Mind causality : a computational neuroscience approach

Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience (forthcoming)
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A neuroscience-based approach has recently been proposed for the relation between the mind and the brain. The proposal is that events at the sub-neuronal, neuronal, and neuronal network levels take place simultaneously to perform a computation that can be described at a high level as a mental state, with content about the world. It is argued that as the processes at the different levels of explanation take place at the same time, they are linked by a non-causal supervenient relationship: causality can best be described in brains as operating within but not between levels. This mind-brain theory allows mental events to be different in kind from the mechanistic events that underlie them; but does not lead one to argue that mental events cause brain events, or vice versa: they are different levels of explanation of the operation of the computational system. Here, some implications are developed. It is proposed that causality, at least as it applies to the brain, should satisfy three conditions. First, interventionist tests for causality must be satisfied. Second, the causally related events should be at the same level of explanation. Third, a temporal order condition must be satisfied, with a suitable time scale in the order of 10 ms. Next, although it may be useful for different purposes to describe causality involving the mind and brain at the mental level, or at the brain level, it is argued that the brain level may sometimes be more accurate, for sometimes causal accounts at the mental level may arise from confabulation by the mentalee, whereas understanding exactly what computations have occurred in the brain that result in a choice or action will provide the correct causal account for why a choice or action was made. Next, it is argued that possible cases of “downward causation” can be accounted for by a within-levels-of-explanation account of causality. This computational neuroscience approach provides an opportunity to proceed beyond Cartesian dualism and physical reductionism in considering the relations between the mind and the brain.



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References found in this work

Real Patterns.Daniel C. Dennett - 1991 - Journal of Philosophy 88 (1):27-51.
Interventionism and Causal Exclusion.James Woodward - 2015 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91 (2):303-347.
Top-Down Causation Without Top-Down Causes.Carl F. Craver & William Bechtel - 2007 - Biology and Philosophy 22 (4):547-563.

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