Mind and Brain: A skeptical look

Photo of my presentation at the Alzheimer Symposium, Amsterdam, June 2015.

Below is my presentation at the Alzheimer Symposium 2015 last June in Amsterdam, with corresponding blurb. Enjoy!

Perhaps no other disease has a more fundamental bearing on our sense of identity and the nature of mind than Alzheimer’s. It wreaks havoc with the human psyche and one’s sense of self by corrupting the brain. Precisely for this reason, Alzheimer’s raises one of the oldest questions in history, investing it with a renewed sense of urgency: What exactly is the relationship between mind and brain? Surprisingly, in what is called the ‘hard problem of consciousness,’ no one in science or philosophy today has any idea how brain metabolism can lead to conscious experience or our felt sense of self. Yet, we operate under the assumption that it somehow does, for the correlations between brain function and subjective experience are overwhelming. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease is a particularly compelling instance of such correlations, wherein destruction of brain tissue fundamentally alters our subjective experience of life. But is this assumption the only rational and empirically honest framework for interpreting the relationship between mind and brain? In this talk, we will critically review the array of reasons we assume that the brain generates the mind. We will inquire if these reasons are indeed sound in view of logic and the available data, and what other alternatives there might be to rationally make sense of observations. The presentation will not offer definitive answers, but rather invite the audience to take a broader look at the issue, in the spirit of skepticism. It is hoped that such a broader perspective into the nature of self and its relationship to brain function will lead to new insights, for both caregivers and patients, on how to relate to Alzheimer’s disease.



  1. I enjoy the growing awareness I glean from being exposed to your perceptions and artful articulation of our shared reality. Thank you Bernardo. :D

  2. Bernardo, I think this is what you do best. When you analyze the literature on brain research, and show the (grave) limitations of the materialist perspective, you present it in a way which i think is the most accessible to the world of scientists, and which has - I believe - the potential to be the most powerful means you have of contributing to the rapidly progressive conversation on the next step beyond materialism.

    I've been talking with a growing number of philosophers, neuroscientists and others in recent months who are forging ahead with this conversation. They would welcome this knowledgeable, scientifically informed kind of presentation, FAR more than the philosophic forays. Just my 2 cents. Yes, some kind of framework is necessary, but to my mind, the summary you gave at Chopra's science and spirit convocation last summer was sufficient. Beyond that most scientists (including computer scientists) get confused and ultimately just turn away.

    But this - if you were able to focus more on this - it would dramatically hasten the breakthroughs that will occur with ever increasing frequency in the next decade or so.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Don. But I don't see how this presentation isn't a philosophical foray. That's precisely what it is: it's an ontology of mind-only elaborated upon through an attempt to use terms and concepts precisely. It's confusing to me that you seem to suggest it is anything else. This certainly isn't just a criticism of materialism. The presentation isn't about poking holes, but about offering an alternative ontology.