You can't beat somethin with nothin!

You can’t beat somethin with nothin!

You cannot understand something with nothing different with which to compare and contrast. I have discovered an evolving first paradigm for cognitive science that has provided me with this necessary something about which to compare tradition.

Based on what I have read in the last several years I am convinced that we have inherited “significantly false philosophical views of what a person is”.

Traditional Western views hold that:

*Our ability to reason is essentially isolated from our body.
*Objects in the world have distinct categories independent of our perception.
*Human reason is essentially unaffected by our biology.
*There is a Universal Reason that characterizes the objects in the world and the human essence is the ability to connect with this Universal Reason, this Universal Reason separates us from the other animals.
*Another error is that will, the ability to use reason to interact with the world, is radically free. Radically free will can over ride our biology.
*Traditional Western philosophers have embraced a human dualism consisting of a material and a spiritual component each distinct and different in kind. On one hand we have a material body but on the other hand a spirit mind. The spirit mind functions independent of the material body. Tradition says that Dick and Jane are bipartite creatures unlike all the other creatures in the world.
*Thought, especially theoretical thought, is characteristic of spirit with the associated matters of morality and other creative activities of mind.
*Human consciousness is free of biology and is self-determining.
*The human mind as spirit transcends the material world.

Little wonder why Darwin’s theory is so difficult for so many Americans to comprehend and accept.

We have in our Western philosophy a traditional theory of faculty psychology wherein our reasoning is a faculty completely separate from the body. “Reason is seen as independent of perception and bodily movement.” It is this capacity of autonomous reason that makes us different in kind from all other animals. I suspect that many fundamental aspects of philosophy and psychology are focused upon declaring, whenever possible, the separateness of our species from all other animals.

This tradition of an autonomous reason began long before evolutionary theory and has held strongly since then without consideration, it seems to me, of the theories of Darwin and of biological science. Cognitive science has in the last three decades developed considerable empirical evidence supporting Darwin and not supporting the traditional theories of philosophy and psychology regarding the autonomy of reason. Cognitive science has focused a great deal of empirical science toward discovering the nature of the embodied mind.

The three major findings of cognitive science are:
The mind is inherently embodied.
Thought is mostly unconscious.
Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical.

“These findings of cognitive science are profoundly disquieting [for traditional thinking] in two respects. First, they tell us that human reason is a form of animal reason, a reason inextricably tied to our bodies and the peculiarities of our brains. Second, these results tell us that our bodies, brains, and interactions with our environment provide the mostly unconscious basis for our everyday metaphysics, that is, our sense of what is real.”

All living creatures categorize. All creatures, as a minimum, separate eat from no eat and friend from foe. As neural creatures tadpole and wo/man categorize. There are trillions of synaptic connections taking place in the least sophisticated of creatures and this multiple synapses must be organized in some way to facilitate passage through a small number of interconnections and thus categorization takes place. Great numbers of different synapses take place in an experience and these are subsumed in some fashion to provide the category eat or foe perhaps.

Our categories are what we consider to be real in the world: tree, rock, animal…Our concepts are what we use to structure our reasoning about these categories. Concepts are neural structures that are the fundamental means by which we reason about categories.

I think that cognitive science has developed a possible paradigm that will significantly change our Western views over time. Do you agree?

Quotes from “Philosophy in the Flesh”.

P.S If we take a big bite out of reality we will, I think, find that it is multilayered like the onion. There are many domains of knowledge available to us for penetrating those layers of reality. Cognitive science is one that I find to be very interesting.

I’m gonna have to agree. The whole mind/body duality is pretty silly.

and what does that do for the soul?

this cognitive science is simply restating what hume and kant argued years ago (that the dual nature of mind/body is absurd)…


The Western tradition - its foundations lie in Plato’s philosophy. Attempts to discredit it and the distinctions it is based upon are ever present in modern philosophy and modernist literature. Sorry for being so vague.

Bingo. Traditional epistemology gets a punch in the face. Again, vagueness defines us.

Sure, with the mention that the number of layers and their width is personalised. One sees beyond the surface as far as his “eyes” permit him to. Reality is constructed brick by brick and layer by layer with every new sketch of observation.

Coberst- I do have to agree with you. Dualist philosophy is rather difficult to defend and does seriously interfere with the progress of science.

And cognitive science, that’s what I’d like to do for my career. I’m merely a high school student now, but I’ve fascinated by it. I’m doing a research project on some very basic cellular neuroscience, and I hope in college and beyond I’ll be able to do brain scans to hopefully, one day develop a complete model of human cognition, memory and personality based on the inner workings of the brain. It’s so amazingly cool.

I think eventually this paradigm shift will occur. And it won’t come easy. Folk psychology will have to be replaced or modified to conform to the evidence from cognitive neuroscience. Abstract theories of personality and cognition must be reduced to the neuronal underpinings.

Also, I think a lot of people are dualists, but don’t really know why. They kind of always thought in that manner. I think our education system needs to better expose them to Mr. Descartes and Mr. Spinoza (the dualist and the monist), so they actually understand why they believe what they believe, and also what the problems are with those beliefs (which come from mostly from the cognitive science paradigm). It’s a fascinating topic, possibly one that can entice the curiousity of those as non-thinking as American school kids. Perhaps Philosophy of Mind enhanced with neuroscience data should be a required course at American high schools… wouldn’t that be the day?


