Friday, December 22, 2017

Is it all just matter?                           

                                    Philosophy & Science
Daniel Dennett is one of the preeminent philosophers of the Neuroscience Movement and a devoted admirer of what he calls “The Cathedral of Science,” that is, “the highly structured, beautifully articulated amalgam of ‘what everyone should know’ about science, crowned by the inscrutable but talismanic formula, ‘e = mc2.’”  Its “popular lore” includes the accessible physics of everyday objects, fascinating depictions of black holes, compelling stories about language-using chimps, and, of course, the colorful, computer-generated maps of the human brain.  The Cathedral’s foundational architecture is “the familiar hierarchy of mechanistic materialism: living bodies are self-preserving, self-replicating machines made out of cells made out of molecules made out of atoms--with some weird quantum physics isolated (one hopes) in the cellar.”  Heresies like creationism, extra sensory perception (ESP), vitalism, and intelligent design “are readily identified and deplored in unison.”  In summary, Dennett concludes, “No church has ever enjoyed a more entrenched or authoritative orthodoxy, an empire that expands with daily discoveries,” its dominion protected from “swift change by the distributed, mutual myopia of its adherents.”[1]
For Dennett, and several other neurophilosophers, there’s no vantage point outside “the Cathedral of Science” from which the scientific enterprise can be judged.  Philosophy, if it has any contribution to make, may do so during the early stages of an emerging scientific discipline, before scientists have formulated a coherent body of questions and hypotheses (which will, of course, evolve over time).[2]  Once the subject matter under investigation has been framed within “the familiar hierarchy of mechanistic materialism,” then the scientific explanation of this subject matter can only be dislodged by a better scientific theory.  There is simply “no Archimedean point outside all science from which we can pronounce upon the acceptability of scientific theories.”[3]  As W.V.O. Quine, the philosopher most closely associated with this view, concisely put it, “philosophy of science is philosophy enough.” Or, as Hilary Putnam, a one-time adherent (turned critic) summarized the gist of this position, “the best metaphysics is physics.”[4]
Now, if “the best metaphysics is physics,” and if human beings are just “self-preserving, self-replicating machines made out of cells made out of molecules made out of atoms,” then many long-standing topics in philosophy are no longer matters for serious discussion, including the relationship between our minds and bodies, and between our minds and the world, because “mechanistic materialism” is delivering increasingly refined answers to questions about the mind’s relationship to the body and the world around it.  Bluntly stated, “minds are simply what brains do,” and what brains do is to “transform sensory inputs into self-preserving behavioral outputs.”  This mode of living has been made possible because the human brain and nervous system have been “designed” by a process of natural selection that’s been underway for more than a million years.[5]  Once we come to fully understand and appreciate this scientific picture of humankind, we will readily abandon our romantic illusions about the Mind and Self, Reason and Emotion, Morality and Sentiment, just as our ancestors eventually relinquished many of their myths.  But whether we let go of these ideas cheerfully or not, their final destination is the same landfill of unscientific pretentions that is home to astrology, alchemy, vitalism, and the rest of the misbegotten ideas human beings have embraced throughout our history.[6],[7],[8],[9],[10]
On what ground does the Neuroscience Movement build its stairway to these heavenly heights of certainty?  On the corpse of conceptual philosophy, which, according to many in the Neuroscience Movement, was effectively dispatched by the great American philosopher, W.V.O. Quine.  Before Quine came along in the 1950s, many philosophers were preoccupied with language, the medium through which we express our thoughts, and with the analysis of concepts, including their interrelations, rules of application, and the social practices into which they are interwoven.  The primary task of philosophy, in this pre-Quinean view, is to analyze the wide-ranging conceptual scheme in terms of which we describe ourselves, our relation to others, the justifications we give for our thoughts and actions, and so forth.
How did Quine discredit this school of philosophy?[11]  Here’s the way Patricia Churchland, the High Priestess of Neurophilosophy, explains it, beginning with her own rather “special” understanding of conceptual philosophy: “Conceptual analysis – reflecting on what words mean – was thought to be the philosophers’ special route to the Really Deep Truths. This might involve thought experiments, but not, of course, real experiments. Mere science could neither reveal nor challenge those Deep Truths.”  Given this understanding of conceptual philosophy, it’s easy to understand Churchland’s admiration for its executioner and her own resurrection as a neurophilosopher,
“Willard Van Orman Quine at Harvard was the first established philosopher to expose this swell emperor as merrily swaggering about in nothing but his birthday suit .  .  . Philosophy is about understanding the nature of things. Arm-chair declarations on word meaning, by contrast, are not about the actual nature of perception or choice or consciousness. Hence my shift to neurophilosophy.”[12] 
