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Why Neural Correlates Of Consciousness Are Fine, \ud But Not Enough\ud

By Ruediger Vaas


\ud The existence of neural correlates of consciousness (NCC) is not enough for philosophical purposes. On the other hand, there's more to NCC than meets the sceptic's eye.\ud (I) NCC are useful for a better understanding of conscious experience, for instance: (1) NCC are helpful to explain phenomenological features of consciousness – e.g., dreaming. (2) NCC can account for phenomenological opaque facts – e.g., the temporal structure of consciousness. (3) NCC reveal properties and functions of consciousness which cannot be elucidated either by introspective phenomenology or by psychological experiments alone – e.g., vision.\ud (II) There are crucial problems and shortcomings of NCC: (1) Correlation implies neither causation nor identity. (2) There are limitations of empirical access due to the problem of other minds and the problem of self-deception, and (3) due to the restrictions provided by inter- and intraindividual variations. (4) NCC cannot be catched by neuroscience alone because of the externalistic content of representations. Therefore, NCC are not sufficient for a naturalistic theory of mind, (5) nor are they necessary because of the possibility of multiple realization.\ud (III) Nevertheless, NCC are relevant and important for the mind-body problem: (1) NCC reveal features that are necessary at least for behavioral manifestations of human consciousness. (2) But NCC are compatible with very different proposals for a solution of the mind-body problem. This seems to be both advantageous and detrimental. (3) NCC restrict nomological identity accounts. (4) The investigation of NCC can refute empirical arguments for interactionism as a case study of John Eccles' dualistic proposals will show. (5) The discoveries of NCC cannot establish a naturalistic theory of mind alone, for which, e.g., a principle of supervenience and a further condition – and therefore philosophical arguments – are required.\u

Topics: Philosophy of Mind
Year: 1999
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