Psychotherapy, neuroscience, and philosophy of mind

  • Lewis B
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Neuroscience is conceptually founded on a philosophy of mind known as identity theory. This theory claims that mental phenomena are reducible to the physical organ of the brain. But identity theory, and consequentially neuroscience, is unable to address essential human features of intentionality, consciousness, and autonomy, i.e., free will. Intentionally is the quality of having content or "aboutness," consciousness is quality of self-awareness, and autonomy is the ability to make undetermined choices. These essential human features make up our common sense and our psychodynamic understanding of ourselves. Without these features we would have to change our entire way of seeing ourselves and our dynamic psychotherapy would be impossible. We need intentionality in psychotherapy because it is only through the content of our patients' thoughts and feelings that we can help them derive meaning; we need consciousness because it is primarily through introspection that we get access to our patients' inner world; and we need autonomy because unless our patients have the option of doing things differently there is no point to the therapeutic endeavor. Consequently, psychiatry cannot rely solely on neuroscience as its basic science without creating a conception of people devoid of essential human features and without eviscerating its psychotherapeutic capacity.

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  • SCOPUS: 2-s2.0-0028097668
  • ISSN: 00029564
  • SGR: 0028097668
  • PMID: 8179031
  • PUI: 24064019
  • ISBN: 0002-9564


  • B. Lewis

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