The materialist "theory" of consciousness

(An improved and updated version of this material has appeared in my book Why Materialism Is Baloney. The version below is kept for legacy purposes.)

In a recent talk he gave at the 2011 Singularity Summit (see video above), neuroscientist Christof Koch, the world's leading consciousness researcher from a scientific perspective, has named Giulio Tononi's "theory" of consciousness as the best current attempt at a causal explanation for how consciousness emerges from the otherwise unconscious matter of the brain. This is significant, for it identifies the best line of argument available today in the current paradigm. Therefore, defeating this argument defeats the best that materialism currently has to offer as far as consciousness. In this article, I hope to raise significant doubts about whether Tononi's "theory" is a causal explanation for consciousness at all.

As one can see in his article, Tononi looks at the amount of information integrated by a given brain process (which he calls a "complex"). This amount is ultimately represented by a variable "phi," derived from the topology of the elements in the complex. When "phi" crosses a certain threshold, the complex is considered conscious, a correlation refined through empirical calibration. If this sounds somewhat arbitrary, it's because  at least in my opinion  it is, as I hope to explain below. In the video above, Koch provides a summary of Tononi's ideas, so here I will not elaborate further on it.

Now here is my critique: Tononi's "theory" explains consciousness no more than a speedometer explains how a car moves. In other words, it doesn't causally explain consciousness at all; it is merely a heuristic indicator for the presence of consciousness; an ad hoc rule-of-thumb, if you will. When the needle of your speedometer moves up, you know that your car is moving. But that needle movement gives you no insight into the fact that there is a combustion engine freeing up energy stored in the molecular bonds of hydrocarbons, thereby making such energy available for turning a crankshaft connected to the axis of the car's wheels, which in turn grip the irregularities of the road and, through Newton's third law of motion, cause the car to move. The latter would be a causal explanation, but Tononi's "theory" entails nothing analogous to it.

Let us look at another example of a true causal explanation to drive home what I am trying to say: the Krebs cycle of cellular respiration. This cycle is a full causal explanation for how energy is made available to an organism's cells. We know the inputs of the process: molecules of sugars and fats; we know the chemical reactions (oxidization) that progressively free up the energy stored in the molecular bonds of these sugar and fat molecules; we know in what form this energy becomes available to the cells (namely, ATP); we know where all of this takes place (in the mitochondria); and we know how the cells put the ATP to use. In other words, we have a closed and complete causal chain that permits us to infer the properties of the observed phenomenon (i.e. the ability of cells to perform work) from the properties of the inputs of the process (i.e. sugar and fat molecules, and cell structures like the mitochondria).

Tononi's "theory" does not offer us any such causal chain. It does not permit us to infer, not even in principle, the properties of the observed phenomenon (i.e. consciousness) from the properties of the inputs of the process (i.e. interconnected neurons). It only offers a heuristic correlation without a theoretical framework that allows us to understand where consciousness comes from, or why a certain level of information integration leads to such an extraordinary property as being conscious. Nearly all relevant questions remain unanswered by "phi," just like all relevant questions about how the car moves remain unanswered by the speedometer.

Tononi's "theory" does have practical applications. If it can, for instance, help us, on an heuristic basis, tell whether a patient in a vegetative state is actually conscious or not, it has great value to society. But this kind of pragmatic application should not be confused with an ontological explanation for the nature of consciousness. That a certain story is useful does not entail that it is true. It's useful to pretend that gravity is a force acting at a distance between two bodies; we've put a man on the moon by pretending just that. But that does not mean that such magical action-at-a-distance really exists, as Einstein showed (gravity, after all, is merely the effect of a curvature of space-time).

Materialism has consistently failed to give us a proper causal account for how consciousness emerges from matter. Koch's and Tononi's story, if anything, makes this painfully clear. Is it not time to look more broadly?

Important observation: This article should not be construed as an attempt to dismiss the value or importance of the work of either Christof Koch or Giulio Tononi. I deeply respect and applaud their courage in attempting to tackle the problem of consciousness from a strict, scientific perspective. Their courage has lacked in science for decades. However critical I may be of their progress or claims, whatever progress there is is to their credit. Besides the immense, potential practical applications of their work in medicine and psychiatry  which hold regardless of ontological interpretations  their efforts may be fundamental even in exhausting the current scientific paradigm; a necessary step before science can progress to a broader view of nature.


