"Brain-paradox" and "embeddment" - Do we need a "philosophy of the brain"?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Present discussions in philosophy of mind focus on ontological and epistemic characteristics of mind and on mind-brain relations. In contrast, ontological and epistemic characteristics of the brain have rarely been thematized. Rather, philosophy seems to rely upon an implicit definition of the brain as "neuronal object" and "object of recognition": hence ontologically and epistemically distinct from the mind, characterized as "mental subject" and "subject of recognition". This leads to the "brain-paradox". This ontological and epistemic dissociation between brain and mind can be considered central for the problems of mind and mind-brain relations that have yet to be resolved in philosophy. The brain itself has not been thematized epistemically and ontologically, leading to a "brain problem". The epistemic and ontological dissociation between brain and mind presupposes an "isolated" picture of the brain, characterized by context-independence (i.e. "isolation" from body and environment). We can describe this view as an extrinsic relationship between brain, body and environment. However, based on recent empirical findings about body image and phantom sensations, we can no longer consider the brain as context-independent or "isolated" from its bodily and environmental context. Instead, the brain must be considered "embedded". Within the context of 'embeddment', brain and bodily/environmental context seem mutually to determine each other, and hence be reciprocally dependent on each other. We can describe this as an intrinsic relationship between brain, body and environment. Defining the brain as "embedded" undermines the epistemic and ontological dissociation between brain and mind and consequently resolves the "brain-paradox". This resolution sheds novel light on problems of mind and mind-brain relations by relativizing both. It is therefore concluded that philosophy should thematize ontological and epistemic characteristics of the brain, thereby taking into account the "brain problem" and developing a "philosophy of the brain". This approach not only opens a new field in philosophy but also extends the focus of empirical investigation in the neurosciences to take into account the intrinsic relationship between brain, body and environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-211
Number of pages17
JournalBrain and Mind
Volume2
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Brain
Phantom Limb
Body Image
Neurosciences

Keywords

  • Brain-paradox
  • Embeddment
  • Mind-brain problem
  • Philosophy of the brain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

Cite this

"Brain-paradox" and "embeddment" - Do we need a "philosophy of the brain"? / Northoff, G.

In: Brain and Mind, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2001, p. 195-211.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{68c9610aac084612bd89c38e9fa4b1a3,
title = "{"}Brain-paradox{"} and {"}embeddment{"} - Do we need a {"}philosophy of the brain{"}?",
abstract = "Present discussions in philosophy of mind focus on ontological and epistemic characteristics of mind and on mind-brain relations. In contrast, ontological and epistemic characteristics of the brain have rarely been thematized. Rather, philosophy seems to rely upon an implicit definition of the brain as {"}neuronal object{"} and {"}object of recognition{"}: hence ontologically and epistemically distinct from the mind, characterized as {"}mental subject{"} and {"}subject of recognition{"}. This leads to the {"}brain-paradox{"}. This ontological and epistemic dissociation between brain and mind can be considered central for the problems of mind and mind-brain relations that have yet to be resolved in philosophy. The brain itself has not been thematized epistemically and ontologically, leading to a {"}brain problem{"}. The epistemic and ontological dissociation between brain and mind presupposes an {"}isolated{"} picture of the brain, characterized by context-independence (i.e. {"}isolation{"} from body and environment). We can describe this view as an extrinsic relationship between brain, body and environment. However, based on recent empirical findings about body image and phantom sensations, we can no longer consider the brain as context-independent or {"}isolated{"} from its bodily and environmental context. Instead, the brain must be considered {"}embedded{"}. Within the context of 'embeddment', brain and bodily/environmental context seem mutually to determine each other, and hence be reciprocally dependent on each other. We can describe this as an intrinsic relationship between brain, body and environment. Defining the brain as {"}embedded{"} undermines the epistemic and ontological dissociation between brain and mind and consequently resolves the {"}brain-paradox{"}. This resolution sheds novel light on problems of mind and mind-brain relations by relativizing both. It is therefore concluded that philosophy should thematize ontological and epistemic characteristics of the brain, thereby taking into account the {"}brain problem{"} and developing a {"}philosophy of the brain{"}. This approach not only opens a new field in philosophy but also extends the focus of empirical investigation in the neurosciences to take into account the intrinsic relationship between brain, body and environment.",
keywords = "Brain-paradox, Embeddment, Mind-brain problem, Philosophy of the brain",
author = "G. Northoff",
year = "2001",
doi = "10.1023/A:1012402104790",
language = "English",
volume = "2",
pages = "195--211",
journal = "Brain and Mind",
issn = "1389-1987",
publisher = "Kluwer Academic Publishers",
number = "2",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - "Brain-paradox" and "embeddment" - Do we need a "philosophy of the brain"?

