Reducing mind to molecular pathways: Explicating the reductionism implicit in current cellular and molecular neuroscience [Book Review]

Synthese 151 (3):411-434 (2006)
Abstract
As opposed to the dismissive attitude toward reductionism that is popular in current philosophy of mind, a “ruthless reductionism” is alive and thriving in “molecular and cellular cognition”—a field of research within cellular and molecular neuroscience, the current mainstream of the discipline. Basic experimental practices and emerging results from this field imply that two common assertions by philosophers and cognitive scientists are false: (1) that we do not know much about how the brain works, and (2) that lower-level neuroscience cannot explain cognition and complex behavior directly. These experimental practices involve intervening directly with molecular components of sub-cellular and gene expression pathways in neurons and then measuring specific behaviors. These behaviors are tracked using tests that are widely accepted by experimental psychologists to study the psychological phenomenon at issue (e.g., memory, attention, and perception). Here I illustrate these practices and their importance for explanation and reduction in current mainstream neuroscience by describing recent work on social recognition memory in mammals.
Keywords LONG-TERM-MEMORY   ELEMENT-BINDING PROTEIN   DEPENDENT K+ CHANNEL   SOCIAL RECOGNITION   TARGETED MUTATION   LATE-PHASE   LTP   POTENTIATION   MECHANISMS   MICE
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