For Churchland,[13] Quine’s liberating contribution was his deconstruction of the distinction between “analytic truths,” i.e., truths by virtue of meaning alone, such as “all bachelors are men,” and “empirical truths,” such as “the earth is 92,960,000 miles from the sun.”[14]  In Quine’s view, there are no distinct analytic truths, only what Churchland calls “highly probable, very strongly held beliefs.”[15]  Rather than trying to differentiate between analytic and empirical truths, “Quine taught us that a ‘conceptual scheme’ is a loose and dynamical organization of interconnected beliefs and meanings,” and that “separating beliefs from meanings was mainly a pragmatic, not a principled, business, yielding nothing interesting by way of necessary truths.”  When important scientific findings change our beliefs about the world, “it is evident that meanings change too.”  Having thus constructed her case for neurophilosophy on the basis of Quine’s critique, Churchland then adds her own distinctive argument against conceptual philosophy, “When important beliefs about the world change, it is evident that meanings change too.  In the brain, there would be no principled difference.[16]
Let’s leave Quine’s arguments aside for the moment and focus on Churchland’s own contribution, viz., her claim that, since there’s no “principled difference” in the brain between a change in belief and a change in meaning, there’s no real difference between analytic and empirical truths.[17]  Now, for anyone the least bit skeptical of neurophilosophy, this assertion surely begs the question.  The point at issue isn’t whether the brain recognizes or manifests a “principled difference” between conceptual and empirical questions, but whether “what it makes sense to say” can be separated from “what beliefs it is rational to affirm.”[18]  Adducing scientific findings about the brain in order to resolve a disagreement between neurophilosophers and conceptual philosophers presupposes an answer to the very question that’s in dispute, that is, whether science, and, in this case, neuroscience, should have the last word as to whether there’s any real difference between beliefs about the world and the meaning of the concepts through which we represent it.[19]
We can get a better understanding of the issues at stake in this debate by looking at a couple of examples in which conceptual clarity (or the lack thereof) is crucial in assessing the relevance of neuroscientific findings for such common notions as “having a sense of self” and “understanding the simple sum, 2+2=4.”  In setting forth her argument against conceptual philosophy, Churchland draws attention to cases reported by clinical neurologists where patients suffering from severe amnesia “maintained a sense of self despite having lost virtually all autobiographical memory.”[20]  One reaction to these cases might be to wonder what it would be like to try to maintain “a sense of self” after losing one’s memory.  How would you go about it?  What obstacles would you encounter?  What would be the signs of success or failure?  And so forth.  Churchland takes a very different approach.  In her eyes, these patients must be delusional because a person simply can’t have “a sense of self” if they’ve forgotten virtually all of their past.  Just as in the case of “cortically blind patients who were nevertheless utterly convinced they could see (Anton’s syndrome),” the neurological facts of the matter (a damaged nervous system in both cases) trump the patients’ own self-confident claims to the contrary.   According to Churchland, these cases pose the following dilemma for the conceptual philosopher, “Either you deny the data or you see your conceptual necessities related to ‘self’ or ‘consciousness’ reduced to merely empirical claims whose truth was on the skids.”[21]  In other words, when neuroscientific facts conflict with conceptual truths, conceptual philosophers can either ignore the facts or cling to their concepts even as they’re being dissolved before our eyes by advances in neuroscience.
Although Churchland construes these clinical cases as a devastating blow to conceptual philosophy, they can actually be employed to illustrate the benefits of conceptual analysis and the shortcomings of her own argument. To begin with, Churchland assumes that the concept of self is such that the speaker’s own testimony about “having a sense of self” is incorrigible, i.e., necessarily true.[22]  [More broadly, Churchland accuses conceptual philosophers of regarding as a “necessary truth” the proposition that “knowledge of one’s own mental states is incorrigible.”]  Granted, there are some first person avowals that we do regard as incorrigible.  If someone says they’re feeling dizzy, or in pain, or can’t remember such and such, then, in the absence of special circumstances, we don’t question their avowal.  But not all such statements are incorrigible.  Simply saying you have “a sense of self,” or, perhaps more commonly, “a strong sense of self,” doesn’t clinch the matter, just as saying you’ve got “a sense of honor” or “a sense of style” isn’t enough to confirm that you actually possess these traits.  If someone lies, cheats, and steals, but insists they have a sense of honor, we have good reasons to doubt their assertion.  In a similar fashion, if an obviously insecure person insists he has a strong sense of self, but, in fact, can’t make even trivial decisions without consulting others, then we’re not inclined to accept his self-description.  In other words, Churchland has misunderstood the criteria for attributing “a sense of self” to someone, mistakenly believing that it’s one of those qualities or attributes about which a person’s own testimony is incorrigible.[23]
