J63 P h i l o s o p h y i n N e u r o s c i e n c e

Bartosz Broůek
Jagiellonian Uni·ersity
Copernicus Center íor Interdisciplinary Studies
Philosophy in Neuroscience
In this essay I would like to consider some relations between philoso-
phy and neuroscience. I begin by criticizing the much celebrated concep-
tion oí Maxwell Bennett and Peter Iacker, de·eloped in 1be Pbiío.o¡bicaí
íovvaatiov. of ^evro.cievce
. I posit that their account oí the relationships
between neuroscience and philosophy is not only too limiting, but also
based on unacceptable assumptions ,Section 1,. Next, I attempt to apply
to neuroscience the methodology oí philosophy iv science`, proposed by
Michael Ieller
. In doing so, I de·elop íurther Ieller`s conception ,Sec-
tion 2,, and try to illustrate how it may help us to renect o·er the neurosci-
enti£c theories and methodology ,section 3,.
It must be stressed that the term neuroscience` is understood ·ery
broadly here and reíers to all kinds oí interdisciplinary study oí the ner-
·ous system, embracing ·arious aspects thereoí, írom molecular to beha·-
ioural, and including, ivter aíia, beha·ioural neuroscience, cellular neuro-
science, clinical neuroscience, cogniti·e neuroscience, computational neu-
roscience, cultural neuroscience, de·elopmental neuroscience, molecular
See M.R. Bennett, P.M.S. Iacker, Pbiío.o¡bicaí íovvaatiov. of ^evro.cievce, \iley, Black-
well, Malden, Oxíord 2003.
See M. Ieller, íor i. Pbiío.o¡b, iv ´cievce`Po..ibíe., this ·olume, pp. 13-24.
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neuroscience, neuroimaging, neuroengineering, neuroiníormatics, neuro-
linguistics, social neuroscience and systems neuroscience. Iowe·er, I be-
lie·e that my conclusions are applicable, vvtati. vvtavai., to any re£nement
oí the term, i.e. to any reasonable rendering oí neuroscience .ev.v .tricto`.
J. The Apriorization Iallacy
At the session oí the .vericav Pbiío.o¡bicaí ...ociatiov which took place in
2005 in New \ork a discussion was held around Maxwell Bennett and Peter
Iacker`s book Pbiío.o¡bicaí íovvaatiov. of ^evro.cievce published in 2003. 1he
disputants were the authors as well as Daniel Dennett and John Searle, two
philosophers whose conceptions are subject to se·ere critique in the book.
1he goal oí Bennett and Iacker`s book is described in the íollowing way:
|1he book| is concerned with the conceptual íoundations oí cogviti·
re neuroscience - íoundations constituted by the structure relation-
ship among the psychological concepts in·ol·ed in in·estigations
into the neural underpinnings oí human cogniti·e, aííecti·e and
·olitional capacities. In·estigating logical relations among concepts
is a philosophical task. Guiding that in·estigation down pathways
that will illuminate brain research is a neuroscienti£c one
1he authors careíully introduce the basic assumptions oí the method oí
conceptual analysis which they use to assess neurobiological theories. In par-
ticular, they clearly distinguish between conceptual and empirical questions:
Distinguishing conceptual questions írom empirical ones is oí the
£rst importance. |.| Conceptual questions antecede matters oí
truth and íalsehood. 1hey are questions concerning our íorms oí
representation, not questions concerning the truth or íalsehood oí
empirical statements. 1hese íorms are presupposed by true ,and
íalse, scienti£c statements and by correct ,and incorrect, scienti-
£c theories. 1hey determine not what is empirically true or íalse,
but rather what does and what does not make sense. Ience con-
ceptual questions are not amenable to scienti£c in·estigation and
experimentation or to scienti£c theorizing. lor the concepts and
M. Bennett, D. Dennett, P. Iacker, J. Searle, ^evro.cievce ava Pbiío.o¡b,: ßraiv, Miva, ava
íavgvage, Columbia Uni·ersity Press, New \ork 200¯, p. 3.
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conceptual relationships in question are presupposed by any such
in·estigations and theorizing
\hat needs to be stressed here is the a ¡riori character oí concepts. Con-
cepts are not subject to empirical study ,at least in the contexts that inter-
est Bennett and Iacker,. 1hey constitute a network or a scheme akin to the
structure oí the Kantian 1ranscendental Lgo: it is within this scheme that we
comprehend the world ,interpret` our experiences,. 1hus, the questions per-
taining to the relationships between the concepts as well as the criteria oí their
applicability are ¡rior to any empirical problems. 1he ·ery possibility oí posing
an empirical question is conditioned on the correct application oí concepts.
Bennett and Iacker maintain that the íeitvotir oí their project is to iden-
tiíy a íundamental íallacy, one that has íar reaching consequences, and is
common in the work oí neuroscientists and some philosophers oí mind.
1he íallacy was described already by Aristotle who obser·ed that: to say
that the soul is angry is as ií one remarked that the soul wea·es or builds.
lor it is surely better not to say that the soul pities, learns or thinks, but that
a man does these with his soul`
. Ience, Bennett and Iacker speak oí Ar-
istotle`s Principle which reads: it is a mistake to ascribe to an animal`s soul
properties which are correctly predicable oí an animal as a whole only
In the context oí contemporary neurobiology, the analogue oí the Ar-
istotle`s Principle is what Bennett and Iacker call the Mereological lallacy,
which consists in ascribing to the brain - i.e., a part oí an animal - attri-
butes that are literally predicable oí an animal as a whole
. 1hey claim that
the Mereological lallacy is surprisingly common. In the neurobiological
literature there are hundreds oí claims that the brain thinks`, percei·es`,
is intelligent`, íormulates hypotheses`, etc. As Bennett and Iacker put it,
talk oí the brain`s percei·ing, thinking, guessing or belie·ing, or oí
one hemisphere oí the brain`s knowing things oí which the other
hemisphere is ignorant, is widespread among contemporary neuro-
scientists. 1his is sometimes deíended as being no more than a tri·ial
façov ae ¡aríer. But that is quite mistaken. lor the characteristic íorm
oí explanation in contemporary cogniti·e neuroscience consists in
ascribing psychological attributes to the brain and its parts in order to
íbiaev, p. 4.
íbiaev, p. 131.
íbiaev, p. 132.
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explain the possession oí psychological attributes and the exercise ,and
de£ciencies in the exercise, oí cogniti·e powers by human beings
Bennett and Iacker consider this approach criptocartesian`. Cartesianism
posits a strict distinction between mind and body as two separate substances
and claims that the psychological attributes may be predicated oí the mind
only. Criptocartesianism oí the contemporary neuroscience, on the other
hand, replaces the mind-body dualism with the brain-body distinction, and
urges us to use psychological predicates exclusi·ely in relation to the brain.
One may ask whether the problem Bennett and Iacker identiíy is
a real one. One may argue, íor example, that such claims as the brain
thinks` or the right hemisphere is responsible íor decision-making` are
not to be taken literally. Some íundamental linguistic intuitions and the
basic knowledge oí language are enough to realize that such an utilization
oí the words think` or decide` is metaphorical or analogical. Bennett and
Iacker are íully aware oí this strategy to deíend the existing neuroscien-
ti£c idiom. 1hey elaborate it íurther claiming that the strategy may be used
in íour diííerent ways. lirst, one may insist that psychological concepts
used by neuroscientists, e.g. to think`, ha·e a diííerent, deri·ati·e mean-
ing to the meaning oí the terms in the ordinary language. Second, the
neuroscienti£c meaning` oí a term may be analogical or constitute some
other extension oí the meaning oí the corresponding ordinary language
concept. 1hird, it may also be treated as a homonym: to think` or to de-
cide` in a description oí brain íunctions may ha·e an altogether diííerent
meaning than the corresponding ordinary language terms. linally, such
concepts in neuroscience may be treated as metaphorical expressions.
