Michael Stuart Kelly

Science and philosophy? Or philosophy and science?

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. . .

So I bought an amazing book called Neurophilosophy by Patricia Smith Churchland. . . .


What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality

Patricia S. Churchland (Princeton 2011)

Patricia Churchland’s book will be the subject of an Author-Meets-Critics session at the 2012 Central Division Meeting of the APA in Chicago (Palmer House, February 15–18). The Critics will be Owen Flanagan, Thomas Hurka, and Edouard Machery. Prof. Churchland will respond.

Walter has recently read and found very informative the following work:

The Science of Evil

On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty

Simon Baron-Cohen (Basic Books 2011)

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That's really cool.

I read the first article, but only skimmed the second.

At least all my study in the neuromarketing direction is making it so I halfway understand what's going on and my eyes no longer glaze over at the technical jargon.


I have to admit, emotionally I lean more towards science fiction than science. So my inner L. Ron Hubbard is already thinking about how to implant words into the minds of a mass audience. ("Give me money... give me money... give me money...)



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This conclusion and its evidence can be found in a report made last August by Rodrigo Quian Quiroga in Nature Reviews – Neuroscience 13:587–97. This advance is also the cover story of the current issue of Scientific American (Feb 2013).

What are called concepts in this literature, I should call image schemata from which the proper-name form of concepts can be made. That in no way detracts from the magnitude of this discovery.

To have the proper-name concept of a particular individual, one needs not only the ability to attach the individual’s particular suite of characteristics to it as a unity and to be able to recall and recognize the individual—the image schema—one needs to have acquired all of the semantic portion of what is required for learning a proper name. John Macnamara lists the following for that portion: (i) ability to refer, (ii) possession of a demonstrative, (iii) ability to see as very same an individual across times of absence, (iv) ability to exclude features of an individual inessential to its numerical identity across time, (v) possession of a notion of kinds to guide the omission of those inessentials, and (vi) possession of a notion of membership in a kind (A Border Dispute [1986, 55–64]).

Because vi is required because of v because of iv and because iv and iii are abilities whose neuronal locus has been found by the research linked above, it is only i and ii that separates these image schemata from proper-name concepts. Before long the neuronal loci of proper-name concepts as well as class concepts may be found.

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The Conscious Brain

How Attention Engages Experience

Jesse Prinz (2012)

"All consciousness is perceptual"? Whether this statement is true or false, it strikes me as worthless, but I don't think much of ITOE, either. So far metaphysics and epistemology much beyond the axioms seem designed mostly to confuse and lose philosophy students in intellectual morass as they are required to learn and remember countlessly different systems in a comparable way, and their creators--while massaging their profs' egos--seemingly none connected to science, the final validator and thus route to truth.


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“A groundbreaking journey into the neurobiological foundations of mind and self.”

Self Comes to Mind

Antonio Damasio (Random House 2010)

Excerpts from Part I of special interest for Rand’s theory of consciousness and of ethics:

Conscious minds arise when a self process is added onto a basic mind process. When selves do not occur within minds, those minds are not conscious in the proper sense. (8)

Countless creatures for millions of years have had active minds happening in their brains, but only after those brains developed a protagonist capable of bearing witness did consciousness begin, in the strict sense, and only after those brains developed language did it become widely known that minds did exist. The witness is the something extra that reveals the presence of implicit brain events we call mental. (18)

The conscious mind emerges within the history of life regulation [homeostasis]. (27)

Both basic homeostasis (which is nonconsciously guided) and sociocultural homeostasis (which is created and guided by reflective conscious minds) operate as curators of biological value. Basic and sociocultural varieties of homeostasis are separated by billions of years of evolution, and yet they promote the same goal—the survival of living organisms—albeit in different ecological niches. That goal is broadened, in the case of sociocultural homeostasis, to encompass the deliberate seeking of well-being. . . . But while the basic variety of homeostasis is an established inheritance, provided by everyone’s genome, the sociocultural variety is a somewhat fragile work in progress, responsible for much of human drama, folly, and hope. (28–29)

Consciousness came into being because of biological value, as a contributor to more effective value management. But consciousness did not invent biological value or the process of valuation. (29)

The notion of value is central to our understanding of brain evolution, brain development, and actual, moment-to-moment brain activity. (49)

I see value as indelibly tied to need, and need as tied to life. (51)

The survival intention [survival goal-directedness] of the eukaryotic cell and the survival intention implicit in human consciousness are one and the same. (63)

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