The Theory of Brain-Sign


The Theory of Brain-Sign


The Theory of Brain-Sign
is a new scientific theory of the brain. Brain-sign replaces consciousness. Its ontology is that of a physical sign, and it functions as the communication mechanism about the world between purely physical brains in collective action. It is derived continuously from the causal orientation of each brain, and represents the world target to which communicating organisms refer. Therefore 'the world' is a neural construct.

The theory's claim to be scientific is that brain-sign is a wholly physical condition fulfilling a crucial neurobiological function. Signs are ubiquitous in biology.

Consciousness, by contrast, is inexplicable as physicality, and is scientifically impenetrable. Moreover, there is no consensus as to what it is ontologically, or does functionally.  With brain-sign theory, the 'mystery' of consciousness is removed and neural science can cease to search for psychological states in the brain.

Brain-sign has no direct causal impact on an organism's actions. However, without its communicative function, appropriate organisms could not act together. Brain-sign represents the limit or boundary of an organism's causal orientation. It is not, as is widely assumed of consciousness, knowledge of the world or itself.

The brain-sign model offers neural science a way forward in describing the overall architecture and operation of the brain - although the mechanism remains to be discovered. It will give brain-related disciplines a unified conceptual underpinning, from neuroscience to sociology. Further development of the theory and its application is in progress.

The brain-sign model has been developed by Philip Clapson. Dr. Clapson is on the staff at the Department of Psychological Sciences at Birkbeck, University of London. See web page.


Three current papers outline brain-sign theory and its rationale.

(2014) Knowledge, Science and Death: The Theory of Brain-Sign. Activitas Nervosa Superior, 56 (4): 105-120


(2016) Communication Without Consciousness: The Theory of Brain-Sign. Activitas Nervosa Superior, 58 (3-4): 84-107

(2017) Chapter: The Theory of Brain-Sign: A New Model of Brain Operation, 81-100. Elsevier.



In the Introduction to the 2017 book
The Human Sciences After the Decade of the Brain
, the editors (Jon Leefmann and Elisabeth Hildt) say the following about this chapter (pp. xiv-xv).

'Th[e] part, entitled "The Neurosciences of Social Science and Ethics," starts out with the delineation of a major theoretical scheme for the role of neuroscience in the explanation of social phenomena. Arguing for an eliminativist approach in the philosophy of mind...Philip Clapson reconstructs consciousness as "the brain phenomenon" and shows how brain-signs, which he conceives of as means of interneural communication, are generated by the brain from its causal orientation toward the world. This allows him to explain cooperative actions of organisms in physical terms and to argue that human beings cannot be conceived of as mental subjects with immediate access to themselves and the world. If the brain is explained as a causal organ, instead, human beings can be fully explained in terms of the natural sciences. As a result, Clapson claims that the natural sciences and the social sciences gain a uniform scientific and practical foundation. It is the language of the natural sciences that can account for everything there is to say about social phenomena.' 



Contact e-mail: p.clapson@bbk.ac.uk

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