A structural constraint on neural correlates of consciousness


Neural correlates of consciousness
Neurophenomenal structuralism
Representational geometry

How to Cite

Fink, S. B., Kob, L., & Lyre, H. (2021). A structural constraint on neural correlates of consciousness. Philosophy and the Mind Sciences, 2. https://doi.org/10.33735/phimisci.2021.79


Researchers on the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC) need to distinguish mere statistical
NCCs from NCCs proper. Some neural events may be co-occurrent, probabilistically coupled,
or coincidental with a type of conscious experience but lack any deeper connection to it, while
in other cases, the relation between neural states and a type of experience hints at a strong
metaphysical relation, which distinguishes such NCCs proper from mere statistical NCCs. In order
to address this issue of how to distinguish NCCs proper from mere statistical NCCs, we propose
a position we call neurophenomenal structuralism. The position hinges on the uncontroversial
idea that phenomenal experiences relate to each other in degrees of similarity and difference.
These complex structures are used to identify and individuate experiences in the methods of
neuroscience, psychophysics, and phenomenology. Such individuation by structure leads to phenomenal
holism, which has implications for how to investigate consciousness neuroscientifically
and generates a constraint by which we can distinguish NCCs proper from mere statistical NCCs:
the structural similarity constraint. Neural activation must preserve the structure governing the
domain of experiences it is associated with in order to count as that domain’s NCC proper. Any
activation that fails to preserve phenomenal structure fails to be an NCC proper. We illustrate
how this constraint works with a study by Brouwer & Heeger (2009) as an example.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2021 Sascha Benjamin Fink, Holger Lyre, Lukas Kob