This paper considers where contemporary neuroscience leaves us in terms of how human consciousness fits into the material world, and whether consciousness is reducible to merely mechanical physical systems, or on the contrary whether consciousness is a self-organizing system that can in a sense use the brain for its own purposes. The paper discusses how phenomenology can be integrated with new findings about “neural plasticity” to yield new approaches to the mind– body problem and the place of consciousness as a causal player in the physical world. By phenomenology, I mean simply any attempt to have introspective or reflective access to the meaning of our own conscious states, and to carefully take account of the notorious pitfalls of subjective introspection (often subsumed within the concept of “folk psychology” in the empirically oriented cognitive theory literature).
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