That’s AWESOME that you like cog sci! Holy crap, it’s absolutely fascinating, isn’t it??? You seem to be pretty rational about the nature and consequences of neurobio (from what little you said about it), which is good. What year in HS are you? Do you know where you’ll be going to college, or where you’re going to apply?

Neurosci is one of my top 4 fields of “holy crap that kicks ass”, among math, physics, and philosophy, and I doubt I’d put it as far down as #4. From the subcellular level, to neuropharmacology, to the mega-neuron level, it’s all absolutely mind-blowing.

What research are you doing? What books (popular, technical) have you read?



Well, sure, coberst. I guess. The biggest reason, the only reason that some americans can’t accept the theory of evolution is christianity - along with the political struggle that exploits it. These traditions that you speak of have evolved for everyone else.

Theonefour… and Twiffy

Good luck people. I think that your interests are terrific! I wish I were starting all over and I would make the same kind of evaluations.


Your views would carry more punch if they were backed by some knowledge.


my views carry all the punch they need.


Yeah, Imp. C’mon. The entire epistemological and scientific tradition since the eighteenth century (well, actually since a little before) isn’t much of a backup.

Materialism… vs the unprovable & ineffible left-brain knowledge.

I see this battle will continue throughout human history.

Humans cannot get along with eachother because they cannot get along with themselves.

External conflict is simply a sign of internal conflict.

Inside of you there will be a “science-vs-religion” sort of battle…

coberst wrote:

You are borrowing my thoughts again Chuck.

I don’t think we should throw the “baby out with the bath water” just yet.

If I understand this I think it should be reconsidered as well. I’m not sure what you are seeing but my sense is our will is certainly at least free enough to be destroying our biological necessities of life. I don’t know enough about cognitive science to say for sure but I suspect whatever it is, we will probably be studying it the day we take our last breath.

Should be compulsary the world over. Philosophy without evolutionary Neurology is like colourful a hot-air balloon with the balloon part removed.


Yes it is.

Why thank you. Most of my neuroscience knowledge comes from a book I read Descartes’ Baby by Paul Bloom I believe and I’ve read pretty much every neuro/cognitive science article in Scientific American for the past 3 years. I also started (but didn’t finish) a book called Wet Mind, written in the early 90’s when cognitive neuroscience was just starting to take off. I’ve also read some philosophy of mind articles, and some more scholarly articles for my research project. So I’m not neuroscience expert, but I like to think I know a good bit for a 17 year old.

Rising senior

Safety schools: Loyola University (Chicago)
University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana
Matches: Colgate University
Oberlin College
Carnegie Mellon Univeristy

High matches/low reaches: Washington University in St. Louis
Northwestern University

Reaches: Amherst College
Dartmouth College

Others I might apply to: University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, Brown University

Now on to other matters:

I already explained what I read. My research project studies the effects of dopamine on the expression of a protein in mouse nuerons. If I establish a correlation between dopamine stimulation of these neurons and the expression of the protein, I will then try to correlate growth of new synapses with expression of the protein. This research is somewhat relevant to studies of addiction and parkinson’s disease.

My true research interests lie in brain imaging. It’s just kind of hard to do an fMRI study in a high school science lab, so I decided to do my cellular neuroscience project. In college, I’m determined to get some cognitive neuroscience reseach done.

Now to more philosophical matters:

I wouldn’t go that far. It seems to me that a lot of people are dualists, but don’t know why they believe body and mind are seperate. If people want to believe in dualism, that’s fine (I don’t) – also if people want to be materialists, that’s fine too. Just many don’t know the arguments for or against dualism, and thus kind of blindly believe it. High School cirriculums should exploit the natural rebelliousness within American teenagers and get them to challenge their preconceptions of the world (which is what schools DON’T do now). And philosophy of mind and neuroscience are hard for many, interesting, and challenge a lot of preconceptions. I think that makes it ideal for a subject in schools.

DEB says—“You are borrowing my thoughts again Chuck.”

The royalty check is in the mail. You get one half of everything I get out of using our combined thoughts.

Our will is free within the boundary that our body will allow. In other words, we cannot step out of our way of perceiving and conceiving because it is part of our biology. We cannot modify the fact that a great deal of what we think and do is confined within our body. Our mind is embodied in a radical sense. We cannot change the manner in which our mind uses the conceptual metaphor thereby creating a great deal of the content of a new conception based upon our past experience.


Interesting background. From the popular front, you should check out Phantoms in the Brain, by Ramachandran, and just about anything by Oliver Sacks (you may have heard of / read “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat”). Even those are more “pop sci” reads, they provide absolutely fascinating insight to certain specialized neuronal clusters that must exist in human brains. There’s also the half-technical “How the Mind Works” by Stephen Pinker - that man kicks ass. It’s more hard-core psychology, than neurology per se, but close enough, and very interesting.

Re: the schools, have you thought about Duke? It’s slightly more selective than your “Reach” schools, but it has a phenomenal neurobio program, and a terrific imaging department too, with two MRIs - a 2 tesla coil and a 5 tesla coil, I think. Also, I have some friends who work at the imaging department there, so if you wanted to visit the school, talk to some badasses, and thus have some people to vouch for you on your application, I’d be happy to introduce you. Beautiful campus, too; brilliant students and professors. They also LOVE undergrad apps involving HS science research.

I entirely agree.

What’re your views on other issues? Morality? Empiricism? Theism / atheism?