AU - Northoff, G.

PY - 2001

Y1 - 2001

N2 - Present discussions in philosophy of mind focus on ontological and epistemic characteristics of mind and on mind-brain relations. In contrast, ontological and epistemic characteristics of the brain have rarely been thematized. Rather, philosophy seems to rely upon an implicit definition of the brain as "neuronal object" and "object of recognition": hence ontologically and epistemically distinct from the mind, characterized as "mental subject" and "subject of recognition". This leads to the "brain-paradox". This ontological and epistemic dissociation between brain and mind can be considered central for the problems of mind and mind-brain relations that have yet to be resolved in philosophy. The brain itself has not been thematized epistemically and ontologically, leading to a "brain problem". The epistemic and ontological dissociation between brain and mind presupposes an "isolated" picture of the brain, characterized by context-independence (i.e. "isolation" from body and environment). We can describe this view as an extrinsic relationship between brain, body and environment. However, based on recent empirical findings about body image and phantom sensations, we can no longer consider the brain as context-independent or "isolated" from its bodily and environmental context. Instead, the brain must be considered "embedded". Within the context of 'embeddment', brain and bodily/environmental context seem mutually to determine each other, and hence be reciprocally dependent on each other. We can describe this as an intrinsic relationship between brain, body and environment. Defining the brain as "embedded" undermines the epistemic and ontological dissociation between brain and mind and consequently resolves the "brain-paradox". This resolution sheds novel light on problems of mind and mind-brain relations by relativizing both. It is therefore concluded that philosophy should thematize ontological and epistemic characteristics of the brain, thereby taking into account the "brain problem" and developing a "philosophy of the brain". This approach not only opens a new field in philosophy but also extends the focus of empirical investigation in the neurosciences to take into account the intrinsic relationship between brain, body and environment.

AB - Present discussions in philosophy of mind focus on ontological and epistemic characteristics of mind and on mind-brain relations. In contrast, ontological and epistemic characteristics of the brain have rarely been thematized. Rather, philosophy seems to rely upon an implicit definition of the brain as "neuronal object" and "object of recognition": hence ontologically and epistemically distinct from the mind, characterized as "mental subject" and "subject of recognition". This leads to the "brain-paradox". This ontological and epistemic dissociation between brain and mind can be considered central for the problems of mind and mind-brain relations that have yet to be resolved in philosophy. The brain itself has not been thematized epistemically and ontologically, leading to a "brain problem". The epistemic and ontological dissociation between brain and mind presupposes an "isolated" picture of the brain, characterized by context-independence (i.e. "isolation" from body and environment). We can describe this view as an extrinsic relationship between brain, body and environment. However, based on recent empirical findings about body image and phantom sensations, we can no longer consider the brain as context-independent or "isolated" from its bodily and environmental context. Instead, the brain must be considered "embedded". Within the context of 'embeddment', brain and bodily/environmental context seem mutually to determine each other, and hence be reciprocally dependent on each other. We can describe this as an intrinsic relationship between brain, body and environment. Defining the brain as "embedded" undermines the epistemic and ontological dissociation between brain and mind and consequently resolves the "brain-paradox". This resolution sheds novel light on problems of mind and mind-brain relations by relativizing both. It is therefore concluded that philosophy should thematize ontological and epistemic characteristics of the brain, thereby taking into account the "brain problem" and developing a "philosophy of the brain". This approach not only opens a new field in philosophy but also extends the focus of empirical investigation in the neurosciences to take into account the intrinsic relationship between brain, body and environment.

KW - Brain-paradox

KW - Embeddment

KW - Mind-brain problem

KW - Philosophy of the brain

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=0035201221&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=0035201221&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1023/A:1012402104790

DO - 10.1023/A:1012402104790

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:0035201221

VL - 2

SP - 195

EP - 211

JO - Brain and Mind

JF - Brain and Mind

SN - 1389-1987

IS - 2

ER -