Next, let’s examine Churchland’s premise that a person who suffers the loss of “virtually all biographical memory” can’t possibly have “a sense of self.”  Suppose such an amnesiac has constructed from the few remembered bits of her past, and from her recent experiences in trying to cope with her challenging circumstances, some kind of plan to find out more about her personal history.  Perhaps she asks for suggestions about how to find people she once knew, or places she once lived and worked, and then acts on these suggestions with determination.  When people try to discourage her or are unhelpful, she protests, but carries on.  Surely these actions are relevant to the question of whether this person has a sense of self.  But rather than asking such “conceptual” questions, Churchland simply assumes without argument that having a good memory of one’s past is a necessary condition of having a sense of self and, on the basis of this questionable premise, helps herself to a conclusion she hasn’t earned.
There’s one more aspect of Churchland’s argument that deserves closer scrutiny.  She treats the self, or having a sense of self, as if this concept belonged to a (Cartesian) theory of mind in which the conscious subject, or cogito, has privileged access to its own thoughts and feelings.  For it is this privileged access which, in Churchland’s interpretation of “folk psychology,” confers certainty upon first person reports about “having a sense of self.”[24]  Now, if our concept of self were, in fact, based on such a theory, then neurological findings that contradicted this theory, e.g., showing that many self-proclamations are false, would indeed count against the theory.  But our stock of mental concepts, with few exceptions, does not belong to any such theory.  These concepts – self, mind, thinking, believing, willing, etc. – are not part of a psychological theory about our selves, minds, thoughts, etc.  Rather, they belong to a categorical framework through which apprehend, describe, explain, criticize, and justify our thoughts, feelings, desires, and actions.  [I’ll have more to say about this categorical framework later.]
Viewed in light of these considerations, Churchland’s assertion that the conceptual philosopher must either “deny the data or you see your conceptual necessities related to ‘self’ or ‘consciousness’ reduced to merely empirical claims whose truth was on the skids” is simply false.  There’s no reason to “deny the data” because the “data,” i.e., clinical cases of amnesiacs who claim to have a sense of self, have been brought to bear against a mistaken conception of what it is to have a sense of self.  And there’s no reason to worry that these neurological findings undermine our concept of self because the categorical framework to which this concept belongs is not a theory about the mind or anything else, but a mode of representation (more on this later).  Once we recognize that our concept of self does not entail that a person’s proclamations about “having a sense of self” are incorrigible, and that the criteria for attributing “a sense of self” to someone aren’t limited to having an extensive memory of one’s past, then it’s clear that Churchland’s misguided criticisms land nowhere near her intended target.[25]
One of the criticisms Churchland and other neurophilosophers levy against conceptual philosophy is that it’s based on intuitions, or what we can conceive of, or imagine, all of which are the product of socialization or other parochial influences, and therefore provide a poor basis for judgment.[26]  Just because we find it difficult to imagine something, such as a “brain remembering something,” doesn’t make it nonsense.  After all, what we can imagine changes over time, and often in connection with scientific discoveries such as the evolution of homo sapiens as a distinct species of hominids, the origin of the universe in a “Big Bang,” and the discovery of “germs,” to mention just a few scientific advances that altered the sorts of things we can imagine.  In some cases, scientific discoveries have led to changes in the way we live and even in the concepts we use to describe and explain things in our daily lives.  Think of the many ways in which the germ theory of disease has affected our way of life and the concepts we use in talking about sickness and health.  And, yet, while it’s true that the sorts of things we can imagine do change over time, and, furthermore, that our conceptual schemes can also change over time, it’s not true that conceptual analysis relies on imagination and intuition in the way these critics suppose.
An instructive example of this error is provided by Dan Ross, a neuroeconomist who aims to apply economic theory to a new, non-human, subject matter, and who argues that the issue of whether insects, thermostats, parts of the brain, and other non-persons can act as agents in pursuit of ends is not a conceptual, but an empirical, question (p. 222).  Realizing that some readers will resist his program, Ross aims to forestall conceptual criticism of his “cyborg” economics with this declaration, “Surely it cannot be a conceptual truth that dolphins, or any possible aliens – or cyborgs – could not grasp the proposition that ‘2 + 2 = 4’ unless they have the same types of neural states as people.”[27]  Yet, this preemptive strike against conceptual critics is misguided in several respects.  In the first place, we don’t ascertain whether someone has grasped “the proposition that ‘2 + 2 = 4’” by finding out what neural state their brain is in.  Rather, we judge this matter by asking questions, having the person write sums, checking their work, and so on.  Whether a person’s brain must be in a particular neural state in order to grasp that 2 + 2 = 4 is not a conceptual question, but an empirical question (though probably not a well-formed empirical question).
