A spinozist approach to the conceptual gap in consciousness studies

Journal of Mind and Behavior 22 (1):91-101 (2001)
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This essay argues that Spinoza’s metaphysics offers a theoretical framework for dissolving the conceptual gap in contemporary consciousness studies. The conceptual origins of the gap have their roots in Cartesian substance dualism. If phenomenal experience is conceived as substantially distinct from correlated physical processes in the brain, an explanatory gap opens in our understanding of the mind/body relation. Spinoza’s metaphysics offers an ontology that preserves the qualitative difference between phenomenal experience and physiological processes while conceiving the ultimate numerical unity of mind and its correlated physical processes. The notion of qualitative difference within substantial unity is deduced from Spinoza’s redefinition of the basic features of the Cartesian universe: substance, attribute, and mode. Redefinition results in a property dualism that is internally consistent and dissolves the conceptual gap in contemporary consciousness studies. This paper identifies and explains the central argument for qualitative distinction within substantial unity and recommends a framework for consciousness studies that views phenomenology and neuroscience as complementary disciplines



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