Will Neuroscience Explain Consciousness?
This paper is a defence of a pragmatic version of mind-brain reductionism from a neuroscientist's point of view. It is claimed that there are good reasons to believe that future neuroscience will be able to explain (in a weak and pragmatic sense) the puzzling aspects of mind and consciousness. Opposition to reductionism comes from both philosophical and empirical quarters. It is argued here that philosophical arguments, such as semantic problems with the concept of identity, are unconvincing and should be regarded with the greatest suspicion. The most influential empirical result that has been claimed to constitute a problem for reductionism is the temporal delay and mental antedating of consciousness found by Benjamin Libet. It is argued that these results, far from being a problem for reductionism, constitute evidence for a particular view of the physiological origins of consciousness. Finally, it is argued that many subjective aspects of experience can already be given satisfactory scientific explanations and that scientific progress is likely to rob the mind and subjective experience of their mystery.