I do think Fodor brings up a good point, and a point I was considering when reading the mirror neurons reading, what do these findings and this research actually mean? What weight can they be assigned? Is finding mirror neurons mean that we can understand other people’s actions? Could we not say that before? I do wish, however, Fodor said where he wishes this research time and money would go in the scientific field. And although he claims “if the best you can say for your research strategy is ‘you can never tell, it might pan out,’ you probably ought to have your research strategy looked at”, I’m honestly not sure how you fully avoid this. Many scientific findings arise from errors. This “panning out” does happen and can be the game changer in research.
Hey Felicity, I’m also wondering what significance the findings on mirror neurons have from the 4a reading. In my comment on 4a I also tried to take it a step further to ask what would be a preferable explanation to neural imaging, and I wonder if you’re asking yourself the same question. To touch on your last question: “I’m honestly not sure how you fully avoid this. Many scientific findings arise from errors. This “panning out” does happen and can be the game changer in research.”I completely agree that many scientific findings arise from errors. I think all that Fodor was saying here, though, was that the neuroscientists running the neuroimaging studies seemed, from his perspective, to not care “which experimental tasks it would be interesting to make brain maps for.” From this quote from his final paragraph, I think he’s only making the broader statement that a more scientific approach should be taken than measuring for the sake of measuring.
With respect to poking and imaging the brain, I’m really not sure how much this ought to benefit our understanding of cognition; I agree with Fodor on this. One of my favorite things from the internet for the past little while is this gif: http://i.imgur.com/4zGWuki.gif. It shows four ostrich-raptor-like simulations. They represent generations of an algorithm that learns to manipulate the many little joints and muscles in the bodies to counteract gravity and walk in a straight line. By generation 1000, the process is perfect. To me, this illustration is far more informative for cognitive science than are the murky yet strongly stated theories of how the cerubellum manipulates information sent to it to coordinate complex motor movements…
Doesn’t Fodor write like a pompous a--? At least I think so, haha.I’m not sure I understand his rationalism/empiricism argument. This is really bad since I claim to be a philosophy student, haha. For sure a pure-bred empiricist will say that the mind is a blank slate, presumably meaning that if the mind somehow arises or what-have-you from the brain,t then there should be 0 innate tendencies in it. And vice versa for rationalists. But I don’t think there are that many pure-breds anymore. Most people are somewhere in the middle, meaning that neural localization of xyz can be adapted and appropriated by either side without much difference being made. I imagine empiricists reconciled themselves to innate tendencies ages ago, when genes were first discovered. Furthermore, I don’t think empiricists or rationalists would care much about anything except how we come to know – not IQ, not motor function, whatever. Anything that is related to epistemology would be interesting to them. I guess. Also, this is how I feel about life:"It occurs to me that maybe we’re heavily invested in finding answers to which we don’t know the corresponding questions"
Oh also when he says this:"I take it to be currently the consensus that they have significant scientific import over and above their implications for medical practice."I think maybe a lot of people think that if they can piece together every aspect of cognition (function, thinking, recognition, etc), then they will know what consciousness is. That may be a false hypothesis, but I think that drives functional imaging as well.Another subset of people, I imagine, take on Searle’s belief that in order to know what consciousness is, we should know the difference between a conscious and unconscious brain. In this regard, I think some neuroscientists think that this is practice or preparation for the biggest question, which is studying the difference b/w an unconscious & conscious brain (for the sake of “localizing” consciousness). I do agree that there’s some level of scientism going on though. But what can you do!! :(
ANDD (sorry, I just like this Fodor paper), when he says this:"As far as I can see, it’s reasonable to hold that brain studies are methodologically privileged with respect to other ways of finding out about the mind only if you are likewise prepared to hold that facts about the brain are metaphysically privileged with respect to facts about the mind; and you can hold that only if you think the brain and the mind are essentially different kinds of thing. But I had supposed that dualistic metaphysics was now out of fashion"I definitely think this is the most interesting part of the paper. I don’t know how to deal with it right now but I have stored it in my list of things to remember and think about once in a while when I can’t sleep at night due to the frat house across the street being loud again. "Their idea was apparently that experimental data are, ipso facto, a good thing"This reminds me of a line in Neil Postman’s (very good) book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, where he says that he thinks the issue with computers might be that as a medium, they promote the cultural thinking that the only problem we have is one of data, information, not of how to analyse the data / what to do with it / why we have it / etc. I really like these Apocalypse Now! sorts of thinkers. They reflect my constant state of pessimism about everything.