We can, however, bring the real conceptual issue to the fore by supposing that we undertake a study to determine whether dolphins can be trained to add 2 + 2.  We might start by placing two beach balls in front of the dolphin, and then two more, rewarding the dolphin whenever it immediately barks four times.  Suppose that after a few weeks or months of training the dolphin will bark four times whenever two objects of any kind are placed alongside two other objects of any kind.  A conceptual question now arises: does this performance by the dolphin count as “grasping that 2 + 2 = 4”?  The answer is by no means straightforward.  Typically, human beings grasp this notion after we’ve learned to count using our fingers.  And we don’t learn this particular sum in isolation, but along with other sums.  We give verbal answers to questions of arithmetic or write down sums like 2 + 2 = 4, and our mistakes are corrected, not merely discouraged by “negative reinforcement.”  When we’re learning basic arithmetic, we’re also taught how these operations are applied for practical purposes.  Bearing this background in mind, let us now ask whether a dolphin “grasps that 2 + 2 = 4” if it reliably barks four times whenever two objects are set alongside two others, even if this is the only sum it has “mastered”?[28]
Ross’s suggestion to the contrary notwithstanding, the ground-floor conceptual issue isn’t whether a dolphin (without a human neural network) could grasp that 2 + 2 = 4, but what counts as grasping that 2 + 2 = 4, and this is a conceptual, not an empirical, question.  Human beings learn simple sums in the context of many other things: a mother tells her child he can only have two pieces of candy; the child complains that his older sister has three pieces; a neighbor holds up two fingers and asks the child if he has more than “this many” pieces of candy; and so on.  It’s against this background that we ascertain whether someone, usually a child (which is also important in arriving at this judgment), has “grasped that 2 + 2 = 4.”  In the case of the dolphin, this background is missing and, as a consequence, we lack the criteria that are available to us in judging whether a person “grasps that 2 + 2 = 4.”  Perhaps Ross would conclude that a dolphin which barked four times whenever two objects were set alongside two others had indeed “grasped that 2 + 2 = 4.”  Would he also insist that the dolphin’s grasping of this sum is the same as the child’s grasping of it?
Let’s press a little harder because Ross’s example of “dolphin addition” is much more plausible than many other kinds of behavior that might be attributed to dolphins (not to mention to insects, thermostats, and neural networks).  Is it a conceptual, or a scientific, question whether a dolphin could come to regret something it did many years ago?  We know what it is for human beings to regret something they did many years ago.  They may express it in recounting the story of a business venture that turned out badly.  We may hear it in a person’s voice and see it in their facial expressions as they lament their failure to help a friend who needed assistance a long time ago.  What do we look for in a dolphin’s behavior to see whether the dolphin regrets something it did (or didn’t do!) a long time ago?  This doesn’t rule out the possibility that dolphin life could evolve in such a manner that dolphins could come to “have regrets.”  But if it did, dolphin life would have to become much more like human life (or vice versa), otherwise we couldn’t grasp the regrets expressed by dolphins.  If the life of dolphins (or of humans) did evolve in ways that brought new commonalities to our two forms of life, then scientists might investigate the development of those biological conditions that made “dolphin regret” possible, but – and this is the essential point – an investigation of this kind presupposes criteria for what counts as having regrets, and this is not a task for scientific investigation, but rather is presupposed by it.
I want to conclude this discussion of philosophy and science with a brief consideration of Quine’s “naturalized epistemology” and the special position neuroscience occupies within this radical conception.  Traditional epistemology has focused on knowledge and understanding, the problem of skepticism, the criteria for a rational or warranted belief, and so on.  Quine didn’t find the results of this two thousand year-old enterprise at all promising and therefore urged a return to our first point of contact with the world.  In his words, “The stimulation of his sensory receptors is all the evidence anybody has had to go on, ultimately, in arriving at his picture of the world. Why not just see how this construction really proceeds? Why not settle for [stimulus-response] psychology?”[29]  What Quine is aiming for in this “naturalized epistemology” is an empirical (scientific) account of how the stimulation of our “sensory receptors” gets transformed into verbal descriptions of “the three-dimensional external world and its history.”[30]
Although Quine’s proposal for a naturalized epistemology was elaborated in the 1960s, it’s now being carried forward with the help of cognitive neuroscience, which, its proponents claim, is gradually revealing how the brain and central nervous system convert sensory inputs into “perceptual images” and behavioral outputs, including verbal responses to questions about what experimental subjects see, hear, or feel.  Thus, Patricia Churchland effuses, “Neuroscience made progress in understanding how brains construct perceptual images from retinal stimulation, how brains learn and remember things, and how the brain makes decisions, just as Quine had believed it probably would.”  (From Churchland’s preface [?] to Quine’s Book, Word & Object).
