Philosophical issues in neuroimaging

Philosophy Compass 5 (2):186-198 (2010)
Abstract
Functional neuroimaging (NI) technologies like Positron Emission Tomography and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) have revolutionized neuroscience, and provide crucial tools to link cognitive psychology and traditional neuroscientific models. A growing discipline of 'neurophilosophy' brings fMRI evidence to bear on traditional philosophical issues such as weakness of will, moral psychology, rational choice, social interaction, free will, and consciousness. NI has also attracted critical attention from psychologists and from philosophers of science. I review debates over the evidential status of fMRI, including the differences between brain scans and ordinary images, the legitimacy of forward inference and reverse inference, and deductive versus probabilistic accounts of NI evidence. I conclude with a discussion of fMRI as exploratory rather than confirmatory evidence, linking this debate to the growing literature on cognitive ontology.
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