and apply it to various examples of neural plasticity in which input is rerouted intermodally or intramodally to nonstandard cortical targets. In some cases but not others, cortical activity ‘defers’ to the nonstandard sources of input. We ask why, consider some possible explanations, and propose a dynamic sensorimotor hypothesis. We believe that this distinction is important and worthy of further study, both philosophical and empirical, whether or not our hypothesis turns out to be correct. In particular, the question of (...) how the distinction should be explained is linked to explanatory gap issues for consciousness. Comparative and absolute explanatory gaps should be distinguished: why does neural activity in a particular area of cortex have this qualitative expression rather than that, and why does it have any qualitative expression at all? We use the dominance/deference distinction to address the comparative gaps, both intermodal and intramodal (not the absolute gap). We do so not by inward scrutiny but rather by expanding our gaze to include relations between brain, body and environment. (shrink)
Churchland's paper "Perceptual Plasticity and Theoretical Neutrality" offers empirical, semantical and epistemological arguments intended to show that the cognitive impenetrability of perception "does not establish a theory-neutral foundation for knowledge" and that the psychological account of perceptual encapsulation that I set forth in The Modularity of Mind "[is] almost certainly false". The present paper considers these arguments in detail and dismisses them.
The study of phenotypic plasticity has progressed significantly over the past few decades. We have moved from variation for plasticity being considered as a nuisance in evolutionary studies to it being the primary target of investigations that use an array of methods, including quantitative and molecular genetics, as well as of several approaches that model the evolution of plastic responses. Here, I consider some of the major aspects of research on phenotypic plasticity, assessing where progress has been (...) made and where additional effort is required. I suggest that some areas of research, such the study of the quantitative genetic underpinning of plasticity, have been either settled in broad outline or superseded by new approaches and questions. Other issues, such as the costs of plasticity are currently at the forefront of research in this field, and are likely to be areas of major future development. (shrink)
How much can we shape the emotions we experience? Or to put it another way, how plastic are our emotions? It is clear that the exercise of identifying the degree of plasticity of emotion is futile without a prior specification of what can be plastic, so we first propose an analysis of the components of emotions. We will then turn to empirical data that might be used to assess the degree of plasticity of emotions.
The basic problem of perceptual change is how to account for both variation and constancy in perceiving the world. Is order learned? How deep does plasticity go in that respect? I argue that different kinds of perceptual plasticity have been confused in recent debates, notably between J. Fodor and P. M. Churchland. By focusing on changes in the use of concepts, the issues in the Fodor-Churchland debate can be resolved. Beyond that debate, I propose a generalized encoding approach (...) to perception as a way of accounting for a significant form of perceptual change. (shrink)
Phenotypic plasticity integrates the insights of ecological genetics, developmental biology, and evolutionary theory. Plasticity research asks foundational questions about how living organisms are capable of variation in their genetic makeup and in their responses to environmental factors. For instance, how do novel adaptive phenotypes originate? How do organisms detect and respond to stressful environments? What is the balance between genetic or natural constraints (such as gravity) and natural selection? The author begins by defining phenotypic plasticity and detailing (...) its history, including important experiments and methods of statistical and graphical analysis. He then provides extended examples of the molecular basis of plasticity, the plasticity of development, the ecology of plastic responses, and the role of costs and constraints in the evolution of plasticity. A brief epilogue looks at how plasticity studies shed light on the nature/nurture debate in the popular media. (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)
The dichotomy between Nature and Nurture, which has been dismantled within the framework of development, remains embodied in the notions of plasticity and evolvability. We argue that plasticity and evolvability, like development and heredity, are neither dichotomous nor distinct: the very same mechanisms may be involved in both, and the research perspective chosen depends to a large extent on the type of problem being explored and the kinds of questions being asked. Epigenetic inheritance leads to transgenerationally extended (...) class='Hi'>plasticity, and developmentally-induced heritable epigenetic variations provide additional foci for selection that can lead to evolutionary change. Moreover, hereditary innovations may result from developmentally induced large-scale genomic repatterning events, which are akin to Goldschmidtian “systemic mutations”. The epigenetic mechanisms involved in repatterning can be activated by both environmental and genomic stress, and lead to phylogenetic as well as ontogenetic changes. Hence, the effects and the mechanisms of plasticity directly contribute to evolvability. (shrink)
This paper considers the connections between semantic shiftiness (plasticity), epistemic safety and an epistemic theory of vagueness as presented and defended by Williamson (1996a, b, 1997a, b). Williamson explains ignorance of the precise intension of vague words as rooted in insensitivity to semantic shifts: one’s inability to detect small shifts in intension for a vague word results in a lack of knowledge of the word’s intension. Williamson’s explanation, however, falls short of accounting for ignorance of intension.
