Tra ieri e oggi a Urbino un bel congresso dal titolo significativo: The neuroscientific turn in philosophy of mind. Organizzato da Gabriele Ferretti, che ha appena concluso il nostro ciclo di dottorato in Scienza della complessità. Presenti personalità di alto profilo nel campo, come Pierre Jacob, Corrado Sinigaglia e Bence Nanay. Qui di seguito riporto il testo delle mie osservazioni conclusive.
I remember that in 1979 on Scientific American an article by Jerry Fodor was published. It presented the functionalist perspective on the mind-body problem. It was the time when this approach was dominant in philosophy of mind. Not only as an ontological perspective, but above all as a research program. But seven years later, in 1986, Patricia Churchland published Neurophilosophy; the blockbuster book which made clear to many philosophers the importance of neurosciences.
With the rising of the new technique of neuroimaging, any philosopher of mind could no longer avoid the impact of these new disciplines.
It is well known that functional models explaining overt behavior are underdetermined with respect to evidence. One typical reaction of functionalist people to neurosciences revolution was the concept of “neurophysiological constrain”. That is among the models able to explain behavior one have to choose that (or those) compatible with physiological data. Functionalist attempted to tame the neuroscientifical revolution. It was not possible. Connectionism and neural networks were the first clear instances of how brain can teach to mind how the latter works.
On the other side functionalism was not able to explain what Chalmers dubbed “the hard problem”, that is qualitative experience. Moreover that the notion of causal connection – the core of functionalism – was too poor for a good scientific explanation became evident.
From an ontological point of view scientific results coming from neurosciences have given new fuel to type-identity theory, which had been abandoned by functionalism in favor of token-identity theory.
On the other hand many philosophers of mind reacted to this revolution establishing alleged no-go arguments against naturalism.
It is not easy to catch the distinction between scientific laws and occasional generalizations. Moreover many neurosciences papers appears as simple reports of correlations between brainimaging results on one side and overt behavior on the other.
I have the feeling that the enormous impact of the discovery of mirror neurons is due also to the clear lawlike character of the neural link between what we see and what we do.
I conclude with the hope of many other discoveries concerning the mindbrain. It is clear that such discoveries will not diminish our sense of wonder in front of the most complex object in the universe.
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