Are persons their brains and, if not, how can contemporary science, philosophy and theology promote a more adequate understanding?
A workshop on these questions was held 15-19 August 2016 in Salvador da Bahia, North-East Brazil.
Participants and their abstracts
Ivana Anton Mlinar
Philosophy / Universidad Nacional de Cuyo / Argentina
“The Problem of Self: Can the “Minimal Self” Get Lost?”
A self is a fundamental explanatory principle to understand consciousness, to account for that essential feature that characterizes experience: its subjectivity (for-me-ness), its first person character. I would like to point out what has been called the minimal self, in an effort to come to the essential core of this principle, especially within the scope of pathologies in which precisely the self may be disrupted.
The minimal sense of self includes a sense of self-ownership and a sense of self-agency for actions. According to some authors, in cases of involuntary movements, unbidden thoughts, and schizophrenic experiences such as thought insertion, it becomes possible to distinguish between them, then here the sense of agency should be lacking but the sense of ownership should be retained in some form. Some other analysis have challenged the sharp distinction between these two modalities, showing that they are rather intimately related and even modulate each other.
The detailed phenomenology of these experiences that show rather the intentionality –that is, a relational character– as the constituent of the agentic nature, of the minimal sense of self, lead us to inquire if it is then possible to assert that the minimal self never gets lost. Furthermore, such a claim could provide elements to account for –among other things– the subjective activity of patients in a coma and in a vegetative state, since, although they do not show perceptible organic agency, their subjective activity, their agency in its intentional aspect could have been recognized after recovery.
Philosophy / Universidad Austral / Argentina
“Cognitive Approaches to Moral Evil: Prospects and Pitfalls of Naturalists Explanations of Moral Wrong Doing”
The origin and nature of Moral Evil is undoubtedly one of the great human questions. It’s one of those complex issues in which anthropological, metaphysical and religious thesis intertwine. But in recent years this theoretical scenario has been changed and expanded due to the irruption of Natural and Cognitive Sciences. In this paper, I will focus on the approach of the cognitive ethologist Marc Hauser, who attempts to explain moral wrong doing (in particular of gratuitous cruelty and violence) from an evolutionist and cognitivist standpoint. In short, I will try show that his naturalist approach may be an interesting contribution for the comprehension of human psychology but entails certain philosophical weaknesses: i) it rests on implicit realists assumptions, ii) it requires a strong conception of human personal dignity and value, and iii) it fits better in a libertarian framework of free will. All these theses are at least problematic within the limits of a naturalistic approach.
Francisco de Assis Mariano
Philosophy / Federal University of Paraiba / Brazil
“The comeback of soul in the philosophy of mind: Richard Swinburne and substance dualism facing contemporary critics”
The aim of this paper is to analyse Richard Swinburne’s substance dualism and contemporary critics of the theory. First, I will make a brief historical review of the mind-body problem, from Plato to Swinburne. Second, I will examine the way Swinburne approaches the problem. He believes that a description of the world that does not entail a difference between the mind and the brain does not provide a complete account of the world. In order to demonstrate this, he makes some definitions in ontology and epistemology and uses what he calls informative rigid designators to make distinctions between substances, properties and events, which are physical and non-physical. Then, he provides a sophisticate criterion to rebuild Descartes argument from introspection. Third, I will respond some of the contemporary objectors of substance dualism, such as, Jerry Fodor, Paul Churchland and John Searle, specially, their objections to the casual correlation between material and immaterial substances, which I will argue that Robin Collins has demonstrated that such objections comes from a misunderstanding of the universal use of the law of conservation of energy. Finally, I will conclude that substance dualism is far from being a dismissed theory and therefore, it should be taken seriously.
