Will neuroscience overshadow philosophy?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Plazma Inferno!, Feb 25, 2016.

  1. Plazma Inferno! Ding Ding Ding Ding Administrator

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    In her article Patricia Smith Churchland discusses the impact of neuroscience on philosophy, claiming that
    in the last two decades, neuroscience has profoundly transformed how we understand learning, decision
    making, self, and social attachment. Consequently, traditional philosophical questions about mind and morality
    have been steered in new directions.

    http://philosophyfaculty.ucsd.edu/faculty/pschurchland/papers/neuron08impactofneuroonphil.pdf

    Demise of philosophy pronounced again, or neuroscience would indeed overshadow it?
     
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  3. Edont Knoff Registered Senior Member

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    Philosophy is larger, not only about how our brain functions. There are many questions which are anthro-centric, though, and philosophy is losing to neuroscience there, but I'm pretty sure that philosophy will stay the more basic of the two, and not fade anytime soon.

    We still don't know if the concept of "free will" is true - if yes, then philosophy will stay important. If no, we'll have to dump a lot of anthro-centric thoughts from philosophy, and accept that we are rule-driven machines with just the illusion of free will.

    The basic questions, about the "real" reality, the extend to which we can know things, limits to observation, induction and deduction, I don't think neuroscience can answer those. Philosophy has a better grip on these questions, and if we ever get answers there, I expect them to come from philosophy, also logic, math and information theory (the last three are the same in the core), not neuroscience.
     
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  5. wellwisher Banned Banned

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    Philosophy is part subjective and part rational. One person's philosophy can be based on pleasure, equality for all, atheism or theism. None of of these philosophies will be felt the exact same by all people. There is a subjective element in the foundation premises of all philosophies. But after that, one can use data, logic and argument to make your case; build a sturdy castle in the air.

    Free will is connected to the ability to break away from purely logical programming, such as the cause and affect of natural laws. Free will is connected to subjectivity, which is often the foundation of choice of philosophy.

    For example, say we have a buffet. We can rate these foods in terms logical connections such as cost, color, texture, etc. Free will may not follow any of these logical things. Each time you run the buffet experiment, you would need to add another loop to the program to test for that.

    One main limitation of neuroscience is it is based on reason which is 2-D thought, while parts of the brain use 3-D thought. The best you can get with the rationale approach is a spatial image or illusion; see below. A spatial image looks 3-D to the eyes but if you touch the screen it is really flat or 2-D. Actually 3-D has real depth and not depth due to shadowing and highlights. Shadowing is the denial of truth (philosophy is not valid) while high lights shows the data that does appear to justify the POV.

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    Animal instinct is an example of 3-D thinking. For example, the same basic hunting instinct allows the wolf to find food in any environment, including new environments. He does not have to reason, brand new in each location, since he already has global programming that can be applied anywhere. With computers we would need to add new loops for each new environment. Instinct will act like this revision was already done.

    In terms of the global or 3-D logic; choices at the buffet are subjective at one level, however they are 3-D at another level. For example, in terms of the survival of the species, the buffet can feed the human herd better, if we all subjectively diversify our tastes away from everyone using the same logical criteria.

    If we all want the tomatoes, the buffet cannot feed the herd. But if we have free will and each has a unique set of choices, which all seem subjective and arbitrary, the buffet goes further and can feed the herd. There is 3-D thinking at the instinctive level of the collective, which is felt inside each person and is used to justify each subjective choice. We all feel subjective conviction in our choice.

    In terms of philosophy, all contain some truth, yet none contain all the truth. The variety of philosophies, all together, allows for a global or 3-D summation of the truth. By having members who are attracted to each orientation, all aspects of the truth are stressed for all. The need to globally connect the herd in 3-D is felt, intuitively by our subjective attraction to certain thing. There is 3-D that overlaps less than 2-D (less than cause and affect), so the limited feels spatially right.

