The use of brain scanning now dominates the cognitive sciences, but important questions remain to be answered about what, exactly, scanning can tell us. One corner of cognitive science that has been transformed by the use of neuroimaging, and that a scanning enthusiast might point to as proof of scanning's importance, is the study of face perception. Against this view, we argue that the use of scanning has, in fact, told us rather little about the information processing underlying face perception (...) and that it is not likely to tell us much more. (shrink)
THIS paper seeks to elucidate the phenomenon known in psychology as 'the specious present,' by postulating a two-dimensional theory of the extensional aspects of time. On this theory, the usual logical and psychological difficulties, encountered in current accounts of this phenomenon, can be resolved. For, when there are two dimensions of time, the same event may be without extension in one of these dimensions ('transition-time'), while it is nevertheless finitely extended in the other of these dimensions ('phase-time'); so that in (...) a definable sense the phases of a finitely enduring event, though successive in one time-order, yet are contemporary in the other. The epistemological standpoint implicit in the paper is generally similar to the one Bertrand Russell has put forward, in his Physics and Experience (Cambridge, 1946), and his Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (London, 1948) (allowing for the changes which would be required in Russell's theory to take into account a second time dimension). A 'psycho-neural parallelism,' or one-one correspondence, is postulated between features of certain 'experiential events' (namely, those experiential events normally held to be happening to some person's mind, which are describable in the language of psychology); and features of certain 'physical events' (namely, those events described in the language of physics, chemistry and physiology, which are ordinarily conceived as happenings in that same person's body). These physical events are conceived of as being causally connected with events in the physical world outside the experient's body, by means of the concepts of light waves, sound waves, chemical stimuli, and consequential processes in the nervous system (central and peripheral) and sense-organs, in the usual way. In terms of this psycho-neural parallelism the physical correlate of the finite temporal span of the specious, or experiential present, is to be found in certain consequences of the uncertainty principle in quantum physics; according to which there is a finite interval of time necessarily associated with a nearly precise determination of energy levels, and of transitions between them. Some of the physical implications of this theory, applied to processes in the material structure of the human body, are discussed qualitatively. But, for the reasons given in the last section of the paper, a quantitative treatment is not yet possible. The paper is greatly indebted in regard to the physical application of the two-dimensional theory of time, to the discussion of the pentadic group structure in Eddington's Fundamental Theory (Cambridge, 1946 and 1950); and in particular to the treatment there of the phase-variable as the 'time-analogue' in the quantum statistics of stationary states. (shrink)
Let me begin with what may seem a very minor point, but one which I think reveals something about how many philosophers today conceive of their subject. During the past few decades, there has been an increasing tendency for references in philosophy books and articles to be formatted in the ‘author and date’ style (‘see Fodor (1996)’, ‘see Smith (2001)’.) A neat and economical reference system, you may think; and it certainly saves space, albeit inconveniencing readers by forcing them to (...) flip back to the end of the chapter or book to find the title of the work being referred to. But what has made this system so popular among philosophers? A factor which I suspect exerts a strong subconscious attraction for many people is that it makes a philosophy article look very like a piece of scientific research. For if one asks where the ‘author-date’ system originated, the answer is clear: it comes from the science journals. And in that context, the choice of referencing system has a very definite rationale. In the progress-driven world of science, priority is everything, and it’s vitally important for a career that a researcher is able to proclaim his work as breaking new ground. Bloggs (2005) developed a technique for cloning a certain virus; Coggs (2006) showed how certain bits of viral DNA could be spliced; and now Dobbs (2007) draws on both techniques to develop the building blocks of a new vaccine. The idea is that our knowledge-base is enhanced, month by month and year by year, in small incremental steps (perhaps with occasional major breakthroughs); and in the catalogue of advances, the date tagged to each name signals when progress was made, and by whom. (shrink)
Motherese is a form of affective prosody injected automatically into speech during caregiving solicitude. Affective prosody is the aspect of language that conveys emotion by changes in tone, rhythm, and emphasis during speech. It is a neocortical function that allows graded, highly varied vocal emotional expression. Other mammals have only rigid, species-specific, limbic vocalizations. Thus, encephalization with corticalization is necessary for the evolution of progressively complex vocal emotional displays.