  1. I thought Koch was at least honest about the problems of explaining consciousness, but the theory he presented seemed to be like so many other theories of consciousness - not a real scientific theory, but more akin to a new clothing fashion! A fashion doesn't get proved right or wrong - it just gives way in time to another fashion!

    Koch displayed some of the scientific ingenuity applied to the study of the brain. I wish some of that ingenuity would be directed to actually testing the materialistic assumptions that are just taken for granted. For example, Dean Radin's presentiment experiment would make an excellent starting point. Why doesn't Koch research that to death, and maybe devise more elaborate versions. After all, if it really does turn out that the brain has some awareness of future events, there is not much point in devising theories that don't take that into account!

  2. I agree with David Bailey that the biggest challenge for materialists is the demonstrated non-local properties of consciousness, or mind. With over 50 years of real scientific research and many tens of thousands of peer-reviewed studies, the data is overwhelming. Not just presentiment but all the various telepathy experiment cataloged by Radin with humans, and the very interesting ones with animals by Sheldrake. That's a lot of data to explain away, so it's ignored or dismissed. The problem with this data, as Radin points out, is that it's data in search of a theory to explain it. Quantum entanglement was accepted with relatively little experimental verification because it was predicted, even though it's much more astonishing than non-local mind.
    Thanks for an interesting post.

  3. You write:
    "Nearly all relevant questions remain unanswered by "phi," just like all relevant questions about how the car moves remain unanswered by the speedometer."

    Essentially you're arguing in this blog post that Tononi's theory doesn't really solve the "hard problem" of consciousness. This is true, but the IIT is not arguing it does. Tononi doesn't stress the point but the answer is clear: Consciousness is a fundamental constituent of reality irreducible to anything else. It exists wherever there is causation. It is a panpsychist theory. It is NOT a materialist view of consciousness à la Dan Dennett. Assume that, and Tononi's theory purports to explain everything else about the nature of consciousness, including qualia.

    1. Matt, thanks for the interesting comment.
      Frankly, your argument sounds apologetic to me. Tononi seems to completely ignore the role of the substrate (i.e. Searle's argument) and potential metaphysical issues. Moreover, you say that consciousness "exists wherever there is causation." Tononi's theory reduces that causation to information aggregation alone, which suggests that whenever there is such aggregation, there is consciousness (e.g. in a computer). Empirical evidence doesn't come close to justifying that (i.e. justifying panpsychism).
      You seem to be arguing that Tononi's ideas are more along the lines of consciousness as an epiphenomenon; that is, irreducible in itself but causally ineffective; it doesn't do anything at all, just pops up in a deterministic way depending on material arrangements. This is, in my mind, equivalent to eliminative materialism for most practical and philosophical purposes.
      So you may be correct that Tononi's ideas cannot be said, strictly speaking, to entail _eliminative_ materialism, but that's a fine point of philosophical terminology that bears little relevance for the substance of the question. It is still implications of his theory that consciousness has no causal role in reality, is limited to the space-time locus of the brain, and disappears upon the death of the brain. This is still materialism, even if not necessarily _eliminative_ materialism.
      Now, is Tononi's theory wrong because it is a materialist theory? Of course not. It is wrong because it doesn't explain anything. It's a heuristic. It proposes no causal chain that actually provides any insight into how consciousness comes into being. As I said in the article, it explains consciousness as much as a speedometer explains how a car moves. And yes, it doesn't explain the 'hard problem of consciousness,' which any materialist theory of consciousness must explain.
      Cheers, Bernardo.

    2. Hhmm... let me qualify something I said above: When I said that Tononi's theory is 'wrong', I meant it in the sense that it does not explain consciousness. The heuristic correlations it predicts, however, may just as well be correct and, as I said in the article, very useful. They may also (and I believe they do) help gain insights useful for developing a true, explanatory theory of consciousness one day in the future.

    3. Bernardo -

      I have to disagree with you almost entirely. Honestly though, I think Tononi has the same concerns about consciousness theory as you. The IIT is resolutely NOT eliminative materialism and it's the novel and radical way in which it avoids this trap that I find so interesting. A few points.