Bennett and Iacker belie·e, howe·er, that the abo·e described strate-
gies íail. 1hey put íorward a number oí arguments to back this claim, the
most important oí them, one that is applicable to all íour strategies, is the
íollowing. According to Bennett and Iacker there exists a criterion that
suí£ces to show that the use oí psychological terms in neurobiology is
neither a case oí taking ad·antage oí deri·ati·e meaning, nor oí analogi-
cal, homonymous or metaphorical. 1he criterion in question is the analysis
oí covcív.iov. that the neuroscientists draw írom the claims such as the
brain thinks`. Let us ha·e a look at an example.
íbiaev, p. ¯.
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Colin Blakemore notes:
\e seem dri·en to say that such neurons |as they respond in a highly
speci£c manner to, e.g., line orientation| ha·e knowledge. 1hey ha·e
intelligence, íor they are able to estimate the probability oí outside
e·ents - e·ents that are important to the animal in question. And
the brain gains its knowledge by a process analogous to the inducti·e
reasoning oí the classical scienti£c method. Neurons present argu-
ments to the brain based on the speci£c íeatures that they detect, ar-
guments on which the brain constructs its hypothesis oí perception
In this passage Blakemore claims that neurons possess knowledge`.
Iowe·er, he does not end here, on the basis oí this obser·ation he con-
structs a complex conception oí the interaction between neurons and the
brain, which utilizes almost exclusi·ely psychological terminology ,intel-
ligence`, inducti·e reasoning`, construction oí a perceptual hypothesis`,.
But why can`t we consider this evtire passage as one complex metaphor·
Blakemore, in a diííerent context, obser·es:
laced with such o·erwhelming e·idence íor topographic patterns
oí acti·ity in the brain it is hardly surprising that neurophysiologists
and neuroanatomists ha·e come to speak oí the brain ha·ing maps,
which are thought to play an essential part in the representation
and interpretation oí the world by the brain, just as the maps oí
an atlas do íor the reader oí them. |...| But is there a danger in the
metaphorical use oí such terms as language`, grammar`, and map`
to describe the properties oí the brain· |...| I cannot belie·e that
any neurophysiologist belie·es that there is a ghostly cartographer
browsing through the cerebral atlas. Nor do I think that the em-
ployment oí common language words ,such as map, representa-
tion, code, iníormation and e·en language, is a conceptual blunder
oí the kind |imagined|. Such metaphorical imagery is a mixture oí
empirical description, poetic license and inadequate ·ocabulary
Iere, howe·er, Bennett and Iacker launch their counterattack. 1hey ask
how one should understand such claims as the brain interprets the world`.
1hey suggest that Blakemore`s use oí metaphorical` expressions such as
a map` leads directly to the utilization oí inadequate terminology in the entire
argumentation. 1his shows, as they belie·e, that there is no metaphor here,
rather, Blakemore commits the Mereological lallacy. In addition, they obser·e:
íbiaev, p. 16.
íbiaev, p. 32.
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whate·er sense we can gi·e to Blakemore`s claim that brain-maps`
,which are not actually maps, play an essential part in the brain`s
representation and interpretation oí the world`, it cannot be just as
the maps oí an atlas do íor the reader oí them`. lor a map is a picto-
rial representation, made in accordance with con·entions oí mapping
and rules oí projection. Someone who can read an atlas must know
and understand these con·entions, and read oíí, írom the maps, the
íeatures oí what is represented. But the maps` in the brain are not
maps, in this sense, at all. 1he brain is not akin to the reader oí a map,
since it cannot be said to know any con·entions oí representations
or methods oí projection or to read anything oíí the topographical
arrangement oí £ring cells in accordance with a set oí con·entions.
lor the cells are not arranged in accordance with con·entions at all,
and the correlation between their £ring and íeatures oí the percep-
tual £eld is not a con·entional but a causal one
Bennett and Iacker`s position is that the e·idence that neuroscientists
commit the Mereological lallacy does not lie in the íact that on occasions
they use inadequate` psychological terms to describe the íunctioning oí the
brain, which may easily count as taking ad·antage oí analogy, metaphor,
homonym or using a concept with a deri·ati·e meaning. 1he Mereological
lallacy results when neuroscientists transíer entire complexes oí concepts
írom the psychological discourse` to the neuroscienti£c` one, and - on the
basis oí such inadequate attributions - they draw conclusions.
Bennett and Iacker`s theses were se·erely criticized by Daniel Den-
nett and John Searle. Dennett`s critique ,or at least the part oí it that inter-
ests us here, is well encapsulated in the íollowing passage:
Iacker`s insistence that philosophy is an a ¡riori discipline that has
no continuity with empirical science is the chieí source oí the pro-
blems bede·iling |his| project
1hus, Dennett seems to belie·e that the key assumption oí Pbiío.o¡bi·
caí íovvaatiov. of ^evro.cievce is wrong. It says that conceptual analysis is
a ¡riori, i.e. that the conceptual scheme and, what íollows, language - are
logically prior to the empirical studies. According to Dennett, an answer to
the question oí whether the rules oí language are used correctly is by no
means absolute. 1here exists no collection oí absolute meaning rules íor
any language. Dennett is anything but gentle when he obser·es:
íbiaev, p. 33.
íbiaev, p. 80.
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Ií Iacker were able to show us the rules |oí the correct use oí words|,
and show us just how the new uses connict with them, we might be
in a position to agree or disagree with him, but he is just making this
up. Ie has no idea what the rules` íor the use oí these e·eryday psy-
chological terms are. More tellingly, his insistence on an a prioristic
methodology systematically blinds him to what he is doing here
Ií the conceptual scheme is not a ¡riori, Bennett and Iacker`s remarks
turn into a naï·e anthropology, naï·e, as it is based on their intuitions and
linguistic habits only. 1o put it diííerently, anybody who thinks that phi-
losophers ha·e íound a method oí grammatical inquiry that is somehow
immune to ,or orthogonal to or that antecedes`, the problems that can arise
íor that anthropological inquiry owes us an apologia explaining just how the
trick is turned`
. Bennett and Iacker pro·ide no such explanation.
Dennett comments also on the alleged Mereological lallacy. Ie sees
no danger in ascribing psychological attributes to the brain as a whole, or
e·en to its parts. Moreo·er, he stresses that such metaphors play an emi-
nent role in the neuroscienti£c discourse, as they help us - or e·en enable
us - to understand how consciousness is possible:
lar írom it being a mistake to attribute hemi-semi-demi-proto-qu-
asi-pseudo intentionality to the mereological parts oí persons, it
is precisely the enabling mo·e that lets us see how on earth to get
whole wonderíul persons out oí brute mechanical parts
John Searle is also sceptical as to the importance oí the Mereological
lallacy. lirst, he obser·es that it is improper to use the term mereologi-
cal` in this context. A vereoíogicaí íallacy consists in ascribing attributes that
are predicable oí a whole to some parts thereoí. Meanwhile, brain is a
part oí a body, not oí a person, and such predicates as to think` or to
decide` are used in the ordinary language to relate to persons, not bodies.
1hus, it would be more appropriate to speak oí a category mistake rather
than Mereological lallacy. Ie claims íurther that such íallacies` bring no
danger - it does not seem possible that they caused coníusion. 1hey are
rather useíul analogies and metaphors
íbiaev, p. 85.
íbiaev, p. 82.
íbiaev, p. 88.
Cí. ibiaev, p. 10¯.
