A collection of essays dealing with the fundamental issues in neuroscience from methodological and philosophical perspectives. The Reader will learn about the methodological difficulties connected with the use of neuroscientific experiments in philosophical argumentation and about the nature of scientific explanation in neuroscience. In addition, the collection includes case studies of several issues lying at the intersection of neuroscience and philosophy such as: theory of mind, self-consciousness, self-deception, depression and morality.
Part I. Methodological Insights
Bartosz Brożek: Philosophy and Neuroscience: Three Modes of Interaction
Robert Poczobut: Mind, Emergence, and the Limits of Neuroscientific Explanations
Marcin Miłkowski: Theoretical Unification and the Neural Engineering Framework
Radosław Zyzik: Biological Determinism and Its Enemies
Wojciech Grygiel: Quantum Mechanics and Its Role in Cognitive Sciences: A Critical Survey
Part II. At the Border Between Neuroscience and Philosophy
Łukasz Kurek: Philosophical Issues in the Neuroscience of Mindreading: The Case of Belief
Julia Stanek: Self-Consciousness: From Philosophy to Neuroscience
Mateusz Hohol, Piotr Urbańczyk: Self-Deception: Between Philosophy and Cognitive Neuroscience
Jerzy Vetulani: The Neurobiology of Depression
Dominika Dudek, Rafał Jaeschke, Marcin Siwek: The Moral Brain: Is There a Link Between Neurobiology and Morality?
Bram T. Heerebout, R. Hans Phaf: Behavioural Benefits and Neural Costs in Simulated Evolution
Wojciech Załuski: On (Un)Happiness from the Viewpoint of Evolutionary Theory and Neuroscience
Editing & Proofreading: AEDDAN SHAW, PIOTR GODLEWSKI
Cover design: MARIUSZ BANACHOWICZ
Cover image: ANDRZEJ WRÓBLEWSKI, Portret organiczny, by kind permission of the Andrzej Wróblewski Foundation
Layout: MIROSŁAW KRZYSZKOWSKI
© Copyright by Copernicus Center Press, 2013
Publication supported by The John Templeton Foundation Grant „The Limits of Scientific Explanation”
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This volume brings together contributions which investigate problems at the intersection of philosophy and neuroscience. They are not, however, intended as an exercise in the philosophy of neuroscience: the structure of neuroscientific theories or the criteria of justification in neuroscience are not the primary subject of analysis. Instead, the papers collected here underscore the presence of philosophical problems within neuroscientific practice. In this, they follow the idea of philosophy in science proposed by Michael Heller. Heller believes that the sciences are filled with philosophically ‘active’ issues, and – to illustrate – he indicates that philosophical ideas have often influenced the development and evolution of scientific theories; that traditional philosophical concepts – such as space, time, mind or free will – are intertwined with empirical theories; and that the presuppositions of the empirical sciences are a legitimate, and highly interesting subject of philosophical analysis. Thus, by investigating philosophy in neuroscience, one not only engages in genuine philosophical work, but can also uncover what lies beneath the practice of neuroscience.
The first part of the collection, Methodological Insights, concentrates on the conceptual framework of philosophy in neuroscience. Bartosz Brożek in Philosophy and Neuroscience. Three Modes of Interaction, describes various ways of depicting the relationship between philosophical and neuroscientific theories. He argues that two such ways – isolationism and replacement – although quite popular in recent literature, rest upon a mistake as they both embrace a kind of epistemological or ontological foundationalism. He further posits that in order to grasp the relationship between philosophy and neuroscience, and to understand how both disciplines can enrich one another, one needs to dispense with foundationalism and acknowledge that both philosophical and neuroscientific argumentation is essentially non-foundational.
