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Out of mind: philosopher Patricia Churchland’s radical approach to the study of human consciousness

The question of how our minds work is one of life's greatest mysteries, fascinating scientists and philosophers alike. When Churchland brought their ideas together she provoked fury—and admiration

By Julian Baggini   November 2019

illustration by michael rea

Back in the 1980s, a wife-husband philosopher team known as “the Churchlands” provoked the ire of their peers with the heretical claim that the best way to understand the mind was to study the brain. That might sound uncontroversial, but in philosophy it was anything but.

The nature of mind and consciousness had been one of the biggest and trickiest issues in philosophy for a century. Neuroscience was developing fast, but most philosophers resisted claims that it was solving the philosophical problems…

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