Guillermo Barber Soler
Philosophy / Universidad Católica Argentina / Argentina
“Time and brain: A complex dialogue between philosophers and neuroscientists on consciousness and free will”
Time, as the French philosopher Bergson said and many scientists can observe, constitutes the phenomenon of consciousness as a temporal continuity. Memory constitutes our personality based in our connection to our past; freedom opens our life to the future by the election of something new; and consciousness is that inexplicable continuity between past and future that forms the present by the relation to what surrounds us. Thus, time is inevitably related to consciousness and free will, as it is related also to subconscious and causality. This relationship is, as neuroscientists show, through brain, as the brain itself would have all the properties needed to assure memory, awareness and future planification. Neuroscientists, then, can be tempted to exclude philosophy of their conclusions, as if they could easily solve the problem by their own means. But can they in fact do it? The complex theme of time and free will will be an opportunity to develop the philosophical underlying content of scientific conclusions, that manifest itself in the variety of theories and interpretations. From the difficult definition of “free will” to the epistemological limits of some theories, we will set a dialogue between philosophers and neuroscientists, to distinguish but to also complement both disciplines. Some renowned scientists as Libet, Searle, Filevich, Fuster or Manes, and some sharp philosophers as Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Bergson, Sartre and Bartra, will show us that the dialogue between science and philosophy is neither simple nor impossible, but in fact undoubtedly fruitful.
Philosophy / Universidad Católica Argentina / Argentina
“The relevance of the concept of Intention in the explanation of Mind-Brain Interaction”
Experimental research groups are making significant efforts in order to shorten the gap between social sciences and empirical sciences as they try to understand bidirectional interactions between motivations and neuro-physiological processes. However, the efforts of experimental neuro-psychologists need to be accompanied by an identical philosophical effort. This paper will analyse the role of motivations in human behaviour, and explain its intentional -both cultural and organic dependent- nature. The notion of intention can be applied to complex conscious cognitive processes such as religious or moral feelings, which seem to derive form top-down causality. The traditional Aristotelian meaning of intention will fit well in these particular cases. On the other hand, it can also be applied to unconscious or pre-conscious feelings such as fear or shame. But in this case the meaning of the word intention should be broadened in order to include pre-linguistic emotional processes. Charles Taylor’s defence of intentionality, his analysis of “pre-interpretation” and of the expressive dimension of feelings will help us to accomplish this task. Finally, intention can be applied to those processes related to basic physiological needs, which prove to be paradigmatic-upward in nature. The relevance of intentionality in the explanation of Mind-Brain interaction lies in the recognition of the importance of final causality in the explanation of human behaviour, as complementary to efficient causality. Furthermore, it guides us to a better understanding of what it is to be a Person, since it leads us to a deeper understanding of free will, choice and compromise.
Law / PUC-Rio / Brazil
“A deterministic worldview reduces opposition to state paternalism”
The proper limit to paternalist regulation of citizens’ private lives is a recurring theme in political philosophy and ethics. In the present project, we examine the role of beliefs about free will and determinism in attitudes toward liberal versus paternalist policies. Previous studies have demonstrated the pervasive influence of metaphysical views on moral behaviour. We adopt a parallel approach in order to study the relationship between determinism beliefs and attitudes toward state paternalism. Throughout four studies, we find that a scientific deterministic worldview reduces opposition toward paternalist policies, independent of the putative influence of political ideology.
We offer two explanations for the link between scientific deterministic beliefs and endorsement of paternalism. First, the situationist explanation goes as follows: Paternalist policies often rely on the manipulation of features of the environment. Since these features influence human behaviour one way or the other, paternalist (ie, beneficial) arrangements of the environment which bring about greater good should be preferred. Nonetheless, deterministic beliefs may yield support for paternalism more indirectly as well, through what we label the debunking explanation: The pervasive influence of factors, such as genetics and neurochemistry, on behaviour and decision-making undermines the traditional notion of personal autonomy. As a result, determinists are more willing to sacrifice personal autonomy in the interest of social welfare, and therefore evaluate paternalist proposals more favourably than indeterminists.
Humberto Schubert Coelho
Philosophy / Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora / Brazil
“Subjectivity in its most concrete processes”
The logical, intentional and mnemonical processes we usually refer to as subjectivity are the touchstone of philosophical cases against reductionisms, as much as the deepest metaphysical analysis of the general structure of reality, when they lead to questions about purpose, origin and order, are the basis for (natural-)theological defence against the same reductionisms. Presenting only some dimensions of subjectivity, we must be also aware that theological arguments against reductionism are not only essential, but interwoven with the philosophical definitions of subjectivity.