Recent advances in cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience open up new vistas for human enhancement. Central to much of this work is the idea of new human-machine interfaces (in general) and new brain-machine interfaces (in particular). But despite the increasing prominence of such ideas, the very idea of such an interface remains surprisingly under-explored. In particular, the notion of human enhancement suggests an image of the embodied and reasoning agent as literally extended or augmented, rather than the more conservative image (...) of a standard (non-enhanced) agent using a tool via some new interface. In this essay, I explore this difference, and attempt to lay out some of the conditions under which the more radical reading (positing brand new integrated agents or systemic wholes) becomes justified. I adduce some empirical evidence suggesting that the radical result is well within our scientific reach. The main reason why this is so has less to do with the advancement of our science (though that certainly helps) than with our native biological plasticity. We humans, I shall try to show, are biologically disposed towards literal (and repeated) episodes of sensory re-calibration, of bodily re-configuration and of mental extension. Such potential for literal and repeated re-configuration is the mark of what I shall call "profoundly embodied agency," contrasting it with a variety of weaker (less philosophically and scientifically interesting) understandings of the nature and importance of embodiment for minds and persons. The article ends by relating the image of profound embodiment to some questions (and fears) concerning converging technologies for improving human performance. (shrink)
Paul Churchland has become famous for holding three controversial and interrelated doctrines which he put forward in early papers and in his first book. Scientific Realism and the Plasticity of Mind (1979): eliminative materialism, the doctrine of the plasticity of perception, and a general network theory of language. In his latest book, The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul (1995), Churchland aims to make some results of connectionist neuroscience available to the general public and explores the (...) philosophical and social consequences that neuroscience is likely to have. I argue that these results of neuroscience refute the three doctrines that Churchland advocated in his earlier works. Yet youthful dreams do not die easily and Churchland is reluctant to relinquish his early views. (shrink)
Some of Catherine Malabou’s recent work has developed her conception of plasticity (originally deployed in a reading of Hegelian Aufhebung ) in relation to neuroscience. This development clarifies and advances her attempt to bring contemporary theory into dialogue with the natural sciences, while indirectly indicating her engagement with the French tradition in philosophy of science and philosophy of medicine, especially the work of Georges Canguilhem. I argue that we can see her development of plasticity as an answer to (...) some specific shortcomings in Canguilhem’s conception of organic or biological normativity as advanced in The Normal and the Pathological . Such a view of plasticity shows its potential to provide the basis for a powerful critical engagement with contemporary conceptions of selfhood, self-transformation, subjectivation, and the general theory of norms. (shrink)
Merleau-Ponty’s explication of concrete or practical movement by way of the Schneider case could be read as ending up close to automatism, neglecting its flexibility and plasticity in the face of obstacles. It can be contended that he already goes off course in his explication of Schneider’s condition. Rasmus Jensen has argued that he assimilates a normal person’s motor intentionality to the patient’s, thereby generating a vacuity problem. I argue that Schneider’s difficulties with certain movements point to a means (...) of broadening Merleau-Ponty’s account of concrete movement, one that he broaches without exploiting. What could do more work is his recognition of a transposition capacity - and hence of a plasticity - in the healthy body’s skill schema. As well as avoiding vacuity, he could forestall the appearance of a dichotomy between practical coping and creativity. (shrink)
In addition to considerable debate in the recent evolutionary literature about the limits of the Modern Synthesis of the 1930s and 1940s, there has also been theoretical and empirical interest in a variety of new and not so new concepts such as phenotypic plasticity, genetic assimilation and phenotypic accommodation. Here we consider examples of the arguments and counter- arguments that have shaped this discussion. We suggest that much of the controversy hinges on several misunderstandings, including unwarranted fears of a (...) general attempt at overthrowing the Modern Synthesis paradigm, and some fundamental conceptual confusion about the proper roles of phenotypic plasticity and natural selection within evolutionary theory. (shrink)
