Volume 53, Issue 4, December 2013
Aristotle and Agent-Directed Neuroplasticity
I propose an Aristotelian approach to agent causation that is consistent with the hypothesis of strong emergence. This approach motivates a wider ontology than materialism by maintaining (1) that the agent is generated by the brain without being reducible to it on grounds of the unity of experience and (2) that the agent possesses (formal) causal power to affect (i.e., mold, sculpt, or organize) the brain on grounds of agent-directed neuroplasticity. These claims are motivated by recent evidence in neuroscience. The broader theoretical implication is that the agent is not an impotent by-product of the brain but rather something that makes an explanatory difference in virtue of the unity of experience and the capacity to affect the brain. Therefore, the agent cannot be eliminated on parsimonious grounds alone.