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Searle dismisses also the íundamental assumption oí Bennett and
Iacker pertaining to the method oí conceptual analysis. Iowe·er, he
does not question the a ¡riori character oí the conceptual scheme, but
concentrates on a diííerent aspect oí their methodology:
1he íallacy, in short, is one oí coníusing the rules íor using the words
with the ontology. Just as old-time beha·iorism coníused the e·iden-
ce íor mental states with the ontology oí the mental states, so this
\ittgensteinian criterial beha·iorism construes the grounds íor ma-
king the attribution with the íact that is attributed. It is a íallacy to say
that the conditions íor the successíul operation oí the language game
are conditions íor the existence oí the phenomena in question

1hus, Searle belie·es - covtra Bennett and Iacker - that language ,or
the reconstructable language rules, does not determine any ontology. In
other words, Searle takes ontology to be independent oí language. 1he sole
íact that we use the expressions to think` and to decide` mainly in relation
to persons does not mean that these words are strictly attached` to some
phenomena by some metaphysical glue`. \e use language to describe the
world, howe·er, there is no one-to-one correspondence between words and
objects in the world. \hen we say that the brain thinks` or that neurons
are intelligent` we also try to describe some phenomena. 1o do so, we take
ad·antage oí the existing ·ocabulary, which in the ordinary language is used
in diííerent contexts, as we ha·e nothing better at our disposal.
I íully agree with Dennett`s and Searle`s critiques. Iowe·er, I would go
e·en íurther and say that, by in·oking the Mereological lallacy, Bennett
and Iacker themsel·es commit a gra·e mistake, which I call the Aprior-
ization lallacy. 1hey claim that the conceptual scheme oí the ordinary
language is a ¡riori relati·e to the neuroscienti£c practice. 1his is trouble-
some íor two reasons.
lirstly, it is dií£cult to understand why Bennett and Iacker put so
much emphasis on ordinary language ,or, as Dennett terms it, on íolk
psychology,. Such sciences as anthropology, de·elopmental psychology,
e·olutionary psychology or neuroscience aiv at e·¡íaivivg the origins and
the e·olutionary success` oí the ordinary language. 1hus, it seems odd
that the ·ery subject matter oí neuroscientists` research is something
which is a ¡riori relati·e to their practice. Bennett and Iacker`s claim may,

íbiaev, p. 105.
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howe·er, be interpreted in two ways. On the one hand, their position may
be that the ontology encoded in the ordinary language is tbe ovtoíog,, a ·iew
oí the world that cannot be altered by the disco·eries in the biological sci-
ence. 1his stance seems plainly íalse ,and here I concur with Searle,. On the
other hand, the more modest interpretation is the íollowing: Bennett and
Iacker claim that in order to covvvvicate the results oí their work neurosci-
entists should obey the rules oí the use oí expressions in the ordinary lan-
guage. It is not surprising that neuroscienti£c theories are expressed largely
in the ordinary language. 1he contro·ersy is to what extent this language
may be used metaphorically or analogically. Now, it seems that Bennett and
Iacker`s constraints here are too rigorous. Consider ·arious interpretations
oí quantum mechanics: they oíten utilize ordinary language concepts in an
extraordinary way. \et would we say that the discussions between Bohr and
Linstein on the íoundations oí physics, or the debates pertaining to the
uni£cation oí quantum mechanics and the general theory oí relati·ity are
senseless as they íail to obser·e the rules go·erning the usage oí the ordi-
nary language expressions· Such a stance is nonsensical. Moreo·er, Bennett
and Iacker íail to realize the heuristic role oí metaphors. \hen Blakemore
says that there are brain-maps or that the brain interprets the reality, he is in-
·oking a picture that is not only iníormati·e, but also may lead to íurther hy-
potheses and disco·eries. Certainly, it may also lead to blind alleys yet there
is little danger that the consequences oí such a way oí expression will be
daring. 1he reason is that neuroscience, as any other science, has some built-
in correcti·e mechanisms that ultimately help us to distinguish progress and
íruitíul hypotheses írom mere mistakes and useless conjectures. 1hat this
mechanism is present is e·ident once one considers the recent successes oí
neuroscience. A science which o·eruses metaphors and leads to no serious
predictions or explanations is simply a bad science, the mere íact oí com-
mitting or omitting the Mereological lallacy is oí no signi£cance here.
Secondly, the problem with Bennett and Iacker`s critique is that it as-
sumes that there is something a ¡riori relati·e to the neuroscienti£c practice.
In other words, they are £rm belie·ers in íoundationalism. Accidentally, it
is well illustrated by the íact that they quote Aristotle when justiíying the
idea oí the Mereological lallacy. \hen Aristotle obser·es that to say that
the soul is angry is as ií one remarked that the soul wea·es or builds, íor
it is surely better not to say that the soul pities, learns or thinks, but that a
man does these with his soul`, there is a certain metaphysical ·iew standing
behind his claim. Aristotle`s metaphysics is essentialist: he belie·es that e·-
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ery entity belongs to some natural category, one determined by the entity`s
essence ,íorm,, moreo·er, he belie·es that the essences may be captured
by the so-called essential de£nitions
. 1hus, the incorrect or metaphori-
cal use oí words is not a mere mistake - it is an error that may eííecti·ely
ruin our attempts to construct íoundations oí knowledge, captured by the
essential de£nitions. 1his doctrine is íar írom the actual scienti£c practice.
1he history oí science shows clearly that no such íoundations should be
assumed as they are most likely to ban scienti£c progress.
All in all, it shows that Bennett and Iacker`s analyses miss the point.
1hey adopt a suspicious metaphilosophy as their point oí departure, which
leads them to íalse conclusions. It does not seem likely that anyone may
ha·e any problems to realize the metaphorical character oí such claims as
the neurons know, are intelligent, and assess probabilities`. In other words,
Bennett and Iacker act as ií they were £ghting íor deckchairs, when their
1itanic is heading towards an iceberg. 1o say that the ordinary language is
a ¡riori, when we may well be witnessing a re·olution regarding our under-
standing oí what language is, is nothing more than a useless pedantry.
It does not mean, oí course, that neuroscience has no ties with phi-
losophy, to the contrary, it is fííea ritb a ¡biío.o¡bicaí íoaa. Iowe·er, one
must realize that we are not talking oí some philosophical theses that are
¡rior to neuroscience, what is philosophically interesting, lies ritbiv it. It is
not philosophy before science, but philosophy iv science.
2. Philosophy in Science
In his seminal paper, íor í. Pbiío.o¡b, iv ´cievce` Po..ibíe., Michael Ieller
obser·es that
¡biío.o¡b, iv .cievce grew out oí practice. Its most symptomatic in-
carnation is the phenomenon known as philosophizing physicists`.
L·en though the philosophical renection oí the representati·es oí
the empirical sciences oíten íalls short oí the proíessional philoso-
phical standards, it remains true that the so-called particular scien-
ces are £lled with philosophical issues
See K.R. Popper, 1be O¡ev ´ociet, ava ít. ívevie., ·ol. II, Princeton Uni·ersity Press,
Princeton 1966, p. 1íí.
M. Ieller, íor í. Pbiío.o¡b, iv ´cievce` Po..ibíe., o¡.cit., p. 13.
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J73 P h i l o s o p h y i n N e u r o s c i e n c e
Philosophy in science should be careíully distinguished írom philoso-
phy of science. 1he latter aims at reconstructing the scienti£c practice,
the structure oí scienti£c theories, and is concerned with the criteria oí
justi£cation in science. It is much more dií£cult to de£ne philosophy in
science`, e·en though |it| was practiced írom the ·ery beginning oí the
empirical sciences. lor example, when one considers the work oí Newton
it is dií£cult to say whether it was still science in philosophy, or rather al-
ready philosophy in science`
Ieller does not try to codiíy philosophy in science`, rather he identi-
£es some typical problems it deals with, problems, which are highly char-
acteristic, although not de£nitional. lirst, he obser·es that philosophical
ideas oíten innuenced the de·elopment and e·olution oí scienti£c theo-
ries. It suí£ces to recall Kepler`s neoplatonism or Linstein`s íaith in the
deterministic uni·erse to illustrate the possible extent oí such innuences.