This paper explores Benjamin’s and Adorno’s materialist critique of the philosophy of history as a metaphysical fiction which harbors and shields the barbarism at the heart of culture. Each undertakes a radical critique of ontological, future-oriented notions of temporality and history, proposing instead a political understanding oriented to the past for the sake of the present or, more precisely, for the sake of actively resisting the persistent barbarism. The more culture insists on its progress beyond barbarism, the more it claims (...) to have overcome the past, the more insidious and invidious are its forms of oppression. I follow the consequences of Benjamin’s emphasis on the nihilism constitutive of philosophy of history by analyzing his claim that even the dead are not safe from the threat of annihilation. Second, I argue that Adorno’s radical critique of a culture and politics oriented toward the future, or rather to overcoming the past, constitutes an active resistance to the insidious barbarism at the heart of democracy. (shrink)
You recognize when you know something for certain, right? You "know" the sky is blue, or that the traffic light had turned green, or where you were on the morning of September 11, 2001--you know these things, well, because you just do. In On Being Certain , neurologist Robert Burton challenges the notions of how we think about what we know. He shows that the feeling of certainty we have when we "know" something comes from sources beyond our control and (...) knowledge. In fact, certainty is a mental sensation, rather than evidence of fact. Because this "feeling of knowing" seems like confirmation of knowledge, we tend to think of it as a product of reason. But an increasing body of evidence suggests that feelings such as certainty stem from primitive areas of the brain, and are independent of active, conscious reflection and reasoning. The feeling of knowing happens to us; we cannot make it happen. Bringing together cutting edge neuroscience, experimental data, and fascinating anecdotes, Robert Burton explores the inconsistent and sometimes paradoxical relationship between our thoughts and what we actually know. Provocative and groundbreaking, On Being Certain , will challenge what you know (or think you know) about the mind, knowledge, and reason. ROBERT BURTON, M.D. graduated from Yale University and University of California at San Francisco medical school, where he also completed his neurology residency. At age 33, he was appointed chief of the Division of Neurology at Mt. Zion-UCSF Hospital, where he subsequently became Associate Chief of the Department of Neurosciences. His non-neurology writing career includes three critically acclaimed novels. He lives in Sausalito, California. Visit his website at http://www.rburton.com/ “What do we do when we recognize that a false certainty feels the same as certainty about the sky being blue? A lesser guide might get bogged down in nail-biting doubts about the limits of knowledge. Yet Burton not only makes clear the fascinating beauty of this tangled terrain, he also brings us out the other side with a clearer sense of how to navigate. It's a lovely piece of work; I'm all but certain you'll like it. “ --David Dobbs, author of Reef Madness; Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and the Meaning of Coral “Burton has a great talent for combining wit and insight in a way both palatable and profound.” --Johanna Shapiro PhD, professor of Family Medicine at UC Irvine School of Medicine “A new way of looking at knowledge that merits close reading by scientists and general readers alike.” -- Kirkus “This could be one of the most important books of the year. With so much riding on ‘certainty,’ and so little known about how people actually reach a state of certainty about anything, some plain speaking from a knowledgeable neuroscientist is called for. If Gladwell's Blink was fascinating but largely anecdotal, Burton's book drills down to the real science behind snap judgments and other decision-making.” -- Howard Rheingold, futurist and author of Smart Mobs “A fascinating read. Burton’s engaging prose takes us into the deepest corners of our subconscious, making us question our most solid contentions. Nobody who reads this book will walk away from it and say ‘I know this for sure’ ever again.” --Sylvia Pagán Westphal, science reporter, The Wall Street Journal “Burton provides a compelling and though-provoking case that we should be more skeptical about our beliefs. Along the way, he also provides a novel perspective on many lines of research that should be of interest to readers who are looking for a broad introduction to the cognitive sciences.” -- Seed Magazine. (shrink)
This paper discusses Spinoza's critique of religion as a visible moment of a radically occluded materialist Judeo-Arabic Aristotelian philosophical tradition. While the prevailing (Christo-Platonic) tradition begins with the familiar gesture to metaphysics as first philosophy, Spinoza's thought (and thus, this Other Tradition) takes politics as its point of departure with its concrete emphasis on a critique of dogma. This paper will show-by way of differing readings of Spinoza-how this materialist tradition becomes occluded by the prevailing tradition, even in the work (...) of such careful materialist Spinoza commentators as Etienne Balibar. (shrink)