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The False Problem of Consciousness

Gomez-Marin, Alex and Arnau, Juan (2019) The False Problem of Consciousness. [Preprint]

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Philosophers have usually dealt with the problem of consciousness but, in the last decades, neurobiologists have undertaken the daunting task to address it scientifically. In particular, to answer how the brain produces consciousness. Here we question whether it actually does so, seeking to articulate the precise relation between neural activity and subjective experience. There is no doubt that they are intimately related. However, we argue that the thesis of parallelism (that consciousness tells no more than what is going on in the brain, but only in a different language), rather than enunciating an empirical fact, betrays a philosophical commitment. In addition, such equivalence between mental and cerebral states can be shown to lead to self-contradictions (the brain produces the world with itself in it; the brain, as an object in conscious experience, gives rise to conscious experience). Our approach endorses an integration of philosophical and scientific efforts where the scientist seeks to obtain empirically expedient answers to questions that the philosopher has previously formulated in a conceptually precise manner. Namely, that the questions we ask warrant the answers we provide. We posit that the success of an interdisciplinary quest for consciousness hinges on two more challenges: to accept negative proofs as ways forward and, especially, to avoid presenting metaphysical positions as scientific results. Differentiating between solidarity (as brain lesions demonstrate) and equivalence (as no data does) offers an alternative point of departure for understanding consciousness that does not, from the outset, outlay a false problem. The “easy problem” is hard-enough for the “hard problem” to be ill-posed.

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Item Type: Preprint
Gomez-Marin, Alex0000-0003-2764-2583
Arnau, Juan
Keywords: consciousness, neuroscience, philosophy of mind, brain-mind relation
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Neuroscience
General Issues > Philosophers of Science
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Depositing User: Dr. Alex Gomez-Marin
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2020 02:34
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2020 02:34
Item ID: 16804
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Neuroscience
General Issues > Philosophers of Science
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Date: 31 January 2019

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