Respondent: David Barack, PhD, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Columbia University
Despite much social scientific work on the neurosciences, little ethnographic and historical attention has been paid to the field of neurophilosophy. Yet anthropologists studying brain research occasionally critique neurophilosophers for reducing the mind to the brain while affirmatively citing philosophers of mind who present the mind as emerging from interactions between brain, body and environment. This article examines the ostracized camp of so-called phenomenal internalists – neurophilosophers who believe that consciousness can supervene on the brain alone. This ontological commitment is driven by certain existential and political experiences from false awakenings to disenchantment with the counterculture of the 1970s. But it also draws from neuroscientific research on the dreaming brain. The talk concludes with a plea to anthropologists to attend to relations of detachment, both social and neural, and to reconsider their own ontological commitment to externalism in light of dream research.
This event is part of the Neuroscience and History Lecture Series Sponsored by the Center for Science and Society and Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience.