Dualism Versus Emergent Properties

Most neuroscientifically oriented investigators support a monistic view of the mind and brain. Monism, as it applies to the mind-brain sciences, contends that mind and brain activity are of the same "stuff," the same order of things, although they may be different aspects of that "stuff' (known as dual-aspect monism). This position has largely prevailed over the older dualistic views that treated mind and brain as if they were two ontologically different orders of things. While dualism is philosophically out of fashion, it still pervades the assumptions and models of many neuroscientists, as it has been deeply ingrained in Western thinking for millennia. Still, it is far from intuitively obvious how we are to bridge conceptualizations in neurophysiology regarding the behavior of large-scale neural networks with the basic properties of sentience. Thus, the "mind-body" gap remains a vast chasm with only the beginnings of bridgework.

Spanning that chasm is a central challenge of contemporary neuroscience. The philosopher David Chalmers (1995) has called the building of this bridge the "hard problem" in consciousness studies.

In keeping with the monistic perspective, most brain-mind scientists believe that consciousness is a phenomenon that emerges from the complexity of central nervous system (CNS) development, arising from within the dynamics of the brain, and existing as an embodied and body-centered "subjective space," totally private to its owner. Consciousness is an intrinsically private process that has many components seamlessly integrated in normal experience: attention, intention, sensory input, affective states, including moods at the periphery of consciousness, and cognitive content. Attention is the selection of fields for potential conscious content; intention is defined here as voluntary, goal-directed, or purposeful activity; sensory input includes proprioceptive and any other sensory content from the five senses; and affective states of a wide range of intensities, including underlying mood states that often lie at the periphery of consciousness. In addition (in cortically intact humans and less apparently in animals without language as we understand it), consciousness contains a great deal of highly differentiated cognitive content as well, which correlates with the increasing complexity of sensory processing and the differentiation of sensory content. Central to consciousness is a body-centered frame of reference ("embodiment"), with fundamental properties of agency and "ownership," in which actions (outside of serious disturbances of brain function) are experienced as coming from the self. These properties of qualia, embodiment, agency, and ownership, and the seamless integration of all content in consciousness, have presented the most consistent signposts for consciousness researchers attempting to define and model the neural substrates, and also the field's most consistent and formidable scientific challenges.

Anxiety and Depression 101

Anxiety and Depression 101

Everything you ever wanted to know about. We have been discussing depression and anxiety and how different information that is out on the market only seems to target one particular cure for these two common conditions that seem to walk hand in hand.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment