July 20, 2018 // By Matthew Owen
Having completed my PhD at the University of Birmingham-England, I am excited to begin a postdoctoral fellowship based at Gonzaga University generously funded by the Tiny Blue Dot Foundation. As the Elizabeth R. Koch Research Fellow for Tiny Blue Dot Consciousness Studies, I will be advised by Dr. Christof Koch and Dr. Brian Clayton. Dr. Clayton is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Gonzaga University where he also directs the Faith and Reason Institute. As a Washingtonian, through and through, I’m not only thankful to be a ZAG but also to work under Dr. Clayton as my internal co-advisor of philosophy. Despite the busyness of running the Allen Institute for Brain Science as the President and Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Koch graciously took the time to mentor me during my doctoral studies, and I am deeply grateful to work under him as my external lead advisor of neuroscience. His expertise is second to none.
My research will focus on the ancient view of human ontology called hylomorphism and a relatively new view in theoretical neuroscience, the Integrated Information Theory of consciousness. In my doctoral research which focused on mental causation and neural correlates of consciousness (NCC), I developed the Mind-Body Powers Model of NCC based on neo-Thomistic hylomorphism and an Aristotelian metaphysics of causation. During the Tiny Blue Dot research fellowship, I will be investigating the similarities and differences between (IIT) and hylomorphism, with a keen interest in how the two views might mutually benefit each other. Furthermore, and most significantly, I will investigate whether the Mind-Body Powers Model of NCC can be combined with facets of IIT to ground the possibility of measuring consciousness, regardless of whether it is reducible or irreducible. If so, reductivists and nonreductivists regarding consciousness can share a common goal of developing a means for empirically measuring consciousness.
Having already begun research, on June 27th I presented a paper ‘The Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness & hylomorphism: exploring common ground’ at the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness 22nd annual conference at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. Also, a related chapter on NCC will appear in Mihretu Guta’s volume Consciousness and the Ontology of Properties published by Routledge, which is due to be released in the coming days. And an article in which I present the Mind-Body Powers Model is also forthcoming.