Neuroscience and Philosophy: Brain, Mind, and Language
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In Neuroscience and Philosophy three prominent philosophers and a leading neuroscientist clash over the conceptual presuppositions of cognitive neuroscience. The book begins with an excerpt from Maxwell Bennett and Peter Hacker's Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience (Blackwell, 2003), which questions the conceptual commitments of cognitive neuroscientists. Their position is then criticized by Daniel Dennett and John Searle, two philosophers who have written extensively on the subject, and Bennett and Hacker in turn respond.
Their impassioned debate encompasses a wide range of central themes: the nature of consciousness, the bearer and location of psychological attributes, the intelligibility of so-called brain maps and representations, the notion of qualia, the coherence of the notion of an intentional stance, and the relationships between mind, brain, and body. Clearly argued and thoroughly engaging, the authors present fundamentally different conceptions of philosophical method, cognitive-neuroscientific explanation, and human nature, and their exchange will appeal to anyone interested in the relation of mind to brain, of psychology to neuroscience, of causal to rational explanation, and of consciousness to self-consciousness.
In his conclusion Daniel Robinson (member of the philosophy faculty at Oxford University and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University) explains why this confrontation is so crucial to the understanding of neuroscientific research. The project of cognitive neuroscience, he asserts, depends on the incorporation of human nature into the framework of science itself. In Robinson's estimation, Dennett and Searle fail to support this undertaking; Bennett and Hacker suggest that the project itself might be based on a conceptual mistake. Exciting and challenging, Neuroscience and Philosophy is an exceptional introduction to the philosophical problems raised by cognitive neuroscience.
basis of a swift sort of triage that is accomplished before the information is passed on to those networks that complete the identification of the stimulus. (Yes, yes, I know. Only a person—a doctor or a nurse or such—can perform the behavior we call triage; I am speaking “metonymically.” Get used to it.) In conclusion, what I am telling my colleagues in the neurosciences is that there is no case to answer here. The authors claim that just about everybody in cognitive neuroscience is committing
where we say my neurons make such and such inferences or my neurons perceive such and such phenomena, it seems to me that these metaphors are, or at least can be, harmless. It is easier to make the mistake of confusing the real observer-independent senses with the observer-relative and metaphorical senses where the brain is concerned, than it is where other organs are concerned, for the obvious reason that intrinsic observer-independent psychological processes go on in the brain in a way that
a rule than a mechanical calculator can. A machine can execute operations that accord with a rule, provided all the causal links built into it function as designed and assuming that the design ensures the generation of a regularity in accordance with the chosen rule or rules. But for something to constitute following a rule, the mere production of a regularity in accordance with a rule is not sufficient. A being can be said to be following a rule only in the context of a complex practice
questions of “the good life,” etc., are not likely to receive such benefits, he nonetheless expects some philosophical problems to yield to scientific findings. Regrettably, the specific example he offers leaves at least one reader hopelessly perplexed. Searle’s words are these: I do not make a sharp distinction between scientific and philosophical questions. Let me give one example to explain how my philosophical work can be helped by scientific discoveries. When I raise my arm, my conscious
We address methodological qualms in detail in PFN chapter 3, § 3 (this volume) and in PFN chapter 14. AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 3 These pages consist of the unaltered text of PFN, pp. 68–80, save for cross-references, which have been relegated to notes where necessary. 1. F. Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis (Touchstone Books, London, 1995), pp. 30, 32f., 57. 2. G. Edelman, Bright Air, Brilliant Fire (Penguin Books, London, 1994), pp. 109f., 130. 3. C. Blakemore, Mechanics of the Mind