Brain, mind and limitations of a scientific theory of human consciousness

Bioessays 30 (5):499-505 (2008)
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In biological terms, human consciousness appears as a feature associated with the func- tioning of the human brain. The corresponding activities of the neural network occur strictly in accord with physical laws; however, this fact does not necessarily imply that there can be a comprehensive scientific theory of conscious- ness, despite all the progress in neurobiology, neuropsychology and neurocomputation. Pre- dictions of the extent to which such a theory may become possible vary widely in the scien- tific community. There are basic reasons - not only practical but also epistemological - why the brain-mind relation may never be fully “decod- able” by general finite procedures. In partic- ular self-referential features of consciousness, such as self-representations involved in strate- gic thought and dispositions, may not be resolv- able in all their essential aspects by brain analy- sis. Assuming that such limitations exist, objec- tive analysis by the methods of natural science cannot, in principle, fully encompass subjective, mental experience.

Author's Profile

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


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