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Bennett and Hacker: Village Idiots or Philosophers?

dan michaels dan at oricomtech.com
Thu Feb 12 14:29:59 EST 2004

erayo at bilkent.edu.tr (Eray Ozkural  exa) wrote in message news:<fa69ae35.0402100312.46e9deb8 at posting.google.com>...
> I was writing about the failure of insisting on a "singular point of
> view" in dealing with the mind, in a discussion with Neil W. Rickert.
> I got this "Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience" book by Bennett
> and Hacker from the library, it is an unnecessarily thick book which
> is meant to be a dismissal of entire neuroscience simply by worship of
> Wittgenstein. Now, that's a singular point of view!
> My stomach could tolerate reading only the foreword and introduction.
> Here is a quote from the introduction which I found very lively. It
> doesn't need any comments. Have fun reading it. Emphasis not mine,
> they are by the village idiots.
> ----------------------------------
> ...
> Talk of the brain's perceiving, thinking, guessing or believing, or of
> one hemisphere of the brain's knowing things of which the other
> hemisphere is ignorant, is widespread among contemporary
> neuroscientists. ... But that is quite mistaken...
> ...
> Neuroscience can investigate the neural conditions and concominants of

One suspects you could have stopped reading when you hit the 'C' word.

BTW, I wonder if the same view is shared by Pat Churchland in
Neurophilosophy? I didn't find the middle of her book too very
interesting, but the 1st and last sections were very much so.

> the acquisition, possession and exercise of sentient powers by
> animals. It can discover the neural preconditions for the possibility
> of the exercise of distinctively human powers of thought and
> reasoning, of articulate memory and imagination, of emotion and
> volition... What it *cannot* do is *replace* the wide range of
> ordinary psychological explanations of human activities in terms of
> reasons, intentions, purposes, goals, values, rules and conventions by
> neurological explanations... And it *cannot* explain how an animal
> perceives or thinks by reference to the brain's, or some part of the
> brain's, perceiving or thinking.
> ...
> In Part II we investigate the use of concepts of perception, memory,
> mental imagery, emotion and volition in current neuroscientific
> theorizing. From case to case we show that conceptual unclarity -
> failure to give adequate attention to the relevant conceptual
> structures - has often been the source of theoretical error and the
> grounds for misguided inferences. It is an error, a *conceptual*
> error, to suppose that perception is a matter of apprehending an
> *image* in the mind (Crick, Damasio, Edelman), or the production of a
> hypothesis (Helmholtz, Gregory), or the generation of a *3-D* *model*
> *description* (Marr). It is confused, a *conceptual* confusion - to
> formulate the binding problem as the problem of combining data of
> shape, colour and motion to form the *image* of the object perceived
> (Crick, Kandel, Wurtz). It is wrong, *conceptually* wrong, to suppose
> that memory is always of the past, or to think that memories can be
> *stored* in the brain in the form of the strength of synaptic
> connections (Kandel, Squire, Bennett). And it is mistaken,
> *conceptually* mistaken, to suppose that the investigation of thirst,
> hunger and lust is an investigation into emotions (Rolls) or to think
> that the function of the emotions is to inform us of our visceral and
> musuloskeletal state.
> The initial reaction such critical remarks may well be indignation and
> incredulity. Ho can a flourishing science be fundamentally in
> error?...
> ...
> ----------------------------------
> Their claims seem to be remarkably similar to those of certain well
> established pseudo-scientists in these newsgroups, collectively known
> as the behaviorist infestation.
> Thanks,

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