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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 48, Issue 2, June 2008

Eric LaRock
Pages 201-229

Is Consciousness Really a Brain Process?

I argue on the basis of recent findings in neuroscience that consciousness is not a brain process, and then explore some alternative, non-reductive options concerning the metaphysical relationship between consciousness and the brain, such as weak and strong accounts of the emergence of consciousness and the constitution view of consciousness. I propose an Aristotelian account of the strong emergence of consciousness. This account motivates a wider ontology than reductive physicalism and makes reference to formal causation as a way explaining the causal power of consciousness. What is meant by formal causation, in this context, is that consciousness has the causal power to organize or control neuronal activity. This notion of causation is elaborated and supported by recent findings in the neurosciences. An advantage of this empirically informed approach is that proponents of the irreducibility of consciousness no longer need to rely upon conceptually based arguments alone, but can build a case against reductive physicalism that has a significant empirical foundation.

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