      1. On substrate: The IIT doesn't ignore substrate so much as claim that consciousness is substrate independent. You bring up Searle. (It's interesting that Tononi doesn't explicitly discuss the Chinese Room argument as he does address other famous philosophy of mind thought experiments.) Searle's actual POV about consciousness is hard to pin down however his Chinese Room experiment is supposed to demonstrate that something like a man in a room with books and a set of rules could never be conscious. Nonetheless Tononi's answer, I suspect, would be straightforward: The Chinese Room is conscious insofar as it contains actual causal nodes which allow it to make the discriminations it does. If the Chinese room is causally organized as such it will be conscious. (Remember, the man in the room in this scenario is functioning not as a person but as a node in a system.) If the Chinese room is behaviorally isomorphic with a conscious system but generates all its outputs with a causally disconnected, modular system then it will not be conscious. It's worth noting that a modular system would probably never be able to do the kind of processing in the real world that an integrated one can but, theoretically it's important to mention the possibility.

      2. On Epiphenominalism: The ITT does NOT claim that consciousness is causally inert. In fact, according to the theory, the behavior of the brain is only truly understandable in reference to the qualia it generates. The higher dimensional qualia space (aka the conscious experience generated by a certain pattern of neuronal firing) "enslaves" (Tononi's term) the micro-variables of the system, determining their output. The brain behaves how it does BECAUSE of the nature of the experience it generates. This is, of course, the intuitive way we feel about the world; it's the pain of putting my hand on the tea kettle that makes me remove it quickly. Likewise, it's the pleasant experience of an album that makes me add it to my ipod playlist. The qualia IS the cause, the brain just generates it.

      3. Empirical Justification - Since Tononi claims that consciousness is a fundamental property, no empirical investigation of the world, strictly speaking, could discover it. This is a philosophical point but an important one. Since the only reason we have to hypothesize the existence of consciousness in the universe is the example from our own experience, the goal of a smart theory of consciousness is not to "discover" it in the world the way we do quasars or top-quarks but rather to posit a theory that claims a deeper identity thesis for the phenomena and then see how it hangs on with the evidence we do have. A scientist doesn't (usually) go around asking if space 'exists' but he may try to see if there is a bigger idea than can logically subsume it, like space-time did. Does the IIT explain the hard problem? Only in the sense that it claims it fundamental and suggests an identity with another fundamental idea: information. There is even the suggestion that consciousness may be the ONLY fundamental thing, if physics is truly and wholly reducible to information. More and more, it's looking like this is the case. (i.e. the holographic principle, Wheeler's IT from BIT.)

    4. Thanks for the elaborate and insightful comments, Matt. A quick reaction:

      -- You say: "The IIT doesn't ignore substrate so much as claim that consciousness is substrate independent." That's my problem, for I think this is a completely arbitrary claim both empirically and theoretically;

      -- You say: "The qualia IS the cause, the brain just generates it." This is just a contrived way of saying that the brain is the final cause of everything, isn't it? Qualia are 'causes,' but are themselves caused by the brain, ergo... And anyway, this sounds to me like apologetic materialism. It is a virtually useless distinction, for all philosophical purposes, to place consciousness in some kind of "hyper-dimensional" phenomenological space separate from matter, but to subjugate it causally entirely to material patterns;

      -- You say: "Does the IIT explain the hard problem? Only in the sense that it claims it fundamental and suggests an identity with another fundamental idea: information." Not even this is quite true, is it? Otherwise, ALL information flow would have to be associated to conscious experience of some sort (as Chalmers once suggested, in his book "The Conscious Mind"). But Tononi restricts it to _particular_ topologies and _particular_ amounts of information integration. To produce an empirical indicator, that's fine; but to claim that one has produced an explanatory theory on that basis is ludicrous, in my view. IIT explains exactly nothing. Moreover, as I discussed above, the claim that consciousness is "fundamental" is hollow: Tononi still entirely subjugates consciousness to material arrangements as far as causation. So to say it's "fundamental" is just a useless abstraction more characteristic of Greek philosophy than science.

  4. Just to make a quick point or two in response.

    We could argue about the conceptual and philosophical implications of this theory forever but...let me be more concise and correct your impression of what the theory actually explicitly SAYS because only then can one really disagree with what it "means."

    On point one: It may be empirically undetermined and it may even be conceptually WRONG but, theoretically, within the hypotheses of the IIT, consciousness must be substrate independent because it supervenes on any and all instances of causation. That may be wrong for conceptual or empirical reasons but it's not 'arbitrary.' It's a hypothesis that allows for a more robust means to test the theory and explain consciousness. At one time relativity too was empirically unverified and highly conceptual. The IIT may be wrong, but that doesn't make it "unjustified;" it's a viable scientific hypothesis with explanatory power and is, in theory, falsifiable.