Second, traditional philosophical problems are intertwined with empiri-
cal theories. 1here are innumerable examples: space`, time`, mind`, íree
will` - to mention but the most ob·ious. 1hird and £nally, philosophers
renect upon the presuppositions oí the empirical sciences. In this context,
Ieller speaks oí the íollowing assumptions oí physics: the mathematicity
oí the uni·erse, the idealizability oí nature, the elementary character and
the unity oí the laws oí nature
I belie·e that while Ieller`s examples are instructi·e, some methodologi-
cal rigor is needed to pro·ide a more comprehensi·e picture oí philoso-
phy in science`. 1hereíore, I would like to propose a typology oí problems
that are dealt with within this discipline. I do not consider it £nal, rather, it
should be regarded a proposal íor íurther discussion. Moreo·er, I would like
to stress that the íour le·els oí analysis I identiíy are not mutually exclusi·e,
in other words, when considering philosophical issues in science, one usually
operates at more than one oí the below presented le·els and the analysis at
one such le·el may be strictly connected to problems arising at another.
I distinguish íour types oí problems that lie within the interest oí the
philosophy in science. 1hey belong to the conceptual le·el, the presupposi-
tional le·el, the problem-le·el and the íunctional le·el. Both philosophy and
science oíten take ad·antage oí the same covce¡t., such as time`, space` or
íbiaev, p. 15.
íbiaev, pp. 20-24.
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J74 B a r t o s z B r o ů e k
emotion`. Strict methodological isolationism would lead to a conclusion,
that e·en ií these words look identical, they designate completely diííerent
ideas: emotion` in philosophy has nothing to do with the neuroscienti£c
understanding oí emotions. 1his ·iew seems plainly íalse. It is relati·ely
easy to indicate such concepts ,among which there belong space`, time`
and emotions`, whose philosophical` and scienti£c` semantic £elds o·er-
lap. Moreo·er, philosophical concepts oíten vigrate to science, and rice rer.a.
A nice example is pro·ided by the ·ery concepts oí space` and time`.
It is well known that Newton belie·ed space and time to be ab.oívte. 1his
was, howe·er, a purely philosophical ·iew. It was demonstrated that the
Newtonian mechanics does indeed require the absolute time ,or more pre-
cisely: classical mechanics is a physical model oí the doctrine oí the ab-
solute time`,, but it does not require absolute space
. Similarly, the general
theory oí relati·ity concerns - in some sense - the philosophical concepts
oí space and time. Iowe·er, it no longer speaks oí them as separate pa-
rameters or entities: it is a model oí space-time. Interestingly, the space-
time oí general relati·ity is neither purely relati·e nor purely absolute, the
dichotomy oí relati·e - absolute` turns out to be a íalse one
. L·en more
abstractly: in some recent attempts to reconcile general relati·ity with
quantum mechanics mathematical models are constructed ,with the use
oí non-commutati·e geometries, which suggest that at the íundamental
le·el oí reality there is no time ,i.e., there is no parameter corresponding
to time,, but the model in·ol·es some dynamics
. Now, such consider-
ations which consist in interpreting the mathematical structures oí empiri-
cal theories lead us back to philosophy and enrich our understanding oí
the concepts oí space and time. 1hey may also help to de·elop new philo-
sophical theories - a well known example is \hitehead`s metaphysics.
Apart írom the vigratiov oí concepts one can also point out to the de-
·elopment oí new or re£nements oí old philosophical concepts ri. a ri. the
achie·ements oí science. Again, examples are many, írom some interesting
renderings oí the notions oí super·enience` and emergence`, inspired by
the ad·ancements in biology, to such concepts as paradigm` or scienti£c
research program` resulting írom the renection o·er the scienti£c practice.
Cí. D.J. Reine, M. Ieller, 1be ´cievce of ´¡ace·1ive, Pachart, 1uscon 1981, pp. 5¯-81.
Cí. M. Ieller, íor í. Pbiío.o¡b, iv ´cievce` Po..ibíe., o¡.cit., p. 18-20.
Cí. iaev, C¸a. i ¡r¸,c¸,voroœc, 1owarzystwo Naukowe KUL, Lublin 2002.
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J7S P h i l o s o p h y i n N e u r o s c i e n c e
1he second le·el oí philosophy in science` is that oí ¡re.v¡¡o.itiov..
Iere, the philosophical analysis pertains to presuppositions ,or, speak-
ing less íormally: assumptions, oí scienti£c theories and - more impor-
tantly - the method oí science. An interesting question in this context is
whether scienti£c theories presuppose the existence oí the material world.
Michael Ieller makes an interesting suggestion:
1he tacit assumption oí all the statements oí science is not that the
material world exists, it is rather the addition oí an antecedent Ií
the material world exists...` to each and e·ery íormulation oí the re-
sults oí empirical research. |.| 1he answer to the question whether
the material world exists does not belong among the assumptions
oí the empirical sciences
1hus, Ieller claims that the implicit` structure oí any law oí science
is the íollowing:
,L, e Ⱥ t
where e is the proposition 1he material world exists`, and t is any gi·en scien-
ti£c law ,theory,. In this way, we are not entitled to say that science assumes
or presupposes the existence oí the world, rather, it is neutral as to this
particular problem. Interestingly, Ieller`s proposal íalls into serious troubles
once the Popperian conception oí íalsi£cation is taken into account. As well
known, Popper argues that the scienti£c progress has nothing to do with
the ·eri£cation oí theories. Our theories are hypotheses that we should try
to íalsiíy. In other words, any theory - in order to be considered scienti£c -
identi£es a set oí its potential íalsi£ers. \hen one oí the íalsi£ers turns out
true, the theory pro·es íalse and should be rejected. Let f1 and f2 stand íor
potential íalsi£ers oí our theory t. 1hus, the íollowing holds:
,l, t Ⱥ ,~f1 š ~f2,
Obser·e now that when one oí the potential íalsi£ers is true, say
,C, f1
then - by applying voav. toííev.:
,D, ~t
and by voav. toííev. again:
,L, ~e
íaev, Ovtoíogic¸ve ¸aavgaůoravia r.¡ó/c¸e.ve; f¸,íi, |in:| iaev, íiío¸ofa i r.¸ecbœriat, Uni·er-
sitas, Kraków 2006, p. 146.
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J76 B a r t o s z B r o ů e k
It means that av, íalsi£cation oí a scienti£c theory leads to the e.tabíi.bvevt
oí the thesis that the material world does not exist, which is paradoxical.
1his shows that Ieller`s conception is nawed. I shall not íollow this line
oí argument here
. Iowe·er, what has been said suí£ces to show that
the analysis oí presuppositions or assumptions oí scienti£c theories is a
legitimate £eld oí philosophical study.
An e·en more instructi·e example is the problem well encapsulated by
Lugene \igner`s íamous astonishment o·er the unreasonable eííecti·eness
oí mathematics in the natural sciences

. 1he success oí the empirical sci-
ences which began with Newton and has continued since turns our atten-
tion not only to the method oí physics, but also to its presuppositions and
assumptions. Among them, one can identiíy the idealizability oí nature. It
may be speculated, e.g., that the material world is idealizable because it is
vatbevaticaí in character. Iowe·er, it is possible to imagine worlds which are
vatbevaticaí in a certain sense, yet non-idealizable. Michael Ieller considers a
hierarchy oí such worlds. 1he most non-mathematical` is a world in which
no mathematical and logical principles are obser·ed ,including any stochas-
tic or probabilistic laws,. Next, he suggests considering a simpli£ed model
oí the world: let us assume that the world in question may be in one oí only
two states, represented by 0` and 1`. Now:
1he history oí this world is thus a sequence oí 0`s and 1`s. Assume íur-
ther that the world had a beginning, what may be represented by a dot
at the beginning oí the sequence. In this way, we get, e.g., a sequence:
1he task oí a physicist is to construct a theory which would enable
to predict the íuture states oí the world. Such a theory would amount
to the encapsulation` oí the sequence oí 0`s and 1`s in a íormula
,which is shorter than the sequence it encapsulates,. Such a íormula
may be íound only ií the sequence oí 0`s and 1`s is algorithmically
compressible. But this leads to a problem. Such a sequence may be
interpreted as a decimal expansion oí a number in |0,1| and - as well
known - the set oí algorithmically compressible numbers belonging
to |0,1| is oí measure 0 |.|. 1hus |.| there is zero chance that a
sequences oí 0`s and 1`, representing our world, belongs to the
See B. Broůek, A. Olszewski, í.tvievie œriata a vavía. Kovevtar¸ íogic¸v,, |in:| Povaa aevar·
íac;Ċ, eds. \. Kowalski, S. \szoIek, Biblos, 1arnów 2008, pp.103-114.