From critical thinking to philosophical psychology, from pure logic to grounding metaphysics of being and thought, philosophical endeavours and their methods insist in unearthing non-reductionistic, even classical philosophical approaches and ideas, despite all cultural prohibitions from the so called deaths of metaphysics, post-metaphysical decrees and flamboyant condemnations of religious and idealistic ideas to the scrapyard of intellectual history.
In exhaustive analysis of contemporary sources, I would like to propose a sketch of subjectivity as it is understood in today’s best philosophical conceptions. Specifically, I will try to work on the questioning about two significant subjective processes: autobiographical consciousness and intersubjetivity. The better understanding of these processes, which are simpler and more definite compared to the general idea of subjectivity, will be shown as a rigorously sustainable path to enlighten our choice of the term in face of other possible synonyms (personhood, mind, consciousness…).
Juan Fuentes Lickes
Theology / Universidad Mariano Gálvez / Guatemala
“The Brain and Forgiveness”
The human being is a social being by nature. This factor has allowed the humanity to advance in many ways. All types of relationships like family, friend and co-workers are pillars to the humans to develop. However it should be emphasized that when we interact with others conflicts may arise. Each person has a different type of character and personality which sometimes leads to disagreements. Such discrepancies usually end in a sentimental or physical injury. In these circumstances is where forgiveness plays a very important role because when we interact with several people we might hurt somebodies feelings or it can be that our feelings can get injured. When a person does not decides to grant forgiveness, the resentment and bitterness of that of that emotion causes blood to be hit by a hefty amount of stress hormones which generates attitude changes, depression and/or anxiety while when a person decides to forgive is stimulated the immune system, normalizes blood pressure and anxiety and/or depression levels are reduced. One of the main reasons why it is important to know about the brain and it´s relationship with forgiveness is because if we understand what happens inside we can understand what is happening to us and which the best way to react in the situation is. The focus point is to investigate the forgiving process that goes around in our brain and to understand the effects that forgiving can have in the brain and in the person.
Biology - Theology / Escola Superior de Teologia / Brazil
“When and How Did Apes Become Human Persons?”
This article will deal with the complicated question of becoming human. This question can be approached from several different perspectives, as it is usually done in the scientific literature: biologically, what evolutionary features became essential for the emergence of Homo sapiens sapiens? Socially, what social patterns and behaviours evolved in the apes that eventually led into the human lineage? However, these are not the questions we will worry about in this article. We will, rather, analyse the question from a theological perspective: why can we call human a lineage that evolved from other apes, that shares a multitude of characteristics with modern apes (not to mention at least 95% of its DNA with some), that follows the same pattern of evolutionary change as all other animals? And more importantly, when and how, in the process of evolution, was that lineage worthy of receiving the name human? This question raises many interesting unfoldings, which we hope to explore.
To shed light in these puzzling questions, we will establish a dialogue with theology, drawing from the doctrine of the Imago Dei, analysing some of the interpretations given to this doctrine that may be related to modern understandings of human evolution. We will explore questions surrounding the implications of evolutionary theory with the biblical account of creation and the origin of humankind, such as when God “inserted”, if this is the case, his Image in the evolutionary line of development of humans, and what to make of the doctrine of original sin and the Fall in light of recent discoveries that humans did not come from only a pair of genetic progenitors.
Camilo Andrés Garzón
Theology / Universidad del Rosario / Colombia
“The notion of mind from a theological perspective of the person: the relationship between divine action and human cognition”
As a continuation of the method oriented by Pannenberg of an anthropology in theological perspective, the lecture offers an interpretation of the human mind, more concretely, about the notion of divine action and the relationship it can have with the human cognition. For instance, how, if possible, can God act in the human mind. Following the method, not through a dogmatic attempt, but reviewing the cognitive sciences of the last 30 years, in order to find which hypothesis and explanations can serve of theological relevance for a Christian philosophy. Such a discussion will take as particularly relevant the approach of the so called “emergent complexity” and the proposal of a divine agency made by Philip Clayton and Steven Knapp an other recent Christian interpretations.