    On point two: The IIT is WAY more radical than you're giving it credit for. It quite literally states that the behavior of the material neurons is best understood as the result of "non-physical" informationally rich qualia "shapes" which cause the neurons to behave in certain ways. Personally, this sounds as close as science could ever get to saying a "soul" animates a body. The key point is that the qualia has causal power AS QUALIA even if that qualia is generated by material structures. It is not "subjugated" to matter any more than Microsoft Word is subjugated to the Mac it's running on. If you dislike the idea that it's still a deterministic system, well, that's a whole other philosophical can of worms best avoided at present. (It's worth noting that "free-will" is a term conspicuously not mentioned once in any of Tononi's papers.) For the time being I think it's best to bracket that thorny issue and entertain the idea of a deterministic system.

    On Point Three: Here the answer to your criticism is explicit. The IIT absolutely and unequivocally states that ALL information flow DOES have conscious experience of some sort, almost EXACTLY as Chalmer's suggested in The Conscious Mind. (Indeed the IIT I think is a complex elaboration of the information theory that Chalmers sketches out at the end of that book.) Tononi does NOT restrict consciousness to particular topologies, explicitly claiming that even the most basic information processing, that which produces one-bit of data, is it's own shape in qualia space. No causation escapes experience.

    Anyway, I don't suspect that I've really changed your mind about the IIT all that much but, nonetheless it's better to understand what you disagree with than not. The IIT is far closer to idealism than materialism in my view and deserves serious philosophical investigation. It may still, of course, be wrong.

    1. "The IIT may be wrong, but that doesn't make it "unjustified;" it's a viable scientific hypothesis with explanatory power and is, in theory, falsifiable."

      To be clear, I do not think IIT is falsifiable. To so do, we would need a measure of consciousness, and would then have to show that under certain conditions, IIT is independent of consciousness. But IIT claims to be the measure of consciousness. How can it be falsified? If it could be falsified, how could it measure consciousness? It seems to me that it is a measure that can, at best, be correlated with the human conscious state, at the expense of requiring conscious experience in just about any arbitrarily system.

      Perhaps to use the speedometer example, but assuming there is no way to measures speed except in cars, it would be like saying that all dials indicate the speed of a moving objects. It does a good job of measuring it for cars, when the dial isn't being controlled by other means, but we can't take that as a generalization for the relationship between dials and speed.

  5. Hi Matt,

    Point one: Fine. I just don't see any empirical _or theoretical_ motivation for postulating substrate independence. To me it sounds like something pulled out of a hat, unlike Einstein's conjectures on relativity, which had a strong theoretical motivation (they were based on symmetries);

    Point two: 'Word' is not a spontaneous creation of a computer, but a software package programmed separately. So I think the analogy is not a good one because of that. I believe thus that my previous point is valid;

    Point three: IIT states explicitly that conscious experience is associated to complexes that integrate information _beyond a certain threshold_. That's the whole point of Phi and of the theory. I know you said conscious experience 'of some sort,' leaving the door open for a qualitative difference here, but it is still the case that consciousness like you and I are experiencing while writing these posts only happens, according to IIT, when Phi crosses a certain threshold. Why such a major transition in the character of conscious experience should happen when an empirical threshold in information integration is crossed is something that is left completely UNexplained by IIT, that being my point.

    I do think IIT is interesting in one point, which I never wrote about before because I was saving it for a new book I'm working on. But here we go: The empirical observation that only closed-loop complexes produce self-reflective consciousness (which is the qualitative difference you seemed to be looking for) is a philosophically and theoretically intriguing one. It seems consistent, in a certain way that I am still working on, with the idea that material brain processes reflect a kind of knot of consciousness, the brain itself being a knot of consciousness, as I wrote before in an article with the same tittle ("The Brain as a Knot of Consciousness"), here in this blog.

    Cheers, B.

  6. Thanks for the thoughts. I look forward to your book.

    As for point three, all I can say is that I think you're not reading the theory correctly. The content of any conscious experience isn't based on some "magical threshold" but rather is determined entirely by the information generated by the intrinsic causal dynamics of a system over a certain timescale. For any phi value there is some system that could be organized in such a way as to produce that value. In OUR case there is a "threshold" because of the particular way our system is organized, and this threshold is mathematically predictable (this a prediction of theory) given the structure of the system. It's why consciousness fades fast into sleep. If there wasn't a "threshold" intrinsic to the structure of the human brain/mind system losing consciousness would seem much more gradual every night. (If the IIT had been developed by a philosopher it's emphases would be different and this point might be more explicit.)