    This might be explained by neuroscience, but it first requires knowing how 3-D works, which I find, tends to make everyone circle the wagons, in favor of spatial images that will deny truth with shadowing and then apply data highlights.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
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  7. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Philosophy can certainly be swayed by cutting edge research in neurology, much as it has in other fields. But trying to reduce mind to the operations of our brains is imo like trying to reduce the Internet to the operations of your PC. Mind is a collective phenomena and occurs at the many-brained level. Language, logic, cultural programming, semiotics, psychology, etc. all factor in in how the brain operates. Philosophy will need to continue to supplement neurology's study of brain by framing mind as a social phenomena that is constantly interacting with a world beyond the confines of it's cranial prison. Especially is this obvious in our attempt to understand the moral dimension of our experience and the core values that drive our behaviors.
     
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  8. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    In the broadest, contemporary sense: Philosophy is the study and usage [and occasional contribution to and formulation of] of our invented systems. Especially the scrutiny of their presuppositions, overall consistency, and operational framework. Which includes all of those systems nowadays, like "meta-philosophy" itself and the scientific disciplines. The earliest branches and older versions of ethics, metaphysics, aesthetics, and so-forth were just that: The first complexes of our knowledge endeavors rather the lone targets of philosophical investigation, criticism, modification -- and the outright original introducing slash creation of some of them. A scientist engaging in those matters outside regular routine is thus arguing philosophically herself.

    What the brain chooses to prescribe for the individual and society is not something that's going to fall out of or be decreed by studying and measuring biological structure. Scientists who propose ethical, economic, political, and other ideological "oughts" and conceptual constructs in their spare time are still humans behaving / thinking philosophically.

    With their philosophical eliminativism of thought, beliefs, qualitative occurrences, etc -- of demoting them to illusions(???) -- the Churchlands (wife & husband) ironically undermine the legitimacy of the very empirical evidence or non-inferred revelations that "show" skull meat and everything else in the first place. [I.e., the very foundation of knowledge as something other than abstracting equally invisible conclusions from "things transpiring in the dark or nothingness" (complete absence of presence or presentations when minus phenomenal consciousness or concerning these eliminativist declarations that it is not happening)].

    A solution to the "hard problem of consciousness" can only be resolved by surrendering to some mitigated variety of panprotoexperientialism. To avoid the current status of experience's manifestations brutely emerging without any primitive precursors being the case before the organized neural manipulations of the known slash accepted electrochemical properties. [Though the final product wouldn't have to sport that "philosophy of mind" name-tag in science, anymore than it calls atoms "pan-proto-biological entities or events".] But the point is that it would require a future generation of scientists to finally accept panprotoexperientialism.

    Also, the metaphysical realism problems posed by extrospective events being phenomenal representations and interpretative understandings produced by the mind (generic hypernym), with the brain itself (concrete particular) and the sensory input of environmental energies circularly being part of that content themselves, isn't going to disappear among those thinkers who are not constrained by the dogmatic truth of specific doctrines (which includes philosophical naturalism, physicalism, idealism, neutral monism, etc). Our innate approach of just going along with what the "internal story or internal set affairs" of experience seems to assert during whichever era is what ironically folk sociology and psychology reinforce and approve. In the same way that a virtual or computer game character would be more worried about dodging the immediate realness of machine gun bullets and conforming to the convictions her surrounding culture than the possibility of her world being an interpersonal "half-fiction or appearance" nested within a transcendent level. While we all genuflect in everyday life to commonsense belief, the vast popularity of the "it doesn't need to be deeply examined" grunt hypothesis is no substitute for those concerned with quests higher than practical / provisional truths or acceptances (whether futile or not).

