2005 : WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?

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Psychologist, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Author, The Cognitive Brain
Psychologist, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Author, The Cognitive Brain

I have proposed a law of conscious content which asserts that for any experience, thought, question, or solution, there is a corresponding analog in the biophysical state of the brain. As a corollary to this principle, I have argued that conventional attempts to understand consciousness by simply searching for the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC) in theoretical and empirical investigations are too weak to ground a good understanding of conscious content. Instead, I have proposed that we go beyond NCC and explore brain events that have at least some similarity to our phenomenal experiences, namely, neuronal analogs of conscious content (NAC). In support of this approach, I have presented a theoretical model that goes beyond addressing the sheer correlation between mental states and neuronal events in the brain. It explains how neuronal analogs of phenomenal experience (NAC) can be generated, and it details how other essential human cognitive tasks can be accomplished by the particular structure and dynamics of putative neuronal mechanisms and systems in the brain.

A large body of experimental findings, clinical findings, and phenomenal reports can be explained within a coherent framework by the neuronal structure and dynamics of my theoretical model. In addition, the model accurately predicts many classical illusions and perceptual anomalies. So I believe that the neuronal mechanisms and systems that I have proposed provide a true explanation for many important aspects of human cognition and phenomenal experience. But I can't prove it. Of course, competing theories about the brain, cognition, and consciousness can't be proved either. But I can't prove it. Providing the evidence is the best we can do—I think.