I characterized Quine’s “naturalized epistemology” as a radical conception because, unlike traditional epistemology, which is concerned with the justification of knowledge claims and their relationship to the evidence of experience, Quine is interested in the causal relationship between our experience and the verbal statements produced by this experience.  For Quine, the “human subject is accorded a certain experimentally controlled input — certain patterns of irradiation in assorted frequencies, for instance — and in the fullness of time the subject delivers as output a description of the three-dimensional external world and its history.”  It’s important to notice that, for Quine, “experience” is nothing more than the neuronal cause of a verbal response, in which, for example, light of a certain wavelength striking the retina of an English-speaking adult produces the utterance, “It’s red.”  The “inputs” and “outputs” in this view are described in purely physical terms and explained by theories drawn from the sciences of biology, chemistry, and (ultimately) physics.[31]
The viewpoint I have tried to articulate departs at many points from the foregoing vision.  I don’t believe that recent neuroscientific findings have answered or dissolved long-standing philosophical issues surrounding the relationship between our minds and the world, our minds and our bodies, knowledge and belief, reasons and causes, etc.  There’s little doubt that our beliefs can be located within some kind of causal framework that includes our genetic endowments, personal history, neural networks, and other contributing factors.  But this is only one side of the story, since we distinguish the causes of a belief from the reasons offered in favor of it.  And the validity of these reasons is usually independent of whatever causal account may explain how we came to hold this belief.
I doubt there is a single neuroscientist or neurophilosopher who eschews “giving reasons” for the conclusions he or she puts forward.  Dennett, Churchland, and Ross certainly offer reasons for the claims they advance.  Or, were they merely trying to “cause” us to adopt their viewpoints?[32]  Does science move forward as the publication of new findings, and their presentation at scientific conferences, cause scientists to adopt one scientific theory rather than another?  There’s no need to deny that many causal factors play a role in the formation of our beliefs, as well as in their diffusion through the various communities in which we participate.  But a causal account of belief formation is not the same as an appraisal of its truth or validity.[33]  It’s not even clear what it would mean to explain a piece of reasoning in terms of cause and effect, for the very idea of explaining a mathematical proof, for example, presupposes an ability on the part of the listener to understand this reasoning.  If words are to retain their meaning, such an understanding entails more than the production of an acoustic emission caused by a sequence of light and sound waves.
If we take Quinean-influenced neurophilosophy seriously, then the world we take-in through our experience – “a room being too warm,” “a crowd being hostile,” or “an egg being fried sunny side up” – this world, extends no further than our bodies, where “surface irritations” occur.  The room, the crowd, and the fried egg are beyond our reach in this view; they are constructions arising from the brain’s processing of sensory inputs.  Thus, when Quine and the neurophilosophers who follow in his footsteps insist that the ultimate court of appeal for common sense and science alike is the “tribunal of experience,” it must be remembered that Quine’s conception of “experience” extends no further than the “surface irritations” of our “sensory receptors.”  John McDowell, a contemporary philosopher critical of Quine’s approach, gives an admirable summary of Quine’s theory from my point of view:
“The cash value of the talk of facing the tribunal of experience can only be that different irritations of sensory nerve endings are disposed to have different impacts on the system of statements a subject accepts, not that different courses of experience have different rational implications about what system of statements a subject ought to accept.”[34]
One alternative to Quine’s naturalized epistemology and its neuroscientific offshoots is McDowell’s conception of Mind and World (the title of his best known book), in which we take in the world as being thus and so, and in which our experience, rationally assessed, can become evidence for our beliefs, and not just their causes.  I cannot give a detailed account of this alternative viewpoint here, but it’s also well expressed by Wittgenstein, who wrote, “When we say, and mean, that such-and-such is the case, we – and our meaning – do not stop anywhere short of the fact; but we mean this – is – so.”[35]  Or, to quote Putnam, arguing along similar lines, “What I am saying, then, is that the elements of what we call ‘language’ or ‘mind’ penetrate so deeply into what we call reality that the very project of representing ourselves as ‘mappers’ of something ‘language-independent’ is fatally compromised from the very start.”[36]  This is not to say that we, or our language, “make the world,” but that “the world” cannot be factored into language or mind, on one side, and raw facts or “the given,” on the other.  The world is not the “product” of anything; it’s just there.] 

