Saturday, June 4, 2011

topic questions for June 5th meeting based on the book 'Brain-wise: Studies in neurophilosophy'

The philosophy club is now limited to 8 people per meeting so please RSVP early if you're interested in the topic.  The June 5th meeting is full.  These are the quotes that we'll discuss.  Each quote will be discussed  for approximately 10 minutes each.  The meeting runs about 2 hours so we won't be able to discuss all these quotes. 

1. Page 392 | begin at Loc. 4549 All scientific hypothesis are evaluated on the basis of evidence and argument, none are considered too sacred to be criticized or investigated or refuted. … Indeed, the history of science is full of examples where it was the seemingly safe assumption that was ultimately overturned. … The whole point about faith is that you do not criticize or test or marshal evidence and argument. The whole point about science and progress in science is that you do.

2. Page 227 | Loc. 2753-54 whatever rationality in decision making actually is, independence from emotions is not its essence.

3. Page 328 | Loc. 3848-49 but because it is so heavily encrusted with misconception and misdirection, it is preferable to seek more precise terminology.

4. Page 230 | Loc. 2802-3 we also learn ethical concepts such as fair and unfair, kind and unkind, by being shown prototypical cases and slowly learning to generalize to novel but relevantly similar situations.

5. Page 132 | Loc. 1612- Newton replaced the old conception of gravity with a completely new conception: a reciprocal force between any two masses. The seemingly obvious idea of Natural Place, comfortably entrenched for roughly two thousand years, thus found its natural place in the scrap heap.

6. Page viii | Loc. 33-36 | As philosopher and computer scientist Brian Smith once mused, some things that brains do very well, they do very slowly, over long stretches of time, and in a chewing-on-the-cud sort of way. These are typically the problem-solving and creative things that existing computers cannot do at all. In the same vein, Francis Crick observes that if you are too busy, you are probably wasting your time.

7. Page 9 | Loc. 197 Some historians argue that Descartes's defense of a fundamental difference between mind and body was actually motivated by political rather than intellectual considerations.

8. Page 389 | Loc. 4503 Consistent with individual variation in biology generally, it may not be surprising if some individuals are more inclined to religious affiliation, Page 390 | Loc. 4514-15 So long as one's religion is personal and private and has no implications beyond the life of the believing individual, this may not matter. But as soon as the believer uses his belief to give him moral or political authority with respects to others, then, in Hume's view, the trouble begins. Page 391 | Loc. 4541-43 I say all this while recognizing that for many people, faith in a deity is a highly positive part of their lives. Their faith may be what sustains them, day after day, in dealing with their own sorrows, anguish, and tragedies. It may be instrumental in defeating alcoholism, coping with depression, and providing courage to do terribly difficult things.

9. Page 235 | Loc. 2873-74 First, in general, at any level, be it an ecosystem or immune system, intervening in biology always requires immense caution.

10. Page 400 | Loc. 4678-79 There are various kinds of feelings that, for want of a better term, we may describe as sublime.

11. Page 201 | Loc. 2457 Much of human social life depends on the expectation that agents have control over their actions and are responsible for their choices. Page 201 | Loc. 2459-60 As member of a social species, we recognize cooperation, loyalty, honesty, and helping as prominent features of the social environment. We react with hostility when group members disappoint certain socially significant expectations Page 201 | Loc. 2461-62 In social mammals, at least, mechanisms for keeping the social order seem to be part of what evolution has bequeathed to our brain circuitry.

12. Page 173 | Loc. 2109-10 Colin McGinn thinks that for us to understand the nature of consciousness is like a mouse understanding calculus

13. Page 271 | Loc. 3241-44 | Especially since Kant, an important question is how much the brain itself contributes to the character of what is represented. This question ushers in a problem: if the brain contributes to the character of what is represented, how can we, with our brains, separate out what in our representations corresponds to the world and what the brain contributes? If brain organization dictates the general form of experience, what do we actually know about the real world?

14. Page 359 | Loc. 4166-69 Although questions remain, this activity looks suggestively like rehearsal. Interference with this activity reduces learning performance. Human data show that deep sleep (stage IV in the sleep cycle) in the early part of the night and dreaming sleep in the later part of the night are necessary for skill acquisition. Moreover, the deep sleep and dreaming sleep must occur within 30 hours of training if learning is to occur, since beyond those limits, catch-up sleep on the second night fails to compensate.

