Brain-Mind: From Neurons to Consciousness and Creativity (Treatise on Mind and Society)

Oxford University Press
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How do brains make minds? Paul Thagard presents a unified, brain-based theory of cognition and emotion with applications to the most complex kinds of thinking, right up to consciousness and creativity. Neural mechanisms are used to explain mental operations for analogy, action, intention, language, and the self. Brain-Mind develops a brilliant account of mental operations using promising new ideas from theoretical neuroscience. Single neurons cannot do much by themselves, but groups of neurons work together to accomplish powerful kinds of mental representation, including concepts, images, and rules. Minds enable people to perceive, imagine, solve problems, understand, learn, speak, reason, create, and be emotional and conscious. Competing explanations of how the mind works have identified it as soul, computer, brain, dynamical system, or social construction. This book explains minds in terms of interacting mechanisms operating at multiple levels, including the social, mental, neural, and molecular. Unification comes from systematic application of Chris Eliasmith's powerful Semantic Pointer Architecture, a highly original synthesis of neural network and symbolic ideas about how the mind works. This book belongs to a trio that includes Mind-Society: From Brains to Social Sciences and Professions and Natural Philosophy: From Social Brains to Knowledge, Reality, Morality, and Beauty. They can be read independently, but together they make up a Treatise on Mind and Society that provides a unified and comprehensive treatment of the cognitive sciences, social sciences, professions, and humanities.
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About the author

Paul Thagard is a distinguished philosopher and cognitive scientist who has written many books, including The Brain and the Meaning of Life (Princeton University Press, 2010) and The Cognitive Science of Science (MIT Press, 2012). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Cognitive Science Society, and the Association for Psychological Science.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Jan 31, 2019
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780190686376
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / Mind & Body
Psychology / Cognitive Neuroscience & Cognitive Neuropsychology
Psychology / Cognitive Psychology & Cognition
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Drawing on the latest work in cognitive neuroscience, a philosopher proposes that delusions are narrative models that accommodate anomalous experiences.

In The Measure of Madness, Philip Gerrans offers a novel explanation of delusion. Over the last two decades, philosophers and cognitive scientists have investigated explanations of delusion that interweave philosophical questions about the nature of belief and rationality with findings from cognitive science and neurobiology. Gerrans argues that once we fully describe the computational and neural mechanisms that produce delusion and the way in which conscious experience and thought depend on them, the concept of delusional belief retains only a heuristic role in the explanation of delusion.

Gerrans proposes that delusions are narrative models that accommodate anomalous experiences. He argues that delusions represent the operation of the Default Mode Network (DMN)—the cognitive system that provides the raw material for humans' inbuilt tendency to provide a subjectively compelling narrative context for anomalous or highly salient experiences—without the “supervision” of higher cognitive processes present in the nondelusional mind. This explanation illuminates the relationship among delusions, dreams, imaginative states, and irrational beliefs that have perplexed philosophers and psychologists for over a century.

Going beyond the purely conceptual and the phenomenological, Gerrans brings together findings from different disciplines to trace the flow of information through the cognitive system, and applies these to case studies of typical schizophrenic delusions: misidentification, alien control, and thought insertion. Drawing on the interventionist model of causal explanation in philosophy of science and the predictive coding approach to the mind influential in computational neuroscience, Gerrans provides a model for integrative theorizing about the mind.

Recent neuroscience, in replacing the old model of the brain as a single centralized source of control, has emphasized plasticity,the quality by which our brains develop and change throughout the course of our lives. Our brains exist as historical products, developing in interaction with themselves and with their surroundings.Hence there is a thin line between the organization of the nervous system and the political and social organization that both conditions and is conditioned by human experience. Looking carefully at contemporary neuroscience, it is hard not to notice that the new way of talking about the brain mirrors the management discourse of the neo-liberal capitalist world in which we now live, with its talk of decentralization, networks, and flexibility. Consciously or unconsciously, science cannot but echo the world in which it takes place.In the neo-liberal world, plasticitycan be equated with flexibility-a term that has become a buzzword in economics and management theory. The plastic brain would thus represent just another style of power, which, although less centralized, is still a means of control. In this book, Catherine Malabou develops a second, more radical meaning for plasticity. Not only does plasticity allow our brains to adapt to existing circumstances, it opens a margin of freedom to intervene, to change those very circumstances. Such an understanding opens up a newly transformative aspect of the neurosciences.In insisting on this proximity between the neurosciences and the social sciences, Malabou applies to the brain Marx's well-known phrase about history: people make their own brains, but they do not know it. This book is a summons to such knowledge.
How do minds make societies, and how do societies change? Paul Thagard systematically connects neural and psychological explanations of mind with major social sciences (social psychology, sociology, politics, economics, anthropology, and history) and professions (medicine, law, education, engineering, and business). Social change emerges from interacting social and mental mechanisms. Many economists and political scientists assume that individuals make rational choices, despite the abundance of evidence that people frequently succumb to thinking errors such as motivated inference. Much of sociology and anthropology is taken over with postmodernist assumptions that everything is constructed on the basis of social relations such as power, with no inkling that these relations are mediated by how people think about each other. Mind-Society displays the interdependence of the cognitive and social sciences by describing the interconnections among mental and social mechanisms, which interact to generate social changes ranging from marriage patterns to wars. Validation comes from detailed studies of important social changes, from norms about romantic relationships to economic practices, political institutions, religious customs, and international relations. This book belongs to a trio that includes Brain-Mind: From Neurons to Consciousness and Creativity and Natural Philosophy: From Social Brains to Knowledge, Reality, Morality, and Beauty. They can be read independently, but together they make up a Treatise on Mind and Society that provides a unified and comprehensive treatment of the cognitive sciences, social sciences, professions, and humanities.
Paul Thagard uses new accounts of brain mechanisms and social interactions to forge theories of mind, knowledge, reality, morality, justice, meaning, and the arts. Natural Philosophy brings new methods for analyzing concepts, understanding values, and achieving coherence. It shows how to unify the humanities with the cognitive and social sciences. How can people know what is real and strive to make the world better? Philosophy is the attempt to answer general questions about the nature of knowledge, reality, and values. Natural Philosophy pursues these questions by drawing heavily on the sciences and finds no room for supernatural entities such as souls, gods, and possible worlds. It provides original accounts of the traditional branches of philosophy, including epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics. Rather than reducing the humanities to the sciences, this book displays fertile interconnections that show that philosophical questions and artistic practices can be much better understood by considering how human brains operate and interact in social contexts. The sciences and the humanities are interdependent, because both the natural and social sciences cannot avoid questions about methods and values that are primarily the province of philosophy. This book belongs to a trio that includes Brain-Mind: From Neurons to Consciousness and Creativity and Mind-Society: From Brains to Social Sciences and Professions. They can be read independently, but together they make up a Treatise on Mind and Society that provides a unified and comprehensive treatment of the cognitive sciences, social sciences, professions, and humanities.
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