Publication 5700

Zahavi D. (2018) Brain, mind, world: Predictive coding, neo-Kantianism, and transcendental idealism. Husserl Studies 34(1): 47–61. Fulltext at
Recently, a number of neuroscientists and philosophers have taken the so-called predictive coding approach to support a form of radical neuro-representationalism, according to which the content of our conscious experiences is a neural construct, a brain-generated simulation. There is remarkable similarity between this account and ideas found in and developed by German neo-Kantians in the mid-nineteenth century. Some of the neo-Kantians eventually came to have doubts about the cogency and internal consistency of the representationalist framework they were operating within. In this paper, I will first argue that some of these concerns ought to be taken seriously by contemporary proponents of predictive coding. After having done so, I will turn to phenomenology. As we shall see, Husserl’s endorsement of transcendental idealism was partially motivated by his rejection of representationalism and phenomenalism and by his attempt to safeguard the objectivity of the world of experience. This confronts us with an intriguing question. Which position is best able to accommodate our natural inclination for realism: Contemporary neuro-representationalism or Husserl’s transcendental idealism?

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