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Dr Philip Clapson

Associate Research Fellow

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Department of Psychological Sciences

Research interests

  • Over recent years I have developed a new scientific theory: The Theory of Brain-Sign. Brain-sign replaces the brain phenomenon supposed as consciousness.

    There are two fundamental problems with consciousness. The first is that, as commonly stated, it appears to have no relation to the physical world, or the world of science as is currently understood. Secondly, and even more fundamentally, there is no scientific definition or explanation of what it actually is or does. It is not unreasonable to say that the conviction that consciousness exists derives solely from the supposed fact that we are conscious, that we know we are from our experience of ourselves. Indeed, there is a distinct similarity of this conviction to that concerning the universe before Copernicus. We are at the centre of the universe, and the heavens surround us.

    Brain-sign theory does not accept this self-endorsing notion of consciousness. It explains the brain phenomenon directly from the physical world, and in terms of its crucial neurobiological function. Brain-sign acts as the communication medium between brains for imprecise or uncertain collective action. It is derived from the causal orientation of the brain at each instant. Signs are unproblematically physical.

    The project under development at Birkbeck will establish grounds of a neural science deriving from the biological function of the brain, as described by brain-sign theory. A new vocabulary for neural science will replace psychological language. Therefore neural science will not need to seek psychological states in the brain as accounts or explanations of human action. This vocabulary will provide an underlying conceptual base for brain-related disciplines, from neuroscience to the social sciences. It will aid inter-disciplinary coherence and communication.

    If conscious does not exist, and the foundations of our biological functioning are not known by us, then philosophy and science must be approached in a new way. Brain-sign theory offers a physicalist route to these.

    The first draft of the theory was published as:  (2001) Consciousness: The Organismic Approach, Neuro-Psychoanalysis 3 (2): 203-220.

    Brain-Sign website


    • October 2017, Conference (Philosophical Issues in Psychedelic Drug Use) at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, London. Psychiatry as science: The theory of brain-sign
    • January 2016, Conference (Agency, Causality and Free Will) at the Zagreb Institute of Philosophy, Croatia. Brain-Sign Theory Changes the Subject
    • March 2015, Symposium (The Human Sciences after the Decade of the Brain) at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany. The Theory of Brain-Sign: A New Theory of the Brain
    • October 2011, Durham-Bergen Conference. How to Make Neurophilosophy "Real": The Theory of Brain-Sign

Publications (BIROn)

Dr Philip Clapson