In Measuring the Immeasurable Mind: Where Contemporary Neuroscience Meets the Aristotelian Tradition, Matthew Owen argues that despite its nonphysical character, it is possible to empirically detect and measure consciousness.
Toward the end of the previous century, the neuroscience of consciousness set its roots and sprouted within a materialist milieu that reduced the mind to matter. Several decades later, dualism is being dusted off and reconsidered. Although some may see this revival as a threat to consciousness science aimed at measuring the conscious mind, Owen argues that measuring consciousness, along with the medical benefits of such measurements, is not ruled out by consciousness being nonphysical. Owen proposes the Mind-Body Powers model of neural correlates of consciousness, which is informed by Aristotelian causation and a substance dualist view of human nature inspired by Thomas Aquinas, who often followed Aristotle. In addition to explaining why there are neural correlates of consciousness, the model provides a philosophical foundation for empirically discerning and quantifying consciousness. En route to presenting and applying the Mind-Body Powers model to neurobiology, Owen rebuts longstanding objections to dualism related to the mind-body problem. With scholarly precision and readable clarity, Owen applies an oft forgotten yet richly developed historical vantage point to contemporary cognitive neuroscience.
Matthew Owen is a philosopher who teaches at Yakima Valley College and an affiliate faculty member at the Center for Consciousness Science, University of Michigan.
List of Common Abbreviations
1 The Immeasurable Conscious Mind
2 Neural Correlates of Consciousness
3 Mental Causation: Identifying Dualism’s Problem
4 The Causal Pairing Problem
5 Neo-Thomistic Hylomorphism
6 En-forming Causal Pairing
7 The Mind-Body Powers Model of NCC
8 Empirically Discerning and Measuring Consciousness
Dualism faces what Owen identifies as “the causal pairing problem.” Owen’s hypothesis is that if this problem is solved, then dualism is revitalized; moreover, a suitably formulated dualism will assist in the development of a theoretical understanding of neural correlates of consciousness and offer reason to believe that the nature of consciousness is not only discernible but also measurable. Owen provides a framework for the potential confirmation of his proposed hypothesis. Should this framework be successful, the longstanding physicalist framework in philosophy of mind will shift significantly. Owen’s approach is clear but controversial…. Extensive chapter notes. Recommended. Graduates students, researchers, faculty.
Matthew Owen’s Measuring the Immeasurable Mind convincingly argues that the existence of the footprints of consciousness in the brain, the famed neural correlates of consciousness, is fully compatible with a dualistic view of the mind-body problem informed by Aristotle and Aquinas.
Matthew Owen’s new book is fresh, bold, and stimulating! It makes us rethink issues in contemporary neuroscience and in the history of philosophy alike, defamiliarized and thus put in a new light by the way the author makes them interact in this splendid book. Even those who might find themselves in disagreement with the methodology and/or the research results will be stimulated by the arguments Owen puts forward and will want to engage in trying to find objections and counterarguments. This is a book that takes the reader through untrodden paths in a trailblazing way.
Matthew Owen’s, Measuring the Immeasurable Mind, brings a breath of fresh air to one of the most hotly debated issues of the nature of consciousness. Drawing insights from Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysics, Owen presents a compelling argument that shows the metaphysical possibility of empirically discerning and quantifying irreducible consciousness. This is an excellent book that will be of great interest for philosophers and neuroscientists who work on consciousness research. You cannot afford to bypass it.
It is rare these days to find authors doing research on the metaphysics of mind whose work exhibits ontological seriousness while engaging fruitfully with relevant scientific investigations on the mind. Matthew Owen’s project in Measuring the Immeasurable Mind is an exception to the rule. Whether or not one finally agrees with Owen’s conclusions or the metaphysical assumptions that guide his project, there is much to be gained by engaging with the account he offers and defends in this book. This book provides a model for how to do philosophical work in consciousness studies that amounts to more than mere conceptual policing. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the metaphysical foundations of the science of consciousness.
Matthew Owen touches a nerve in mainstream reductionism and physicalism. His ambitious attempt to connect solid metaphysics with the most advanced science of consciousness deserves extremely careful consideration. Measuring the Immeasurable Mind is a much needed and refreshing view on the long-debated topics of mind-brain causation and the nature of conscious states. Some may not be convinced by his bold proposals, but everyone can learn a lot from his original examination that dusts off an ancient discussion in philosophy and science, revitalizing and updating Aristotelian and Thomistic hylomorphism. Overall, this is a rigorous, clear, and accessible book that makes an important contribution to its field.
There is a growing discussion about what contribution hylomorphism can make to the philosophy of mind. Owen’s book offers up answers to numerous issues and questions hylomorphists face. It will be of great interest to academics interested in the crossover between (Neo-)Aristotelian metaphysics and questions concerning consciousness, the mind-body problem, and the nature of neural correlation.
Measuring the Immeasurable Mind is a unique book at the cutting edge of integrative philosophy of mind. Bringing together his considerable expertise in neuroscience and philosophy, Professor Owen’s bold offering shows that the recent findings in empirical science can be harmonized easily with a specific version of hylomorphism in an epistemically responsible way. The proffered harmonization makes clear how a robust dualist human ontology is fully consistent with the employment of the physical neural correlates of consciousness in attempting to quantify various states of consciousness. With its publication, no one who wants to be informed about recent, central developments in neuroscience and philosophy of mind can afford to neglect this work.
In Measuring the Immeasurable Mind, Matthew Owen develops what he names the Mind-Body Powers Model of Neural Correlates of Consciousness as a metaphysical resolution of the mind-body problem. This model cogently supports mind-body dualism against materialism based on what the author calls Neo-Thomistic hylomorphism, a concept developed from interpretations of ideas such as grounding and en-forming historically articulated by Aquinas and Aristotle. The incorporation of the older philosophical tradition with contemporary neuroscientific theories of consciousness offers a unique and important contribution to the philosophy of mind.
For theological anthropology to flourish, relevant work in neuroscience simply must be taken into account. Sometimes, however, theologians (and the religious communities they seek to serve) tend to worry that recent work in science will undermine traditional beliefs they take to be important, and, as a result, hold such advances at arm’s length. In other cases, meanwhile, theologians are quick to reject traditional doctrine ‘because science says so.’ But what if such reactions are unwarranted and even unfortunate? This important work from Matthew Owen offers real help to the theologian, for he demonstrates that neither the science nor the theology need be threatened by the other. This book is well-informed and well-written; it is also both charitable and wise. It is a book that I will recommend eagerly and return to often!
Matthew Owen’s Measuring the Immeasurable Mind is a superb read, exemplary in scope and imagination. In addition to dismantling the philosophical foundations of physicalism, Owen presents a compelling case that dualists are in a suitable position to account for the neural correlates of consciousness. Skillfully deploying recent empirical evidence, Owen formulates a new model of the neural correlates of consciousness that coheres with Aristotle’s insights regarding the formal character of biological systems and a dualist metaphysics of mind. A must-read for those who take a wide methodological scope in the philosophy of mind and neuroscience.
This book delivers well-informed interdisciplinary work on neuroscience and the philosophy of mind. The author reminds us that indirectly measuring the mind via the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC) need not lead to embracing physicalism in the mind–body problem, and endeavours to illustrate how a different metaphysical framework, namely neo-Thomistic hylomorphism, can provide better foundations to interpret neuroscientific results.