The goal of Robert Poczobut’s Mind, Emergence, and the Limits of Neuroscientific Explanations is to determine the role of philosophy in the context of neuroscientific developments and to reveal the limits of neuroscientific explanation of mental phenomena. Poczobut underscores that neuroscience is a part of a broader research program of cognitive science. Furthermore, he believes that within the so-called ‘philosophy in the context of neuroscience’ one should distinguish between neurophilosophy (which applies neuroscientific findings to classical philosophical issues) and the philosophy of neuroscience (a specialized branch of philosophy of science). Poczobut also analyzes the important role of the concept of emergence, which enables one to take into account the relations between different levels of organization of cognitive phenomena. He concludes that although neuroscientific explanation provides invaluable insights at the neural level of organization, it is insufficient for a comprehensive account of mental phenomena.
The subsequent chapter Theoretical Unification and the Neural Engineering Framework by Marcin Miłkowski is an attempt to answer the question of whether the Neural Engineering Framework (NEF) is a possible unifying framework of explanation in cognitive neuroscience. According to Philip Kitcher, one can deal with the objections to the received view of scientific explanation (the covering-law account developed by Carl Hempel and Paul Oppenheim) in two distinct ways: by dispensing with the argument-like structure of the explanation and saving its causal character, or by accepting the argument-like structure and rejecting the concept of a law. After analyzing several counterexamples to Kitcher’s unification account, Miłkowski argues that is not an adequate background for testing NEF’s explanatory power. Miłkowski claims further that NEF exhibits the properties of frameworks that can serve as means of theoretical unification. On the basis of two case studies, one pertaining to the research on the navigational capabilities of rats and the other to the analysis of human performance in Wason selection tasks, Miłkowski claims that NEF offers a common methodology that unifies research on quite different phenomena.
The paper by Radosław Zyzik, Biological Determinism and Its Enemies, develops an account of biological determinism based on insights from neuroscience, behavioural genetics and neurogenetics. Zyzik analyzes three case studies: the famous neuroscientific experiment of Benjamin Libet (and its redesigns) concerning the neural basis of decision-making processes, the research on a single-gene defect of phenylketonuria which leads to severe retardation, and the neurogenetic research on C. Elegans – a model organism for the investigation of the interplay between genes, the nervous system and the environment. On the basis of his analysis, Zyzik argues that our knowledge about the biological factors determining behaviour is fragmentary at best, and the thesis of biological determinism, as proposed by many of its contemporary adherents, is ill-founded.
Wojciech Grygiel, in Quantum Mechanics and Its Role in Cognitive Sciences: A Critical Survey, reviews and critically assesses the applications of quantum mechanics in the explanation of neural and mental phenomena. The paper begins with an outline of the aspects of quantum mechanics presumably relevant for the research in cognitive science. Grygiel underlines, however, that due to the scale of single neurons, quantum effects may be extremely short-lasting to be of any relevance at the neuronal level. Next, the analysis of several proposals of the utilization of quantum mechanics in cognitive science is carried out: Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff’s, John C. Eccles’, Henry Stapp’s and David Chalmers’. It is argued that at least the latter three accounts offer strong support for mind-body dualism. Furthermore, as Grygiel claims, in all of those proposals it is difficult to explain in detail how quantum effects are supposed to influence neural activity. Moreover, Stapp’s and Chalmers’ understanding of the relation between quantum mechanics and mental phenomena rests on some dubious philosophical assumptions.
The second part of the collection, At the Border Between Neuroscience and Philosophy, is devoted to more concrete issues arising at the intersection of both disciplines. Łukasz Kurek in Philosophical Issues in the Neuroscience of Mindreading: The Case of Belief proposes a philosophical account of belief developed in the context of the neuroscience of mindreading (i.e., the ability to predict, explain, and describe people’s behaviour). He outlines how the concept of belief is understood in the so-called theory-theory of mindreading and the simulation theory of mind. Furthermore, he argues that on the theory-theory view belief is understood as involving complex and flexible cognitive processes, correlated with specific parts of the brain such as right temporo-parietal junction. On the other hand, within the simulation theory, belief-like states involve simple and inflexible cognitive processes, correlated with such parts of the brain as amygdala. Kurek claims that both these accounts are only partially correct and argues for the hybrid account of mindreading. According to this view, belief can be understood as a mental state utilized in high-level (complex and flexible) mindreading.
