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[Neuroscience] Re: Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience

John H. via neur-sci%40net.bio.net (by j_hasenkam At yahoo.com.au)
Sat Dec 2 21:59:42 EST 2006

jonesmat wrote:
> But please remember that this discussion got started by specific
> reference to this recent book by Bennet & Hacker, "The Philosophical
> Foundations of Neuroscience".
> (by the way, has anyone seen the original poster, John H, anywhere?
> Wonder what he makes of all this.)

Hello Matt,

"Seen" me? Hmmm, has the internet come that far?

See, I do read your posts, always have. Glad to see you're still
kicking around here because there are a few questions I would like to
put to a GABA maven regarding this set of linkages I am currently
exploring: depression - hippocampus - GABA - il-1 - GC and MR
occupation, BDNF - CORT - aldosterone. So a few days ago I checked out
your half completed website looking for a GABA diffusion graphic and
hoping to find a few references. From your bio page this these
questions very much mirror mine:

""What happens to the GABA that gets released from a synaptic vesicle?
Does it get taken back up or can it diffuse over to receptors at
neighboring synapses? What happens to those receptors if or when it
gets there?" "

If it isn't subject to reuptake or degradation it is a most unusual

This, in particular, is something I need to learn more about,
particularly in relation to the possibility that GABA may diffuse to
neighbouring neurons:

"Note that GABA molecules can diffuse out of the synapse where they
were released (middle) and enter a neighboring synapse about 500 nm
away (top), where they can activate or desensitize a fraction of the
neighboring GABA-A receptors."

Oh and I'm glad I found the below because it was one of the questions I
was going to put to you. I had remembered you stating this years on
this ng but didn't trust my memory however once again it was holding up
fine(may have been a source error though, perhaps I read it on the
website years ago).

"For example, a single GABAergic interneuron is capable of
synchronizing the firing of hundreds of target cells"

But I'll save all this for another time.

What do I think of all this? I would prefer not too but the central
questions, in one sense or another, have haunted me most of my adult
life. This business of knowing, I'd rather not know. Over the last few
years Glen has been willing to help me steer my way through these
issues. However the wheels are out of alignment and I keep running off
the road, I suspect my head is broken. At the heart of all this is an
epistemological quandry that I can barely perceive let alone
articulate. I have decided this must be attended too. It strikes me
more as a Zen koan than a scientific, philosophical, or logical
problem. Accordingly I will *try* in future to avoid raising this and
related issues again but I am grateful that Glen has proferred his
help, particularly considering he is a professor and I am currently an
unemployable dolt. Thanks Glen.

I still maintain that Glen's position that what can be safely said is
that memory is "change" is the more rigourous position to hold. It is
empirically verifiable, "storage" is not. Unfortunately it confronts
one with a despair because at present it is so lacking in informational
value. Perhaps this is one reason why people prefer to think of
"storage": at least you can play with that concept. "Change" just damns
my intelligence.

As you can see I'm very much out of my depth here. So yippee, I manage
to drag out the likes of Glen, yourself and Matthew. See, I do have a
devious side.

By the way, by what unmitigated audacity to your climb to such heights
of hubris as to challenge the concepts emanating from my omniscient
wisdom? Do you not know that down here in Australia we know everything?
Don't be afraid to pick on me, down here if you don't take a cheap shot
at someone every now and then we reckon you might have a mob of
kangaroos loose in the top paddock or a wombat loose in the attic.

So that is what I think of it: a game. I'll let you bods get hot and
bothered about it but I'm not going there.

> Ok, so to summarize my first objection, I have the very strong feeling
> from reading the reviews that the authors are NOT paying much attention
> to the existing discipline of mereology itself, and are just
> appropriating high-fallutin' terms to sell books. That sort of pisses
> me off in general, and moreso if it's being used as a tactic to
> undermine confidence in a discipline that has actually had a lot of
> practical success in helping the human condition over the last 1.5
> centuries or so. You see where I'm coming from?

Damn, if you're pissed about that you must be furious with titles like:
How the Mind Works (Pinker), Consciousness Explained (Dennett), The
Emotional Brain (Le Doux). The latter I didn't mind(because no-one can
doubt Le Doux's great contributions to the field) but the former two
drove me into fits of frenzy, though not nearly as much as "The
Emperor's New Mind"(Penrose), which I ended up throwing across the room
in absolute disgust. I have given away all these books. Strange thing
is that in these days the question of consciousness has largely
vanished from my mind, as has that. For better or worse I just don't
see the problem anymore however I do take heed of Francis Crick's
warning(The Astonishing Hypothesis):

"At times I even persuade myself that I can glimpse some of the
answers, but this is a common delusion experienced by anyone who dwells
too long on a single problem."

> Objection #2)
> Let's forget my anal-retentive desire for literal definitions for a
> while, and just go with the common language understanding of
> "mereological fallacy" as described in the reviews: "the fallacy of
> attributing to parts of an animal attributes that are properties of the
> whole being." This is the damning conceptual mistake that
> neuroscientists make, apparently.
> Is this, in fact, a fallacy at all? Is it unacceptable to do this? Does
> doing it invalidate any interpretations of data, or cause experiments
> to be guided down the wrong road such that they will never lead
> anywhere? Certainly this seems to be the premise of the authors (as
> described in the reviews). Would you agree that that is the point of
> this whole discussion, ignoring issues of precise definitions?
> I assert that is NOT NECESSARILY a mistake or fallacy to "attribute to
> parts of animal attributes that are properties of the whole being".
> It surely CAN be a mistake. The following show cases in which such
> attribution is nonsensical:

True, not a fallacy but a mistake. Though the point is mute and I for
one would rather get my finger out of my ass. Neil Levi, in "What Makes
us Moral", makes the same critique of the "naturalistic fallacy", in
case in your interested.

> [Let me now make it perfectly clear that I personally do not believe
> there is any such thing as eating too much curry - curry is a gift from
> God - my son has not yet had this epiphany, but I'm working on it]

Curry, incidentally, has some nutrients that are very good for cerebral
health. Maybe that explains why Indians are so bloody good at maths.
Ramujan! Chadrasakar! (spelling!)

> Oh, damn. I almost forgot that I'm supposed to be "insufferably
> arrogant", and use a lot of "ad hominem" arguments and gratuitous
> invective. How's this:
> Piss off, you wanker!
> (did that sound at all convincing?)

Not at all, try these:

You are a useless oxygen bandit.
You have the dendritic density of c. elegans and the neural complexity
of aplysia.
And here in Aus, the worst of all, "Ah you useless pommie why don't you
go back to that stinking motherland." 

Be well,


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