In spite of the remarkable progress made in the burgeoning field of social neuroscience, the neural mechanisms that underlie social encounters are only beginning to be studied and could —paradoxically— be seen as representing the ‘dark matter’ of social neuroscience. Recent conceptual and empirical developments consistently indicate the need for investigations, which allow the study of real-time social encounters in a truly interactive manner. This suggestion is based on the premise that social cognition is fundamentally different when we (...) are in interaction with others rather than merely observing them. In this article, we outline the theoretical conception of a second-person approach to other minds and review evidence from neuroimaging, psychophysiological studies and related fields to argue for the development of a second-person neuroscience, which will help neuroscience to really go social; this may also be relevant for our understanding of psychiatric disorders construed as disorders of social cognition. (shrink)
As philosophical and scientific arguments for free will skepticism continue to gain traction, we are likely to see a fundamental shift in the way people think about free will and moral responsibility. Such shifts raise important practical and existential concerns: What if we came to disbelieve in free will? What would this mean for our interpersonal relationships, society, morality, meaning, and the law? What would it do to our standing as human beings? Would it cause nihilism and despair as some (...) maintain or would it rather have a humanizing effect on our practices and policies, freeing us from the negative effects of belief in free will? In this chapter we consider the practical implications of free will skepticism and argue that life without free will and basic desert moral responsibility would not be as destructive as many people believe. We argue that prospects of finding meaning in life or of sustaining good interpersonal relationships, for example, would not be threatened. On treatment of criminals, we argue that although retributivism and severe punishment, such as the death penalty, would be ruled out, preventive detention and rehabilitation programs would still be justified. While we will touch on all these issues below, our focus will be primarily on this last issue. -/- We begin in section I by considering two different routes to free will skepticism. The first denies the causal efficacy of the types of willing required for free will and receives its contemporary impetus from pioneering work in neuroscience by Benjamin Libet, Daniel Wegner, and John-Dylan Haynes. The second, which is more common in the philosophical literature, does not deny the causal efficacy of the will but instead claims that whether this causal efficacy is deterministic or indeterministic, it does not achieve the level of control to count as free will by the standards of the historical debate. We argue that while there are compelling objections to the first route—e.g., Al Mele (2009), Eddy Nahmias (2002, 2011), and Neil Levy (2005)—the second route to free will skepticism remains intact. In section II we argue that free will skepticism allows for a workable morality, and, rather than negatively impacting our personal relationships and meaning in life, may well improve our well-being and our relationships to others since it would tend to eradicate an often destructive form of moral anger. In section III we argue that free will skepticism allows for adequate ways of responding to criminal behavior—in particular, incapacitation, rehabilitation, and alternation of relevant social conditions—and that these methods are both morally justified and sufficient for good social policy. We present and defend our own preferred model for dealing with dangerous criminals, an incapacitation account built on the right to self-protection analogous to the justification for quarantine (see Pereboom 2001, 2013, 2014a; Caruso 2016a), and we respond to recent objections to it by Michael Corrado and John Lemos. (shrink)
A number of scientists have recently argued that neuroscience provides strong evidence against the requirements of the folk notion of free will. In one such line of argumentation, it is claimed that choice is required for free will, and neuroscience is showing that people do not make choices. In this article, we argue that this no-choice line of argumentation relies on a specific conception of choice. We then provide evidence that people do not share the conception of choice (...) required of the argument, nor do people hold that free will requires the conception of choice on which the argument relies. This leaves the proponents of the no-choice argument with a dilemma: Either they adopt a conception of choice that is not required of the folk concept of free will and thus they cease to be talking about the folk concept of free will, or they adopt a conception of choice that aligns with the folk concept of choice and thus the no-choice argument fails. (shrink)
A crucial socio-political challenge for our age is how to rede!ne or extend group membership in such a way that it adequately responds to phenomena related to globalization like the prevalence of migration, the transformation of family and social networks, and changes in the position of the nation state. Two centuries ago Immanuel Kant assumed that international connectedness between humans would inevitably lead to the realization of world citizen rights. Nonetheless, globalization does not just foster cosmopolitanism but simultaneously yields the (...) development of new group boundaries. Group membership is indeed a fundamental issue in political processes, for: “the primary good that we distribute to one another is membership in some human community” – it is within the political community that power is being shared and, if possible, held back from non-members. In sum, it is appropriate to consider group membership a fundamental ingredient of politics and political theory. How group boundaries are drawn is then of only secondary importance. Indeed, Schmitt famously declared that “[e]very religious, moral, economic, ethical, or other antithesis transforms into a political one if it is suffciently strong to group human beings e#ectively according to friend and enemy”. Even though Schmitt’s idea of politics as being constituted by such antithetical groupings is debatable, it is plausible to consider politics among other things as a way of handling intergroup di#erences. Obviously, some of the group-constituting factors are more easily discernable from one’s appearance than others, like race, ethnicity, or gender. As a result, factors like skin color or sexual orientation sometimes carry much political weight even though individuals would rather con!ne these to their private lives and individual identity. Given the potential tension between the political reality of particular groupmembership defnitions and the – individual and political – struggles against those definitions and corresponding attitudes, citizenship and civic behavior becomes a complex issue. As Kymlicka points out, it implies for citizens an additional obligation to non-discrimination regarding those groups: “[t]his extension of non-discrimination from government to civil society is not just a shift in the scale of liberal norms, it also involves a radical extension in the obligations of liberal citizenship”. Unfortunately, empirical research suggests that political intolerance towards other groups “may be the more natural and ‘easy’ position to hold”. Indeed, since development of a virtue of civility or decency regarding other groups is not easy, as it often runs against deeply engrained stereotypes and prejudices, political care for matters like education is justified. Separate schools, for example, may erode children’s motivation to act as citizens, erode their capacity for it and!nally diminish their opportunities to experience transcending their particular group membership and behave as decent citizens. This chapter outlines a possible explanation for such consequences. That explanation will be found to be interdisciplinary in nature, combining insights from political theory and cognitive neuroscience. In doing so, it does not focus on collective action, even though that is a usual focus for political studies. For example, results pertaining to collective political action have demonstrated that the relation between attitudes and overt voting behavior or political participation is not as direct and strong as was hoped for. Several conditions, including the individual’s experiences, self-interest, and relevant social norms, turned out to interfere in the link between his or her attitude and behavior. Important as collective action is, this chapter is concerned with direct interaction between agents and the in$uence of group membership on such interaction – in particular joint action. Although politics does include many forms of action that require no such physical interaction, such physical interaction between individuals remains fundamental to politics – this is the reason why separate schooling may eventually undermine the citizenship of its isolated pupils. This chapter will focus on joint action, de!ned as: “any form of social interaction whereby two or more individuals coordinate their actions in space and time to bring about a change in the environment”. Cognitive neuroscienti!c evidence demonstrates that for such joint action to succeed, the agents have to integrate the actions and expected actions of the other person in their own action plans at several levels of speci!city. Although neuroscienti!c research is necessarily limited to simple forms of action, this concurs with a philosophical analysis of joint action, which I will discuss below. (shrink)
It is becoming ever more accepted that investigations of mind span the brain, body, and environment. To broaden the scope of what is relevant in such investigations is to increase the amount of data scientists must reckon with. Thus, a major challenge facing scientists who study the mind is how to make big data intelligible both within and between fields. One way to face this challenge is to structure the data within a framework and to make it intelligible by means (...) of a common theory. Radical embodied cognitive neuroscience can function as such a framework, with dynamical systems theory as its methodology, and self-organized criticality as its theory. (shrink)
euroscience of Rule-Guided Behavior brings together, for the first time, the experiments and theories that have created the new science of rules. Rules are central to human behavior, but until now the field of neuroscience lacked a synthetic approach to understanding them. How are rules learned, retrieved from memory, maintained in consciousness and implemented? How are they used to solve problems and select among actions and activities? How are the various levels of rules represented in the brain, ranging from (...) simple conditional ones if a traffic light turns red, then stop to rules and strategies of such sophistication that they defy description? And how do brain regions interact to produce rule-guided behavior? These are among the most fundamental questions facing neuroscience, but until recently there was relatively little progress in answering them. It was difficult to probe brain mechanisms in humans, and expert opinion held that animals lacked the capacity for such high-level behavior. However, rapid progress in neuroimaging technology has allowed investigators to explore brain mechanisms in humans, while increasingly sophisticated behavioral methods have revealed that animals can and do use high-level rules to control their behavior. The resulting explosion of information has led to a new science of rules, but it has also produced a plethora of overlapping ideas and terminology and a field sorely in need of synthesis. In this book, Silvia Bunge and Jonathan Wallis bring together the worlds leading cognitive and systems neuroscientists to explain the most recent research on rule-guided behavior. Their work covers a wide range of disciplines and methods, including neuropsychology, functional magnetic resonance imaging, neurophysiology, electroencephalography, neuropharmacology, near-infrared spectroscopy, and transcranial magnetic stimulation. This unprecedented synthesis is a must-read for anyone interested in how complex behavior is controlled and organized by the brain. (shrink)
The objective of this article is to review extant empirical studies of empathy in narrative reading in light of (i) contemporary literary theory, and (ii) neuroscientific studies of empathy, and to discuss how a closer interplay between neuroscience and literary studies may enhance our understanding of empathy in narrative reading. An introduction to some of the philosophical roots of empathy is followed by tracing its application in contemporary literary theory, in which scholars have pursued empathy with varying degrees of (...) conceptual precision, often within the context of embodied/enactive cognition. The presentation of empirical literary studies of empathy is subsequently contextualized by an overview of psychological and neuroscientific aspects of empathy. Highlighting points of convergence and divergence, the discussion illustrates how findings of empirical literary studies align with recent neuroscientific research. The article concludes with some prospects for future empirical research, suggesting that digitization may contribute to advancing the scientific knowledge of empathy in narrative reading. (shrink)
