Brain, Behaviour and Extensionalism

David Longley David at
Sat Apr 10 04:39:08 EST 2004

In article <mdce70lcfeq9t8erj4u24lsdib3fmkqr2t at>, 
Bouh@?.?.invalid writes
>On Fri, 9 Apr 2004 21:43:18 +0100, David Longley
><David at> wrote:
>>I've cited these two extracts in the hope that several regular posters
>>to bionet.neuroscience, and sci.cognitive will read
>>what's said carefully and consider some of the other points that Glen
>>and I have been making. I've omitted material on the "indeterminacy of
>>translation thesis" for now, but I urge those interested to invest some
>>time trying to grasp how Quine uses it and then make an effort to
>>understand why I have drawn attention to it so often in the past.
>However nice behaviour science and behaviorism may seem, it should be
>noted that one great problem is that it doesn't consider the numerous
>evolutions other sciences have taken into account. QM, for example,
>has deeply changed the way scientists do their job. We need something
>else ( than behaviour science, maybe sth close to it ) and the gap has
>until now been filled by the quite imperfect but productive cognitive
>"sciences" :/

Quine talks of three levels of reduction, the mental, the behavioural 
and the physical. As a confirmed extensionalist he is firmly committed 
to the last as the ultimate level of scientific explanation - and I 
don't think you will find Glen or I disagreeing much with that. Look 
carefully at what Quine says at the end of the extract. It's about the 
nature of sound research and its context.

Cognitive Science does nobody any favours by "filling in the gaps" with 
ill-thought out intensional euphemistic fictions. This just discourages 
people from doing the research or applied work which really needs to be 
done (the naive/ignorant, all to often powerful, assert that the answers 
are obvious ("virtus dormitiva" etc).

Although it's somewhat unkind to say this perhaps, look to what Collins 
gets up to as an illustrative example of what *not* to do, but which (in 
far less florid form), is sadly what I think one sees far too frequently 
in "Cognitive Neuroscience" etc. One can read the last third of "Two 
Dogmas" (The Quine-Duhem Thesis) almost as an explanation for delusion 
(and I suspect George Kelly saw that). Some just do it in a more 
palatable style which makes for a new genre of literature, and I guess 
that's fine in our "free" consumer society so long as ones takes it as 
such and not as professional science or a practical guide to technology. 
But many don't, they peddle it *as* science, that's the hook. In my 
view, this is real price one must pay for Quine's expose of the problems 
of the mentalistic semantics (analyticity and verificationist principle) 
which were the two dogmas of empiricism.

The line between science and non science is much harder to see for the 
non-specialist, and I'm convinced that publishers rather count on that.
David Longley

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