15. Page 165 | Loc. 2005-6 developing impulse control, making long-term plans, and drawing upon relevant stored knowledge. In short, it makes the organism smarter.

16. Page 229 | Loc. 2790-91 Aristotle would have us add here the point that there is an important relation between self-control and habit formation.

17. Page 321 | Loc. 3751-52 At the heart of traditional epistemology lie two questions: (1) what is the nature of knowledge, and (2) where does knowledge come from? Page 323 | Loc. 3776-78 Neurodevelopment and neurobiology have essentially laid waste to the very simple nature or nurture dichotomy. Biology turns out to be vastly more complicated than the simple dichotomy implies.

18. Page 213 | Loc. 2624-25 One patient discovered he could regain some control over his misbehaving alien hand if he yelled at it, "Stop that!"

19. page 233 | Loc. 2837 time now to reconsider the idea that real choice requires a break in causality milliseconds prior to the emergence of the brain state that constitutes the choice

20. Page 378 | Loc. 4355-56 The main point is that what is or is not conceivable by me is a psychological fact about me, not a metaphysical fact about the nature of reality.

21. Page 397 | Loc. 4625 | The stage set, Socrates begins his methodical inquiry by asking Euthyphro, "So, in virtue of what is an action right?"

22. Page 396 | Loc. 4615-16 It is a question about why certain behavior is considered wrong or unfair or punishable, and contrariwise, why some behavior is esteemed, praised, or encouraged.

23. Page 394 | Loc. 4581-82 This fable illustrates selectivity in considering evidence, and it is something to which we all are prone. Consequently, we have to work hard to be as tough-minded with respect to hypotheses we hope are true as we are with respect to those we fear are true.

24. Page 207 | Loc. 2549-50 These fall under the general rubric of "compatibilism," which means that our work-a-day notion of responsibility is, at bottom, compatible with the probable truth that the mind-brain is a causal machine. Page 212 | Loc. 2611-12 Some desires or fears may be very powerful, others less so, and we may have more self-control in some circumstances than in others. These considerations motivate thinking of control as coming in degrees … Consequently, we should upgrade the simple one-dimensional notion of a spectrum to a multidimensional

25. Page 219 | Loc. 2671-74 A view with deep historical roots assumes that in matters of practical decision, reason and emotion are in opposition. To be in control, on this view, is to be maximally rational and minimally emotional. To achieve rationality and self-control, one must maximally suppress emotions, feelings, and inclinations. In a metaphor sympathetic to this idea, Plato characterizes reason as a charioteer who is pulled along by the appetites and emotions, and who must beat them to avoid running amok. All from Page 220 | Loc. begin 2678 Kant saw human agents as attaining virtue only as they succeed in downplaying feeling and inclination… The perfect moral agent, on Kant's view, is perfectly rational and entirely without emotion and feeling. (Ronald de Sousa calls such an agent a "Kantian monster." But feelings, informed by experience, are generated by the mind-brain in response to anticipations, and incline an agent for or against a plan.

26. Page 55 | Loc. 707-9 Not understanding what it is in the world that underwrites the differences between causal connections and coincidental connections is troublesome. Page 57 | Loc. 735-36 | hypothesize that brains have evolved the capacity to infer causality from certain patterns of regularity observed in experience.

27. Page 74 | Loc. 938 More generally, self-preservation is underpinned by powerful feelings. [notice the different use of feeling and emotion? similar to Damasio?]

28. Page 191 | Loc. 2361-63 As Quine first argued, and many others have underscored since, the meaning of words is not independent of beliefs about what those words apply to, and also, no claim is immune to revision or rejection in the face of sufficiently compelling new science. If science discovers, as it did, that the Earth does in fact move, there is no point in trying to counteract the evidence by saying, "But by `Earth' I mean, in part, the thing-that-does-not-move." This strategy is futile, for the plain and simple reason that whether the Earth moves or does not move depends on the facts of the matter. It does not depend on an existing dictionary entry plus human resolve to protect the dictionary from revision.

29. Page 222 | Loc. 2698-99 Neuropsychological studies reveal a lot about the significance of feeling in wise decision making. Research by the Damasios and their colleagues on a number of patients with brain damage shows that when deliberation is cut off from feelings, decisions are likely to be impractical and disadvantageous in the long run.

30. [see page 77 for more on Grush emulator] Page 228 | Loc. 2768 The central function of the emulator is to predict and evaluate consequences of proposed actions.

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