Vol. 40, Number 2, Spring 2019

A No-Go Theorem for the Mind–Body Problem: An Informal Proof that
No Purely Physical System Can Exhibit All the
Properties of Human Consciousness
Catherine M. Reason, London, United Kingdom

This article presents an operationalized solution to the mind–body problem which relies on a well-defined effective procedure rather than philosophical argument. I identify a specific operation which is a necessary property of all healthy human conscious individuals — specifically the operation of self-certainty, or the capacity of healthy conscious humans to “know” with certainty that they are conscious. This operation is shown to be inconsistent with the properties possible in any meaningful definition of a physical system. I demonstrate this inconsistency by proving a “no-go” theorem for any physical system capable of human logical reasoning, if this reasoning is required to be both sound and consistent. The proof of this theorem is both general — it applies to any function whereby evidence affects the state of some physical system — and recursive, since any physical process subserving a function of this type is shown to imply another such function. Thus, for at least one aspect of human consciousness, the mind–body problem is resolved.

Correspondence should be addressed to Catherine M. Reason, Institute of Mind and Behavior, PO Box 522, Village Station, New York, New York 10014. Email: CMRneuro@gmail.com

 

Learning How to Represent: An Associationist Account
Nancy A. Salay, Queen’s University

The paper develops a positive account of the representational capacity of cognitive systems: simple, associationist learning mechanisms and an architecture that supports bootstrapping are sufficient conditions for becoming a representation user. In terms of the debates within the philosophy of mind, this paper offers a plausibility account of representation externalism, an alternative to the internalist, reductive models of intentionality that still play a leading role in the field. Although the central theme here is representation, methodologically this view complements embodied, enactivist approaches to studying cognition.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Nancy A. Salay, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, K7L 3N6, Canada. Email: salay@queensu.ca

 

Critical Notices

Beyond Neurocentric Psychiatry: An Analysis of Fuchs’ Enactive–Ecological Concept of the Mind
Susana Ramírez–Vizcaya, National Autonomous University of Mexico

Book Title: Ecology of the Brain: The Phenomenology and Biology of the Emodied Mind
Book Author: Thomas Fuchs. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, 334 pages, $46.95 paperback.

Research into the brain sciences has received an explosive growth in funding and attention from academia, industry, healthcare institutions, media, and general public in the last decades. The Human Brain Project, for instance, is one of the two largest scientific research projects that the European Union has ever funded, while the BRAIN Initiative is an ambitious project supported by public and private sectors in the United States. It is undeniable that plentiful scientific advancements have been achieved regarding the neurobiology of mental processes and illness during these last decades. However, this enthusiasm for the brain has led to a view where the whole spectrum of mental phenomena is explained appealing to a complex network of neurons, synapses, neurotransmitters, and hormones. Under this picture, subjectivity has been largely seen either as identical to neurobiological processes or as no more than epiphenomena without any causal power, while the body and the environment have been portrayed as just a source of inputs to be processed by this powerful computing machine that is the brain.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Susana Ramírez–Vizcaya, Posgrado en Filosofía de la Ciencia, UNAM, Unidad de Posgrado, Edificio E, Primer nivel, Circuito de Posgrados, Ciudad Universitaria, Av. Universidad 3000, CDMX, México, 04510. Email: susana.rv09@gmail.com

 

Biophilosophy
Christopher Stephens, University of British Columbia

Book Title: How Biology Shapes Philosophy: New Foundations for Naturalism
Book Author: David Livingstone Smith (Editor). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017, 364 pages, $99.99 hardcover.

How Biology Shapes Philosophy is a collection of thirteen new essays by leading, naturalistically inclined philosophers who draw on biology to answer traditional philosophical questions about the nature of mind, rationality, semantics, ethics, race, gender, and human nature. In his introductory essay, the editor David Livingstone Smith contrasts biophilosophy — using biology to answer philosophical questions — with philosophy of biology — using philosophical tools to help answer or clarify theoretical biology. To do biophilosophy well, one must get the science right, but one must also do philosophy of biology, since this helps us better understand the science. All of the contributors to this volume have made important contributions to both of these endeavors. The focus here is on biophilosophy.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Christopher Stephens, Department of Philosophy, University of British Columbia, 1866 Main Mall E370, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1 Canada. Email: chris.stephens@ubc.ca

 

Book Review

The Psychology of Chess
Book Author: Fernand Gobet
Reviewed by Neil Charness, Florida State University

This slim volume provides an informative and entertaining look at the psychology of chess from someone who is uniquely positioned to comment from the point of view of both a researcher and a high caliber player. Fernand Gobet has had a long, highly successful career as a researcher studying expertise in chess, among other topics. He also reached the International Master (IM) level as a chess player before apparently deciding that studying chess as an academic would be a better career path than trying to become a professional player. The research community is indeed grateful for that choice. Gobet has had the benefit of rubbing shoulders not only with some of the world’s top chess players, but also with a Nobel-prize winning scientist, Herbert Simon, who was instrumental in initiating the modern experimental study of chess expertise with his colleague William Chase. Gobet has also collaborated with one of the early, towering giants of chess research, Adriaan de Groot, a Dutch psychologist whose doctoral dissertation written during World War II on Thought and Choice in Chess (1946/1978) helped uncover some of the primary phenomena about chess search processes and chess perception that are still being elaborated on by today’s researchers. Gobet’s insights into both research and practice have generated a very readable account of the psychological processes underlying expertise in chess.

Correspondence concerning this review should be addressed to Dr. Neil Charness, Psychology Department, Florida State University, 1107 West Call Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32306. Email: charness@psy.fsu.edu