3

Recently Nature published a computer-generated image of the brain sprinkled with colorful words representing a semantic map, i.e., parts of the brain cortex that responded to various spoken words Nature cover.

The paper published in that issue of Nature was accompanied by a line to an online interactive model that allows a visitor to explore how words are mapped to the brain cortex according to the study (as of this writing I couldn't get the interactive model to work, possibly because of the number of visitors).

According to an article at Science "This is your mind on brains" the interactive model has generated a frenzy of activity, becoming more popular than cat videos as it were.

The Science article wonders if the popularity can be attributed to a tendency of people to value reports involving psychology if they are reified by neuroscience (neurorealism). This might involve a general belief that more fundamental sciences are somehow "better," i.e., neuroscience is more fundamental than psychology (physics more fundamental than chemistry, etc.). It may involve a desire for reductionism, i.e., neuroscience seems to provide a reductionist explanation for psychology. The author (Science) wonders if the attraction for neuroscience by the general populace reflects an intuitive Cartesian dualism, i.e., showing semantic areas on the cortex seems to connect mind and body.

If this fascination with neurorealism stems more from the desperate (desperate in that there is a ready fund of emotional motivation to extend science where it has not actually gone) wish to deny dualism of mind and body, i.e., to see in neuroscience a proof that human existence is solely the activity of a "meat computer," does this indict somewhat the present state of philosophy? Quoting George R. Dodson (Function of Philosophy as an Academic Discipline, 1908), "What is to be aimed at is the production of an awareness of the cosmic setting of human life, a widening of the intellectual horizon to the utmost...a knowledge of past efforts at unitary views sufficient to serve as a protection from philosophic diseases...For among all the things that are good, there is nothing better than the lifelong endeavor of the mind to get its bearings in the universe, than man's search for the thoughts that give dignity to human life."

closed as off-topic by Dave, virmaior May 12 '16 at 22:58

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "While this question may be related to philosophy or occur in a philosophical context, the question itself doesn't seem to be about philosophy, and is therefore not a good fit for our site." – Dave, virmaior
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
    Thanks for posting about this article. This is a very interesting question, but it seems more the province of psychology or sociology (and should migrated to the appropriate SE), in the sense that you are asking about why people are fascinated with a topic more so than a philosophical question about the topic itself. Can you please reframe your question so that it is more pertinent to philosophy as an academic discipline? – Alexander S King May 12 '16 at 20:45
  • Philosophy is at best only narrowly suited to handle "why are people fascinated" questions... Do you want us to migrate your question to cognitive science? – virmaior May 12 '16 at 22:58
  • @AlexanderSKing: I just attempted a reframing that addressed your comment. – Dalton Bentley May 12 '16 at 23:13
  • 1
    @virmaior: No, this is not a cognitive science question (nor is it a "why are people fascinated question"). The edit should make it clear why this is, or would have been, an obvious subject for philosophy (which may be an answer in and of itself). – Dalton Bentley May 12 '16 at 23:14
  • 1
    That does resolve a misunderstanding I had about your question. But given the edits I'm not quite grasping what the SE-answerable question about philosophy you're raising is. Could you in the briefest form state what question you are having about philosophy to which someone could provide an objective answer? – virmaior May 13 '16 at 0:58