Mirella de Lemos Giglio
Psychology / PUC-SP / Brazil
“After the house burned down: A search for the meaning of depression”
This article intends to analyse depression through the concepts of Analytical Psychology and seek if depression has a meaning in the person who suffers from it. According to the World Health Organization, 50 million people suffer from depression in the world and until 2020 350 million will suffer from it. Analytical Psychology uses the psyche energy concept to describe depressions. The psyche energy moves between the conscious and unconscious. Depression is when the psyche energy of the individual is found in the unconscious. This means that energy activates the content that is in the unconscious obliging the person to deal with those issues. Depression is a normal function of the psyche, but it can become pathological when depression lasts more time and the person does not deal with her/his inner matters. Sometimes the suicidal thoughts may be related to the desire for a change, but the depressive person often does not see a way out. Therefore the idea of death seems the only way out of the suffering. The normal function of depression is to help the person be in touch with her/his inner world and renovate what needs to be changed. Therefore depression itself may result in transformation, but for it to achieve its goal it depends on the structure of the Ego.
Computing / UNAM / Mexico
“A Computational Measurement of Consciousness Based on the View of a Computable Universe”
In the sciences of mind and brain, many believe that consciousness is one of the biggest mysteries because how could a few pounds of soft nervous tissue—brains consisting of cells, hormones, and electrical currents—give rise to the sensational world of conscious experience? Based on the view of a computable universe, this is, the claim that what might be behind the physical reality might be natural computation, or a general algorithmic process of information processing, this project suggests that some physical systems can have non-physical attributes such as consciousness, in other words, it offers a computationalist view of consciousness and offers some proves that consciousness could be probabilistic, algorithmic, irreducible, emergent, informational, or a computational aspect of the physical brain. In addition, based on natural theories under a computationalist framework a parameter called Alpha inspired on Tononi’s Phi parameter suggested in his information Integration Theory as measurement of consciousness is introduced, but, Unlikely Phi, Alpha is formulated to measure consciousness in largely sized systems since Phi has be unable to make measurements in big systems (more than 15 nodes) in a reasonable time with the power of the current computational. So, this project breaks with stronger forms of non-physicalism, since it takes consciousness to be non-physical and, at the same time, explainable via tools and methods in the physical sciences.
Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion
“Categorising Libet-like experiments (from 1983 to 2013)”
The present paper describes and analyses ten scientific experiments on free action, which followed Benjamin Libet’s experiment in 1983. Through the study of neuronal activity previous to the decision of acting freely, these experiments have engaged with the philosophical themes of consciousness and human freedom. Given the diversity of perspectives and conclusions of these experiments regarding these notions, I offer a description and analysis of these experiments, in order to construct a framework in which future interdisciplinary research and dialogue could flourish. My strategy is threefold. First, I will briefly consider Libet’s experiment. Second, I will present ten of the most relevant and most quoted replications of Libet’s experiment. These replications began shortly after Libet’s experiment and continue to be performed until today. Finally, I will present a short comparative analysis of these replications. As a conclusion, I will present the four main lines of research in which the experiments are framed and through which the definitions of the philosophical notions of consciousness and freedom used are defined: 1) research focused on cortical electrophysiological activity preceding motor activity, 2) research focused on the study of consciousness, 3) research arguing that Libet wasn’t studying real free acts and aim at doing so, and 4) research that criticises Libet’s methodology and aims at improving it.