    (FWIW, I think the knot concept and the IIT actually work well together, but the knot analogy doesn't address the dynamics of the system over time. The 'knot' of the brain doesn't change when we fall asleep, but consciousness certainly does.)

    All the best,

  7. I skimmed Tononi's article. Isn't his theory just a variation on the Complex Machine System of Artificial Intelligence?

    I'm not persuaded by Tononi's argument any more than I am by the semi-annul pronouncements of AI researchers.

    I've developed my own speculative theories cocerning the possible relationship between NLC (non-local consciousness) and the brain. It's a little different that yours, I think, in that I've come to think that the physical brain *does* create a physical consciousness, *does* store memories and, in essence, wholly recreates NLC in a physical form. In that sense, to draw an analogy, the soul is to the brain what electricty is to the computer. My own speculative theory is a little different than the brain as filter argument.

    My own theory attempts to explain why the materialist will find everything he or she is looking for except for that one hard little knot -- or the hard problem of conscoiusness.

    1. Patrick, this sounds interesting. I would love to know more about your theory. When you say that the soul is to the brain what electricity is to the computer, I immediately visualised the computer constricting and determining the flow of electricity within it, which relates a bit to my own ideas... Did you publish anything about your theory somewhere? Is there any place I can go have a look? Gr, B.

    2. And by the way yes, Tononi's ideas relate to the CM theory. It just makes it more specific what particular kind of complexity is needed. And Christof Kock once publicly speculated that, if the Internet could reach a certain PHI, it would become conscious... It's amazing the sheer faith of some materialists. :)

    3. Chapter 1 ;-)

      //Did you publish anything about your theory somewhere? Is there any place I can go have a look?//

      No. You are better suited, than me, for that kind of ambition. My own speculation is limited to arguments and discussions on various forums (like the most recent at Amazon for example). I'm really impressed by your open mindedness and willingness to speculate and, most of all, to call it what it is: speculation.

      //I would love to know more about your theory.//

      It's not all that complicated. It's just that I've tried to square the notion of NLC with neuroscience. As I'm sure you're aware, there have been some recent studies concerning the "consciousness" of decision making that have raised a whole host of questions concerning "free will". There's a paper called Decision making and free will: a neuroscience perspective by Kelly Burns and Antoine Bechara that discusses some of the implications. Besides that, there are a broad range of studies (plenty that I'm not even aware of unless they appear in more popularized venues) that discuss the intricacies of brain damage and what it reveals about our brains, who we are, free will, decision making, personality, etc... I think it's hard to square these studies with the notion of the brain as a passive filter or "limiter" (but then I've only just discovered your blog and I haven't yet read your books).

      Carl Jung once had an experience (dream or NDE, I can't remember) wherein he entered a cave and saw himself sitting in a profound and deep meditation. He immediately interpreted or understood the vision as symbolizing his soul. His soul, in order to experience life, was in a deep and meditative sleep.

      I would go a little further in interpreting this dream or vision. I think the vision also symbolizes the possibility that soul gives over its identity, in terms of "free will" as the soul understands it, and identity, and everything else that defines it, to the developing physical consciousness of the fetus. The soul goes into a profound sleep, as it were, and becomes "biological consciousness" with all its flaws and vulnerabilities. The soul probably chooses a physical incarnation that will most fully allow it to express its own higher identity. In truth, how else can the soul fully experience the physical plain except to also recreate its consciousness in the physical realm? It's in that sense that I made the analogy with electricity. Electricity is pure potential. Electricity has no identity, personality or intent. Electricity is simply "energy". And *this* is what NLC brings to anything that we might call "living".

    4. Chapter 2

      So, while everything we do during our lives are imprinted in our brains, they must also be "remembered" in the greater conscious reality (within which our biological, physical, consensus based reality is subsumed). I think this theory does a much better job at explaining problems like memory loss due to traumatic brain injury. It's not that some antennae in out brains was damaged (and now we can't access the memories stored non-locally) it's that the physically stored information was... well... damaged. The brain can't access our non-local consciousness and never will. If the necessary (as of yet unidentified) neural net (if that's what it is) for memory is damaged or destroyed, those memories may be irreversibly lost to the brain and also to the soul's experience of our physical reality. That's just the way it goes. That's the price of living in our hard-knock reality.