We outline a framework of multilevel neurocognitive mechanisms that incorporates representation and computation. We argue that paradigmatic explanations in cognitive neuroscience fit this framework and thus that cognitive neuroscience constitutes a revolutionary break from traditional cognitive science. Whereas traditional cognitive scientific explanations were supposed to be distinct and autonomous from mechanistic explanations, neurocognitive explanations aim to be mechanistic through and through. Neurocognitive explanations aim to integrate computational and representational functions and structures across multiple levels of organization in order (...) to explain cognition. To a large extent, practicing cognitive neuroscientists have already accepted this shift, but philosophical theory has not fully acknowledged and appreciated its significance. As a result, the explanatory framework underlying cognitive neuroscience has remained largely implicit. We explicate this framework and demonstrate its contrast with previous approaches. (shrink)
The central aim of this paper is to shed light on the nature of explanation in computational neuroscience. I argue that computational models in this domain possess explanatory force to the extent that they describe the mechanisms responsible for producing a given phenomenon—paralleling how other mechanistic models explain. Conceiving computational explanation as a species of mechanistic explanation affords an important distinction between computational models that play genuine explanatory roles and those that merely provide accurate descriptions or predictions of phenomena. (...) It also serves to clarify the pattern of model refinement and elaboration undertaken by computational neuroscientists. (shrink)
This paper compares the free energy neuroscience now advocated by Karl Friston and his colleagues with that hypothesised by Freud, arguing that Freud's notions of conflict and trauma can be understood in terms of computational complexity. It relates Hobson and Friston's work on dreaming and the reduction of complexity to contemporary accounts of dreaming and the consolidation of memory, and advances the hypothesis that mental disorder can be understood in terms of computational complexity and the mechanisms, including synaptic pruning, (...) that have evolved to reduce it. (shrink)
Neuroscience and psychology have recently turned their attention to the study of the subpersonal underpinnings of moral judgment. In this article we critically examine an influential strand of research originating in Greene's neuroimaging studies of ‘utilitarian’ and ‘non-utilitarian’ moral judgement. We argue that given that the explananda of this research are specific personal-level states—moral judgments with certain propositional contents—its methodology has to be sensitive to criteria for ascribing states with such contents to subjects. We argue that current research has (...) often failed to meet this constraint by failing to correctly ‘fix’ key aspects of moral judgment, criticism we support by detailed examples from the scientific literature. (shrink)
The dominant neuroscientific theory of spatial memory is, like many theories in neuroscience, a multilevel description of a mechanism. The theory links the activities of molecules, cells, brain regions, and whole organisms into an integrated sketch of an explanation for the ability of organisms to navigate novel environments. Here I develop a taxonomy of interlevel experimental strategies for integrating the levels in such multilevel mechanisms. These experimental strategies include activation strategies, interference strategies, and additive strategies. These strategies are mutually (...) reinforcing, providing a kind of interlevel and intratheoretic robustness that has not previously been recognized. (shrink)
There is a long-standing debate in the philosophy of mind and philosophy of science regarding how best to interpret the relationship between neuroscience and psychology. It has traditionally been argued that either the two domains will evolve and change over time until they converge on a single unified account of human behaviour, or else that they will continue to work in isolation given that they identify properties and states that exist autonomously from one another (due to the multiple-realizability of (...) psychological states). In this paper, I argue that progress in psychology and neuroscience is contingent on the fact that both of these positions are false. Contra the convergence position, I argue that the theories of psychology and the theories of neuroscience are scientifically valuable as representational tools precisely because they cannot be integrated into a single account. However, contra the autonomy position, I propose that the theories of psychology and neuroscience are deeply dependent on one another for further refinement and improvement. In this respect, there is an irreconcilable codependence between psychology and neuroscience that is necessary for both domains to improve and progress. The two domains are forever linked while simultaneously being unable to integrate. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Kaplan (Synthese 183:339–373, 2011) takes up the task of extending Craver’s (Explaining the brain, 2007) mechanistic account of explanation in neuroscience to the new territory of computational neuroscience. He presents the model to mechanism mapping (3M) criterion as a condition for a model’s explanatory adequacy. This mechanistic approach is intended to replace earlier accounts which posited a level of computational analysis conceived as distinct and autonomous from underlying mechanistic details. In this paper I discuss (...) work in computational neuroscience that creates difficulties for the mechanist project. Carandini and Heeger (Nat Rev Neurosci 13:51–62, 2012) propose that many neural response properties can be understood in terms of canonical neural computations. These are “standard computational modules that apply the same fundamental operations in a variety of contexts.” Importantly, these computations can have numerous biophysical realisations, and so straightforward examination of the mechanisms underlying these computations carries little explanatory weight. Through a comparison between this modelling approach and minimal models in other branches of science, I argue that computational neuroscience frequently employs a distinct explanatory style, namely, efficient coding explanation. Such explanations cannot be assimilated into the mechanistic framework but do bear interesting similarities with evolutionary and optimality explanations elsewhere in biology. (shrink)
Kaplan and Craver claim that all explanations in neuroscience appeal to mechanisms. They extend this view to the use of mathematical models in neuroscience and propose a constraint such models must meet in order to be explanatory. I analyze a mathematical model used to provide explanations in dynamical systems neuroscience and indicate how this explanation cannot be accommodated by the mechanist framework. I argue that this explanation is well characterized by Batterman’s account of minimal model explanations and (...) that it demonstrates how relationships between explanatory models in neuroscience and the systems they represent is more complex than has been appreciated. (shrink)