Cí. L. \igner, 1be |vrea.ovabíe íffectireve.. of Matbevatic. iv tbe ^atvraí ´cievce., Com-
munications on Pure and Applied Mathematics` 1960, ·ol. 13, no. 1, pp. 1-14.
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J77 P h i l o s o p h y i n N e u r o s c i e n c e
set oí algorithmically compressible sequences and so the physicist,
who in·estigates such a world, may ha·e no rational expectation to
disco·er the theory she is looking íor
1his obser·ation has íar-reaching consequences. In particular, it shows
that the íact that we succeed in constructing mathematical models oí re-
ality is miraculous indeed, but also that it should be subject to insightíul
philosophical renection.
1he third perspecti·e oí philosophy in science` lies at the ¡robíev·íereí.
1here are many classical philosophical problems that ha·e been elucidated
with the help oí the scienti£c methods. One such problem is causality and
determinism. 1he wa·e oí enthusiasm generated by the successes oí the
Newtonian physics led Laplace to his íamous reply to Napoleon that the
hypothesis` oí God is not needed in the íully deterministic world oí the
modern physics. Oí course, it turned out that the problem is much subtler.
lor example: the de·elopment oí special relati·ity theory led to an intrigu-
ing reíormulation oí the concept oí causality: causal relations between an
e·ent X and some other e·ent \ are possible only when the e·ent \ be-
longs to the light cone oí X. lurther complications were brought about by
the disco·ery oí quantum mechanics. 1he problem oí the indeterministic
nature oí the physical world resulting írom quantum mechanics has caused
innumerable discussions and philosophical conceptions, ranging írom the
íamous debate between Linstein and Bohr
to Karl Popper`s theory oí the
open uni·erse
. It seems impossible today to discuss the problem oí cau-
sality and determinism without a solid grasp oí the contemporary physics.
Science has also generated a number oí problems that were taken
up by philosophers. Arguably, the most important such cluster oí prob-
lems is connected to Darwin`s e·olutionary theory. 1hey include more
speci£c issues, such as the question what are the units oí natural selec-
tion, but also innuence the discussions pertaining to such íundamental
problems as human nature
, the nature oí morality
, origins and nature
M. Ieller, C¸, œriat ;e.t vatevat,c¸v,., |in:| iaev, íiío¸ofa i r.¸ecbœriat, o¡.cit., pp. 51-52.
See, e.g., N. Bohr, Di.cv..iov. ritb íiv.teiv ov í¡i.tevoíogicaí Probíev. iv .tovic Pb,.ic., |in:|
.íbert íiv.teiv: Pbiío.o¡ber - ´cievti.t, ed. P.A. Schlipp, Open Court, Chicago1949.
See K.R. Popper, 1be O¡ev |virer.e: .v .rgvvevt for ívaetervivi.v írov tbe Po.t.cri¡t to 1be
íogic of ´cievtifc Di.corer,, Cambridge Uni·ersity Press, Cambridge 1982.
Cí. \. ZaIuski, ívvav ^atvre .fter Darriv, Copernicus Center Reports` 2011, ·ol. 2,
pp. ¯¯-90.
Cí., e.g., R. Joyce, 1be íroívtiov of Moraíit,, 1he MI1 Press, Cambridge, Mass. 2006.
philosophy¸in¸science.indd 177 2011-10-04 12:05:47
J78 B a r t o s z B r o ů e k
oí language
, etc. Moreo·er, the íormal aspects oí the mechanisms oí
e·olution led to the de·elopment oí new philosophical ,sub,£elds, such
as e·olutionary epistemology or e·olutionary game theory
linally, at the fvvctiovaí íereí, the relationship between science and philoso-
phy may take one oí the íollowing íorms. lirst, it is sometimes argued that
some scienti£c theories ha·e taken up the roles traditionally reser·ed íor phi-
losophy. lor example, Michael Ieller claims in this context that the contem-
porary physics pro·ides the best ontology oí the physical world we ha·e had
so íar
. It is not to say, oí course, that the equations oí the general theory oí
relati·ity íorm an ontology in the same sense that the Aristotle`s íour causes
- the material, the íormal, the eí£cient and the £nal - do. 1he mathematical
structures oí the physical theories must be ivter¡retea to ser·e as a íull-blooded
ontology. Ieller speculates, howe·er, that the admissible interpretations oí,
say, quantum mechanics, must ha·e something in common`. Ie says:
Let us consider the set oí all the possible interpretations admissible
by the gi·en empirical theory. 1he passage írom one such inter-
pretation to another must exhibit certain elements which remain
unchanged, they are the interpretation ,or ontological, in·ariants. Ií
there were no such in·ariants, any interpretation would be admis-
sible, when in íact among the admissible interpretations there are
those which are consistent with the íormalism oí the theory and
its empirical predictions. Moreo·er, the interpretation in·ariants are
diííerent írom the íormalism and the empirical predictions as they
belong to the interpretation layer` and not to the calculations or the
possible experimental outcomes. 1hus, the proposal is that the set
oí all interpretation in·ariants constitutes the content` oí an empi-
rical theory, or what the theory says`
I do not want to suggest that Ieller`s claim is indisputable. Iowe·er, I be-
lie·e it shows clearly that it is possible to construct ontologies which are based
on empirical theories, but also that such a task is nontri·ial. Moreo·er, it seems
that any attempt at the construction oí the ontology oí the physical reality
which does not take into account the ad·ancements oí physics is misguided.
Cí. M. 1omasello, Cov.trvctivg a íavgvage. . |.age·ßa.ea 1beor, of íavgvage .cqvi.itiov,
Iar·ard Un·iersity Press, Cambridge, Mass. 2003.
Cí. M. Brady, ...e..ivg íroívtiovar, í¡i.tevoíog,, Biology & Philosophy` 1986, ·ol. 1,
no. 4, pp. 401-459.
Cí. M. Ieller, Ovtoíogic¸ve ¸aavgaůoravia..., o¡.cit.
íbiaev, p. 155-156.
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J79 P h i l o s o p h y i n N e u r o s c i e n c e
Secondly, some philosophical theories or arguments may play the role oí
.eíectiov vecbavi.v. in science. Oí course, science has its own criteria oí the ac-
ceptance oí hypotheses, built into the scienti£c method itselí. Iowe·er, the
history oí science brings many examples oí situations in which a hypothesis
de·eloped according to the scienti£c standards was rejected or modi£ed in
light oí some other ,philosophical, considerations. One such notable example
is Linstein`s cosmological constant. linally, philosophical doctrines may ser·e
as ,positi·e and negati·e, heuristics in the process oí scienti£c disco·ery.
1he abo·e presented perspecti·es do not exhaust the typical problems
oí the philosophy oí science. I belie·e, howe·er, that the typology is in-
structi·e: it is a contextual ,and partial, de£nition oí philosophy in sci-
ence` and may ser·e as a point oí departure íor íurther discussions.
3. The Structure of Neuroscience
1he abo·e described conception oí philosophy in science, illustrated
with the examples taken mainly írom physics, may easily be applied to
neuroscience. Beíore embarking on this task, howe·er, I shall concentrate
on some peculiarities oí neuroscience. 1he problem oí the structure oí
neuroscienti£c theories, as well as oí the criteria oí justi£cation used by
neuroscientists is oí ·ital importance. It is clear that the structure in ques-
tion does not correspond to what philosophers oí science call a theory`.
