Neural Consolidation and Ontological Variance: Metaphysical Constraints In Self-Emergence and Human Nature


  • Denis Larrivee Neiswanger Bioethics Institute, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL USA



The Future of Human Nature, Jurgen Habermas’ treatise on issues of genetic manipulation, invokes normative concerns arising out of a framework of a material re-ordering of human nature (2003). Implicit in Habermas’ critique is a presupposition causally linking the human ontological status to a material program intrinsic to the human body and its mechanistic generation of the mature individual. This presupposition persists through numerous recent accounts that follow his work which are taken at the level of the neural architecture, as well as in various neuroaugmentation proposals. Together these reflect an epistemological approach seeking to deduce human nature from an exclusively empirical assessment of neural operation, a philosophical praxis that has been termed cognitive ontology. This praxis adopts a paradigm widely employed for explication in living systems, now dominating discourse on the nature of reality and touted as the new mechanistic wave. Recourse to ascriptions of human nature grounded in a mechanical causal order, however, has been challenged by recent philosophical approaches for its severance of the metaphysical link between human properties and their predication in an entity, and the inversion of the conceptual order between ontology and epistemology. Unlike mechanistic approaches, these are related to formal organizational order; hence, they are termed non-causal or design explanations. This paper proposes that strictly mechanist, causal sequences also fail to account for systemic operation in cognition and need supplementation with formal causal notions. Accordingly, they also implicate a material instantiation of propertied faculties that conforms to metaphysical principles of unity and property predication, which is to say that the instantiation of self and faculty circuitries are necessarily determined by extrinsic and realist principles of material order. This has the important ethical consequence of siting value to the whole individual and not solely to the perceptual realization of human faculties as proposed in modern cognitive ontology accounts.






Human nature, mind, action