We sketch a framework for building a unified science of cognition. This unification is achieved by showing how functional analyses of cognitive capacities can be integrated with the multilevel mechanistic explanations of neural systems. The core idea is that functional analyses are sketches of mechanisms , in which some structural aspects of a mechanistic explanation are omitted. Once the missing aspects are filled in, a functional analysis turns into a full-blown mechanistic explanation. By this process, functional analyses are seamlessly integrated (...) with multilevel mechanistic explanations. (shrink)
Joshua Greene has argued that several lines of empirical research, including his own fMRI studies of brain activity during moral decision-making, comprise strong evidence against the legitimacy of deontology as a moral theory. This is because, Greene maintains, the empirical studies establish that “characteristically deontological” moral thinking is driven by prepotent emotional reactions which are not a sound basis for morality in the contemporary world, while “characteristically consequentialist” thinking is a more reliable moral guide because it is characterized by greater (...) cognitive command and control. In this essay, I argue that Greene does not succeed in drawing a strong statistical or causal connection between prepotent emotional reactions and deontological theory, and so does not undermine the legitimacy of deontological moral theories. The results that Greene relies on from neuroscience and social psychology do not establish his conclusion that consequentialism is superior to deontology. (shrink)
According to some philosophers, computational explanation is proprietary to psychology—it does not belong in neuroscience. But neuroscientists routinely offer computational explanations of cognitive phenomena. In fact, computational explanation was initially imported from computability theory into the science of mind by neuroscientists, who justified this move on neurophysiological grounds. Establishing the legitimacy and importance of computational explanation in neuroscience is one thing; shedding light on it is another. I raise some philosophical questions pertaining to computational explanation and outline some promising (...) answers that are being developed by a number of authors. (shrink)
The need to align multiple experimental procedures and produce converging results so as to demonstrate that the phenomenon under investigation is real and not an artifact is a commonplace both in scientiﬁc practice and discussions of scientiﬁc methodology (Campbell and Stanley 1963; Wimsatt 1981). Although sometimes this is the purpose of aligning techniques, often there is a different purpose—multiple techniques are sought to supply different perspectives on the phenomena under investigation that need to be integrated to answer the questions scientists (...) are asking. After introducing this function, I will illustrate it by considering three of the major techniques in cognitive neuroscience for linking cognitive function with neural structure. (shrink)
What can neuroscience offer to educators? Much of the debate has focused on whether basic research on the brain can translate into direct applications within the classroom. Accompanying ethical concern has centered on whether neuroeducation has made empty promises to educators. Relatively little investigation has been made into educators’ expectations regarding neuroscience research and how they might find it professionally useful. In order to address this question, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 13 educators who were repeat attendees of (...) the Learning & the Brain conferences. Responses suggest that ‘brain based’ pedagogical strategies are not all that is sought; indeed, respondents were more often drawn to the conference out of curiosity about the brain than a desire to gain new teaching methods. Of those who reported that research had influenced their classroom practice, most did not distinguish between neuroscience and cognitive psychology. Responses indicated that learning about neuroscience can help educators maintain patience, optimism and professionalism with their students, increase their credibility with colleagues and parents, and renew their sense of professional purpose. While not necessarily representative of the entire population, these themes indicate that current research in neuroscience can have real relevance to educators’ work. Future ethical discussions of neuroeducation should take into account this broader range of motivations and benefits. (shrink)
The idea of integrating evolutionary biology and psychology has great promise, but one that will be compromised if psychological functions are conceived too abstractly and neuroscience is not allowed to play a contructive role. We argue that the proper integration of neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology requires a telelogical as opposed to a merely componential analysis of function. A teleological analysis is required in neuroscience itself; we point to traditional and curent research methods in neuroscience, which (...) make critical use of distinctly teleological functional considerations in brain cartography. Only by invoking teleological criteria can researchers distinguish the fruitful ways of identifying brain components from the myriad of possible ways. One likely reason for reluctance to turn to neuroscience is fear of reduction, but we argue that, in the context of a teleological perspective on function, this concern is misplaced. Adducing such theoretical considerations as top-down and bottom-up constraints on neuroscientific and psychological models, as well as existing cases of productive, multidisciplinary cooperation, we argue that integration of neuroscience into psychology and evolutionary biology is likely to be mutually beneficial. We also show how it can be accommodated methodologically within the framework of an interfield theory. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that neuroscience has been harmed by the widespread adoption of seriously inadequate methodologies or philosophies of science - most notably inductivism and falsificationism. I argue that neuroscience, in seeking to understand the human brain and mind, needs to follow in the footsteps of evolution.
After three proceedings in which neuroscience was a relevant factor for the final verdict in Italian courts, for the first time a recent case puts in question the legal relevance of neuroscientific evidence. This decision deserves international attention in its underlining that the uncertainty still affecting neuroscientific knowledge can have a significant impact on the law. It urges the consideration of such uncertainty and the development of a shared management of it.
