Neuro-Philosophy and the Healthy Mind

Learning from the Unwell Brain

Georg Northoff (Author)

Overview | Contents

Applying insights from neuroscience to philosophical questions about the self, consciousness, and the healthy mind.

Can we “see” or “find” consciousness in the brain? How can we create working definitions of consciousness and subjectivity, informed by what contemporary research and technology have taught us about how the brain works? How do neuronal processes in the brain relate to our experience of a personal identity? Where does the brain end and the mind begin?

To explore these and other questions, esteemed philosopher and neuroscientist Georg Northoff turns to examples of unhealthy minds. By investigating consciousness through its absence—in people in vegetative states, for example—we can develop a model for understanding its presence in an active, healthy person. By examining instances of distorted self-recognition in people with psychiatric disorders, like schizophrenia, we can begin to understand how the experience of “self” is established in a stable brain.

Taking an integrative approach to understanding the self, consciousness, and what it means to be mentally healthy, this book brings insights from neuroscience to bear on philosophical questions. Readers will find a science-grounded examination of the human condition with far-reaching implications for psychology, medicine, our daily lives, and beyond.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • January 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-393-70938-4
  • 4.5 × 7.3 in / 256 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

Neuro-Philosophy and the Healthy Mind is engagingly written, with a good structure and manageable length. The idea of developing each section from a clinical example works well and gives extra pace. . . . Northoff scores over many of his colleagues in making subjectivity relational — that sounds right. I think he is ahead of others like Dehaene, Tononi, Damasio, or Churchland in that regard. . . . [A] novel and interesting approach to the basis of phenomenal experience or subjectivity.” — Journal of Consciousness Studies

“[This book] takes on the difficult task of bridging the brain and the world. By investigating disorders, the author explains the brain, identity, self and consciousness. Much research is provided to illuminate his examples. . . . [A] compelling step in illuminating these interesting concepts.” — American Journal of Forensic Psychology

“Philosophy needs science to avoid spinning off fairy tales about how we think and behave and to remain grounded, while the sciences need philosophy to challenge basic assumptions and guide inductive reasoning. . . . The neuroscience underlying the philosophical discussion in Neuro-Philosophy and the Healthy Mind is fascinating — it manages to explore biological bases of self and identity without being essentially reductive. . . . [A]n accessible text for the lay reader and would be quite useful informing courses in self and identity (both in philosophy and psychology). It is a welcome addition to the broader discussion of the normative implications of neuroscience.” — Metapsychology Online Reviews

“[A] game changer. . . . Through an examination of both depressed and schizophrenic patients, as well as other types of unwell brains, Northoff presents a fascinating model of who we are and just where we and our emotions exist. It is a model that has important implications for clinicians. But for lay readers, too, the book offers an exciting way to reframe our understanding of ourselves.” — PsychCentral

“It is a rare thing to be a philosopher, clinician, and neuroscientist, but George Northoff is all three. In this wonderful book, he brings his unique and deeply learned perspective to problems of self, identity, and consciousness, and shows how understanding certain clinical disorders can enlighten us on the nature of the human mind, the brain, and even the age-old questions of being and time.” — Todd E. Feinberg, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mt Sinai; author of From Axons to Identity

“A synopsis of consciousness as a bridge between the brain and the world, grounded and contextualized with poignant examples from neuroscience and psychiatry. Northoff projects us toward coherent understandings of the self, the mind, and experience, with far-reaching philosophical and clinical implications. A truly intriguing perspective on the intractable mind-brain-body problem.” — Jaak Panksepp, PhD, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, author of The Archaeology of Mind

“About every decade, a book rocks my world, not in cyberspace, but in a book I can hold. Dr. Northoff has a fluid, crystal clear style, and I am grateful he wrote this book. He has reconstructed the dialogue about the brain, and paused the over used concept of the mind. In its place, he has given the reader a passage back to the self, and in a scientific context.” — Richard Nager, M.A., J.D., L.M.S.W

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