Identity, necessity, sufficiency, yada, yada, yada…

Image of Golgi stained neurons in the dentate ...

Image of Golgi stained neurons in the dentate gyrus of an epilepsy patient. 40 times magnification. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Any identity thesis (IT) about x and y must establish at least the equivalence of necessary (n) and sufficient (s) conditions for x and y. (I’m still pondering how Aristotle’s insistence, in Physics II, on the sameness of definition fits into this, so I must bracket the issue, until I’m shown that, as I suspect, it’s just the same point in different words.) For example, establishing the identity of ‘water’ and ‘H2O’ must at least show that the presence of H2O is necessary and sufficient for the presence of water. This is easily shown. All hail Kripke.

Now, let’s consider one of my old bêtes noires, neuribilism, or neurological physicalism. Here are two data, which have lately been making the reductionist rounds on the Internet, to consider as a preface to my analysis.

1. Researchers show that memories reside in specific brain cells – Simply activating a tiny number of neurons can conjure an entire memory.
Cathryn Delude, Picower Institute for Learning and Memory – March 22, 2012
:

“According to Susumu Tonegawa, ‘This experimental method is the ultimate way of demonstrating that mind, like memory recall, is based on changes in matter.'”

2. Brain-Injury Data Used to Map Intelligence in the Brain – ScienceDaily (Apr. 10, 2012)

“‘…[T]he particular regions and connections we found support an emerging body of neuroscience evidence indicating that intelligence depends on the brain’s ability to integrate information from verbal, visual, spatial and executive processes,’ [Aron Barbey] said.”

Briefly:

The scientismatic neuribilist says something like the following: “Electrical stimulation of GD47p à la Penfield results in actions akin to writing. Further, based on x number of clinical trials, removal of brain section GD47p renders human subjects incapable of writing. Therefore, GD47p is the basis of human writing.”

Then steps in the Wittgensteinian: “Electrical stimulation of the hands à la Skinner results in actions akin to writing. Further, based on x number of clinical trials, removal of the hands renders human subjects incapable of writing. Therefore, hands are the basis of human writing.”

And then in steps a devotee of Marx and/or Latour: “Mechanical agiation of the paper under the hands of a subject holding a pencil results in marks akin to human writing. Further, removal of the pen and/or the paper renders human subjects incapable of writing. Therefore, paper-and-pencil is the basis of human writing.”

The brain (i.e. my hypothetical GD47p), the hands, and the pencil-and-paper––they are all equally necessary conditions for writing, but none is a sufficient condition for writing. As such, only the human subject as such (including his intact brain, his hands, and his writing utensils) is the basis for human writing.

Advertisements

About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Identity, necessity, sufficiency, yada, yada, yada…

  1. For most saying ‘neural basis’ is synonym for ‘neuronal contribution,’ so I wouldn’t read too much into it.

    Neuroscientists realize that the brain is bidirectionally coupled to the world, and know this is extremely important. The asymmetrical research focus comes partly in our lack of understanding of the brain versus, say, the frictional dynamics of pen on paper when drawing. The asymmetrical research focus is also based on the asymmetrical importance of this organ in every single thing that we do. E.g., people with Parkinson’s realize they aren’t screwed up because they need to buy a new pen. 🙂

  2. So when you write “they are all equally necessary conditions for writing” I would agree that it is technically true, but it doesn’t imply that they all have an equal role in generating the initial signal to write, what to write, what pen to use, etc..

  3. Though I should add that it is an empirical question how much the stuff outside the brain matters for a given phenomenon. For playing blindfold chess, the brain is doing pretty much all the work (except saying ‘Knight to f3’). For dreaming, the body is literally shut down. So for those cases, talking about the neural ‘basis’ is more appropriate, as the body and world are not much involved at all. It’s mostly neural.

Be kind, be (relatively) brief, be clear...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s