The aim of this paper is to examine the usefulness of the Machamer, Darden, and Craver (2000) mechanism approach to gaining an understanding of explanation in cognitive neuroscience. We argue that although the mechanism approach can capture many aspects of explanation in cognitive neuroscience, it cannot capture everything. In particular, it cannot completely capture all aspects of the content and significance of mental representations or the evaluative features constitutive of psychopathology.
The problem of animal consciousness has profound implications on our concept of nature and of our place in the natural world. In philosophy of mind and cognitive neuroscience the problem of animal consciousness raises two main questions (Velmans, 2007): the distribution question (“are there conscious animals beside humans?”) and the phenomenological question (“what is it like to be a non-human animal?”). In order to answer these questions, many approaches take into account similarities and dissimilarities in animal and human behavior, (...) e.g. the use of language or tools and mirror self-recognition (Allen and Bekoff, 2007), however behavioral arguments don’t seem to be conclusive (Baars, 2005). Cognitive neuroscience is providing comparative data on structural and functional similarities, respectively called “homologies” and “analogies”. Many experimental results suggest that the thalamocortical system is essential for consciousness (Edelman and Tononi, 2000; Tononi, 2008). The argument from homology states that the general structure of thalamocortical system remained the same in the last 100-200 million years, for it is neuroanatomically similar in all the present and past mammals and it didn’t change much during phylogeny (Allen and Bekoff, 2007). The argument from analogy states that the key functional processes correlated with consciousness in humans are still present in all other mammals and many other animals (Baars, 2005). These processes are information integration through effective cortical connectivity (Massimini et al., 2005; Rosanova et al., 2012) and elaboration of information at a global level (Dehaene and Changeux, 2011). On this basis, the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness states that all mammals, birds, and many other animals (such as octopuses) possess the neurological substrates of consciousness (Low et al., 2012). Conscious experience is private (Chalmers, 1995; Nagel, 1974) therefore the answer to the phenomenological question may be impossible. Nevertheless, cognitive neuroscience may provide an answer to the distribution question, showing that conscious experience is not limited to humans since it is a major biological adaptation going back millions of years. (shrink)
Neuroscience is a laboratory-based science that spans multiple levels of analysis from molecular genetics to behavior. At every level of analysis experiments are designed in order to answer empirical questions about phenomena of interest. Understanding the nature and structure of experimentation in neuroscience is fundamental for assessing the quality of the evidence produced by such experiments and the kinds of claims that are warranted by the data. This article provides a general conceptual framework for thinking about evidence and (...) experimentation in neuroscience with a particular focus on two research areas: cognitive neuroscience and cognitive neurobiology. (shrink)
I examine one of the conceptual cornerstones of the field known as computational neuroscience, especially as articulated in Churchland et al. (1990), an article that is arguably the locus classicus of this term and its meaning. The authors of that article try, but I claim ultimately fail, to mark off the enterprise of computational neuroscience as an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the cognitive, information-processing functions of the brain. The failure is a result of the fact that the authors (...) provide no principled means to distinguish the study of neural systems as genuinely computational/information-processing from the study of any complex causal process. I then argue for two things. First, that in order to appropriately mark off computational neuroscience, one must be able to assign a semantics to the states over which an attempt to provide a computational explanation is made. Second, I show that neither of the two most popular ways of trying to effect such content assignation -- informational semantics and 'biosemantics' -- can make the required distinction, at least not in a way that a computational neuroscientist should be happy about. The moral of the story as I take it is not a negative one to the effect that computational neuroscience is in principle incapable of doing what it wants to do. Rather, it is to point out some work that remains to be done. (shrink)
This paper analyses ethical training in neuroscience curricula at universities in Australia, Canada, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom. The main findings are that 52 % of all courses have ethical training available, while in 82 % of those cases, the training is mandatory. In terms of specific contents of the teaching, ethical issues about ‘animal subjects and human participation in research’, ‘scientific misconduct’, and ‘treatment of data’ were the most prominent. A special emphasis during the research (...) was placed on the prevalence of dual-use bioethics. In total, only 3 % of all courses mention it in any of their modules. One of the major findings of the survey was the trend towards ‘mainstreaming’ ethics education particularly in the UK, which is to disperse ethics among the various modules within the education instead of relying on a single ethics module. The paper discusses the utility of this approach for science education as well as describes the overall difficulties that course coordinators face when trying to teach ethics based on the responses to the qualitative part to the survey. (shrink)
It is widely held that a successful theory of the mind will be neuroscientific. In this paper we ask, first, what this claim means, and, secondly, whether it is true. In answer to the first question, we argue that the claim is ambiguous between two views--one plausible but unsubstantive, and one substantive but highly controversial. In answer to the second question, we argue that neither the evidence from neuroscience itself nor from other scientific and philosophical considerations supports the controversial (...) view. (shrink)
