explaining the brain

Walter Eric Johnson wej3715 at fox.tamu.edu
Wed Dec 2 15:38:58 EST 1998

Ray Scanlon (rscanlon at wsg.net) wrote:
: We aim for a rational explanation of how the brain works.

Why not aim for a true explanation of how the brain works?

: It must be based
: first on the molecular biology of the neuron. Second, on the anatomy of the
: nervous system, the neural net. Third, we ask that the explanation pay
: attention to those aspects of the neural net that are reflected in the
: subjective view of the brain as experienced by the mind.

This doesn't make any sense except as "rational explanation" = "very
rough approximation that trades accuracy for convenience".  Such an
explanation may be useful for a kind of rough overall view but must
not be trusted at any other level.

: As a starting point we take the position that the soul (mind) has no causal
: powers. The soul is completely extraneous to our explanation of brain
: activity. The brain would act just as well with no soul present. But an
: explanation of brain activity that ignores the mind will not satisfy many
: people. We wish to say, "When these neurons are active, we have decided". We
: have not decided, our brain has decided but we experience the active neurons
: and say that we did it.
: Our answer to the soul (mind)/body problem is that a material universe has
: no need of soul. We leave that to the philosophers, they may worry it to
: their heart's content. Our position for purposes of brain explanation is
: that there is soul (mind) but it has no part to play in a material account
: of brain action.

Is that the molecular neuroscience part?
: ...

: Why such an explanation? Because it is a common complaint of
: neuralphysiologists  that no such overall explanation exists to serve as a
: guide.

What kind of guide do they need?

Eric Johnson

More information about the Neur-sci mailing list