The Future of Hegel is one of the most important recent books on Hegel, a philosopher who has had a crucial impact on the shape of continental philosophy. Published here in English for the first time, it includes a substantial preface by Jacques Derrida in which he explores the themes and conclusions of Malabou's book. The Future of Hegel: Plasticity, Temporality and Dialectic restores Hegel's rich and complex concepts of time and temporality to contemporary philosophy. It examines Hegel's concept (...) of time, relating it to perennial topics in philosophy such as substance, accident and the identity of the subject. Catherine Malabou also contrasts her account of Hegelian temporality with the interpretation given by Heidegger in Being and Time , arguing that it is the concept of "plasticity" that best describes Hegel's theory of temporality. The future is understood not simply as a moment in time, but as something malleable and constantly open to change through our interpretation. The Future of Hegel also develops Hegel's preoccupation with the history of Greek thought and Christianity and explores the role of theology in Hegel's thought. Essential reading for those interested in Hegel and contemporary continental philosophy, The Future of Hegel will also be fascinating to those interested in the ideas of Heidegger and Derrida. (shrink)
Consciousness is typically construed as being explainable purely in terms of either private, raw feels or higher-order, reflective representations. In contrast to this false dichotomy, we propose a new view of consciousness as an interactive, plastic phenomenon open to sociocultural influence. We take up our account of consciousness from the observation of radical cortical neuroplasticity in human development. Accordingly, we draw upon recent research on macroscopic neural networks, including the “default mode”, to illustrate cases in which an individual’s particular “connectome” (...) is shaped by encultured social practices that depend upon and influence phenomenal and reflective consciousness. On our account, the dynamically interacting connectivity of these networks bring about important individual differences in conscious experience and determine what is “present” in consciousness. Further, we argue that the organization of the brain into discrete anti-correlated networks supports the phenomenological distinction of prereflective and reflective consciousness, but we emphasize that this finding must be interpreted in light of the dynamic, category-resistant nature of consciousness. Our account motivates philosophical and empirical hypotheses regarding the appropriate time-scale and function of neuroplastic adaptation, the relation of high and low frequency neural activity to consciousness and cognitive plasticity, and the role of ritual social practices in neural development and cognitive function. (shrink)
Some scientists and philosophers have claimed that there is a converse to multiple realizability. While a given higher-level property can be realized by different lower-level properties (multiple realizability), a given lower-level property can in turn serve to realize different higher-level properties (this converse I dubbed the unfortunately obscure "constructival plasticity" to emphasize the constructive metaphysics involved when realizing properties generate realized properties in the stated way). I begin by defining multiple realizabilty in a formal way, then turn to the (...) relation in question. By my analysis, for the converse claim to be true, a lower-level property G1 that realizes a higher-level F must be taken in conjunction with some other base condition G2 so that a difference in G2 allows G1 to determine some other higher-level property E but not F (otherwise there would be violations of supervenience). The realization law thus has the form: (G1 & G2) => F. As such, the base property G1 is insufficient by itself to produce F. It is an insufficient but necessary part of a sufficient condition. I also point out that this makes the realization base property an INUS condition, if combined with multiple realizability. Specifically, if F is multiply realized by properties other than the pair G1 and G2, then G1 is an insufficient but necessary part of an unnecessary but sufficient condition. (shrink)
Many of the basic elements of Maimonides' moral psychology are Aristotelian, but there are some important respects in which Maimonides departs from Aristotle. One of those respect concerns the possibility of changing one's character. There is, according to Maimonides, redemptive possibility that Aristotle does not recognize. There is, according to Maimonides, a redemptive possibility that Aristotle does not recognize. This is based on the fact of revealed law. That is, if there is revealed law, then there is guidance for the (...) ordering of one's dispositions to what is good, even though the individual lacks practical wisdom. There is, in the Maimonidean account, both allowance for more plasticity of character, and at the same time a heightened responsibility for acknowledging what is ethically required. (shrink)
: At the center of Catherine's Malabou's study of Hegel is a defense of Hegel's relation to time and the future. While many readers, following Kojève, have taken Hegel to be announcing the end of history, Malabou finds a more supple impulse, open to the new, the unexpected. She takes as her guiding thread the concept of "plasticity," and shows how Hegel's dialectic--introducing the sculptor's art into philosophy--is motivated by the desire for transformation. Malabou is a canny and faithful (...) reader, and allows her classic "maître" to speak, if not against his own grain, at least against a tradition too attached to closure and system. Malabou's Hegel is a "plastic" thinker, not a nostalgic metaphysician. (shrink)