Despite the voluminous literature on biological functions produced over the last 40 years, few philosophers have studied the concept of function as it is used in neuroscience. Recently, Craver (forthcoming; also see Craver 2001) defended the causal role theory against the selected effects theory as the most appropriate theory of function for neuroscience. The following argues that though neuroscientists do study causal role functions, the scope of that theory is not as universal as claimed. Despite the strong prima (...) facie superiority of the causal role theory, the selected effects theory (when properly developed) can handle many cases from neuroscience with equal facility. It argues this by presenting a new theory of function that generalizes the notion of a ‘selection process’ to include processes such as neural selection, antibody selection, and some forms of learning—that is, to include structures that have been differentially retained as well as those that have been differentially reproduced. This view, called the generalized selected effects theory of function, will be defended from criticism and distinguished from similar views in the literature. (shrink)
This paper discusses possible correspondences between neuroscientific findings and phenomenologically informed methodologies in the investigation of kinesthetic empathy in watching dance. Interest in phenomenology has recently increased in cognitive science (Gallagher and Zahavi 2008 ) and dance scholars have recently contributed important new insights into the use of phenomenology in dance studies (e.g. Legrand and Ravn (Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 8(3):389–408, 2009 ); Parviainen (Dance Research Journal 34(1):11–26, 2002 ); Rothfield (Topoi 24:43–53, 2005 )). In vision research, coherent neural (...) mechanisms for perceptual phenomena were uncovered, thus supporting correlation of phenomenology and neurophysiology Spillmann (Vision Research 49(12):1507–1521, 2009 ). Correspondingly, correlating subjects’ neurophysiological data with qualitative responses has been proposed as a means to research the human brain in the study of consciousness (Gallagher and Zahavi 2008 ), with similar issues in clinical psychology Mishara (Current Opinion in Psychiatry 20(6):559–569, 2007 ) and biology Kosslyn et al. (American Psychologist 57:341–351, 2002 ). Yet the relationship between neuroscience and qualitative research informed by phenomenology remains problematic. How qualitative research normally handles subjective experiences is difficult to reconcile with standard statistical analysis of objective data. Recent technological developments in cognitive neuroscience have inspired a number of researchers to use more naturalistic stimuli, outside the laboratory environment, such as dance, thereby perhaps helping to open up the cognitive sciences to more phenomenologically informed approaches. A question central to our research, addressed here, is how the phenomenal experiences of a dance audience member, as accessed by qualitative research methods, can be related to underlying neurophysiological events. We outline below some methodological challenges encountered in relating audiences’ first-person accounts of watching live dance performance to neurophysiological evidence of their experiences. (shrink)
This paper considers clinical psychoanalysis together with developmental psychology (particularly attachment theory), evolution, and neuroscience in the context a Bayesian account of confirmation and disconfrimation. -/- In it I argue that these converging sources of support indicate that the combination of relatively low predictive power and broad explanatory scope that characterise the theories of both Freud and Darwin suggest that Freud's theory, like Darwin's, may strike deeply into natural phenomena. -/- The same argument, however, suggests that conclusive confirmation for (...) Freudian hypotheses, as in the case of Darwin's, will come from outside the original domain of explanation sketched out by Freud. As in Darwin's case conclusive confirmation came from understanding the physical mechanisms or reproduction, in Freud's case it will come from understanding the neural mechanisms that realise the phenomena described in psychoanalysis. (shrink)
Cognitive neuroscience aspires to explain how the brain produces conscious states. Many people think this aspiration is threatened by the subjective nature of introspective reports, as well as by certain philosophical arguments. We propose that good neuroscientific explanations of conscious states can consolidate an interpretation of introspective reports, in spite of their subjective nature. This is because the relative quality of explanations can be evaluated on independent, methodological grounds. To illustrate, we review studies that suggest that aspects of the (...) feeling of being in control of one's bodily movement can be explained in terms of the complex and surprising way the brain predicts movement. This is a modest type of functional, contrastive explanation. Though we do not refute the threatening philosophical arguments, we show that they do not apply to this type of explanation. (shrink)
Recent developments in neuroscience create new opportunities for understanding the human brain. The power to do good, however, is also the power to harm, so scientific advances inevitably foster as many dystopian fears as utopian hopes. For instance, neuroscience lends itself to the fear that people will be forced to reveal thoughts and feelings which they would not have chosen to reveal, and of which they may be unaware. It also lends itself to the worry that people will (...) be encouraged to submit to medication or surgery which, even if otherwise beneficial, alters their brain in ways that undermine their identity and agency. As Kenneth Foster notes, neural implants can have surprising and unintended adverse effects, even when they help to mitigate the loss of bodily control associated with Parkinson’s disease, or help to provide hearing for children who would otherwise be profoundly deaf. While the risk of adverse outcomes are scarcely specific to neuroscience, he thinks that ‘These issues are perhaps more acute’ with the latter than with other medical interventions, ‘because they are intimately and fundamentally related to a person’s communication with the outside world’. [ 2006 196] -/- Neuroscience, like genomic science, then, is likely to create new ways of harming people. Many of these will involve violations of privacy. However, these are unlikely fundamentally to challenge the reasons to value privacy, or our ability to protect it in the foreseeable future. Rather, I would suggest, the major threat to privacy comes from the difficulty of determining its nature and value and when, if ever, efforts to protect it are justified. So I will start by examining some threats to privacy, and their implications for neuroscience, before turning to philosophical problems in understanding the nature and value of privacy, and the practical consequences of those philosophical difficulties. (shrink)
