Relation between neurophysiological and mental states: possible limits of decodability

Naturwissenschaften 70:282-287 (1983)
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Validity of physical laws for any aspect of brain activity and strict correlation of mental to physical states of the brain do not imply, with logical necessity, that a complete algorithmic theory of the mind-body relation is possible. A limit of decodability may be imposed by the finite number of possible analytical operations which is rooted in the finiteness of the world. It is considered as a fundamental intrinsic limitation of the scientific approach comparable to quantum indeterminacy and the theorems of logical undecidability. An analysis of these limits, applied to dispositions of future behaviour, suggests that limits of decodability of the psycho-physic relation may actually exist with respect to brain states with self-referential aspects, as they are involved in mental processes. Limits for an algorithmic theory of the mind-body problem suggested by this study are formally similar to other intrinsic limits of the scientific method such as quantum indeterminacy and mathematical undecidability which are also related to self-referential operations. At the metatheoretical level, hard sciences, despite their reliability, universality and objectivity, depend on metatheoretical presuppositions which allow for multiple philosophical interpretations. -/- .

Author's Profile

Alfred Gierer
Max-Planck-Institute of Developmental Biology, Tuebingen, Germany


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