1o substantiate this thesis, it suí£ces to realize that neuroscience .ev.v íargo
includes beha·ioural, cellular, clinical, cogniti·e, computational, cultural,
de·elopmental and molecular neuroscience, neuroengineering, neuroim-
aging, neuroiníormatics, neurolinguistics, social neuroscience and system
neuroscience, it íollows that neuroscience takes ad·antage oí ·arious
methods, justi£cation criteria and theory-construction rules

Naturally, one may reply that at the most general le·el neuroscienti£c
theories do not diííer írom any other scienti£c theory: a hypothesis must
be stated, one that is subsequently de·eloped into testable sub-hypotheses,
then, the experiments are carried out and their results lead to the rejection,
modi£cation or íurther elaboration oí the hypothesis
. 1he problem is

See the discussion in P. 1hompson, 1be ´trvctvre of ßioíogicaí 1beorie., State Uni·ersity oí
New \ork Press, Albany 1989.
Cí. V. Iardcastle, ^evrobioíog,, |in:| 1be Cavbriage Cov¡aviov to tbe Pbiío.o¡b, of ßioíog,, eds.
D. Iull, M. Ruse, Cambridge Uni·ersity Press, Cambridge 2008, pp. 2¯5-291.
philosophy¸in¸science.indd 179 2011-10-04 12:05:47
J80 B a r t o s z B r o ů e k
that such an understanding oí the structure oí neuroscienti£c theories ex-
plains little. Any research practice may be so reconstructed that it £ts some
structural íramework, be it a scienti£c research program as understood by
Lakatos, or a Kuhnian paradigm.
1he interesting thing about the contemporary neuroscience is that it is
an umbrella term that co·ers wide range oí inter- or multidisciplinary en-
dea·ours. 1his interdisciplinary character maniíests itselí at many le·els.
lirstly, all the neuroscienti£c subdisciplines take ad·antage oí numerous
research techniques, oíten imported` írom other sciences. lor example,
a relati·ely new discipline, social neuroscience, utilizes hormone analysis,
LMG, LPR, íMRI, arti£cial neural networks, the methods oí molecular
biology, comparati·e anatomy, de·elopmental psychology, etc
Secondly, the construction oí at least some neuroscienti£c theories
is interdisciplinary`. lor example, the theory oí the de·elopment oí lan-
guage proposed by Michael Arbib is based on the £ndings oí neurobiol-
ogy, de·elopmental psychology and primatology
. 1here are three criteria
that play an important role in theory-construction in neuroscience: em-
pirical adequacy, con·ergence and coherence. 1he concept oí empirical
adequacy in neuroscience is much less clear than in physics. In particular,
it is ·ery oíten the case that the same set oí experiments may gi·e rise to
diííerent interpretations which, in turn, support competing theories. As a
result, neuroscientists must also take ad·antage oí other justi£cation cri-
teria: con·ergence and coherence.
Covrergevce pertains to a situation in which biological data coming írom
diííerent experiments ,or some lower-le·el theories, simultaneously sup-
port the gi·en theoretical hypothesis. lor example: it is argued that the
human capacity to imitate signi£cantly exceeds the corresponding capac-
ity in other primates. 1his hypothesis is supported not only by the results
oí experiments on children and chimpanzees, but also by a comparati·e
analysis oí the human and other primates` brain anatomy
. 1he criterion
oí coberevce, in turn, may be de£ned as íollows: one can say that the more
Cí. Metboa. iv ´ociaí ^evro.cievce, eds. L. Iarmon-Jones, J.S. Beer, 1he Guilíord Press,
New \ork 2009.
Cí. M. Arbib, 1be Mirror ´,.tev, ívitatiov, ava tbe íroívtiov of íavgvage, |in:| ívitatiov iv
.vivaí. ava .rtifact., eds. Ch. Nehani·, K. Dautenhahn, 1he MI1 Press, Cambridge 2002,
pp. 229-280.
See Per.¡ectire. ov ívitatiov, ·ol. I-II, eds. S. Iurley, N. Chater, 1he MI1 Press, Cam-
bridge, Mass. 2005.
philosophy¸in¸science.indd 180 2011-10-04 12:05:47
J8J P h i l o s o p h y i n N e u r o s c i e n c e
two biological theories are mutually coherent, the higher is the degree in
which they íul£l three conditions: oí consistency, iníerential relations and
uni£cation. A gi·en set oí sentences is coherent to a high degree ií it is
consistent, the sentences it is comprised oí may ser·e together to draw
new, nontri·ial consequences and it cannot be easily di·ided into two sub-
sets with no signi£cant loss oí iníormation
. An instructi·e example is the
e·olutionary theory oí the emergence oí language which posits that the
key adaptation leading to the de·elopment oí linguistic skills is mimesis,
which is a re£ned kind oí imitation
. 1his theory is coherent with some
conceptions pertaining to the role oí mirror neurons in the de·elopment
oí such capacities as imitation and language
. 1hese examples illustrate
that, in addition to empirical adequacy, con·ergence and coherence are es-
sential criteria oí justi£cation in neuroscience.
1his outline oí the structure oí neuroscienti£c theories is íurther com-
plicated by the íact that theory-construction in neuroscience requires ivter·
¡retatiov .cbevata. An interpretation schema is a set oí directi·es íor under-
standing the results oí experiments, oíten based on some .eíectea theories or
hypotheses oí quite general character. 1here is no place in this essay to de-
·elop a theory oí such schemata. Instead, let us ha·e a look at two examples.
Various methods oí brain imaging aim at establishing that during the
períormance oí certain tasks ,e.g., sol·ing moral dilemmas, some brain re-
gions display increased acti·ity. On the traditional approach, separate brain
areas were in·estigated: when períormance oí a mental íunction was cor-
related with an increased acti·ity oí such an area, the conclusion íollowed
that the gi·en region is ,partly, responsible íor the corresponding íunction.
1he problem is that in case oí most ,ií not all, mental operations there is
an increased acti·ity oí rariov. brain regions. 1hus, the question emerges as
to how to interpret the experimental results which point out to a complex
brain acti·ity correlated with the períormance oí the gi·en tasks.
McIntosh and Korostil present three interpretation írameworks that
help to deal with this problem
. lirstly, one can speak oí the covvectirit,
paradigm. 1here are two types oí connecti·ity: íunctional and eííecti·e. In
Cí. L. Bonjour, 1be Coberevce 1beor, of ív¡iricaí Kvoríeage, Philosophical Studies` 19¯6,
·ol. 30, no. 5, pp. 281-312.
Cí. M. Donald, ívitatiov ava Mive.i., |in:| Per.¡ectire. ov ívitatiov, o¡.cit., ·ol. II, pp. 283-300.
Cí. M. Arbib, o¡.cit.
Cí. A.R. McIntosh, M. Korostil, ívter¡retatiov of ^evroivagivg Data ßa.ea ov ^etrorí
Covce¡t., Brain Imaging and Beha·ior` 2008, no. 2, pp. 264-269.
philosophy¸in¸science.indd 181 2011-10-04 12:05:47
J82 B a r t o s z B r o ů e k
case oí the íormer, two elements oí a neural system ,neurons, brain regions,
are said to be íunctionally connected when they are acti·ated simultane-
ously ,or almost simultaneously, in a statistically signi£cant way. Lííecti·e
connecti·ity, on the other hand, requires cav.aí reíatiov. between the acti·ity
oí diííerent brain elements. Secondly, there is an interpretation paradigm
which takes neural covte·t into account. A gi·en brain area may be acti·ated
in ·arious, similar and dissimilar, circumstances, and what distinguishes the
operation is not the in·ol·ement oí the area ¡er .e, but rather the status oí
other areas during that íunction. 1his dependence oí the contribution oí a
region on other connected regions has been reíerred to as «neural context».
