In DepthNeuroscience

Rival theories face off over brain's source of consciousness

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Science  18 Oct 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6463, pp. 293
DOI: 10.1126/science.366.6463.293

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  • Theories of Consciousness

    Drawing parallels between the contrasting Dehaene vs. Tononi theories and Einstein's theory of general relativity vs. Newton's gravitational theory (Reardon, 2019) is, I'm afraid, disrespectful of not only the gravity of the theories of Newton and Einstein, but also of the very notion of theory.

    First, what is theory? It is clearly not speculations spiced with wishful thinking (of eminent scientists; cf. Vazire, 2017). A theory of a thing is a part of the thing that accounts for [almost] everything about the thing. A theory is an abstract general—a definite thing—and certainly not, as Koch claims, "very flexible" (Reardon, 2019) conforming to the fancies of famous scientists.

    Next, how do we theorize? According to Professor F. William Lawvere, "any real object has an infinite complexity of internal structure; fortunately we are usually able through experiment and study to find out the most important structure of an object, in the sense that the most important structure of the object influences or largely determines all the other structures of the object and that it is mainly responsible for the workings of the object. Thus the mathematical method consists of taking the main structure by itself as a first approximation to a theory of the object, i.e. mentally operating as though all further structure of the object simply did not exist" (Lawvere, 1972, pp. 9-10). Furthermore, "regarding the scientific process of ide...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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