[1] Dennett’s review of Roger Penrose, XXX Mind

[2] I leave aside the question of how we judge the “phase” or level of development of a scientific discipline, especially when we’re trying to judge “on the fly,” i.e., not with benefit of history and hindsight.

[3] Patricia Churchland, Neurophilosophy, p. 265.

[4] See Putnam, Renewing Philosophy pp. 2-3 ff.  Putnam is summarizing the views of the early-Putnam, which the later-Putnam comes to reject in a series of articles and books of arresting brilliance.

[5] Problems with the mind as a “Turing machine” in Putnam, Renewing Philosophy, pp. 5-7; and with modeling induction, where the “elegance” of a theory may count in its favor. What we call intelligence presupposes a lot of “human nature,” vs. Dennett, i.e., there’s a difference between modeling the brain and simulating human intelligence. Language using is not a “separable” human ability (Chomsky), and there’s no reason to reduce human cognition to computations or brain processes, pp. 8-14.

[6] Despite his recognition of the sociological fortress that protects the institution of Science, (or perhaps because of it) . . .  See Dennett, many publications

[7] Paul and Patricia Churchland, et al

[8] For Dennett and many other thinkers in the Neuroscience Movement

[9] Despite his recognition of the sociological fortress that protects the institution of Science, (or perhaps because of it) See Dennett

[10] Paul and Patricia Churchland, et al

[11] See Paul Churchland’s critique of Bennett and Hacker and B&H’s reply in History of Cognitive Neuroscience

[12] Patricia Churchland, “Bare-Naked Philosophy”
Does knowing a word’s meaning reveal the nature of things?
Published on April 23, 2013 by Patricia Smith Churchland, B. Phil in Neurophilosophy.  See also Churchland, Neurophilosophy, p. 271, where she writes that the demise of the analytic/synthetic distinction “pulled the rug out from under those philosophers who practiced on the assumption that the solution to philosophical problems consisted in analyzing meanings.  The facts on this view would have to follow where conceptual clarification first led.”

[13] Churchland wrote the preface to the re-issue of Quine’s Words and Things

[14] See Churchland, Neurophilosophy, pp. 266-7.

[15] Churchland, “Bare Naked Philosophy,” p.

[16] Churchland, “Bare Naked Philosophy,” p.    Emphasis added.

[17] Putnam argues that one can’t give any scientific description of meaning, or same meaning, etc., because there are no common scientifically describable conditions that attend these ideas.  This poses massive problems for Churchland’s appeal to “common” neural patterns as evidence for anything.  See note 19 below.

[18] Alternatively, the pragmatist might say the question is whether it’s useful to recognize such a difference or not.

[19] What Churchland’s version of neurophilosophy could not abide is the absence of any scientifically describable commonality among all instances of causation. Worse yet, what if, according to Churchland’s criterion, the notions of reference (how we refer to things) and truth turn out to be unscientific myths because they lack any common elements describable in terms of neurobiology? This becomes a big headache for neuroscientists who share Churchland’s view “because reference and truth are the fundamental notions of the fundamental exact science: the science of logic.” Would neuroscientists of this persuasion be willing to dispense with these concepts nevertheless, consigning them to the dustbin of “folk logic?” Well, Patricia Churchland’s husband and collaborator, Paul Churchland, is apparently willing to abandon the concept of truth while awaiting its “successor concept.”

