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Neuroscience & Philosophy: An Exchange by Jean-Pierre Changeux

Neuroscience & Philosophy: An Exchange by Jean-Pierre Changeux | atheism |

In my response to Colin McGinn [“What Can Your Neurons Tell You?,” NYR, July 11] I don’t wish to enter into the philosophical debate between philosophers and neuroscientists. Even if it is much needed, it requires extensive developments that are being carried out in different circles. I shall be concerned here by facts as they are reported in his NYR review.


First of all I am shocked by the overall arrogant style of his review. The use of the attributes “fallacy” or “confusion,” if still employed by some philosophers, does not belong to a dialogue between a scientist and a philosopher. Differences of opinion or of interpretation are more acceptable terms. Time has passed since Auguste Comte’s suggested hierarchy of disciplines. There is no reason today for philosophers to give “lessons” to anybody, scientists in particular. McGinn might read Bourdieu’s book on “distinction” to question his attitude. I see the relation between neuroscientists and philosophers in a much more positive and constructive manner, as a fruitful cooperation to understand, jointly, the “mind-brain” and to evaluate the consequences of the constantly progressing field of neuroscience—from the molecular to the cognitive level—on both theoretical and practical aspects of human productions. There are at present quite a number of philosophers like John Searle, Daniel Dennett, or Ned Block who play this role.

Via Ashish Umre
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