The self in the brain



Publication Details

Vogeley, K. and Gallagher, S. (2011). The self in the brain. In S. Gallagher (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Self (pp. 111-136). United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Additional Publication Information

ISBN: 9780199548019


In 1977 the philosopher Karl Popper and the Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist John Eccles published The Self and its Brain, one of the first contributions in modern neurophilosophy. In that book they defended a dualism that viewed the self as an autonomous entity that interacted with, and in fact controlled, brain processes. This view, which Eccles (1989, 1994) further defended and developed, was not at all representative of either the philosophical or neuroscientific communities of the time, and it was, in terms of its general, non-reductionist philosophical position, comparable to Descartes's famous doctrine of the pineal gland as the site of interaction between mind and brain. According to Popper, 'the action of the mind on the brain may consist in allowing certain fluctuations to lead to the firing of neurones' (Popper and Eccles 1985: 541). Eccles, famous for his work on synaptic mechanisms, proposed that the probalistic operations of synaptic connections could be the place of interaction. "The self-conscious mind acts upon...neural centres, modifying the dynamic spatio-temporal patterns of the natural events' (ibid. 495).

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