Psychology / Universidad de Valparaíso / Chile
“Consciousness of Thoughts: Understanding Self-Attributions of Mental Agency”
Humans not only have the ability to consciously experience their own thoughts, but, in doing so, can also attribute agency to them. I shall call this act attribution of mental agency. The analysis of this issue in philosophy is replete with disagreement. In the phenomenological domain, while some people refer to their own thoughts as something they actively do, others refer to them as something that merely happens in their mind. In the conceptual domain, the aforementioned disagreement makes it very difficult to offer a characterization of the way in which humans end up attributing thoughts agentially to themselves. In this paper, I argue that the phenomenology of thoughts should be characterized as not involving any type of first-order feeling of mental agency, but, at the same time, as being phenomenologically characterized by a ubiquitous affordance of agentive attributability, i.e. the possibility of a thought to be internally or externally attributed in terms of agency. In contrast with current available views, the affordance model defended here takes attributions of mental agency to be neither the mere product of the endorsement of a full experience of self-agency accompanying thoughts (bottom-up view), nor the product of mere retrospective judgements without any type of experiential basis (top-down view). Rather, attributions of mental agency are the result of the integrative interaction between second-order explanations and the endorsement of a first-order affordance of attributability contained in the basic phenomenology of thoughts. Thus, by adopting an integrative posture, the affordance model of agentive mental attributions should be able to gain better dialectal traction than either of the bottom-up or the top-down views in current literature.
Philosophy / PUC-RS / Brazil
“Cognitive Science of Religion and the Rationality of Theistic and Atheistic Beliefs”
One of the questions that have captured the attention of thinkers for millennia is why humans are so inclined to form religious beliefs. Recently, researchers from different academic disciplines have been using findings from areas of study such as cognitive science and evolutionary biology to formulate theories about the origins of religious beliefs. The research programme that has emerged from this interdisciplinary effort has become known as cognitive science of religion (CSR). In the paper I will be presenting at The Brain, the Mind, the Person workshop, I will seek to bring an epistemological perspective on the main findings from CSR. Can the nascent CSR tell us anything about the rationality of theistic and atheistic beliefs? In order to make progress toward answering this main question I will be discussing some of the key aspects of contemporary epistemological literature on the nature of rationality. In particular, I will seek to provide adequate definitions of the main concepts related to the research topic and attempt to specify what sorts of answers should be provided in order to enable us to answer the main research question. What is epistemic rationality? What are the main types of epistemic rationality that have been proposed in the literature? Which of these main types of rationality would be relevant for our research question? What are the main findings from CSR that can help us evaluate the epistemic rationality of theistic and atheistic beliefs? These are some of the questions that I will seek to address in my paper.
Juan Diego Morales Otero
Philosophy / Universida de Cartagena / Colombia
“Mental causation as emergent causation”
Although some theorists interested in the nature of dynamical systems and the appearance of non-reducible, higher level (that is, emergent) properties in a physical world, have suggested some possible avenues for understanding the downward causal interaction that is implied by the occurrence of emergent causal processes, there has not been any effort to systematically articulate its basic structure. I develop this articulation through the elucidation of a relevant example: the appearance and interaction of two different levels of painful experiences. I describe the neurological nociceptive subsystems, namely, the discriminative and the affective nociceptive neural structures, which are the neural mechanisms (realizers) of two different and corresponding nociceptive experiences: the discriminative and affective nociceptive experiences. I develop the conceptual articulation of the causal dynamics that structure the interaction between this level of separated (discriminative and affective) nociceptive experiences, and the level of our normal and unitary experience of pain. The purpose of this work is to show that we can have a very satisfactory, scientifically and conceptually well-informed response to the reiterated criticisms that contemporary reductionist philosophers (e.g., Jaegwon Kim, David Lewis, David Armstrong, Brian McLaughlin, David Papineau, and Frank Jackson, among others) have developed of the non-reductive physicalist explanation of mental causation.
Philosophy / Universidad Veracruzana / Mexico
“Synderesis, reasoning and emotions for moral decisions”
A philosophical approach to the theories regarding moral decisions from a fundamental neuro-ethics point of view. My objective is to analyse and contrast the knowledge on the neural correlates of moral decisions. While there is a relationship between rational decisions and emotional decisions, this has implications for deeper human philosophical problems, which leads to more general questions about the freedom of the individual and their actual ability to make their own decisions based on moral judgements, empathy and the control, or lack of control, of impulses. From a neuroscience perspective, the problem of freedom is viewed with suspicion because, according to several authors (Vgr. Libet and Youngren), we would be at the mercy of what the brain dictates, even unconsciously. This requires a philosophical framework that carefully analyses studies with control groups, for example, made up of patients with abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex (the ventromedial, the dorsolateral and the orbitofrontal). The results that are currently being obtained with these studies yield a fertile field for significant philosophical research that will aid us in uncovering what the mechanisms through which we make our own decisions are – if we really are making them. The path from the biological to the mental seems very risky, but there are elements that will perhaps enable us to defend free will and the concept of person, beyond what medicine and some scientists deem possible. Are we just a mind created by the brain itself that makes us believe that there is a self?