    Cartesian dualism rejected the whole game of explaining reflective thought and sensory manifestations via mechanistic components by positing a non-extended "monad" actually existing in the skull, which the stimulated nervous system eventually converged upon. Thereby actually conflicting with its immaterial definition, by given this "mind" a spatiotemporal location in the extrospective or material environment -- in turn also making it an empirical hypothesis that could be tested / rejected by science. Whereas the British empiricists (and continent dwellers Leibniz and Kant) were quite content to grant that there were natural or "interdependent, interacting objects" explanations for most everything, in terms of how the represented world of experience appears to function. While still not negating a Platonic or transcendent stratum as an ultimate provenance of those sensible affairs. (Berkeley clarified his "replace God with the supersensible world" quasi-Platonism in his later works. Whereas Hume, of course, took another turn deeper into mitigated skepticism by making qualitative "impressions" more fundamental or prior-in-rank than cognition and personal consciousness, in the context of his bundle theory slash panphenomenalism. Becoming more of a father of future, metaphysics-avoiding positivism / phenomenalism).
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
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  9. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    I will never imitate this kind of reasoning. Make the words as long as you want. Panprotophenomenatlisticontomatopoeiasupercalifragilisticexpialidociouspseudostriatedciliatedcolumnarepithelium. This is the sound Mary Poppin's trachea lining makes when a new existential utterance gets stuck in there without vocalizing. Bond with that.

    How about a rule that if you concatenate a new word or terminology out of a dozen other words or terms, you must either be able to justify creating it in twenty five shorter words or less, or else never use it again? Would this improve philosophy? What should we call a field of learning that appears to exist for no other purpose other than to endlessly synthesize new terminology for ideas that are anything but new, and didn't need really new terminology to explain anything? Make it two or three mouthsfull, or else it will never catch on.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2016
  10. wellwisher Banned Banned

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    What is in our mind/brain, if unconscious to us, is often projected outward. Projection is like a movie that shines onto reality, from the unconscious mind. Reality becomes a composite of what is inside and outside. Projection is one way to deal with what is inside and can help map out the inside.

    For example, prejudice is learned behavior. This is often learned when young and can become so engrained that it appears to be part of our natural make-up as one gets older. If this state of unconsciousness is reached, people will act out their prejudices without any thought. The reason is what appears to be outside, is a projection of internally repressed content. The movie shines onto reality to distort reality. The result is a good person is seen as a source of problems.

    To over come the repressed programming, one may need to consciously find a nice person, with whom you feel the prejudice projection, so you can rationally see the incompatibility between your unconscious assumptions; projection, and the hard reality of that nice person. This is how you separate the projection from reality; isolate the unconscious content. It takes the observation skills of a scientist and the ability to separate the affect into two zones, so one can isolate the projection.

    Philosophy is a little different from a personal unconscious projection. Philosophy is more collective in nature. Philosophy is connected to a projection from the collective unconscious, due to nearly global unconsciousness of the collective unconscious.

    The collective unconscious is connected to personality firmware which are common to all humans. These are there from birth and define collective human propensities. These take much more work to differentiate than person repression. These may or may not be easy to fully define with neurology, since they are as much software as hardware, with neurology better at hardware, then software. Philosophy is better at dealing with brain software through projection, than hardware.

    The analogy of the difference is like with a computer. Say you are running tax software on you PC. Philosophy is connected to the software, while neurology is connected to the PC hardware. You sort of need both hardware and software, since neither one can fully handle the entire job.

    You cannot alter the mother board or change the CPU to correct a typo. Nor can you alter the software to stop the aging monitor from losing contrast. You may need a new monitor ; neurology, as well as access to the software; philosophy, which can occur via a projection interface. What is on the monitor is a projection of what is happening inside the computer.

    Philosophy is often about a collective way to explain human behavior. It depends many people relating to the same range of human experiences; projections. Depending on the firmware we use more often, will determine which philosophy is more compatible.

    Neurology may be able to shift the software being used, so the same philosophy may no longer seem to apply; hard drive tweak. But you will still need philosophy to help translate the new projection interface; affinity for a new philosophy.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2016
  11. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    What you wrote above the url (which seems to be the article's short little abstract blurb) doesn't imply or even suggest what you wrote below it.

