Gert-Jan C. Lokhorst


Marion Weber. Review of G.J.C. Lokhorst, Brein en bewustzijn: de geest-lichaam theorieën van moderne hersenonderzoekers, 1956-1986. Theoretical Medicine, 9, 1988.

In this book, Lokhorst analyzes studies regarding the mind-body relation conducted by neurologists over the past thirty years. In this way he wants to underscore the much-neglected contributions of neurologists to the debate about the mind-body problem. These contributions differ a great deal in methodology from the essays of philosophers.

Central to the debate are different theoretical tendencies. Dualistic theory occupies the most space. Opposing philosophical monism, the idea of the separation of mind and matter is a common view of the neurologists, though scientists like Sherrington, Eccles, and Penfield have not succeeded in proving this view in any empirical way. Nor have they been successful in constructing an accepted theory.

The emergentistic theory, which says that mental figures are an independent process of the brain, is represented by neurologists like the Nobel Prize Winner Sperry, and K. H. Pribram. Lokhorst spends some time discussing monistic interactionism, a theory incompatible with his own view. Not only Sperry, but his adversaries, Pucetti and Smart, get a chance to speak on this topic. In connection with Pribram's comparison of the brain with a hologram, Lokhorst warns against translating mathematical models into the relation between mind and body.

Widespread in philosophy, the materialistic theory of the identity of the mental and neurophysiological, is supported by only a few neurologists, such as Globus, Kornhuber, Doty, and O'Leary. The author criticizes the psychic-monistic theory, according to which only the content of consciousness is real. All else is derived. In his opinion, an author like Creutzfeldt supports a non-scientific viewpoint.

Under the key word "resterende theorieën" Lokhorst summarizes the theories of scientists who place the brain as the organ of information processing at the center of their studies (MacKay, Delgado, Gazzaniga, Gregory, and Adrian). Finally, Lokhorst deals with the situation in the Netherlands itself. In contrast with Anglo-Saxon countries, the term "mind" has a negative connotation there. It is no longer used, and questioning about it is no longer popular.

Lokhorst draws the conclusion that mere conjecture, a special affinity for antiquated philosophical theories, and an insufficient stock of facts characterize neurological reflections on the relation of body and mind. There is no evidence, he holds, that persons consist of two spheres, one of the material and one of the immaterial kind. With which brain activities mental processes are identical remains an unsolved problem, in his view. Nevertheless Lokhorst argues that neurologists should occupy themselves with this subject. In the domain of the ontological, cooperation between philosophers and neurologists would be fruitful. He quotes as an illustration of this cooperation, the knowledge about "mentale vermogen," obtained by neurologists. At this point it becomes clear that a philosophy of intuition would need a supplement from neurology.

Marion Weber, Institut für Theorie und Geschichte der Medizin, Waldeyerstraße 27, 4400 Münster, Federal Republic of Germany

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