Lessons From Astronomy and Biology for the Mind—Copernican Revolution in Neuroscience

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Neuroscience made major progress in unravelling the neural basis of mental features like self, consciousness, affect, etc. However, we nevertheless lack what recently has been described as “missing ingredient” or “common currency” in the relationship between neuronal and mental activity. Rather than putting forward yet another theory of the neural basis of mental features, I here suggest a change in our methodological strategy how to approach the brain, that is, our view or vantage point of the brain. Learning from astronomy (Copernicus) and biology (Darwin), I suggest that we may want to change our currently pre-Copernican vantage point from within brain to a post-Copernican vantage point from beyond brain. Such post-Copernican vantage point from beyond brain allows us taking into view that what happens beyond the brain itself, e.g., the world, and how that shapes the brain and its neural activity, e.g., world-brain relation. We then lend empirical support to the world-brain relation by converging it with Karl Friston’s free energy principle that, as we see it, provides a neuro-ecological and therefore post-Copernican view of the brain. That, in turn, allows us taking into view that mental features are shaped by both world and brain and are therefore truly neuro-ecological rather than merely neuronal. This raises the question for the link, e.g., the “missing ingredient” or “common currency” of world brain relation and mental features. Recent empirical evidence suggests that temporo-spatial dynamics may provide such link as it characterizes both the world-brain relation’s free energy and mental features, e.g., their spatiotemporality as described in philosophy. Taken together, I here advocate a change in our methodological strategy on how to approach the brain, that is, a shift from a pre-Copernican vantage point from within brain to a post-Copernican vantage point from beyond brain. The latter allows us taking into view that what happens beyond the brain in the world and how that shapes the brain in such a way that it can yield mental features. This amounts to nothing less than a Copernican turn or revolution in neuroscience akin to the ones in astronomy (Copernicus) and biology (Darwin).

Original languageEnglish
Article number319
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Volume13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 19 2019
Externally publishedYes

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Astronomy
Neurosciences
Brain

Keywords

  • biology
  • common currency
  • copernican turn
  • neuroscience
  • physics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

Cite this

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abstract = "Neuroscience made major progress in unravelling the neural basis of mental features like self, consciousness, affect, etc. However, we nevertheless lack what recently has been described as “missing ingredient” or “common currency” in the relationship between neuronal and mental activity. Rather than putting forward yet another theory of the neural basis of mental features, I here suggest a change in our methodological strategy how to approach the brain, that is, our view or vantage point of the brain. Learning from astronomy (Copernicus) and biology (Darwin), I suggest that we may want to change our currently pre-Copernican vantage point from within brain to a post-Copernican vantage point from beyond brain. Such post-Copernican vantage point from beyond brain allows us taking into view that what happens beyond the brain itself, e.g., the world, and how that shapes the brain and its neural activity, e.g., world-brain relation. We then lend empirical support to the world-brain relation by converging it with Karl Friston’s free energy principle that, as we see it, provides a neuro-ecological and therefore post-Copernican view of the brain. That, in turn, allows us taking into view that mental features are shaped by both world and brain and are therefore truly neuro-ecological rather than merely neuronal. This raises the question for the link, e.g., the “missing ingredient” or “common currency” of world brain relation and mental features. Recent empirical evidence suggests that temporo-spatial dynamics may provide such link as it characterizes both the world-brain relation’s free energy and mental features, e.g., their spatiotemporality as described in philosophy. Taken together, I here advocate a change in our methodological strategy on how to approach the brain, that is, a shift from a pre-Copernican vantage point from within brain to a post-Copernican vantage point from beyond brain. The latter allows us taking into view that what happens beyond the brain in the world and how that shapes the brain in such a way that it can yield mental features. This amounts to nothing less than a Copernican turn or revolution in neuroscience akin to the ones in astronomy (Copernicus) and biology (Darwin).",
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