Probably colour is the best worked-out example of allegedly neurophysiologically innate response categories determining percepts and percepts determining concepts, and hence biology fixing the basic categories implicit in the use of language. In this paper I argue against this view and I take C. L. Hardin's Color for Philosophers  as my main target. I start by undermining the view that four unique hues stand apart from all other colour shades (Section 2) and the confidence that the solar spectrum is (...) naturally divided into four categories (Section 3). For such categories to be truly universal, they have to be true for all peoples and in Section 4 I show that Berlin and Kay's  widely quoted theory of basic colour categories is not sufficiently supported to lend it any credibility. Having disposed of the view that inspection of language or ?pure? perception unveils the universal colour categories. I turn to neurophysiological and psychophysical theories of colour vision to see whether they provide a more solid basis for deciding what the innate response categories are. In Section 5 I show that Hardin's account of the opponent-process theory neither supports his view that ?colour-coding?takes place early in the visual neural pathway, nor his view that knowledge of colour vision science will help us solve many philosophical mysteries about colour. In Section 6 I give a more detailed review of what is known today about the neurophysiology of colour vision and I show that there's nothing in the brain which could be called a colour module, let alone a module with homunculi for particular basic colour categories. In Section 7 I show that psychophysical models do not support such rigid constraints on category formation either. Hence (Section 8), at least in the case of colour, current science supports a plasticity in the formation of categories that goes far beyond the requirements of those naturalistic philosophers who would like to ground primitive concepts in biology. (shrink)
In this chapter, I sketch a conceptual framework which takes it as a starting point that conscious and unconscious cognition are rooted in the same set of interacting learning mechanisms and representational systems. On this view, the extent to which a representation is conscious depends in a graded manner on properties such as its stability in time or its strength. Crucially, these properties are accrued as a result of learning, which is in turn viewed as a mandatory process that always (...) accompanies information processing. From this perspective, consciousness is best characterized as involving (1) a graded continuum defined over “quality of representation”, such that availability to consciousness and to cognitive control correlates with quality , and (2) the implication of systems of metarepresentations. A first implication of these ideas is that the main function of consciousness is to make flexible, adaptive control over behavior possible. A second, much more speculative implication, is that we learn to be conscious. This I call the “radical plasticity thesis” — the hypothesis that consciousness emerges in systems capable not only of learning about their environment, but also about their own internal representations of it. (shrink)
This essay defends the view that, as embodied, our identities are necessarily dependent on the aesthetic environment. Toward this end, it examines the renewal of the concept of sensation (aisthesis) in phenomenology, but then concludes that the methodology and metaphysics of phenomenology must be abandoned in favor of an ontology that sees corporeal identity as generated by the materiality of aesthetic relations. It is suggested that such an ontology is available in the work of Spinoza, which helps break down the (...) natural/ artificial and human/nonhuman distinctions, and can thereby engender an environmental ethics grounded in aesthetic relations. An explication of body/ world dependence is provided via the concept of plasticity and a properly Spinozist aesthetics is invoked, but remains to be worked out. (shrink)
In recent years, many scholars have suggested that the Baldwin effect may play an important role in the evolution of language. However, the Baldwin effect is a multifaceted and controversial process and the assessment of its connection with language is difficult without a formal model. This paper provides a first step in this direction. We examine a game-theoretic model of the interaction between plasticity (represented by Herrnstein reinforcement learning) and evolution in the context of a simple language (...) game. Additionally, we describe three distinct aspects of the Baldwin effect: the Simpson–Baldwin effect, the Baldwin expediting effect and the Baldwin optimizing effect. We find that a simple model of the evolution of language lends theoretical plausibility to the existence of the Simpson–Baldwin and the Baldwin optimizing effects in this arena, but not the Baldwin expediting effect. (shrink)
Aspects of cognitive immaturity may serve both to adapt children to their immediate environment and to prepare them for future ones. Language may have evolved in children's groups in the context of play. Developmental plasticity provides variability upon which natural selection operates, and such plasticity, that likely played an important role in the evolution of language, characterizes human children today.
