What is Neurophilosophy and How Did Neurophilosophy Get Started?


  • Patricia Smith Churchland Professor of Philosophy, University of California San Diego, USA




As neuroscience has intensely developed in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, we increasingly see neurobiological results that bear upon age-old philosophical questions about the mind and its relation to the brain. Although neuroscience has not yet completely answered questions about learning and memory, or about attention, social impulses and sleep, for all these topics there are now relevant results. These results suggest that more can and will be understood in the coming years, especially as new techniques and methods are discovered and applied. Arguments from philosophers regarding why consciousness in particular cannot ever be explained neurobiologically are also critically examined. On this contentious topic too, clinical neurologists in particular have sought ways of determining the conscious status of their patients in order better to treat them. Even on this topic there is early but promising neurobiological progress.


neurophilosophy, history, mind, brain, Churchland, David Chalmers, Thomas Nagel, Quine


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Author Biography

Patricia Smith Churchland, Professor of Philosophy, University of California San Diego, USA

Neurophilosophy – the idea that the nature of mental processes such as decision-making, problem-solving and so forth were supported by neurobiological mechanisms – was more or less inevitable, given the progress in neuroscience in the 1970’s. This progress revealed many links between higher functions, including consciousness and self-control, and neural activities. Because I happened to be the first to publish using the word, ‘neurophilosophy’, (the title of my 1986 book bore that name), I am regarded as a neurophilosophy pioneer.


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How to Cite

Smith Churchland, P. . (2022). What is Neurophilosophy and How Did Neurophilosophy Get Started?. Journal of NeuroPhilosophy, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6637568