ISBN: 9780262346962 | 536 pp. | September 2018

The Spontaneous Brain

From the Mind–Body to the World–Brain Problem

Philosophers have long debated the mind-body problem—whether to attribute such mental features as consciousness to mind or to body. Meanwhile, neuroscientists search for empirical answers, seeking neural correlates for consciousness, self, and free will. In this book, Georg Northoff does not propose new solutions to the mind-body problem; instead, he questions the problem itself, arguing that it is an empirically, ontologically, and conceptually implausible way to address the existence and reality of mental features. We are better off, he contends, by addressing consciousness and other mental features in terms of the relationship between world and brain; philosophers should consider the world-brain problem rather than the mind-body problem. This calls for a Copernican shift in vantage point—from within the mind or brain to beyond the brain—in our consideration of mental features.

Northoff, a neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and philosopher, explains that empirical evidence suggests that the brain’s spontaneous activity and its spatiotemporal structure are central to aligning and integrating the brain within the world. This spatiotemporal structure allows the brain to extend beyond itself into body and world, creating the “world-brain relation” that is central to mental features. Northoff makes his argument in empirical, ontological, and epistemic-methodological terms. He discusses current models of the brain and applies these models to recent data on neuronal features underlying consciousness and proposes the world-brain relation as the ontological predisposition for consciousness.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Introduction
  3. 1. Beyond the Passive/Active Dichotomy: A Spectrum Model of the Brain's Neural Activities
  4. 2. Relation between Spontaneous and Stimulus-Induced Activity: Interaction Model of Brain
  5. 3. Is Our Brain an Open or Closed System<?> Prediction Model of Brain and World-Brain Relation
  6. 4. Spectrum Model of Brain and Consciousness
  7. 5. Interaction Model of Brain and Consciousness
  8. 6. Prediction Model of Brain and Consciousness
  9. 7. Spatiotemporal Model of Consciousness I: Spatiotemporal Specificity and Neuronal-Phenomenal Correspondence
  10. 8. Spatiotemporal Model of Consciousness II: Spatiotemporal Alignment-Neuro-ecological Continuum and World-Brain Relation
  11. 9. Ontology I: From Brain to World-Brain Relation
  12. 10. Ontology II: From World-Brain Relation to Consciousness
  13. 11. Ontology III: From the World to Consciousness
  14. 12. Copernican Revolution in Physics and Cosmology: Vantage Point from beyond Earth
  15. 13. Pre-Copernican Stance in Neuroscience and Philosophy: Vantage Point from within Mind or Brain
  16. 14. Copernican Revolution in Neuroscience and Philosophy: Vantage Point from beyond Brain
  17. Conclusion: Copernican Revolution-Is the Brain's Spontaneous Activity an Empirical, Epistemic, and Ontological Game Changer in Neuroscience and Philosophy?
  18. Glossary
  19. References
  20. Index