Semiology / Universidad Abierta Interamericana / Argentina
“Semiotic and psychological foundations of mind and man: mindreading and mindsharing as the distinctive species-specific features”
During long time, to be human was linked to the most sophisticated cognitive abilities such as language, abstract conception and reasoning. Nowadays, after having detected some of these skills in other non-human primates (like the possibility of using symbols and composing them in different anthropoid apes, or their good performance in problem solving tasks), the experts turned to search the thin line between human and non-human somewhere else. The current research in developmental psychology of early childhood is focused not any more in those high-performance mental abilities, but in, preverbal social baby-adult interactions, considering that becoming human depends on this being-with-others platform upon which reflexive thought and abstraction will later develop. The ability to establish affective relationships with others and to connect with them even in a non-semantical way (a kind of communion that refers to nothing and only reveals an inmixing process between the participants) structures the human sensibility and prepares the cognitive device for its future normal development.
Gustavo Rodrigues Rocha
Physics / Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana / Brazil
“Henry Stapp’s Quantum Model of the Mind-Brain Connection in the Context of the Sursem Group”
The focus of my paper will be an alternative re-enchanted scientific world-view that address the problems of i) meaning within the system of knowledge, in the sense of Viktor Frankl’s “ultimate meaning,” (1969, 1975); or Paul Tillich’s “ultimate concern,” (1964, 1987) and ii) unity within the system of knowledge, transdisciplinarity, as a response to the split of rationality, expressed as a) the division of the three cultures: humanities, social sciences and natural sciences; b) the fact/value dichotomy; and c) the conflict between Science and Religion. I will tackle these two related problems by means of i) an empirical historical investigation, and ii) a philosophical analysis of a scientific model.
I will analyse a quantum model of the mind-brain connection developed by the physicist Henry Stapp. My analysis will be delineated upon the broader historical background of the Esalen Institute – where Stapp has been interacting with many scientists and scholars over the last fifty years. The Esalen Institute, a human potential centre, in Big Sur, California, has sponsored research for decades via the Center for Theory and Research (CTR). I will examine one of these CTR sponsored groups, the “Empirical Evidence for the Survival of Death” group, a transdisciplinarity group of scholars and scientists (also known as Sursem) that worked together from 1998 to 2011. Stapp was a pivotal member of the Sursem’s team.
María Ayelén Sánchez
Philosophy / Universidad Nacional del Sur / Argentina
“Intentionality and Real Patterns: An analysis of Dennett’s perspective in relation to some empirical evidence from cognitive sciences”
The broad goal of this paper is to show a specific example of how empirical sciences and philosophy can enrich their respective fields by approaching the common topics jointly. Specifically, I will analyse Daniel Dennett’s ontological perspective about intentional states and confront it with some salient empirical data provided by Baron-Cohen’s recent experiments. First, I will present Dennett’s account of intentionality, according to which intentional states can be understood as patterns of the human behaviour, and his description of Folk Psychology in terms of the perspective from which these patterns can be tracked. Secondly, I will confront Dennett´s perspective with Baron-Cohen’s two-factor theory of autisms: the “empathizing–systemising” (E-S) theory (2009; 2011). This new theory explains the areas of strength autism syndrome by reference to intact or even superior skill in systemising. According to the author, systemising consists in identifying the patterns and the rules that govern the system in order to make predictions about its behaviour. Finally, and taking into account some of the most relevant experiments that support the Baron-Cohen’s (E-S) theory, I will develop some arguments in order to point out the inconsistencies that arise between Dennett’s approach and the results of Baron-Cohen’s experiments. Despite this criticism of the Dennett’s position that I suggest here, I will consider some aspects under which intentionality can be conceived in relation to patterns and the tracking of them.
