Skip to Content

Department of Cognitive Science

The explicable emergence of the mind

Elizabeth Schier (
Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science,Sydney


The goal of the symposium 'Integrating Perspectives on the Relation between Mind and Brain' was to get people with different views and from different disciplines to open up a dialogue by focusing on answering a set of questions. In this paper I present a view of the relation between the mind and the brain that is informed by recent work in the philosophy of science. The basic idea is that the mind is more than the brain because mental states are identical to the activity of groups of organized neurons. Unlike the standard non-reductive materialism irreducibility is not seen as related to multiple realisability. The upshot is that we can bring the relation between the mind and the brain in line with other clear cases of ontological emergence, we can see how psychology can be an independent science, and yet how important explanatory connections can be made between psychology and neuroscience.

Citation details for this article:

Schier, E. (2010). The Explicable Emergence of the Mind. In W. Christensen, E. Schier, and J. Sutton (Eds.), ASCS09: Proceedings of the 9th Conference of the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science (pp. 306-310). Sydney: Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science.

DOI: 10.5096/ASCS200946
Download the PDF here


  1. Block, N. (1980). Troubles with Functionalism. Readings in Philosophy of Psychology.(N. Block. 1.) Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press
  2. Block, N. (1995). The Mind as the Software of the Brain. An Invitation to Cognitive Science, Volume 3.(D. Osherson, L. Gleitman, S. Kosslyn, S. E. and S. Sternberg.) Cambridge, MIT Press
  3. Bunge, M. (1977). 'Levels and Reduction'. American Journal of Physiology, 233(3), 75-82.
  4. Coltheart, M. (2006). What has Functional Neuroimaging Told us About the Mind (so far)? Cortex, 42, 323-31.
  5. Coltheart, M. (This Issue). Levels of Explanation in Cognitive Science. ASCS 2009 Proceedings.
  6. Craver, C. (2007). Explaining the Brain: Mechanisms and the Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience. Oxford, Clarendon Press.
  7. Darden, L. and Maull, N. L. (2000). Interfield Theories. Readings in the Philosophy of Science.(T. Schick.) London, Mayfield Publishing Company
  8. Fodor, J. (1974). Special sciences, or the Disunity of Science as a Working Hypothesis. Synthese, 28, 97-115.
  9. Fodor, J. (1997). Special Sciences: Still Autonomous After all These Years. Philosophical Perspectives, 11, 149-63.
  10. Kim, J. (1992). "Downward Causation" in Emergentism and Nonreductive Physicalism. Emergence or Reduction? Essays on the Prospects of Nonreductive Physicalism.(A. Beckermann, H. Flohr and J. Kim.) New York, Walter de Gruyter
  11. Kim, J. (1993). Supervenience and Mind. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  12. McLaughlin, B. P. (1992). The Rise and Fall of British Emergentism. Emergence or Reduction? Essays on the Prospects of Nonreductive Physicalism.(A. Beckermann, H. Flohr and J. Kim.) Berlin, Walter de Gruyter
  13. O'Brien, G. and Opie, J. (1999). A Defence of Cartesian Materialism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 59, 939-963.
  14. Putnam, H. (1973). Reductionism and the Nature of Psychology. Cognition, 2(1), 131-46.
  15. Schier, E. (2007). Emergence Colour and the Knowledge Argument: So what if Mary didn't know. Doctoral Dissertation, The University of Adelaide.
  16. Searle, J. R. (1981). Minds, Brains and Programs. Mind Design.(J. Haugeland.) Cambridge, MA, MIT Press
  17. Shapiro, L. A. (2005). The Mind Incarnate. Cambridge, MIT Press.

Further Information


Who is Visiting

Contact Details

Telephone: (02) 9850 9599
Fax : (02) 9850 6059
Email :
Web :