Blog Editor


  • Copyright 2005-20012 by Adam Kolber
    All rights reserved.

« 6 or So Degrees of Separation | Main | Purdy on Neuroeconomics »


The french philosopher Gaston Bachelard developped an interesting concept, that of "epistemological obstacle". He showed how common representations interfere with the scientific approach of experiments and interpretation.

The point you raise is a perfect example. Neurosciences observe neural correlates to psychical phenomenon. This is a fact ; the problem is the unconscious interpretation which is derived immediately, namely that the brain is a direct cause of psychic states. What it proves is that psychical phenomenon are performed by neurones. But it does not prove that the neurones take the initiative. They could also be set into motion by cognitive contents through memory and symbolism.
In other words, neurosciences may lead to a dangerous confusion in the principle of causality, even though the physical substrate of thought is now highly probable.

Anyone tempted by the recent work in neuroscience to extrapolate beyond science proper and draw conclusions germane to, for example, ethics, moral psychology, and philosophy of mind (let alone law), might consider the variety of compelling arguments found in the following books:

Bennett, M.R. and P.M.S. Hacker. Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.

Descombes, Vincent. The Mind's Provisions: A Critique of Cognitivism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Hutto, Daniel D. The Presence of Mind. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1999.

Hutto, Daniel D. Beyond Physicalism. Amsterdam: John Benjamins,2000.

Melser, Derek. The Act of Thinking. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004.

Putnam, Hilary. The Threefold Cord: Mind, Body, and World. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Strawson, Galen. Mental Reality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994.

Velmans, Max. Understanding Consciousness. London: Routledge, 2000.

The brain is not the mind and the mind is not reducible to the brain, however we come to account for the relation between the two.

Pardon me, but I left out Sunny Auyang's Mind in Everyday Life and Cognitive Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000.

The comments to this entry are closed.