How does the mind create the brain

Neuroscience is an area that has seen an explosive growth in knowledge over the past decade. The higher cognitive and emotive functions of humans are also increasingly coming into focus. Originally philosophical terms such as self, free will, consciousness etc. can be empirically investigated and linked to certain regions and states in the brain. The possibility of investigating the neural correlates of philosophical terms also raises the question of the relationship between mind and brain, the mind-body problem: Can the mind be reduced to the brain? Where can the mind be found in the brain? Despite the enormous progress made over the past ten years, neuroscience has not yet been able to solve the mind-brain problem.

Why can neither philosophy nor neuroscience solve the mind-brain problem?

The psychiatrist, neuroscientist and neurophilosopher Georg Northoff asks himself this question in his latest book “Philosophy of the Brain. The Brain Problem "(John Benjamin Publisher 2004, New York / Amsterdam). The scientist, who works as senior physician at the Psychiatric University Clinic in Magdeburg, makes an astonishing diagnosis: The problem on which the question of the connection between mind and brain is based is not the mind, as is usually the case, but the definition of the brain. Both in philosophy and in neuroscience, the brain is understood as a purely physical machine, isolated from the environment, in which there is no room for mental phenomena. Northoff shows based on the latest results of brain research that such a conception of the brain is empirically implausible.

Definition of the brain

How is his therapy? He proposes a new definition of the brain as a biological organ that is intrinsically linked to the environment. Accordingly, he developed a new theory of the function of the brain, which is based on the integration of the brain and the environment. In addition, he shows the philosophical implications of his theory for epistemology and the theory of existence and being (ontology). Here he advances into new areas of neurophilosophy by developing an "epistemology and ontology of the brain".

The surprising result of his reasoning is that the mind-brain problem is a problem that our brain creates by itself. Because of its empirical, epistemic and ontological constitution, our brain cannot help but accept the concept of a mind. In order to then ask about the connection between it and the brain. This mental illusion of our brain can only be revealed if the brain is no longer defined and assumed as a physical machine but as a biological organ.

Northoff's book opens up the exciting subject area between philosophy and neuroscience. Thanks to his dual training as a neuroscientist and philosopher, he is able to competently draw a bow and open up new problem areas. The book is therefore of great benefit to neuroscientists as well as to philosophers and other interested parties. His easy-to-read book opens up the fascinating world of the latest findings and reflections on mental phenomena and their foundations in our brain. This not only opens up a radically new perspective on an old problem, the mind-brain problem, to the reader of the book, but also gains insight into his own very human brain.Elisabeth Müller