A potential path forward beneath an old stalemate: Why unifying first-person and third-person methods is necessary for the development of an explanation of how the brain produces consciousness
Barton, Tyeson Davies
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The central problem in cognitive science is explaining how the brain produces consciousness. Many contend that consciousness is physical, and that therefore this causal process can be explained by only studying the brain, while others object that consciousness is not physical, and that therefore any physicalist account will necessarily fail to include the most important component of this causal process: consciousness. I argue that this debate, as it is currently constructed, is irresolvable because we do not yet have a definitive understanding of the physical, and that underlying it, is a methodological debate concerning whether or not this causal process can be explained by solely using third-person methods. In support of the antiphysicalists, I argue that consciousness cannot be directly observed from a third-person perspective, and that it can only be directly observed from a first-person perspective. While one cannot directly perceive other minds, it is only rational, I contend, to believe that individuals who possess brains similar to one’s own also possess experiences similar to one’s own. Furthermore, I argue that this perspectival distinction proves that in order to develop an explanation of this causal process, it is necessary for third-person methods to be used in conjunction with rigorous first-person methods. Specifically, I contend that how experiences are structured ought to be studied in relation to their correlating neurological structures, for by identifying such structural correlations, a more intuitive understanding of why particular brain states produce particular experiences can begin to develop.
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