Sebastian Sanhueza Rodriguez
Philosophy / Universidad Católica de Chile / Chile
“States, Processes, and Perceptual Experience”
What do we talk about when we talk about perceptual experiences? According to what I shall call here a processive view, perceptual experiences should be ultimately analysed in terms of processes of a special phenomenological kind. These processes are deeply peculiar: for, on the one hand, they are not processes of a neuro-biological or otherwise physical kind; and, on the other, they cannot be analysed into constituents other than processes of the same special phenomenological kind. According to an alternative option I shall term here a stative view, meanwhile, perceptual experiences are states of a subject S (i.e a person) which obtain in virtue of an informational relation holding between S’s brain and her surroundings. If there are experiential processes, they should be understood in terms of state-change or statemaintenance. The goal of this piece is twofold: first, I shall unpack a version of this plausible albeit neglected understanding of perceptual experiences; secondly, I shall motivate a stative view by suggesting that, unlike the processive stance, it provides a rather elegant framework to deal with at least two problematic issues – the relationship between perceptual experience
and its neuro-biological basis, on the one hand, and, on the other, the individuation of perceptual experiences over time. The stative view neatly captures a conceptual dependence of a subject’s experiences vis-à-vis more fundamental constituents, such as informational relations between a perceptual system and its surroundings. Correspondingly, the individuation of perceptual experiences may also be bound to that of its constituent physical components.
Miguel Ángel Sebastián González
Philosophy of Science / UNAM / Mexico
“SIR Hume and (I-)qualia: Self-Involving Representationalism”
A subjective sense of self has been vindicated as a constitutive element of experience by many philosophers and psychologists. Jesse Prinz has recently argued against this idea defending a strong reading of Hume’s observation that he can never catch himself at any time without a perception, and never can observe anything but the perception. The aim of this paper is to respond to this objection by clarifying what the subjective sense of self consists in and offering a reductive theory thereof, out of which a weak reading of Hume’s observation turns out to be true: the subjective sense of self is not something to be found beyond the experience of the world, our body and our emotions.
For this purpose, I argue that the subjective sense of self can be accounted for in representational terms by means of de se content. In a naturalistic framework this requires in turn, following Lewis, an explanation of what self-attribution consists in. I offer a Self-Involving Representational (SIR) model that characterizes how a system can come to self-attribute a (perceptual) property and present the neurological mechanisms that would underlie such self-attribution.
Beatriz Sorrentino Marques
Philosophy / Universidade do Amazonas / Brazil
“A solution to the problem of the disappearing agent: agents and the production of action”
Agent Causation (AC), roughly, states that the agent produces her action by means of an irreducible power she has. Moreover, AC claims that the Disappearing Agent problem arises from accounts of action, such as the Causal Theory of Action (CTA), in which, allegedly, the agent does not play a role in the production of her action. In general, explanations of action offered by the CTA can be described as accounts in which the agent’s mental states causally contribute to the production of her action, and most of them probably accept that mental states are correlated to brain activity. Relatedly, it is widely agreed in neuroscience that the brain is plastic—i.e., the connections between neurons and the amount of neurons each individual has changes throughout human life due to experience, genetics, and chemical factors. Considering that different agents will have different neural connections, and that different activity patterns will be observed when different agents perform a task, one may conclude that the brain activity involved in the causal production of each action is characteristic of each agent. The agent’s experiences, genetic make-up, and development contribute to shaping her neural connections; therefore, there is no reason to claim that she does not play a role in the production of her action, since the agent’s mental states that causally contribute to the production of her action are fundamentally hers.
Biology - HPS / PUC-SP / Brazil
“Past and present: a 19th-century debate on ‘the organ of mind’ as a possible source for the current debate on the neurobiological basis of consciousness”
What is the physical location of the mind? What is the physical basis of consciousness? What is the relationship between the concepts of mind and soul? How a 19th-century debate on the human brain within the context of evolution theory could have resource to ancient ideas on the relationship between mind and brain? This paper proposes a historical approach to these problems, together with a critical analysis of contemporary neuroscience problems, particularly, Francis Crick’s concepts of the neuro-biological basis of consciousness. The aim of the paper is threefold: 1) to recover a past épistème, namely, Thomas H. Huxley’s theory of consciousness which had come to be called “epiphenomenalism” on the context of a 19th-century debate on brain-mind causation; 2) to analyse the concept of epiphenomenalism as an organizing theory around which 19th-century debate on the human brain and current debate on the neuro-biological basis of consciousness are framed; and 3) to investigate the diachronic process of continuity and discontinuity of the term epiphenomenalism as a past and present concept.
David Villena Saldaña
Philosophy / Universidad Nacional de San Marcos & U. Ruiz de Montoya / Peru
“Challenges to functionalism through phenomenal consciousness: inverted qualia and absent qualia”
This paper explains the main theses of functionalism about mental states. This view is taken as a response addressed to the metaphysical aspect of the mind-body problem. Thus the paper shows what distinguishes functional properties as second-order properties, and how to understand supervenience and multiple realizability. The author applies these ideas to machine functionalism and analytic functionalism, the two main versions of functionalism.
The model offered by functionalists does not include the qualitative aspect of mental states. This means that non-intentional phenomenological features of conscious experience are not taken into account by this model. It’s a model which does not take into account phenomenal features of mental states; for instance, it does not take into account the quale of being in pain. Pain is not just a functional state in which our mind is placed now or later. It is, besides that, and above all, something that you can feel. If a description of pain ignores its qualitative aspect, and leaves open the door to say that two subjects are in pain, however feeling something opposite (inverted qualia) or not feeling anything (absent qualia), there are prima facie reasons to think that it is a mischaracterization and that the theory that leads to it is seriously flawed.
The difficulty addressed by this paper can be formulated through the following question: is it possible for functionalism to give a satisfactory answer to problems emerging from the possibility of inverted qualia and absent qualia?
Philosophy / UFRB / Brazil
“The brain and the neurosciences in Bergson”
The objective of my presentation is to highlight the principal aspects of Bergson’s philosophy related with experimental psychology, such as his conception of the role of the brain in human perception and his theory of action. To achieve this goal, we shall recapitulate the main theses of Bergson’s theory of memory to measure its impact when confronted with the latest scientific experiments. We shall see that Bergson conceives a certain independence of memory in relation to the matter and denies that the first can be placed in the second. Besides of the philosophical implications that this thesis may have (especially in relation to overcoming the “dualism”), it establishes a hypothesis about the functioning of the brain that immediately raises suspicions of the modern physiology. Indeed, Bergson’s conviction that the spirit (pure memory) can be dissociated from the functioning of the human brain is not shared by most scientists. But what is striking is that now proliferate books written jointly by philosophers and neuroscientists who give to action a central role in philosophical theories of subjectivity. Therefore, we must admit at least that by stating the thesis that perception is an anticipation of action, Bergson fits in this trend as one of its precursors and we must recognize also his current relevance.
School of Advanced Study / United Kingdom
Prof Barry Smith, Professor of Philosophy, Director of the Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Study, University of London, United Kingdom. Prof Smith will discuss philosophical implications of neuroscience for the understanding of the mind.
Justin L. Barrett
Fuller Seminary / United States
Prof Justin Barrett, Professor of Developmental Science, Director of the Thrive Center for Human Development, Fuller Theological Seminary, United States. Prof Barrett will engage with issues on cognitive science of religion.
Alexander Moreira Almeida
Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora / Brazil
Professor of Medicine. Faculty of Medicine, Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora
Universidad Nacional de Colombia / Colombia
Professor of Philosophy, Universidad Nacional de Colombia
André Luis Mattedi Dias
UFBA / Brazil
Professor of Philosophy and History of Science and co-host of the workshop
Frederik Moreira dos Santos
UFBA / Brazil
Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion
Research Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, at the University of Oxford, and Director of the project Science, Philosophy and Theology in Latin America.
Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion
Research Fellow at the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, University of Oxford, and co-Director of the project Science, Philosophy and Theology in Latin America.