Complex Systems Approach to the Hard Problem of Consciousness


Consciousness has been the bone of contention for philosophers throughout centuries. Indian philosophy largely adopted lived experience as the starting point for its explorations of consciousness. For this reason, from the very beginning, experience was an integral way of grasping consciousness, whose validity as a tool was considered self-evident. Thus, in Indian philosophy, the question was not to move from the brain to mind but to understand experience of an individual and how such an experience is determined through mental structures (and secondarily, the preoccupation with the brain and its relation to the mind). In contrast, cognitive science (the study of mind and cognition through 1 interdisciplinary methods, with emphasis on computational methods) found its debates soaked in discussion which primarily involved the brain and mind. Experience was not considered a primary source of information and its validity had to be established to consider it a source of information of mind. With the rise of physicalism and realization that mental states are correlative to brain states, the body was virtually neglected from involvement in understanding the mind and the attempts to reduce mind to the brain were rampant. The inability to explain subjective experience of an individual through neuroscientific findings alone has urged philosophers to explore other ways of understanding the ontology of mind. Over the last few years, embodied cognition and enactive approach have brought back the body as a central participant in this debate, providing fertile grounds to explain the relation of brain, body and mind. This paper proposes that we understand the brain as a complex system from which the mind emerges. This emergence is marked by the development of novel property of self-consciousness in human beings. The mind is a process which is embedded throughout the body and thus, the body acts as an actualizing medium for the individual. Thus, the brain is a necessary condition for the mind to be while the mind is embedded throughout the body. The brain and mind are in reciprocal causal relationship with one another, as is the body and environment with one another. In this paper, embodied cognition is understood through principles of Merleau Ponty's idea of embodiment, than through Andy Clark and Francis Varela's alone.

Author's Profile

Sahana Rajan
O P Jindal Global University


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