Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Neuroscience: Reducing minds to brains a deep dark rabbit hole?

At Medical Humanities blog, we read of a new paper in Neuroethics critiquing reductionism in neuroscience: Abstract:
Arguments for the importance of neuroscience reach across many disciplines. Advocates of neuroscience have made wide-ranging claims for neuroscience in the realms of ethics, value, and law. In law, for example, many scholars have argued for an increased role for neuroscientific evidence in the assessment of criminal responsibility. In this article, we take up claims for the explanatory role of neuroscience in matters of morals and law. Drawing on our previous work together, we assess the cogency of neuroscientific explanations of three issues that arise in these domains: rule following, interpretation, and knowledge. We critique these explanations and in general challenge claims as to the efficacy of the neuroscientific accounts.

Keywords: rule following, interpretation, knowledge, ethics, morals, mens rea, insanity, lie detection, deception

Accepted Paper Series
Here's a Medical Humanities discussion:
If in fact the mind is not the brain -- with which I absolutely agree -- then a very large portion of neuroscientific practice is immediately headed down a long, dark rabbit hole. But note again my insistence that the proposition that the mind is not (merely) the brain hardly means neuroscience itself is infirm or weak. Quite the contrary; as Pardo and Patterson emphasize, there is still a great deal of important work to be done on the brain that can best be demonstrated through neuroscientific methods. But the work is just that -- on the brain, and the constant leap from brain to mind cannot be sustained, if Pardo and Patterson are correct. The consequence is not that neuroscience is unimportant or not worth doing, but simply that neuroscientific modalities are not totalizing; they cannot explain or account for all of what it means to be conscious, to have mind, and ultimately, to be a person.

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

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