Qualia in a contemporary neurobiological perspective

Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences 8 (2):39-44 (2015)
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Qualia are defined as subjective or private feelings associated with sensory and other experiences. This article argues that private feelings might be expressed by or in a personal brain and discusses possible neurobiological implications. Four issues are considered: Functional dualism implies that mental functions are realized as emergent properties of the brain. In practice, functional dualism is compatible with both substance dualism and pan-psychism. The (adult) human brain is the product of biological and environmental processes, including cultural influences, and is individually unique. Part of the cerebral neuronal processing is molded by individual memories and previous experiences. Biological processes underlying the realization of qualia, including neural activities, escape conscious control. The temporal expression of qualia is in part consciously channeled by, for instance, actual situations and cultural habits. Neuroscientific explanations refer to general principles of nature, rather than to individual phenomena. Hence, future neurobiological approaches might aim to identify which neuronal processes are involved in qualia and how. It seems illusory to explain each quale.


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