In this collection of essays, Paul Churchland explores the unfolding impact of the several empirical sciences of the mind, especially cognitive neurobiology and computational neuroscience on a variety of traditional issues central to the discipline of philosophy. Representing Churchland's most recent research, they continue his research program, launched over thirty years ago, and which has evolved into the field of neurophilosophy.
The maturation of the cognitive neurosciences will throw light on many central philosophical issues. Among them: semantic theory, perception, learning, social and moral knowledge, and practical reasoning and decision making. As contemporary medicine cannot do without the achievements of modern biology, philosophy would be pitiful if it disregarded the achievements of brain research.
The Hurvich-Jameson (H-J) opponent-process network offers a familiar account of the empirical structure of the phenomenological color space for humans, an account with a number of predictive and explanatory virtues. Its successes form the bulk of the existing reasons for suggesting a strict identity between our various color sensations on the one hand, and our various coding vectors across the color-opponent neurons in our primary visual pathways on the other. But anti-reductionists standardly complain that the systematic parallels discovered by the (...) H-J network are just empirical correspondences, constructed post facto, with no predictive or explanatory purchase on the intrinsic characters of qualia proper. The present paper disputes that complaint, by illustrating that the H-J model yields some novel and unappreciated predictions, and some novel and unappreciated explanations, concerning the qualitative characters of a considerable variety of color sensations possible for human experience, color sensations that normal people have almost certainly never had before, color sensations whose accurate descriptions in ordinary language appear semantically ill-formed or even self-contradictory. Specifically, these "impossible" color sensations are activation-vectors (across our opponent-process neurons) that lie inside the space of neuronally possible activation-vectors, but outside the central 'color spindle' that confines the familiar range of sensations for possible objective colors. These extra-spindle chimerical-color sensations correspond to no reflective color that you will ever see objectively displayed on a physical object. But the H-J model both predicts their existence and explains their highly anomalous qualitative characters in some detail. It also suggests how to produce these rogue sensations by a simple procedure made available in the latter half of this paper. The relevant color plates will allow you to savor these sensations for yourself. (shrink)
Paul Feyerabend recommended the methodological policy of proliferating competing theories as a means to uncovering new empirical data, and thus as a means to increase the empirical constraints that all theories must confront. Feyerabend's policy is here defended as a clear consequence of connectionist models of explanatory understanding and learning. An earlier connectionist "vindication" is criticized, and a more realistic and penetrating account is offered in terms of the computationally plastic cognitive profile displayed by neural networks with a recurrent architecture.
For the uninitiated, there are two major tendencies in the modeling of human cognition. The older, tradtional school believes, in essence, that full human cognition can be modeled by dividing the world up into distinct entities -- called __symbol s__-- such as “dog”, “cat”, “run”, “bite”, “happy”, “tumbleweed”, and so on, and then manipulating this vast set of symbols by a very complex and very subtle set of rules. The opposing school claims that this system, while it might be good (...) at concluding that Paris is the capital of France or that there must be blood flowing in the left-rear leg of a cow, can never capture the full measure -- indeed, the essence -- of human cognition. For them, the essential features of cognition emerge from the combined effects of myriad, tiny actions far below the surface of consciousness. This is the camp to which Paul Churchland belongs. (shrink)
The doctrine that the character of our perceptual knowledge is plastic, and can vary substantially with the theories embraced by the perceiver, has been criticized in a recent paper by Fodor. His arguments are based on certain experimental facts and theoretical approaches in cognitive psychology. My aim in this paper is threefold: (1) to show that Fodor's views on the impenetrability of perceptual processing do not secure a theory-neutral foundation for knowledge; (2) to show that his views on impenetrability are (...) almost certainly false; and (3) to provide some additional arguments for, and illustrations of, the theoretical character of all observation judgments. (shrink)
An important methodological argument is outlined in support of general theoretical challenges to the dominant materialist paradigm. The idea is that the empirical inadequacies of a dominant theory can be hidden from view by various factors, and will emerge from the shadows only when viewed from the perspective of a systematic conceptual alternative. The question then posed is whether parapsychology provides a conceptual alternative adequate to this task. The provisional conclusion drawn is that it does not. Some further consequences are (...) drawn from this concerning the experimental side of the parapsychological tradition. (shrink)
This paper outlines the functional capacities of a novel scheme for cognitive representation and computation, and it explores the possible implementation of this scheme in the massively parallel organization of the empirical brain. The suggestion is that the brain represents reality by means of positions in suitably constitutes phase spaces; and the brain performs computations on these representations by means of coordinate transformations from one phase space to another. This scheme may be implemented in the brain in two distinct forms: (...) (1) as a phase-space sandwich, which may explain certain laminar structures, such as cerebral cortex and the superior colliculus; and (2) as a neural matrix, which may explain other structures, such as the beautifully orthogonal architecture of the cerebellum. (shrink)