Scientific developments take place in a socio-political context but scientists often ignore the ways their innovations will be both interpreted by the media and used by policy makers. In the rush to neuroscientific discovery important questions are overlooked, such as the ways: (1) the brain, environment and behavior are related; (2) biological changes are mediated by social organization; (3) institutional bias in the application of technical procedures ignores race, class and gender dimensions of society; (4) knowledge is used to the (...) advantage of the powerful; and (5) its applications may reinforce existing structures of power that pose ethical questions about distributive justice. The case of crime, deception and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) shows the complexity, and the political and ethical challenges that confront those who seek to use neuroscience to explain the etiology of crime, and who base policy on its findings. An ethically grounded neuroscience needs to take account of existing structures of power and difference, and to develop a public neuropolitical consciousness that ensures that those subject to risk by the application of science and technology are participants in the decision-making processes involving the implementation of policies that affect them. (shrink)
This paper introduces the motivation and idea behind the recently founded interdisciplinary initiative Critical Neuroscience ( http://www.critical-neuroscience.org ). Critical Neuroscience is an approach that strives to understand, explain, contextualize, and, where called for, critique developments in and around the social, affective, and cognitive neurosciences with the aim to create the competencies needed to responsibly deal with new challenges and concerns emerging in relation to the brain sciences. It addresses scholars in the humanities as well as, importantly, neuroscientific (...) practitioners, policy makers, and the public at large. Does neuroscience indeed have such wide-ranging effects or are we collectively overestimating its impacts at the expense of other important drivers of social and cultural change? Via what channels is neuroscience interacting with contemporary conceptions of selfhood, identity, and well-being? Importantly, Critical Neuroscience strives to make the results of these assessments relevant to scientific practice itself. It aspires to motivate neuroscientists to be involved in the analysis of contextual factors, historical trajectories, conceptual difficulties, and potential consequences in connection to their empirical work. This paper begins to spell out a philosophical foundation for the project by outlining examples of the interaction taking place between the neurosciences and the social and cultural contexts in which they are embedded and by exposing some of the assumptions and argumentative patterns underlying dominant approaches. Recent anthropological work will be discussed to convey a sense of the de facto interactions between neuroscientific knowledge, its promissory projections, and the self-understandings of laypeople. This can be seen as a first step towards a phenomenology of the “seductive allure” that the neurosciences are exerting upon both the academic and the popular imagination. The concept of “critique” relevant to the project's overall orientation is outlined in the final section. (shrink)
Advances in the neurosciences have many implications for a collective understanding of what it means to be human, in particular, notions of the self, the concept of volition or agency, questions of individual responsibility, and the phenomenology of consciousness. As the ability to peer directly into the brain is scientifically honed, and conscious states can be correlated with patterns of neural processing, an easy—but premature—leap is to postulate a one-way, brain-based determinism. That leap is problematic, however, and emerging findings in (...)neuroscience can even be seen as compatible with some of the basic tenets of existentialism. Given the compelling authority of modern “science,” it is especially important to question how the findings of neuroscience are framed, and how the articulation of research results challenge or change individuals’ perceptions of themselves. Context plays an essential role in the emergence of human identity and in the sculpting of the human brain; for example, even a lack of stimuli (“nothing”) can lead to substantial consequences for brain, behavior, and experience. Conversely, advances in understanding the brain might contribute to more precise definitions of what it means to be human, including definitions of appropriate social and moral behavior. Put another way, the issue is not simply the ethics involved in framing neurotechnology, but also the incorporation of neuroscientific findings into a richer understanding of human ethical (and existential) functioning. (shrink)
This paper argues that psychoanalysis enables us to see mental disorder as rooted in emotional conflicts, particularly concerning aggression, to which our species has a natural liability. These can be traced in development, and seem rooted in both parent-offspring conflict and in-group cooperation for out-group conflict. In light of this we may hope that work in psychoanalysis and neuroscience will converge in indicating the most likely paths to a better neurobiological understanding of mental disorder.
