Consciousness and the Self without Reductionism: Touching Churchland's Nerve

In Mihretu P. Guta & Scott B. Rae (eds.), Taking Persons Seriously: Where Philosophy and Bioethics Intersect. Eugene, Oregon.: Pickwick Publications, Wipf and Stock Publishers. (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Patricia Churchland's Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain is her most recent wide-ranging argument for mind-to-brain reductionism. It's one of the leading anti-dualist works in neurophilosophy. It thus deserves careful attention by anti-reductionists. We survey the main arguments in this book for her thesis that the self is nothing but the brain. These arguments are based largely on the self's dependence upon neural activities as reflected in its various impairments, its unified experiences, and its powers of agency. We show that dualism is quite compatible with this neural dependence. We argue that dualism can not only counter--but also turn the tables on--her arguments. Unlike most other critics, we focus not only on her hard problems but also on her easy problems in explaining consciousness. A new non-Cartesian substance dualism is presented that avoids existing dualist causal issues. It may thus avoid perennial physicalist and dualist problems.

Author Profiles

Mostyn W. Jones
University of Manchester (PhD)
Eric LaRock
Oakland University

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