Review of 'A Neurocomputational Perspective: The Nature of Mind and the Structure of Science' by Paul M. Churchland
Baker (Lynne Rudder)
Source: The Philosophical Review, 101:906–08, 1992
Paper - Abstract

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Author's Introduction

  1. This book is a collection of fourteen essays written during the 1980s. Although versions of all but three have been published elsewhere, their joint publication is useful since they add up to a novel and unified approach to the mind and science. A sample of titles suggests the range:
    • "Folk Psychology and the Explanation of Behavior,"
    • "Some Reductive Strategies in Cognitive Neurobiology,"
    • "On the Nature of Theories: A Neurocomputational Perspective," and
    • "Moral Facts and Moral Knowledge."
  2. The central theme is that philosophy of science and philosophy of mind are now interwoven: no longer can either be pursued in isolation from the other. The fusion of these fields is assured, Paul Churchland maintains, by the development of a new cognitive paradigm, rooted in neuroscience. The new paradigm is based on connectionist (or network or PDP) models in A1 and is offered as a genuine alternative to "the sentential paradigm of folk psychology" (xiv). What is distinctive about the connectionist approach is that it postulates high-dimensional "activation-vectors," rather than sentence- like entities, as the basic elements of cognition and vector-to-vector transformations as the principal form of computation (127). The semi-technical introduction to connectionist neuroscience serves as grist for philosophical speculation. The question is whether to appeal to connectionism contributes to understanding philosophical issues. Does it ultimately illuminate or obscure?


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