DOI: 10.14704/nq.2009.7.3.239

Explanation, Explanandum, Causality and Complexity: A Consideration of Mind, Matter, Neuroscience, and Physics

Rachel Wurzman, James Giordano


Generally, attempts to avoid Cartesian dualism relating brain and mind arguably lead to epiphenomenalism or strict materialism, in part because the problem is that these explanations have predominantly focused upon the efficient causal relationship between the physical and the phenomenal. Elucidating the efficient cause of consciousness is the essence of what Chalmers (1995) referred to as neuroscience’s “hard problem.” This has not been sufficiently addressed, mostly because of the apparent degree of complexity in the systems that comprise brain-mind, compared with the complexity of cognitive constructs used to describe, explain, and account for them. This paper will posit the significance of the problems inherent to complexity that impact the “hard problem” of explaining consciousness, as well as attempt to illustrate similar, analogous problems in physics, and demonstrate how conceptions of causality can be alternatively applied to overcome these explanatory obstacles. By reconsidering the relationships between explanation and the explanandum, it may be that the whole system needs to be considered when positing an explanation at any level, and particularly so when considering formal cause. By emphasizing formal causality over efficient causality, an epistemological solution is suggested that has broad implications for both brain-mind and physics, and we posit that this solution could apply to other explanatory problems in science.


causality, consciousness, complexity, quantum, explanation

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