Consciousness and brain mechanisms: Epistemological investigations between phenomenology and clinical neuroscience

Davide Perrotta


Abstract: This paper investigates epistemological differences in the cognitive neuroscientific and phenomenological approaches to outstanding questions in psychiatry. We argue that clinical neuroscience provides scientific explanations in line with a mechanistic approach and describe several examples from computational approaches that illustrate what research on neural processing can tell us about psychiatric diseases. By contrast, phenomenology offers complex descriptions of experiential phenomena. Through a discussion of executive function and the related construct of impulsivity, we show that both cognitive neuroscience and phenomenology provide valuable types of explanation. Our focus on psychopathology also allows us to address some important epistemic differences between these two disciplines.

Keywords: Phenomenology; Consciousness; Clinical Neuroscience; Computational Neuroscience; Cognitive Mechanisms


Coscienza e meccanismi cerebrali: ricerche epistemologiche tra fenomenologia e neuroscienza clinica

Riassunto: Il presente lavoro propone di esaminare le differenze epistemologiche tra la fenomenologia e le neuroscienze cognitive riguardo dibattiti psichiatrici. Le neuroscienze cliniche saranno discusse in linea con un approccio meccanicista della spiegazione scientifica, mentre descrizioni fenomenologiche saranno proposte nel momento in cui complessi fenomeni esperenziali dovranno essere indagati. Un’interpretazione meccanicista delle neuroscienze cognitive sarà esemplificata ricorrendo ad alcuni esempi dagli approcci computazionali che si occupano di questi temi, i quali ci aiuteranno a definire cosa le ricerche sui processi neurali ci stanno dicendo rispetto alle sintomatologie psichiatriche. Questi argomenti saranno sviluppati attraverso una discussione che verterà sulle funzioni esecutive e il costrutto di impulsività a esse legato. Sarà discusso come sia le neuroscienze cognitive sia la fenomenologia possano fornire specifiche forme di spiegazione. Allo stesso tempo, si proporrà un’argomentazione che consentirà di discernere differenze epistemiche che caratterizzano i suddetti approcci, le quali potranno con più facilità emergere nel dibattito psichiatrico.

Parole chiave: Fenomenologia; Coscienza; Neuroscienza clinica; Neuroscienza computazionale; Meccanismi cognitivi

Parole chiave

Phenomenology; Consciousness; Clinical Neuroscience; Computational Neuroscience; Cognitive Mechanisms

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