Probably colour is the best worked-out example of allegedly neurophysiologically innate response categories determining percepts and percepts determining concepts, and hence biology fixing the basic categories implicit in the use of language. In this paper I argue against this view and I take C. L. Hardin's Color for Philosophers  as my main target. I start by undermining the view that four unique hues stand apart from all other colour shades (Section 2) and the confidence that the solar spectrum (...) is naturally divided into four categories (Section 3). For such categories to be truly universal, they have to be true for all peoples and in Section 4 I show that Berlin and Kay's  widely quoted theory of basic colour categories is not sufficiently supported to lend it any credibility. Having disposed of the view that inspection of language or 'pure' perception unveils the universal colour categories, I turn to neurophysiological and psychophysical theories of colour vision to see whether they provide a more solid basis for deciding what the innate response categories are. In Section 5 I show that Hardin's account of the opponent-process theory neither supports his view that 'colour-coding' takes place early in the visual neural pathway, nor his view that knowledge of colour vision science will help us solve many philosophical mysteries about colour. In Section 6 I give a more detailed review of what is known today about the neurophysiology of colour vision and I show that there's nothing in the brain which could be called a colour module, let alone a module with homunculi for particular basic colour categories. In Section 7 I show that psychophysical models do not support such rigid constraints on category formation either. Hence (Section 8), at least in the case of colour, current science supports a plasticity in the formation of categories that goes far beyond the requirements of those naturalistic philosophers who would like to ground primitive concepts in biology. (shrink)
Abstract This paper develops an explanationist treatment of the problem of the criterion. Explanationism is the view that all justified reasoning is justified in virtue of the explanatory virtues: simplicity, fruitfulness, testability, scope, and conservativeness. A crucial part of the explanationist framework is achieving wide reflective equilibrium. I argue that explanationism offers a plausible solution to the problem of the criterion. Furthermore, I argue that a key feature of explanationism is the plasticity of epistemic judgments and epistemic methods. The (...) explanationist does not offer any fixed judgments or methods to guide epistemic conduct; even the explanatory virtues themselves are subject to change. This feature of explanationism gives it an advantage over non-explanationist views that offer fixed epistemic judgments and epistemic methods. The final section of this paper responds to objections to explanationism. (shrink)
In the natural world, individual organisms can adapt as their environment changes. In most in silico evolution, however, individual organisms tend to consist of rigid solutions, with all adaptation occurring at the population level. If we are to use artificial evolving systems as a tool in understanding biology or in engineering robust and intelligent systems, however, they should be able to generate solutions with fitness-enhancing phenotypic plasticity. Here we use Avida, an established digital evolution system, to investigate the selective (...) pressures that produce phenotypic plasticity. We witness two different types of fitness-enhancing plasticity evolve: static- execution-flow plasticity, in which the same sequence of actions produces different results depending on the environment, and dynamic-execution-flow plasticity, where organisms choose their actions based on their environment. We demonstrate that the type of plasticity that evolves depends on the environmental challenge the population faces. Finally, we compare our results to similar ones found in vastly different systems, which suggest that this phenomenon is a general feature of evolution. (shrink)
Recent research into the evolution of higher cognition has piqued an interest in the effect of natural selection on the ability of creatures to respond to their environment (behavioral plasticity). It is believed that environmental variation is required for plasticity to evolve in cases where the ability to be plastic is costly. We investigate one form of environmental variation: frequency dependent selection. Using tools in game theory, we investigate a few models of plasticity and outline the cases (...) where selection would be expected to maintain it. Ultimately we conclude that frequency dependent selection is likely insuffcient to maintain plasticity given reasonable assumptions about its costs. This result is very similar to one aspect of the well-discussed Baldwin effect, where plasticity is first selected for and then later selected against. We show how in these models one would expect plasticity to grow in the population and then be later reduced. Ultimately we conclude that if one is to account for the evolution of behavioral plasticity in this way, one must appeal to a very particular sort of external environmental variation. (shrink)
Several lines of evidence have underscored the remarkable neuroplasticity of the primate sensorimotor cortex, characterizing these cortical areas as dynamic constructs that are modelled in a use-dependent manner by behaviourally significant experiences. Their plasticity likely provides a neural substrate that may contribute to the dynamic systems paradigm argued by Shanker & King (S&K) as crucial for development of communication skills.
The argument is put forward that genetic mutations are viable then only, when the changed pattern of growth and/or metabolism is accommodated by the taxon-specific biochemistry of the organisms, i.e. by adaptive, somatic/physiological plasticity. The range of somatic plasticity under changing environmental conditions, therefore, has a certain predictive value for the kind of mutations that are likely to be viable.