Neural context allows the response properties oí one element in a network
to be proíoundly aííected by the status oí other neural elements in that
. In other words, a small ·ariation in the períormed task may lead
to the acti·ation oí diííerent neural contexts. In such cases, simple connec-
ti·ity analysis, íunctional or eííecti·e, leads to no signi£cant results. 1hirdly
and £nally, the concept oí small-world networks enables the analysis oí the
capacity oí a gi·en neural system to integrate iníormation. Such networks
are characterized by a·erage node-to-node distances and high clustering co-
eí£cient. 1here is a number oí data backing the thesis that a number oí sys-
tems ,biological and social,, including neural systems, ha·e the characteristic
íeatures oí small-worlds. 1his may explain the brain`s capacity to strike the
balance between modular processes and iníormation integration, as well as
its stability in íace oí perturbations. Obser·e that the acceptance oí such an
interpretation schema puts emphasis on other aspects oí the neuroimaging
data than in the case oí connecti·ity and neural context paradigms.
1he methods oí the interpretation oí neuroimaging data is an exam-
ple oí a relati·ely simple ,albeit important, interpretation schema. Much
more spectacular is the case oí e·olutionary psychology, which may e·en
be de£ned as a complex interpretation schema íor explaining the results
oí experiments and other biological data. 1he basic assumptions oí e·o-
lutionary psychology are:
· both our biological and mental mechanisms are e·olutionary adaptations
generated by the natural selection in the ancestral en·ironments,
· our mental mechanisms are domain-speci£c calculation modules. 1hus,
human mind is not a tabvía ra.a. It consists oí mechanisms ,modules,
which are dedicated to sol·ing speci£c adapti·e problems.
íbiaev, p. 266.
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J83 P h i l o s o p h y i n N e u r o s c i e n c e
Both these claims are contro·ersial. 1he íormer says that our basic mental
mechanisms were íormed in the ancestral en·ironments, i.e. in the Pleis-
tocene ,2 million - 10 thousand years ago,. 1his is íollowed by the claim
that the mechanisms in question ha·e remained íairly unchanged and they
will not change in the íuture. Such an account minimizes the innuence oí
culture on human beha·iour, although it does not exclude it altogether

1he abo·e examples show clearly the high le·el oí theory-ladeness oí
experiments in neuroscience ,and other biological disciplines,. 1his claim
is based both on the analysis oí justi£cation criteria used by neuroscien-
tists as well as the utilized interpretation schemata. It is philosophically
·ery interesting as it illustrates that neuroscience is íar írom a model sci-
ence` discussed by the philosophers only £íty years ago. 1his is extremely
important íor someone who sets out to analyze philosophical issues in
neuroscience`. On the one hand, the philosophical load` oí neuroscience
seems, at least ¡riva facie, much more substantial than in physics. On the
other, the con·ergence and coherence, as well as the utilization oí theory-
laden interpretation paradigms contributes to the blurring oí the borders
between neuroscience and philosophy.
4. Philosophical Issues in Neuroscience
Now, let us consider philosophy in neuroscience`. Once again, we can
trace philosophical issues in this discipline at íour diííerent le·els: the con-
ceptual, the presuppositional, the problem and the íunctional. 1he most
interesting aspect oí the conceptual le·el is the migration oí concepts.
Numerous examples may be cited here: mind`, reasoning`, intuition`, in-
sight`, íeelings`, emotions`, etc. Oí course, it ne·er is a simple migration:
a philosophical concept, when utilized in neuroscience, is enriched in new
connotations and its understanding is oíten sharpened or altered. 1his is
the case with emotions`. 1he category oí emotions has played an impor-
tant role in many philosophical conceptions, to mention but Iume, Sche-
ler or Sartre. Iowe·er, once taken up by neuroscientists, it has become a
subject oí empirical studies. It turned out that emotions play an essential

Cí. L. Cosmides, J. 1ooby, ^evrocogvitire .aa¡tatiov. De.igvea for ´ociaí í·cbavge, |in:|
íroívtiovar, P.,cboíog, íavabooí, ed. D.M. Buss, \iley, New \ork 2005, p. 52.
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J84 B a r t o s z B r o ů e k
role in our perception oí the world and in our decision-making processes.
New de£nitions and new typologies oí emotions were proposed
. 1hese
newly rendered concepts are reintroduced in philosophy where they gi·e
impetus to the ongoing philosophical debates
1he next aspect oí neuroscience that belongs to philosophy in neu-
roscience` is the le·el oí presuppositions. One may look íor such philo-
sophical presuppositions oí both neuroscienti£c theories and the meth-
ods oí neuroscience. 1he latter case is especially intriguing. 1he question
is, whether the methods used in neuroscience presuppose any concrete
philosophical stances. A case in point is the problem oí whether the meth-
ods oí neuroscience ,and oí biology in general, assume the reavctiovi.t
thesis, i.e. that all mental phenomena may be reduced to chemical and
physical ones. 1his is a ·ery complex issue, in particular, the ·ery notion
oí reavctiovi.v requires íurther explanation. It is usually claimed that one
should distinguish between three kinds oí reduction in biology: ontologi-
cal, methodological and epistemic. Ontological reduction is the idea that
each particular biological system ,e.g., an organism, is constituted by noth-
ing but molecules and their interactions`
. In turn, methodological reduc-
tion is the idea that biological systems are most íruitíully in·estigated at
the lowest possible le·el, and that experimental studies should be aimed at
unco·ering molecular and biochemical causes`
. linally, epistemic reduc-
tion is the idea that the knowledge about one scienti£c domain ,typically
about higher le·el processes, can be reduced to another body oí scienti£c
knowledge ,typically concerning a lower and more íundamental le·el,`
1hus, it is possible to hold ontological reductionism, and - say, due to the
complexity oí molecular interactions in·ol·ed in the íunctioning oí a bio-
logical system - to reject methodological or epistemic reduction. On the
other hand, methodological and epistemic reductionism seems to assume
the ontological one. Still, it is possible to de£ne methodological reduction-
Cí. J. LeDoux, 1be ívotiovaí ßraiv: 1be M,.teriov. |vaer¡ivvivg. of ívotiovaí íife, Simon
& Schuster, New \ork 1996, A. Damasio, De.carte.` írror: ívotiov, Rea.ov ava tbe ívvav
ßraiv, G.P. Putnam, New \ork 1994.
lor an o·er·iew see R. de Sousa, ívotiov, |in:| ´tavfora ívc,cío¡eaia of Pbiío.o¡b,, online
I. Brigant, A. Lo·e, Reavctiovi.v iv ßioíog,, |in:| ´tavfora ívc,cío¡eaia of Pbiío.o¡b,, online
philosophy¸in¸science.indd 184 2011-10-04 12:05:47
J8S P h i l o s o p h y i n N e u r o s c i e n c e
ism in such a way that it becomes logically independent oí the ontological
·iew: it suí£ces to add the clause as ií ` to the abo·e íormulated de£ni-
tion: methodological reduction is the idea that biological systems should
be in·estigated at the lowest possible le·el, a. if there were no other than
molecular and biochemical causes in·ol·ed.
1he same manoeu·re is inadmissible in the case oí epistemic reduction.
Iowe·er, there are many problems connected to this concept. On the one
hand, one can speak oí theory-reduction. \e shall say that a higher-le·el
theory, 1I, is reducible to a lower-le·el theory, 1L, ií 1I íollows logically
írom 1L voavío a translation íunction l ,i.e., a íunction that translates the
language oí 1I into the language oí 1L,. In other words, this type oí
epistemic reduction requires what Lrnest Nagel calls briage .tatevevt., which
ser·e to connect` two theories expressed in diííerent languages
. It seems
that the idea oí theory-reduction is, at best, a regvíator, iaea, in the sense
that it is a distant, currently unrealizable goal. 1hus, more oíten than not,
epistemic reductionism is expressed by the concept oí e·¡íavator, reavctiov,
which is con£ned to íragments oí theories or some generalizations there-
oí, and assumes that reducti·e explanation is causal explanation, where a
higher le·el íeature is explained by the interaction oí its constituent parts`
In my ·iew, the problems surrounding ·arious kinds oí reduction in bi-
ology may be ill-stated. I am reíerring not so much the widely debated idea
oí downward causation
, but rather to the abo·e-discussed structure oí
neuroscienti£c theories. Ií it is true that justi£cation in many biological sci-
ences ,neuroscience included, takes ad·antage oí such criteria as coherence
and con·ergence, then íoundationalism expressed by the idea oí reduction
is at odds with the scienti£c practice. In this context, a more intriguing prob-
lem is that oí inter-theoretical relations, i.e. relations that hold between dií-
íerent theories ,e.g., some neuroscienti£c hypotheses and the £ndings oí
de·elopmental psychology,. Such relations are not necessarily accounted íor
by logical entailment ,or: in a reducti·e way,. 1hey may also be rendered
with the use oí the logic oí presuppositions, or some nonmonotonic logic.
