Sunday, 23 September 2012

Mental and Biological

Some interesting points about anti-psychologism here, from where this:
To illustrate his point, he [Max Weber] asks us to suppose that psychology has advanced so far that it is possible to assess the precise neurological causes behind the reasoning of a mathematical theorem; that never suffices to determine whether or not that theorem is true .... Why? Because there is a fundamental distinction in principle between determining causes and assessing validity, which no amount of causal explanation will ever surmount.
And this:
 When Wilson "predicts," for example, that ethical phenomena will also turn out to be neural, it's unclear what interesting conclusion he thinks follows from this fact. Have we here "reduced" ethics to biology? Anyone who's tempted to answer yes should consider one further "prediction": Mathematical thoughts will also involve neurons. You're free, of course, to conclude that ethical truths are just biology but only at the considerable risk of arriving at the same conclusion about "2 + 2 = 4"
Indeed. And the whole language of 'reducing' one phenomenon to another is to me rather puzzling.For example, we think better, more clearly, when there is greater oxygen pumped to the brain; but these clear thoughts are not ‘reducible’ to an expression of this physiological alteration. We might also think about a certain way of discussing love. It is ‘explained’ in terms of hormonal balance or chemical re-composition. But ‘explained’ here seems to mean something like ‘wholly reducible to’. Yet equally, the ‘non-love’ ordinary state also has its chemical or hormonal correlative. Does this default chemical state ‘explain’ our ordinary state of being in the same dismissive way? Obviously not. 


It seems to me that all we can strictly say is that the event of love or thought occurs concurrently with or immediately after the neurological/ chemical re-adjustment. The incorporeal thought is never simply given in the neuro-chemical elements. There is a gap which science can only bridge with – often unacknowledged - metaphor. 

And of course, the question is: what causes the chemical or physiological re-composition. Either we refer at some point to an incorporeal event or we stick with the material chemical level. If the latter, then we are trapped in a curious determinism.

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