Recent research into the evolution of higher cognition has piqued an interest in the eﬀect of natural selection on the ability of creatures to respond to their environment (behavioral plasticity). It is believed that environmental variation is required for plasticity to evolve in cases where the ability to be plastic is costly. We investigate one form of environmental variation: frequency dependent selection. Using tools in game theory, we investigate a few models of plasticity and outline the cases (...) where selection would be expected to maintain it. Ultimately we conclude that frequency dependent selection is likely insuﬃcient to maintain plasticity given reasonable assumptions about its costs. This result is very similar to one aspect of the well-discussed Baldwin eﬀect, where plasticity is ﬁrst selected for and then later selected against. We show how in these models one would expect plasticity to grow in the population and then be later reduced. Ultimately we conclude that if one is to account for the evolution of behavioral plasticity in this way, one must appeal to a very particular sort of external environmental variation. Keywords: Game theory, Evolutionarily stable strategy, Behavioral plasticity.. (shrink)
Increasingly, feminist theorists, such as Alison Martin and Ellen T. Armour, are attending to the numerous religious allusions within texts by Luce Irigaray. Engaging with this scholarship, this paper focuses on the problematic of evil that is elaborated within Irigarayan texts. Mobilizing the work of Catherine Malabou, the paper argues that Malabou's methodology of reading, which she identifies as "plastic," illuminates the logic at work within Irigaray's deployment of sacred stories.
In this paper I argue that because Churchland does not adequately address the distinction between high-level cognitive theories and low-level embodied theories, Churchland's claims for theory-laden perception lose their epistemological significance. I propose that Churchland and others debating the theory-ladenness of perception should distinguish carefully between two main ways in which perception is plastic: through modifying our high-level theories directly and through modifying our low-level theories using training experiences. This will require them to attend to two very different types of (...) constraints on the modification of our perceptions. (shrink)
Despite tremendous advances in neuroscience, the topic “brain, sex and gender” remains a matter of misleading interpretations, that go well beyond the bounds of science. In the 19th century, the difference in brain sizes was a major argument to explain the hierarchy between men and women, and was supposed to reflect innate differences in mental capacity. Nowadays, our understanding of the human brain has progressed dramatically with the demonstration of cerebral plasticity. The new brain imaging techniques have revealed the (...) role of the environment in continually re-shaping our brain all along our lifetimes as it goes through new experiences and acquires new knowledge. However, the idea that biology is a major determining factor for cognition and behavioral gender differentiation, is still very much alive. The media are far from being the only guilty party. Some scientific circles actively promote the idea of an innate origin of a gender difference in mental capacities. Experimental data from brain imaging, cognitive tests or genetics are often distorted to serve deterministic ideas. Such abuse of “scientific discourses” have to be counteracted by effective communication of clear and unbiased information to the citizens. This paper presents a critical analysis of selected examples which emphasize sex differences in three fields e.g. skills in language and mathematics, testosterone and financial risk-taking behavior, moral cognition. To shed light on the data and the methods used in some papers, we can now—with today’s knowledge on cerebral plasticity—challenge even more strongly, many false interpretations. Our goal here is double: we want to provide evidence against archaic beliefs about the biological determinism of sex differences but also promote a positive image of scientific research. (shrink)
Evidence has long suggested that ‘hardwiring’ is a poor metaphor for brain development. But the metaphor may be an apt one for the dominant paradigm for researching sex differences, which pushes most neuroscience studies of sex/gender inexorably towards the ‘discovery’ of sex/gender differences, and makes contemporary gender structures appear natural and inevitable. The argument we forward in this paper is twofold. In the first part of the paper, we address the dominant ‘hardwiring’ paradigm of sex/gender research in contemporary neuroscience, which (...) is built on broad consensus that there are important ‘original’ sex differences in brain structure and function, organized by sex-differentiating prenatal hormone exposures. We explain why this consensus is both unscientific and unethical. In the second part of the paper, we sketch an alternative research program focused not on the origins of sex/gender differences but on variability and plasticity of brain/behavior. We argue that interventional experiments based on this approach will address more tractable questions, and lead to much more satisfactory results than the brain organization paradigm can provide. (shrink)
