Science of Mind–the philosopher’s response

From today’s NY Times on-line, here. Tyler Burge, professor of philosophy at UCLA makes some excellent points and, as far as I know, coins a new term: “neurobabble”.

I think his strongest point is the analogy with physics–imagine if we had attempted to understand inheritance at the level of quantum mechanics (as opposed to the molecular structure of DNA). His view of modern cognitive neuroscience is that it approaching the phenomenology of human psychological events at a similarly mismatched level.

I prefer to view the modern approaches to understanding these phenomena as integrative neuroscience. The productive approach is to integrate and synthesize neurobiological knowledge across multiple, appropriate levels of the spectrum that extends from molecules to brains. Burge is simply wrong when he implies that modern cognitive neuroscientists are essentially practicing neophrenology. Successful cognitive neuroscience approaches are inherently integrative and combine molecular neuroscience, brain imaging and psychological testing superimposed upon the architecture (connectome) of neuroanatomy.

One thought on “Science of Mind–the philosopher’s response

  1. Two points: Burge is definitely wrong on neophrenology. Moreover, he is not the inventor of “neurobabble” I read it in Dan Simmons' The Hollow Man (1992), where the protagonist can read minds, which he does by sorting them out from the underlying “neurobabble.” Dan Simmons may not be the first one either.


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