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Bennett and Hacker: Village Idiots or Philosophers?

AlphaOmega2004 OmegaZero2003 at yahoo.com
Fri Feb 13 12:08:27 EST 2004

"Eray Ozkural exa" <erayo at bilkent.edu.tr> wrote in message
news:fa69ae35.0402121807.4090deb8 at posting.google.com...
> dan at oricomtech.com (dan michaels) wrote in message
news:<4b4b6093.0402121129.1bc0e06f at posting.google.com>...
> > 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.
> Eliminative materialism puts forward similar claims, in that our
> current conceptual framework is so widely off the mark that our
> commmon sense concepts  should be completely eliminated from the
> discourse and a novel conceptual schema must be constructed by
> neuroscientists, positing a concept only when scientific practice
> demands it.
> I don't support that position, either. One does not need to be
> "eliminative" to be  materialist.

It does help when you have to have a bowel movement though.


Seriously, there are conceptions of mind/brain_processes that rely totally
on time_as_primary; synchronization theories etc. The notion that brain
experiences all environmental events in their past, the synchrony  (or lack
thereof) of neuronal group firings *as* representational vehicles. Etc. etc.

> Omega might have something to say on Churchland, I'm curious of what
> he thinks.

I have always liked Pat's take on several issues. Her Computational Brain
(with Terry Sejnowski - one person in the field who deserves every
accolade...)  IMHO, set a standard for turning philosophical meanderings
into empirically-verifiable hypotheses and hard data (based on ANN
observations). Modelling neurobiological structures with computational
structures has provided a great deal of insight into how brain categorizes
and communicates between NGs - two essential characteristics of what it
means to be a mind - or cognizing entity. Cognition of difference ( the
function that co-operates with or operates just before actual
categorization) is of material primacy to consciousness; separating self
from non-self as the second-most (and secondly-adopted) function of brain.
E.g., infants prior to a few months develop the ability to cognize
difference in the environment; thence they develop the cognition of
self-other differences as part of the development of their selves - their
self-consciousness follows.

But back to Churchland: her stand on materialsm (based on the reduction of
phsychological facets of mind/brain to physiological/computational
mechanisms) is well-taken as far as it goes in "eliminating" the "spooky
stuff" like souls and spirits (and with them - the elimination of the
Cartesian/dualist conundrums).  Note that she admits that this is an
hypothesis (in good standing - one which I agree with - as I have not seen
any disembodied minds yet), but strong enough to proceed as though it were a
fact of nature - a particularly strong position philosophically.

In reading some of her other position papers, I understand that her top-down
reductionist approach does *not* mean that bottom-up appraches are not
important.  She has an engineering/reverse-engineering bent - so it is
natural for her to assume the reductionist approach - take it apart and see
how the components work and constitute the whole (with more emphasis on the
former than the latter - which IMO has some problems - one of which is that
the notion of emergence is relegated to the back burner, whereas I think it
should be front and center, as reductionism tends to eliminate *information*
and is a lossy process (as I have discussed before.)

> Regards,
> --
> Eray Ozkural

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