    Philosophy, at least in its Anglophone 'analytic' variant, is the examination of the most basic assumptions implicit in various areas of life, and of the intellectual methods used in reaching conclusions about them.

    Philosophy is what our Sciforums atheists love doing to religious believers (how can you justify that belief? What does this word mean exactly?), what the board's materialists love doing to believers in ghosts and spirits, and what the board's self-appointed defenders of scientific orthodoxy attempt to do to whatever they consider "pseudoscience"... applied to across the board, without the insults and jibes. It's more than a little ironic when some of our louder and more abusive Sciforums participants denounce philosophy as worthless, when their own posts consist of very little besides their own sophomoric attempts at philosophy.

    In a word, philosophers are like the little child that asks "why" over and over. The amazing thing is that you only have to ask 'why' a handful of times, to arrive at the frontiers of human knowledge in any field. It doesn't require huge telescopes or giant accelerators at CERN to arrive at the frontiers, we are surrounded by mysteries at every moment, if people would just let themselves realize it. (I think that realization scares many people and they run from it. They want certainty, whether religious or 'scientific'.)

    Regarding neuroscience, I think that someday it will have a huge impact on one area of philosophy in particular, namely the philosophy of mind. But right now neuroscience is more of a promise than a reality, more a research program than a set of well established results and theories.

    Actually, another area where philosophy, psychology, linguistics, neuroscience and computer science (especially AI) are already closely wedded to the benefit of all sides is the new field of cognitive science. (I watched it first appearing when I was in graduate school in the 1980's.) Understanding a task requires understanding all the subtasks implicit in completing it. Understanding learning obviously requires some familiarity with theory of knowledge (epistemology). If a task requires 'reasoning', then it obviously helps to have some idea what the concept of reasoning encompasses and about how deduction, induction and abduction all fit together in reaching a conclusion. It helps to have some idea what information is, how it's acquired and precisely what use is made of it.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cognitive-science/
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2016
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  12. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

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    Generally speaking, philosophy has been a method for examining/acquiring knowledge and it has slowly but surely been pushed aside by science. As science has grown, philosophy has shrunk and by this point there is very little that philosophy can provide in terms of knowledge about the natural world.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2016
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  13. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

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    Those statements contradict each other, or, rather, there are two separate purposes of philosophy that I think you glossed over in MR's thread:
    1. Examining "intellectual methods".
    2. Understanding how the universe works.

    When a child asks "why" over and over, most of those questions are about how the universe works ("Why is the sky blue?"). Those questions are almost entirely scientific in nature. The problem of philosophy is that prior to the development of the scientific method, philosophy tried to answer such questions. To the extent that it still does, it is barking up the wrong tree.

    Today, the role of philosophy is extremely limited to the point of being almost irrelevant. There is very little new investigation to be done philosophically and teaching philosophy is more of a history lesson than anything else.
    Not that there is any substance to that statement, but I just wanted to point out that it is a laughable self-contradiction. Both in principle and in practice, philosophy is orthodoxy and science is the exact opposite. The principle driving factor of "The Dark Ages" was the fact that it was dominated by Aristotelian/Catholic philosophical orthodoxy. The development of science opened up knowledge and quite literally overthrew the orthodoxy.
    You mistake the end for the frontier. It doesn't take many "why" questions to reach the limit of what is, but that shouldn't be over-read to assume that that's just a limit of human knowledge - in many cases, that is just all there is. But again: that's what philosophy is today; existing in perceived cracks and along boundaries of knowledge until science fills them in. Ultimately, science will be a continuous sphere, with philosophy forming an edge of zero thickness.
    Of course: scientific frontiers.
    Utter nonsense. Science is nothing if not a continuous revolution. Uncertainty is what drives it. It is the entire point of the pursuit!
    Which is to say that things that people are philosophizing about really aren't philosophical in nature, they are scientific. Science just hasn't answered the questions yet. But just because science hasn't answered the questions yet, doesn't make the questions philosophical.
     
