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Mazes of the Mind:

The philosophy of neuroscience

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This Debate

Bryan Appleyard, Colin Blakemore, Iain McGilchrist. Hilary Lawson hosts.

Neuroscience promises answers to profound philosophical questions and offers a radical new description of human behaviour. But can it hope to account for issues as complex as the origins of consciousness and the nature of art? Or is this all just neurotrash?

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Studio5 on 30/08/2014 5:26pm

The promt guy needs to turn off his general broadcast button,(47:18)- missed a very good point being made.

Chloé Seppälä Zetterberg on 19/06/2014 10:54pm

It some times feel like to much resulting to physics as a common ground, is going on. Asuming that physics is any more stable than, just because it doesn't move forward as much as it use to. If a studdy with in science have slowed down when it comes to finding new fundemental and revolutionary ideas, it mostly points to how it is crippled in its method, not that they have come to the end of science.

When scientists view uncertainty principles as a property of the nature, it says more about the scientist and his/here theories, than what it says about the actual universe. To asume an actual quantitative behaviour of the universe would be to believe that the universe is made out of human concepts and human weaknesses. The universe is not uncertain about it self, it is us humans who are.

Alastair Moody on 28/01/2014 12:27am

Even if Blakemore's ideal brain telescope will arrive some time in the future, doesn't his picture break down in light of what science has already discovered about things at the very tiny scale? Isn't it the case that quantum effects come into play, including such things as the effect of observation on what is observed? I mean, won't it be the case that (in Blakemore's future) my using my brain telescope to observe the fluctuations in this, my neuron, here, now, will meet the limit that I cannot observe it without disturbing what happens? What would that mean for my understanding of what I have observed? If I were to engage Blakemore on his own territory, I would want to put these questions to him.

But even then I find something unsatisfactory in the materialism espoused by Blakemore that declares there is no such thing as "mind", and no "mind-body" duality, yet nevertheless introduces such a dualism in determining to show - through the minute inspection of the brain - that consciousness is, as he puts it, an"illusion". As Marilynne Robinson put it in her book "Absence of Mind" (2010, p.119):

"Let us say that social pathologies can be associated with traumatic injuries to certain areas of the brain, and that the unimpaired brain has the degree of detachment necessary to report to us when our behaviour might be, as they say in the corrections community, inappropriate. Then what grounds can there be for doubting that a sufficient biological account of the brain would yield the complex phenomenon we know and experience as the mind?"

dllt on 20/04/2012 1:13am

Pure science involves the creation of unambiguously defined models that coincide with experimentally measurable observations. In that sense, Colin's assertion that we can and likely will attain an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the structure and processes in the brain is correct.

The argument about whether neuroscience can explain such concepts as "mind", "thought", "conscience", "soul" or any emotion, is fundamentally flawed and ultimately irrelevant for the simple reason that none of these have a precise definition and therefore could never be unambiguously corroborated. In other words, there is no possibility that "any" model, theory or explanation, whether scientific or philosophical could ever sufficiently describe them. It is not a flaw in science but rather a limitation (albeit a beautiful one) of language.

Michel_Dagebert on 07/02/2012 9:53am

The workings of the mind may not be invisible, thanks to modern neuroscience technology, but they are certainly transluscent. Blakemore overstates his case, I think...

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