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At Mind Matters News: Reductionism as a dead end in neuroscience — captured in an essay


From the evidence that he presents, Anil Seth could at most show that animal consciousness is more complex than previously thought. But what does he say? Stuff like

“This returns us one last time to Descartes. In dissociating mind from body, he argued that non-human animals were nothing more than ‘beast machines’ without any inner universe. In his view, basic processes of physiological regulation had little or nothing to do with mind or consciousness. I’ve come to think the opposite. It now seems to me that fundamental aspects of our experiences of conscious selfhood might depend on control-oriented predictive perception of our messy physiology, of our animal blood and guts. We are conscious selves because we too are beast machines – self-sustaining flesh-bags that care about their own persistence.”

So, contemplating the vast mystery — as well as complexity — of consciousness, Dr. Seth asserts that it shows that “we too are beast machines.”

Actually, it provides a convincing demonstration of how reductionism does not work well in neuroscience. At most, it would mean that animal consciousness is more complex than we have earlier supposed. For that, at least, we have a growing body of evidence.

Takehome: Dr. Seth surely does not show what he proposes: “Scientists and philosophers might have made consciousness far more mysterious than it needs to be.”

You may also wish to read: Psychiatry has always been difficult but … it’s unclear how trashing almost every philosophical tradition from which it is approached will really help. Understanding the human mind is necessarily complex because it is both what we are trying to perceive and the tool by which we hope to perceive it.


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