The Modern Synthesis (MS) is the current paradigm in evolutionary biology. It was actually built by expanding on the conceptual foundations laid out by its predecessors, Darwinism and neo-Darwinism. For sometime now there has been talk of a new Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES), and this article begins to outline why we may need such an extension, and how it may come about. As philosopher Karl Popper has noticed, the current evolutionary theory is a theory of genes, and we still lack (...) a theory of forms. The field began, in fact, as a theory of forms in Darwin’s days, and the major goal that an EES will aim for is a unification of our theories of genes and of forms. This may be achieved through an organic grafting of novel concepts onto the foundational structure of the MS, particularly evolvability, phenotypic plasticity, epigenetic inheritance, complexity theory, and the theory of evolution in highly dimensional adaptive landscapes. (shrink)
In the fall of 1990 I had just began my doc- toral studies at the University of Connecticut. Freshly arrived from Italy, I came to the United States to work with Carl Schlichting on something to do with phenotypic plastic- ity. I spent most of that semester discussing with other graduate students what I thought was a momentous paper by Mary Jane West- Eberhard (1989) in the Annual Review of Ecol- ogy and Systematics. That paper, entitled Phe- notypic Plasticity (...) and the Origins of Diversity, was a (quite lengthy) forerunner of the (also quite bulky) book I am reviewing now. Like the paper, this volume has the potential to be momentous in the development of our ideas on phenotypic evolution. (shrink)
Sensory substitution devices are a type of sensory prosthesis that (typically) convert visual stimuli transduced by a camera into tactile or auditory stimulation. They are designed to be used by people with impaired vision so that they can recover some of the functions normally subserved by vision. In this chapter we will consider what philosophers might learn about the nature of the senses from the neuroscience of sensory substitution. We will show how sensory substitution devices work by exploiting the cross-modal (...)plasticity of sensory cortex: the ability of sensory cortex to pick up some types of information about the external environment irrespective of the nature of the sensory inputs it is processing. We explore the implications of cross-modal plasticity for theories of the senses that attempt to make distinctions between the senses on the basis of neurobiology. (shrink)
Le Laboratoire d’ANalyse Cognitive de l’Information (LANCI) effectue des recherches sur le traitement cognitif de l’information. La recherche fondamentale porte sur les multiples conceptions de l’information. Elle s’intéresse plus particulièrement aux modèles cognitifs de la classification et de la catégorisation, tant dans une perspective symbolique que connexionniste. La recherche appliquée explore les technologies informatiques qui manipulent l’information. Le territoire privilégié est celui du texte. La recherche est de nature interdisciplinaire. Elle en appelle à la philosophie, à l’informatique, à la linguistique (...) et à la psychologie. Volume 6, Numéro 2007-02 – Août 2007 Publication du Laboratoire d’ANalyse Cognitive de l’Information Directeurs : Luc Faucher, Jean-Guy Meunier, Serge Robert et Pierre Poirier Université du Québec à Montréal Document disponible en ligne à l’adresse suivante : www.lanci.uqam.ca Tirage : 5 exemplaires Aucune partie de cette publication ne peut être conservée dans un système de recherche documentaire, traduite ou reproduite sous quelque forme que ce soit - imprimé, procédé photomécanique, microfilm, microfiche ou tout autre moyen - sans la permission écrite de l’éditeur. Tous droits réservés pour tous pays. / All rights reserved. No part of this publication covered by the copyrights hereon may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means - graphic, electronic or mechanical - without the prior written permission of the publisher. Dépôt légal – Bibliothèque Nationale du Canada Dépôt légal – Bibliothèque Nationale du Québec.. (shrink)
Radically new or unexpected findings in a science demand an openness to new concepts and styles of explanation. The time is more than ripe for asking ourselves what we have learned from the research program of comparative genomics. Where not long ago the human genome was expected to reveal a close association of complexity with the quantitative expansion of the roster of unique genes, more recent findings, especially in relation to comparisons between human and chimp, have raised the bracing possibility (...) that when it comes to complexity, it may be that `less is more'. But `less is more' is not the only observation or inference that follows from the data. The idea of `progressive detachment' will be introduced and set forth as the most perspicuous conceptual resource for unifying and interpreting the overall findings from comparative genomics to date. (shrink)
This paper addresses what some view as a progressive and decades-long devaluing of the liberal arts in our educational institutions and society at large. It draws attention to symptoms of this trend and possible contributing factors, identifies benefits commonly attributed to the liberal arts, and then shows how insights from recent research on neuroplasticity provide good reason to believe that a traditional liberal education has positive effects on a person's brain. The paper supports the thesis that well-designed liberal arts courses (...) can literally transform students' minds and lives as a result of unique and synergistic brain processes activated and strengthened by the leaming experiences such courses provide. It finishes with recommendations to help reinvigorate and promote the value of liberal education. (shrink)
Quartz & Sejnowski's target article concentrates on the development of a number of neural parameters, especially neuronal processes, in the mammalian brain. Data on learning-related changes in spines and synapses in the developing avian brain are consistent with a constructivist interpretation. The issue of an integration of selectionist and constructivist views is discussed.
