Neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland is interviewed on ABC Radio’s In Conversation where she talks about her work on understanding how our concepts of the mind can map on to the developing field of neuroscience.
Churchland is particulary known for eliminative materialism, which argues that our everyday understanding of the mind is generally false and won’t ever map onto the brain as neuroscience understands it.
It’s been a powerful, influential but controversial argument in cognitive science.
I mean my idea was something like this: consider the follow analogies. Suppose that you were in a time capsule and you were able to go back to, let’s say the 12th century, and say to a monk who was puzzling deeply about the nature of fire. And you said to him, Look, let me tell you what it is; it’s rapid oxidation and you would go on to talk about how exactly that occurred. Now the thing about it is that, since he does not even know about elements, he still thinks there’s just earth, air, fire and water, it isn’t going to make much sense to him. So you’ve given an answer, but lacking the surrounding theoretical context it would be very hard for him to make sense of it.
And my point about the brain now is that if I were given, in an analogous way, the answer to what it is that makes for conscious states in the brain, given that how much we don’t know about fundamentals in neuroscience, I would likely not be able to make sense of the answer.
Link to In Conversation with Patricia Churchland.