The neurocomputational mind meets normative epistemology

Philosophical Psychology 9 (1):33-59 (1996)
Abstract
The rapid development of connectionist models in computer science and of powerful computational tools in neuroscience has encouraged eliminativist materialist philosophers to propose specific alternatives to traditional mentalistic theories of mind. One of the problems associated with such a move is that elimination of the mental would seem to remove access to ideas like truth as the foundations of normative epistemology. Thus, a successful elimination of propositional or sentential theories of mind must not only replace them for purposes of our psychology, it must also replace them for purposes of the evaluation of our theories and explanations, psychological and otherwise. This paper briefly reviews eliminativist arguments for doubting the correctness of sentential accounts of explanation, understanding, and normative evaluation. It then considers Paul Churchland's (1989) proposed alternative norms, which are framed neurocomputationally. The alternative is found wanting in several specific ways. The arguments for eliminating propositionally-based norms are then re-examined and it is suggested that the need for wholesale elimination is overstated. A clear gap in the traditional epistemological story is identified, however, and a more modest set of norms is proposed as a way of filling this gap, rather than as a way of entirely replacing the traditional framework
Keywords Computation  Epistemology  Mind  Neural  Science
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