[20] Churchland preface or forward to the new edition of Quine, Word & Object (see Amazon)

[21] Churchland, “Bare Naked Philosophy,” p. x  “Clinical neurology produced striking patient profiles that implied the need for conceptual revision; for example, from split brain subjects in whom conscious awareness was not unified, from cortically blind patients who were nevertheless utterly convinced they could see (Anton’s syndrome), and from amnesic patients who maintained a sense of self despite having lost virtually all autobiographical memory [emphasis added].
[22] Churchland, “Bare Naked Philosophy,” p. x  Other ‘necessary truths’ -- such as that knowledge of one’s own mental states is incorrigible -- suffered comparable indignities.” See P.M.S. Hacker, Human Nature: The Categorical Framework on the “philosopher’s self.”

[23] It’s worth noting here that Churchland has failed to follow her own methodological advice, “If scientific psychology is to revise and improve upon folk psychology, it must know what the framework consists of and whether and to what extent it can be revised” Neurophilosophy, p. 301.
[24] Patricia Churchland, Neurophilosophy, p. xWe lean “folk psychology” like we learn “folk physics” 302  They didn’t originate as theories, but they function as theories, p. 303.  Neuroscientists aren’t “obliged to seek identifications between neurobiological states and psychological states as characterized within folk psychology.” Emphasis in the original, p. 311.  Folk psychology has no more epistemological priority than folk physics, p. 312
[25] Churchland is led down this unavailing path, in part, because her understanding of “conceptual analysis” as the “philosophers’ special route to the Really Deep Truths” is wildly off the mark.  I can’t think of a single philosopher, and certainly not Wittgenstein, who claimed that “reflecting on what words mean” would lead to “Really Deep Truths” (caps in the original).  In fact, this whole way of framing the disagreement between Quine and conceptual philosophy is misleading.  The aim of conceptual analysis is not truth, but sense.  Philosophy and science aren’t, or at least shouldn’t be, fighting over the same territory.  The task of philosophy is not to develop theories about the world, but to clarify the concepts and their interconnections.

[26] Churchland, Neurophilosophy, pp. 272 ff.

[27] Dan Ross,               p. 40, emphasis in original.

[28] I put “mastered” in scare quotes because, while the dolphin can only bark four times in response to the placement of two objects and two more, before it, the human can do this sum with his fingers, or by writing down the addition, 2 + 2 = 4, or by verbally responding to the question, “what does two plus two equal?” And, most importantly, human beings do not “master” one sum only.

[29] Quine, 1969: 75

[30] Quine, 1969: 82–3

[31] As Jaegwon Kim points out in a widely cited critical discussion of Quine, another conspicuous difference between traditional epistemology and what Quine recommends is that they study strikingly different topics (Kim, 1988: 390). The old epistemology was interested in questions about rationality, justification, and knowledge. The central questions concerned whether an epistemic support relation--a justifying relation--holds between our basic evidence and our beliefs about the world. Analysis of some of the arguments for skepticism reveals that they rely on the view that our evidence supports our beliefs only if our beliefs are deducible from that evidence. Seeing that they are not, many epistemologists are drawn to investigate other accounts of the epistemic support relation, accounts that allow for the possibility that our beliefs about the world are well supported by our sensory evidence, even if they are not strictly derivable from that evidence. As Kim sees it, Quine has proposed ignoring these questions about epistemic support and investigating instead the causal connections between our sensory evidence and our beliefs about the world. Thus, if we follow the Quinean recommendation, we will study the same relata--our basic evidence and our beliefs about the world. However, we will study a different relation. In the original case, we looked to see if there was an epistemic support relation between the data and the beliefs. In the new case, we look to see the nature of the causal connection between them.

[32] The Sophist makes a comeback on the heels of science.

[33] Of course the circumstances in which a person perceives something, the mood of the person coming to a judgment, etc., can become warrants for an inference (drawn in these circumstances), “circumstances” being described in terms of, e.g., lighting, recent social interactions, etc.

[34] John McDowell, Mind and World, p. 133.

[35] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para xxx.

[36] Hilary Putnam, Realism with a Human Face, p. 28.

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