This paper addresses concerns raised recently by Datteri (Biol Philos 24:301–324, 2009) and Craver (Philos Sci 77(5):840–851, 2010) about the use of brain-extending prosthetics in experimental neuroscience. Since the operation of the implant induces plastic changes in neural circuits, it is reasonable to worry that operational knowledge of the hybrid system will not be an accurate basis for generalisation when modelling the unextended brain. I argue, however, that Datteri’s no-plasticity constraint unwittingly rules out numerous experimental paradigms in behavioural and (...) systems neuroscience which also elicit neural plasticity. Furthermore, I propose that Datteri and Craver’s arguments concerning the limitations of prosthetic modelling in basic neuroscience, as opposed to neuroengineering, rests on too narrow a view of the ways models in neuroscience should be evaluated, and that a more pluralist approach is needed. I distinguish organisational validity of models from mechanistic validity. I argue that while prosthetic models may be deficient in the latter of these explanatory virtues because of neuroplasticity, they excel in the former since organisational validity tracks the extent to which a model captures coding principles that are invariant with plasticity. Changing the brain, I conclude, is one viable route towards explaining the brain. (shrink)
Lifelines supports the theme that behavioral development is a fluid, life-long phenomenon. In contrast, many emotional and cognitive traits are subject to strong genetic influence, and are highly stable over many years. The manner in which neuroplasticity and trait stability cooccur needs to be modeled. An outline of such a model is provided to promote discussion of this complex issue.
No. Animals' primary problem is the shaping of movements, guided by and adapting to sensory signals. This requires a narrower class of biorobotic models than that spanned by Webb's dimensions and examples. We claim that all model variables and mechanisms must have real counterparts, input vectors must model known sensor fields, internal state vectors and transformations must model neurophysiological processes, and output vectors must model coordinated muscle signals.
Although it is not their fault, Shors & Matzel's attempt to review the LTP and learning hypothesis suffers from there being no clear published statement of the idea. Their summary of relevant evidence is not without error, however, and it oversimplifies fundamental issues relating to NMDA receptor function. Their attentional hypothesis is intriguing but requires a better systems-level understanding of how attention contributes to cognitive function.
Controversy surrounds several experiments that have addressed whether selective synaptic strengthening occurs during learning. To date, the evidence suggests that widespread alterations in synaptic strength, through either kindling or electroconvulsive shock, can disrupt this hypothetical process. The lack of evidence for selective modification of learning through LTP stimulation, however, provides difficulties for both the prevailing hypothesis and the hypothesis advanced by Shors & Matzel. Subsequent experiments may indicate a role for LTP in both learning and arousal.
Enzyme directed genetic mechanisms causing random DNA sequence alterations are ubiquitous in both eukaryotes and prokaryotes. A number of molecular geneticist have invoked adaptation through natural selection to account for this fact, however, alternative explanations have also flourished. The population geneticist G.C. Williams has dismissed the possibility of selection for mutator activity on a priori grounds. In this paper, I attempt a refutation of Williams' argument. In addition, I discuss some conceptual problems related to recent claims made by microbiologists on (...) the adaptiveness of molecular variety generators in the evolution of prokaryotes. A distinction is proposed between selection for mutations caused by a mutator activity and selection for the mutator activity proper. The latter requires a concept of fitness different from the one commonly used in microbiology. (shrink)
The consideration of humans going through sensitive periods of life, such as childhood and the early postpartum, may be helpful in understanding the cognitive and evolutionary puzzle of human rituals. During such periods, certain brain systems may mediate an increased susceptibility to learn new behaviors, rational or irrational. (Published Online February 8 2007).
We offer an argument for the extended mind based on considerations from brain development. We argue that our brains develop to function in partnership with cognitive resources located in our external environments. Through our cultural upbringing we are trained to use artefacts in problem solving that become factored into the cognitive routines our brains support. Our brains literally grow to work in close partnership with resources we regularly and reliably interact with. We take this argument to be in line with (...) complementarity or “second-wave” defences of the extended mind that stress the functional differences between biological elements and external, environmental resources in putative cases of extended cognition. Complementarity defences argue that many of the kinds of cognition humans excel at can only be accomplished by brains working together with a body that directly manipulates and acts on the world [Rowlands (1999); Menary (2007); Sutton (2010)]. We argue that complementarity and functionalist defences of the extended mind aren’t opposed, but that complementarity considerations can provide much needed and hitherto under exploited leverage in defending EMT. Moreover, the developmental work we will describe adds extra weight to the complementarity case for EMT. (shrink)