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Re: [xmca] Natural/Cultural Lines/

Just read the Barsalou article. Blessedly concise!
And it appears that the brain is not an "information processor" after all! Welcome news coming from this quarter.

Here is the bit which grabbed my attention. He says that cognitive science assumes that there is a special amodal system in the brain which deals with information ready-processed by modal sections (e.g. for touch, vision, hearing, movement, ...) and then passed to a "higher" specialised logical part of the brain. There is no evidence for this in neuroscience. On the contrary:

"A very different view of the conceptual system has arisen in cognitive neuroscience. According to this view, categorical knowledge is grounded in the brain's modal systems rather than being represented amodally in a modular semantic memory (e.g., Martin, 2001). For example, knowledge about dogs is represented in visual representations of how dogs look, in auditory representations of how dogs sound, and in motor representations of how to interact with dogs. Because the representational systems that underlie perception, action, and affect are also used to represent categorical knowledge, the conceptual system is neither modular nor amodal. Instead, perception and conception share overlapping systems."

This confirms the conclusion that philosophers reached several centuries ago that there is neither a little homunculus nor an information processor hiding somewhere in the brain that Damassio and others will find any day now, if not in the pineal gland then somewhere else. If conception is inelimanably tied up with the neural systems that see, hear, touch, move, etc., then the only conclusion has to be that contact with things in the world outside the brain actively and ineliminably participate in thinking.

But the author reasons in the opposite direction. He concludes that the problems of cognitive science can be resolved by further searching into the structure of the brain. Well, it seems that neuroscience does contribute to solving the problem of the mind, but by failing to find what people presume was there to be found.


mike cole wrote:
I would like to take up Steve Gabosch's suggestion a few days back that the
discussion about
precepts/concepts etc be viewed in terms of the natural( phylogenetic) and
cultural (socio-historical) lines of development a la LSV. There are a lot
of aspects to the discussion I am still finding confusing and am struggling
to related to LSV's writings. But I am hoping it will help to consider
recent work in what
are referred to as the "social neurosciences." A variety of this work (I
attach some examples, one a review)
appears to make an argument that there are levels of processing information
about the self and the environment, including others in the environment,
that do not reach the level of the cortex and happen very rapidly, perhaps
involving cortical processes in a later stage of processing -- or so the
story goes. These
"cognitive" phenomena appear to akin to what people are discussing about

On this topic domenstically (as in dinner last night). We had a great
ministrone that both my wife and I found especially delicious. But we could
not, even in extended discussion, name the apparently shared feeling of
excellent taste. We could remember the ingredients, speculate and what might
have led to the
neat combination, but could not name "it" although we could both distinguish

For those interested.


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*Andy Blunden*
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