As scientists advance knowledge of the brain and develop technologies to measure, evaluate, and manipulate brain function, numerous questions arise for religious adherents. If neuroscientists can conclusively establish that there is a functional network between neural impulses and an individual’s capacity for moral evaluation of situations, this will naturally lead to questions about the relationship between such a network and constructions of moral value and ethical human behavior. For example, if cognitive neuroscience can show that there is a neurophysiological (...) basis for the moral appraisal of situations, it may be argued that the world’s religions, which have traditionally been the keepers and purveyors of ethical values, are rendered either spurious or irrelevant. The questions point up broader dilemmas in the interface between science and religion, and raise concerns about the ethics of neurological research and experimentation. Since human beings will still arbitrate what is “moral” or “ethical,” how can religious perspectives enrich the dialogue on neuroethical issues and how can neuroscience enrich dialogue on religion? Buddhist views on the nature of consciousness and methods of practice, especially meditation practice, may contribute to discussions on neuroscience and theories about the interrelationship between consciousness and ethical awareness by exploring the role that karma, intentionality, and compassion play in Buddhist understandings of the interrelationship between consciousness and ethics. (shrink)
In 2007, ten world-renowned neuroscientists proposed “A Decade of the Mind Initiative.” The contention was that, despite the successes of the Decade of the Brain, “a fundamental understanding of how the brain gives rise to the mind [was] still lacking” (2007, 1321). The primary aims of the decade of the mind were “to build on the progress of the recent Decade of the Brain (1990-99)” by focusing on “four broad but intertwined areas” of research, including: healing and protecting, understanding, enriching, (...) and modeling the mind. These four aims were to be the result of “transdisciplinary and multiagency” research spanning “across disparate fields, such as cognitive science, medicine, neuroscience, psychology, mathematics, engineering, and computer science.” The proposal for a decade of the mind prompted many questions (See Spitzer 2008). In this chapter, I address three of them: (1) How do proponents of this new decade conceive of the mind? (2) Why should a decade be devoted to understanding it? (3) What should this decade look like? (shrink)
In recent years there have been growing calls for forging greater connections between education and cognitive neuroscience. As a consequence great hopes for the application of empirical research on the human brain to educational problems have been raised. In this article we contend that the expectation that results from cognitive neuroscience research will have a direct and immediate impact on educational practice are shortsighted and unrealistic. Instead, we argue that an infrastructure needs to be created, principally through interdisciplinary (...) training, funding and research programs that allow for bidirectional collaborations between cognitive neuroscientists, educators and educational researchers to grow. We outline several pathways for scaffolding such a basis for the emerging field of ‘Mind, Brain and Education’ to flourish as well as the obstacles that are likely to be encountered along the path. (shrink)
Over the past three decades, philosophy of science has grown increasingly “local.” Concerns have switched from general features of scientific practice to concepts, issues, and puzzles specific to particular disciplines. Philosophy of neuroscience is a natural result. This emerging area was also spurred by remarkable recent growth in the neurosciences. Cognitive and computational neuroscience continues to encroach upon issues traditionally addressed within the humanities, including the nature of consciousness, action, knowledge, and normativity. Empirical discoveries about brain structure and (...) function suggest ways that “naturalistic” programs might develop in detail, beyond the abstract philosophical considerations in their favor. -/- The literature distinguishes “philosophy of neuroscience” and “neurophilosophy.” The former concerns foundational issues within the neurosciences. The latter concerns application of neuroscientific concepts to traditional philosophical questions. Exploring various concepts of representation employed in neuroscientific theories is an example of the former. Examining implications of neurological syndromes for the concept of a unified self is an example of the latter. In this entry, we will assume this distinction and discuss examples of both. (shrink)
This paper investigates how "representation" is actually used in some areas in cognitive neuroscience. It is argued that recent philosophy has largely ignored an important kind of representation that differs in interesting ways from the representations that are standardly recognized in philosophy of mind. This overlooked kind of representation does not represent by having intentional contents; rather members of the kind represent by displaying or instantiating features. The investigation is not simply an ethnographic study of the discourse of neuroscientists. (...) If there are indeed two different kinds of representations, and the non-standard ones are the ones referred to in some areas of cognitive neuroscience, then we will have to give up the idea that appealing to inner representations with intentional contents is the defining distinction between cognitive neuroscience and behaviorist psychology (Montgomery, 1995). Further, if the conclusions of this paper are correct, many general accounts of how neural states represent are either false or theoretically ill-motivated. (shrink)
In this position statement it is argued that educational neuroscience must necessarily be relevant to, and therefore have implications for, both educational theory and practice. Consequently, educational neuroscientific research necessarily must embrace educational research questions in its remit.
In his work Rewired: Exploring Religious Conversion, dealing with Wesleyan soteriology and neuroscience, Paul Markham claims that when one incorporates biology as an epistemic restriction in theologies of conversion, doctrines of instantaneous conversion are invalidated. He asserts that conversion must always be gradual, because the mechanism by which the brain changes in response to experience does not occur instantaneously; rather change is initiated and consolidated over an often lengthy span of time. I argue, however, that doctrines of instantaneous conversion (...) are maintained when taking neuroscience into account. First, for doctrines of conversion that hold to the imputation of Christ's righteousness, neuroscience is irrelevant, because statements of instantaneous change are in terms of a relational status and not biological. Rapid conversion is maintained as a metaphysical position. Second, an embodied and neurologically realized change is expected in theologies of conversion that hold to impartation and, contrary to Markham, immediate change is neurologically possible in a variety of ways. (shrink)
These papers are based on a Symposium at the COGSCI Conference in 2010. 1. Naturalizing the Mammalian Mind 2. Modularity in Cognitive Psychology and Affective Neuroscience 3. Affective Neuroscience and the Philosophy of Self 4. Affective Neuroscience and Law.