Sunday, July 08, 2007

Brain Science and The Case against Brains

A discussion on Telic Thoughts concerning a cognitive scientists argument that mind-independent physical objects don't exist. Of course, if the argument works, it's an argument against realism about cognitive science. The minute brain science proves that there are no brains, it has put itself out of business.


Anonymous said...

Hi Vic,

Thanks for the plug.

Sturgeon's Lawyer said...

That's actually an extraordinarily dumb interpretation (theirs, not yours).

It is unlikely that the visual experiences of homo sapiens, shaped to permit survival in a particular range of niches, should miraculously also happen to resemble the true nature of a mind-independent realm.

That is semi-true. The sensory equipment (not experiences) of a species would, presumably, evolve to represent those aspects of their environment that were relevant to the survival of, not "the species," but individual members of the species. The environment contains a lot of detail that is not relevant to survival, and sensory equipment that ignores or filters out a lot of that detail, without losing the details that are relevant, will maximize survival by minimizing the resources (like attention) the organism spends on irrelvancies.

What it would mean for the internal representation of the spoon to "resemble" the "mind-independent object" is up for grabs; I don't even know what it would mean for a representation to "resemble" an "object." What is clear, however, is that, in order for us to usefully recognize and manipulate the spoon, our internal representation of it must bear certain structural similarities to the "mind-independent object:" we are accurately representing structural qualities such as its shape and hardness.

Since we can recognize and manipulate a spoon, that implies that the structural similarity does, in fact, exist. Interestingly, this fact, obvious to anyone who actually thinks about what it means to have an internal representation of the world, is independent of whether our sensory equipment evolved, was created from clay, or whatever.

Is there a "real spoon," a mind-independent physical object that causes our spoon experiences and resembles our spoon experiences? This is not only unnecessary but unlikely.

This is not only silly but nihilistic.