a commitment to the causal closure principle. Yet, non-physicalist IIT denies the principle but is therefore threatened by the pairing problem, to which I have elsewhere provided a response that is briefly outlined here. This problem also threatens non-reductive IIT, but unlike non-physicalist IIT it lacks an evident response. The ultimate aim of this survey is to provide a roadmap for IIT theorists through the maze of mental causation, by clarifying which commitments lead to which problems, and how they might or might not be overcome. Such a survey can aid IIT theorists as they further develop and hone the metaphysical commitments of IIT. (shrink)
In recent decades consciousness science has become a prominent field of research. This essay analyzes the most recent book by a leading pioneer in the scientific study of consciousness. In the The Feeling of Life Itself Christof Koch presents the integrated information theory and applies it to multiple pressing topics in consciousness studies. This essay considers the philosophical basis of the theory and Koch’s application of it from neurobiology to animal ethics.
In this chapter, it is argued that the Mind-Body Powers model of neural correlates of consciousness provides a metaphysical framework that yields the theoretical possibility of empirically detecting consciousness. Since the model is informed by an Aristotelian-Thomistic hylomorphic ontology rather than a physicalist ontology, it provides a philosophical foundation for the science of consciousness that is an alternative to physicalism. Our claim is not that the Mind-Body Powers model provides the only alternative, but rather that it provides a sufficient framework (...) for empirically detecting and scientifically studying consciousness. Elsewhere, the integrated information theory’s prediction about the neural correlate of being conscious has been used to illustrate how the Mind-Body Powers model grounds the possibility of empirically detecting consciousness (see M. Owen, 2021, ch. 8). The theory’s prediction was used as one plausible example of a hypothesis about the nature and location of the neural correlate that can be combined with the model. However, there is no settled conclusion about which neurobiological theory of consciousness accurately identifies the neural mechanisms corresponding to being conscious (NAS, 2021, p. 39; Sattin et al., 2021; Seth, 2017; Seth & Bayne, 2022). Therefore, this work will employ another plausible neurobiological prediction provided by the Temporal Circuit Hypothesis. The hypothesis is combined with the Mind-Body Powers model to demonstrate that empirically detecting consciousness is metaphysically plausible wholly apart from a physicalist framework. (shrink)
For as long as the Christian church has been working out its understanding of the second person of the Trinity, it has employed analytic philosophical reflection to sharpen theological comprehension. In recent times, there has been a rekindled appreciation for the employment of analytic reflection in the service of theology. Analytic theology has established itself as a way of doing theology that employs analytic philosophical analysis in the project of faith in divinely revealed truths seeking understanding. In this issue, the (...) fresh insights of analytic theology are applied to a theme most central to Christian theology—the Son of God. (shrink)