      For instance, if you accept that Alexander's NDE was "real", then it makes sense Alexander would "forget" who he was during his NDE. If the brain were just a filter, then it doesn't quite make as much sense that Alexander would forget who he was during the NDE. Important: My impression is that even during the NDE, the soul continues to assume the identity of its biological consciousness. In that sense, Alexander's experience during his NDE reflects the trauma his own brain was experiencing. How else do we explain our complete shock at the "discovery" of this other realm? If the soul didn't assume the identity of its biological host, you would think that we would all, during an NDE, immediately remember "ourselves" in our entirety. Right?

      So, just as a toaster, computer or TV is a complete and self-sufficient system (needing only a source of power), so is the brain. The brain is a complete and self-sufficient system (a generator of physical consciousness) that biologically encodes its own memory and makes its own decisions. I think this theory (this complete and utter speculative theory) nicely explains our developing knowledge of the brain and will account for future developments. It also means that materialists will continue to find confirmation of their belief system and that only NDEs providing corroborated veridical evidence will rattle that reductionist paradigm.

      Personal observation: Another curious glimpse, possibly, of NLC occurs in the final stages of dementia, an illness like Alzheimer's. I have read stories of individuals, in the moments before their death, completely recovering their lucidity. This tells me that, perhaps, for a brief moment, the lucidity of "a non-local consciousness", our true identity, somehow "overrules" the severely diseased brain for whatever reason.

    5. Interesting, Patrick.

      The key problem I see is the definition of what you mean by "physical consciousness," its relation to non-local consciousness, and how the latter becomes the former. But if I try to intuitively feel what you are trying to say, there may not be that much of a gap compared to my position. I speak of the brain as a 'filter' of consciousness rather metaphorically. Here is a comment I made to you in another thread, but which is relevant here:

      "Personally, I don't think the brain creates anything. It is merely the image, _in_ consciousness of a process _of_ consciousness. When consciousness self-localizes (which I visualize as a whirlpool), that _process_ has an image when looked at from the outside. That image is what we call the brain. The brain is the (partial) image of the process of consciousness localisation much in the same way that lighting is the (partial) image of the process of atmospheric electrical discharge. It is absurd to say that lightning _causes_ electrical discharge; it's just the image of it. In the same way, I think it is absurd to say that the brain causes either consciousness or the imagined forms in consciousness; it's just the image of a process of conscious localisation ...

      "Just to make sure you understand my position, I am NOT a dualist. Have a look here: To me, 'filtering' is just a metaphor. ...

      "Since I see the brain as an _image_ of a process of consciousness, I see no contradiction with freewill if Libet's measurements can indeed predict a decision before our _egoic_ awareness registers it. That said, there is dispute about whether Libet's experiments can really be interpreted the way they were, originally:"

      Cheers, Bernardo.

  8. Thank you for this thoughtful article. I personally dismissed Tononi's phi measure when reading one of his articles in BMC neuroscience, feeling that it was nothing more than a poorly thought out application of information theory. If all systems that integrate information are conscious, then Tononi is most certainly not referring to the same concept as I am when I use the word.

    But this was more of a feeling, which you have eloquently put into words.

  9. Great article. But I feel I have to point out some things regarding the last chapter, where you mention potential applications for psychiatry.

    The central dogma of contemporary mainstream psychiatry is that mental illnesses are biological illnesses like any other. Here is the problem: Even psychiatrists themselves will admit to you that there is, currently, no known biological etiology/pathology for any mental illness.

    "No biomarker for any psychiatric disorder has yet been identified. Genetic vulnerabilities have been discovered, but nothing resembling a smoking gun. Functional brain imaging reveals biological correlates of mental impairment, not etiology, and no such imaging can diagnose a specific psychiatric condition." - Steven Reidbord, M.D.

    Considering this, one has to ask: Are mental illnesses really biological illnesses, with the exact etiologies still waiting to be discovered? Or is it possible that we have it all wrong and that mental illnesses are fundamentally different? And if this is the case, then doesn't this imply ontological problems and doesn't this mean that materialism itself is to blame for the inaccurate views of psychiatrists?