The Spontaneous Brain

The Spontaneous Brain

From the Mind–Body to the World–Brain Problem

By Georg Northoff

An argument for a Copernican revolution in our consideration of mental features—a shift in which the world-brain problem supersedes the mind-body problem.





An argument for a Copernican revolution in our consideration of mental features—a shift in which the world-brain problem supersedes the mind-body problem.

Philosophers have long debated the mind-body problem—whether to attribute such mental features as consciousness to mind or to body. Meanwhile, neuroscientists search for empirical answers, seeking neural correlates for consciousness, self, and free will. In this book, Georg Northoff does not propose new solutions to the mind-body problem; instead, he questions the problem itself, arguing that it is an empirically, ontologically, and conceptually implausible way to address the existence and reality of mental features. We are better off, he contends, by addressing consciousness and other mental features in terms of the relationship between world and brain; philosophers should consider the world-brain problem rather than the mind-body problem. This calls for a Copernican shift in vantage point—from within the mind or brain to beyond the brain—in our consideration of mental features.

Northoff, a neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and philosopher, explains that empirical evidence suggests that the brain's spontaneous activity and its spatiotemporal structure are central to aligning and integrating the brain within the world. This spatiotemporal structure allows the brain to extend beyond itself into body and world, creating the “world-brain relation” that is central to mental features. Northoff makes his argument in empirical, ontological, and epistemic-methodological terms. He discusses current models of the brain and applies these models to recent data on neuronal features underlying consciousness and proposes the world-brain relation as the ontological predisposition for consciousness.


$50.00 X ISBN: 9780262038072 536 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 33 b&w illus.


  • "In The Spontaneous Brain, Georg Northoff argues we need to give up on solving the ancient and intractable mind-body problem and focus instead on understanding the brain-world relation -- for the dynamic spatiotemporal alignment between brain and world is what mindedness is. This interesting, innovative and closely argued volume is sure to be both productive and controversial. Highly recommended for anyone interested in an alternate future for the science of the mind."

    Michael L. Anderson

    Rotman Professor in Philosophy of Science, Western University, Ontario

  • "Combining cutting-edge neuroscience with rigorous philosophical augmentation, Northoff here proposes a new view of the mind-body problem: A Copernican revolution in philosophy and neuroscience, shifting the vantage point for understanding brain, mind, and consciousness from an egocentric to an ecocentric position. This is a highly original and game-changing contribution to understanding the mind-brain and its place in nature."

    Kathinka Evers, PhD

    Professor of Philosophy, Centre for Research Ethics and Bioethics (CRB), Uppsala University, Sweden

  • "With impressive scope and skill, Northoff offers a fundamentally new--and deeply exciting--way of thinking about the brain. Anyone interested in contemporary neuroscience can learn a lot from this book."

    Colin Klein

    School of Philosophy, The Australian National University, and author of What the Body Commands

  • "In this truly groundbreaking book, Professor Georg Northoff offers a world-to-brain research paradigm that not only revolutionizes our view of consciousness, but also paves the way for reconceiving how the human mind has been understood in the Chinese and Asian intellectual traditions."

    Kai-Yuan Cheng, Professor, National Chung-Cheng University, Taiwan