The following paper by Julia Stanek, Self-Consciousness: From Philosophy to Neuroscience, investigates some selected aspects of the problem of self-consciousness on the basis of several approaches: the philosophical, psychological, sociological, clinical and the neuroscientific. Stanek provides an overview of the conceptions of self-consciousness offered by such thinkers as Rene Descartes, John Locke, and Thomas Nagel. From the psychological perspective, the influential works of William James and Karl Jaspers are briefly outlined. Those considerations prepare the ground for a more detailed analysis of the research on self-consciousness carried out within neuroscience. Referring to several studies, Stanek argues that the phenomenon in question does not arise from a single neural process. Furthermore, she points out the conceptual and methodological difficulties connected with the neuroscience of self-consciousness.
In their paper Self-Deception. Between Philosophy and Cognitive Neuroscience, Mateusz Hohol and Piotr Urbańczyk indicate how the empirical investigations on self-deception are connected with the philosophical questions pertaining to this issue. They argue that the main point in the philosophical debate on self-deception is whether self-deception is intentional or not, and underscore some difficulties connected with both views. In the second part of the paper, three models of self-deception are proposed: the computational, the evolutionary, and the embodied. Hohol and Urbańczyk argue that intentionalist approaches to self-deception are more coherent with the embodied model of the phenomenon. However, the anti-intentionalist conceptualizations can still be useful in empirical investigations of the problem.
In The Neurobiology of Depression Jerzy Vetulani outlines the results of empirical research on depression. He points out the important factors correlated with this phenomenon, underlining the role of neurotransmitters (e.g. monoamine neurotransmitters), stress (including neonatal stress) and changes in brain structure (such as decrease in the volume of frontal cortex). Despite the growing body of knowledge concerning depression, Vetulani claims that the neurobiological processes underlying this disease are still poorly understood.
The subsequent paper, The Moral Brain: Is There a Link Between Neurobiology and Morality?, by Dominika Dudek, Rafał Jaeschke and Marcin Siwek, aims at identifying the neural underpinnings of morality. In the first part, they indicate the difficulties with the conceptualization of the main categories within morality, as well as the relative character of moral valence of action. After clarifying some key notions, Dudek, Jaeschke and Siwek make an attempt to answer the question of whether neuroscience can provide us with an explanation of morally valent behaviour. A survey of empirical research on this issue (such as the trolley problem experiments, neuropathologies, and the data derived from psychopathy) leads to the conclusion that, despite only fragmentary understanding of neural substrates of moral behaviour, one should acknowledge that the neurobiology of morality is no longer an abstraction.
The goal of Bram T. Heerebout and R. Hans Phaf’s paper Behavioral Benefits and Neural Costs in Simulated Evolution is to substantiate the claim that time constraints imposed on the brain play an essential role in behaviour, and can explain actions that intuitively seem maladaptive. First, they argue that computational modelling methods provide insights which overcome shortcomings of theoretical evolutionary psychology. In the subsequent part of the paper, Heerebout and Phaf argue that evolutionary simulations based on these methods show that affective processes may be maladaptive, but on the whole they endow the organism with fitness-enhancing capabilities.
In the last paper of the volume, On (Un)Happiness From the Viewpoint of Evolutionary Theory and Neuroscience, Wojciech Załuski collects insights pertaining to the problem of happiness that come from philosophy, evolutionary theory and neuroscience. Załuski distinguishes between three types of questions related to happiness: the conceptual (what is happiness?), the empirical (what are the conditions of happiness?), and the axiological (can happiness be an ethical ideal?). He argues that evolutionary theory and neuroscience can provide us with insights only in regard to the empirical question, the other two questions remaining beyond the limits of scientific explanation.
The papers collected in this volume have been written within the research project The Limits of Scientific Explanation, carried out at the Copernicus Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Kraków and sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation.
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