1his discussion illustrates that reductionism is not a necessary assumption
1h. Nagel, 1be ´trvctvre of ´cievce: Probíev. iv tbe íogic of ´cievtifc í·¡íavatiov, Iarcourt,
New \ork 1961.
I. Brigant, A. Lo·e, o¡.cit.
See the discussion between L. lox Keller and J. Dupre in: Covtev¡orar, Debate. iv Pbi·
ío.o¡b, of ßioíog,, eds. l.J. Ayala, R. Arp, \iley, Blackwell, Malden, Oxíord 2010, pp. 13-4¯.
philosophy¸in¸science.indd 185 2011-10-04 12:05:47
J86 B a r t o s z B r o ů e k
oí the method oí neuroscience, ií at all, it may be treated only as a regula-
tory idea, but one with little practical signi£cance.
At the problem-le·el, neuroscience oíten addresses old philosophical con-
tro·ersies. Arguably, the most spectacular example oí such a problem is the
íamous experiment oí Benjamin Libet oí 1983. Libet asked the participants
to mo·e their £ngers at a chosen moment and remember the time when they
become conscious oí the decision. At the same time, the so-called readiness
potential oí the participants` were measured ,the brain acti·ity that pre-
pares` the gi·en action, here: £nger mo·ement,. 1he results indicated that
the readiness potential emerges some 550 milliseconds beíore the motor
action and some 330 milliseconds beíore the decision to mo·e the £nger is
consciously entertained. According to some interpreters, this may be an ar-
gument against the existence oí the íree will. Libet does not go that íar. Ie
obser·es that the decision to act enters` consciousness some 220 millisec-
onds beíore the execution oí the action, which enables to íormulate the hy-
pothesis that we can reto an action aíter the readiness potential emerges, but
beíore the action is scheduled` to be executed, in other words, our íree will
may object` to the execution oí an action preceded by the gi·en readiness
. 1his interpretation may be criticized in many ways. I would only
like to point out that Libet iv¡íicití, assumes a certain particular conception oí
the íree will. lirstly, his ·iew oí the íree will is incompatibilist

, secondly, he
identi£es the decision to act with the conscious entertaining thereoí.
1here are also new philosophical problems generated by the ad·ances
in neuroscience. A nice example pertains to the human decision-making
processes. It is argued that a majority oí human actions are regulated and
executed at the unconscious le·el. In this process, the key role is played by
our emotions. Iowe·er, it is also stressed that much oí our regular beha·-
iour is inculturated`. lor example: in an oíten quoted article, 1he Lmo-
tional Dog And Its Rational 1ail`, Jonathan Iaidt speaks oí the intuiti·e
character oí the ·ast majority oí human morally rele·ant decisions
. Ie
belie·es that our moral intuition` is not innate: it is rather shaped by social
B. Libet, C.A. Gleason, L.\. \right, D.K. Pearl, 1ive of Cov.ciov. ívtevtiov to .ct iv
Reíatiov to Ov.et of Cerebraí .ctirit, ;Reaaive..·¡otevtiaí). 1be |vcov.ciov. ívitiatiov of a íreeí,
1oívvtar, .ct, Brain` 1983, no. 106,3,, pp. 623-642.

Cí. I.G. lrankíurt, .ítervate Po..ibiíitie. ava Moraí Re.¡ov.ibiíit,, Journal oí Philosophy`
1969, no. 66,3,, pp. 829-839.
J. Iaidt, 1be ívotiovaí Dog ava ít. Ratiovaí 1aií, Psychological Re·iew` 2001, no. 108,4,,
pp. 814-834.
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J87 P h i l o s o p h y i n N e u r o s c i e n c e
interactions and consists in re-enacting learned patterns oí beha·ior. 1he
conscious or renecti·e use oí moral rules is rare - reasoning ser·es rather
íor an e· ¡o.t factvv rationalization oí the decisions made unconsciously.
A similar story may be told in relation to embodied` language and com-
munication rules, tool-use, etc. In a natural way, these conceptions innu-
ence the philosophical debates o·er decision-making, such problems as
intuiti·e judgment, moral dilemmas, or rule-íollowing, while remaining
íully legitimate subjects oí philosophical renection, cannot be responsibly
addressed without some reíerence to the £ndings oí neuroscience.
linally, at the íunctional le·el, neuroscienti£c theories ,.ev.v íargo, begin
to play the role traditionally reser·ed íor philosophy. Such contributions as
Joseph LeDoux`s ívotiovaí ßraiv or 1be ´,va¡tic ´eíf, or Antonio Damasio`s
íeeíivg of rbat ía¡¡ev. or ´eíf Cove. to Miva are but selected íew examples oí
a more general phenomenon: neuroscientists ,as well as psychologists and
primatologists, ha·e begun to write popular books in which philosophical
renection occupies a designated place. It ·ery much resembles the much ear-
lier phenomenon oí the philosophizing physicists`. Naturally, I do not want
to suggest that the results oí such renection belong to neuroscience a. .vcb.
Iowe·er, there is no denying that it is a kind oí philosophy that is embed-
ded` in neuroscienti£c practice and that it draws hea·ily on neuroscienti£c
hypotheses ,e.g., the somatic marker hypothesis oí Damasio,.
Still, philosophy can play a heuristic role in the neuroscienti£c practice.
An interesting story oí such heuristic ,in this case: negati·e, innuence is
told by Joseph LeDoux and Antonio Damasio, and pertains to Cartesian
dualism and the separation oí emotions and reasoning. In particular, it
is argued that this philosophical doctrine has led the emotion-research
astray: psychologists and early neuroscientists íollowed philosophers and
íailed to recognize the constituti·e role emotions play in our cognition
1he abo·e examples illustrate clearly that neuroscienti£c theories as well
as neuroscienti£c practice are intimately intertwined with philosophy. Philoso-
phy is present iv neuroscience. Oí course, I do not pretend to ha·e co·ered
e·erything ,or e·en a large part, oí what may be said on the topic. Iowe·er,
I belie·e that what has been presented warrants the íollowing conclusions.
Cí. J. LeDoux, o¡.cit., pp. 34-39.
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J88 B a r t o s z B r o ů e k
lirstly, philosophy iv neuroscience diííers írom philosophy of neuro-
science. \hen the latter concentrates on the structure oí neuroscienti£c
theories or the criteria íor justiíying neuroscienti£c hypotheses, the íormer
aims at unco·ering philosophical issues present in neuroscience at íour dií-
íerent le·els: conceptual, presuppositional, problem and íunctional. Second-
ly, philosophy iv neuroscience is not con£ned to the analysis oí the ¡roavct.
oí neuroscience. It is rather a renection o·er the neuroscienti£c practice
and what lies ritbiv it. 1hirdly, due to the complexity oí that practice the
interconnections between neuroscience and philosophy are richer - and less
clear - than in the case oí physics and philosophy. 1his íact calls íor a more
detailed elaboration oí the methods oí philosophy in neuroscience`, in par-
ticular some íormal rendering oí the structure oí neuroscience as well as
the relations between diííerent neuroscienti£c and philosophical theories.
philosophy¸in¸science.indd 188 2011-10-04 12:05:47

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