Skip to content
Surprising Science

Has Neuroscience Been Looking In the Wrong Place All Along?

Philosopher Alva Noë says there’s a big problem with neuroscience: It assumes brains produce consciousness.
Where are you, exactly? (TAW4, ANN SARKISYAN)

Philosopher Alva Noë has a major concern about the most fundamental assumption neurosciencists make: That the brain is where our consciousness lives. He says that’s like looking for dance inside a dancer’s muscles.

According to Noë, the assumption is just an old idea with a new twist, with the long-held belief in an immaterial spirit being replaced by one in which it’s the lit-up neurons in fMRI scans that make us, well, us. The bottom line, he says, is that we’re still looking in the wrong place.

Near the heart of neuroscience’s belief in the brain as the source of consciousness is the fMRI imagery showing various areas of the brain working as test subjects think and do. It’s worth remembering, though, that we have no way thus far of knowing whether what we’re seeing is correlation or causation.


Up Next