The philosophical school from which EBS borrowed the most heavily is NeuroPhilosophy, named after the benchmark work published in 1986 by Patricia Churchland.1 Other significant works within the same general school should also taken into account.2,3,4
The basic idea is that while philosophy has traditionally been an a priori discipline, in which the thinker attempts to separate truths from falsehoods on the basis of what seems to make sense subjectively, with modern neuroscience, we can inspect the wiring schematic of the brain doing the thinking, and come to understand why one thing makes sense, and another does not. In this way, we can come to understand how the machine works. It's possible that this will give us the ability to at least compensate for our limitations, if not overcome them.
Put another way, a unified view of neuroscience and philosophy is like a unified view of computer hardware and software. Yes, one can learn to operate a computer completely by trial and error, but with a mechanistic understanding of the system unit and operating system, one can optimize the resources in the machine, and develop much better apps.
The main point of diversion between the cited neurophilosophical literature and EBS is that the former persues a solid scientific foundation for further inquiry, while the latter attempts to extrapolate such findings into a working belief system, borrowing heavily from ancient religions. Somewhere in there, one might argue that EBS reaches higher than the scientific platform allows, and there might be a little bit of air between the boots and the ground. Certainly there is no consensus in the academic community that recent attempts to map the precepts of classical philosophy and theology to modern connectionist theory is ready for application to daily life — this is really still just an idea being knocked around. When viewed through the eyes of professional scholars, the complexity of this enterprise is staggering. It has already been dismissed on the grounds that no single person could ever fully understand the entirety of any of the disciplines involved (i.e., philosophy, psychology, biology, and theology). Tackling two of those disciplines at the same time is then considered to be impossible, and fusing all of them is laughable. But the present endeavor operates under a different set of constraints — we need a working belief system, and there is nothing wrong with the inquiry being informed and inspired, if not constrained, by the findings of modern science. Back to the computer metaphor, we need a working app. The people trying to reverse engineer the motherboard might not be ready to commit to canonized best practices for software development. But if we are to proceed, it will only be with the help of apps that allow us to record our findings. So we can't just stop using computers because we don't fully understand them. Likewise, we can't just stop pursuing a meaningful existence because neuroscientists don't fully understand what gives brains the ability to think.
There is a legitimate question concerning how long we should hold onto our ancient belief systems, and how long we should remain functionally detached from our objective study of the human brain. One might argue that the more information we gain before we attempt practical applications of the knowledge we're gaining, the less mistakes we'll make, and the less fixing we'll have to do later. This remains reasonable, until we acknowledge that the ancient belief systems are eroding quickly. Insofar as they have been the glue holding societies together, and having to watch the whole thing coming unglued every time we watch the news, it isn't reasonable to think that we could wait forever for the scientists to complete their studies. This is especially true since many of them have already taken the position that no one will ever be able to bring all of the pieces together into a working system, because no single person will ever be that smart. So ready or not, it's time to start looking for practical applications of modern scientific theories of the human mind, because we need a replacement for the ancient systems that have been invalidated by modern science. And such applications have to be based on modern science, or they'll get invalidated too. So we have to go beyond what the existing literature can support — we just can't go against it. And we have to leave room for new findings, since this is, and always will be, a work-in-progress.


1. Churchland, P. S. (1986): Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

2. Ramsey, W.; Stich, S. P.; Rumelhart, D. E. (ed.) (1991): Philosophy and Connectionist Theory. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum

3. Holland, J. H.; Holyoak, K. J.; Nisbett, R. E.; Thagard, P. R. (1986): Induction: Processes of Inference, Learning, and Discovery. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

4. Dennett, D. C. (1991): Consciousness Explained. Boston: Little, Brown and Company

← PREV Powered by Quick Disclosure Lite®
© 2010~2017 SCS-INC.US