  14. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    "It is one thing to celebrate science for its achievements and remarkable ability to explain a wide variety of phenomena in the natural world. But to claim there is nothing knowable outside the scope of science would be similar to a successful fisherman saying that whatever he can't catch in his nets does not exist. Once you accept that science is the only source of human knowledge, you have adopted a philosophical position (scientism) that cannot be verified, or falsified, by science itself. It is, in a word, unscientific."===http://biologos.org/blogs/archive/what-is-scientism
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2016
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  15. PhysBang Valued Senior Member

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    This is a perverted and narrow view of philosophy. Sadly, probably one that Patricia Churchland shares. Science alone cannot tell us what to do with science. Science cannot tell us what a number is. Science cannot tell us whether or not scientific claims are claims about an external reality or about a shared phenomenology or even about a solipsistic phenomenology.

    Just like any field, there is trivial philosophical work and there are deep and specialized philosophical work. And like any field not a science, it is not merely a placeholder for science.
     
  16. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

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    A few questions:

    Could you point me to an example of such work?

    What new ideas/progress has philosophy produced in the past, say, 50 or 100 years? A couple of examples would be helpful.

    How many people (in the US, for example) are employed doing "philosophical work"?

    Not just any field. I'm talking specifically/exclusively about philosophy.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2016
  17. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

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    I've never met anyone (that I'm aware of) who believes "there is nothing knowable outside of science". That's one of many strawman attacks in an article that is really about philosophers' struggles with the substantially reduced value/relevance of their intellectual pursuit.
     
  18. PhysBang Valued Senior Member

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  19. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    If a young-earth creationist fundie attacked 'Darwinism' without knowing anything about evolutionary biology, I think that most of us would criticize that fundie for doing it. People need to know something about whatever they are finding fault with. Exactly the same thing is happening here. People who have never studied philosophy and who know next to nothing about it are battling furiously against a simplistic caricature of it that only exists in their own mind.

    I'm going to disagree with you about that one. Patricia Churchland is a philosopher. (One that I have a lot of respect for.) She just believes (correctly in my opinion) that neuroscience has the potential to cast important light on a number of long-standing philosophical problems.

    http://philosophyfaculty.ucsd.edu/faculty/pschurchland/index_hires.html

    That's not to say that philosophical problems are always reducible to scientific problems. Science makes too many implicit assumptions in the course of its day: about what is and isn't science, about science's methods, about the nature and applicability of logic and mathematics, about induction and the uniformity of nature, about experimental confirmation, and about the fundamental ontology of a universe in which science seems to be so successful.

    Well said and I thoroughly agree.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2016
  20. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

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    Rather than making assumptions about who you are talking to and stating your position as fact without supporting it, could you please make an actual logical argument to support your position?
     
  21. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

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  22. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I've written on several occasions about how I informally and intuitively assign weights to my beliefs. Some of my beliefs seem to me to be almost certain, while others are just speculations and shots in the dark. There's been a lot of recent work in epistemology trying to formalize that kind of idea in therms of probability theory. It's closely associated with so-called 'fuzzy logic', where bivalent logic with only two truth values (T and F) is replaced with a continuous range of truth values.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/formal-epistemology/

    A tremendous amount of recent work in all areas of the philosophy of science can be found here:

    http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/view/subjects/
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2016
  23. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    Has anyone presented a standard / system for what progress is and how progress is to be judged / evaluated / measured? Please do not submit a product of prescriptive thought or a product of a pre-conditional setup, since the whole point is to avoid the taint of philosophy. It must be non-artificial or found already existing somewhere in the environment; and of course having been submitted to and approved by rigorous lab testing.
     

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