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Churchland, Patricia, , . Epistemology in The Age of Neuroscience
1987, Journal of Philosophy 84 (1987): 546-83.
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Added by: Jamie Collin, Contributed by:

Comment: Churchland argues that advances in neuroscience should should bring about reform in a number of central areas of philosophy. Formal logic does not model human reasoning, formal semantics cannot account for how human language is meaningful, there are no foundations of knowledge, there is no a priori knowledge, and true belief is not a goal of human nervous systems.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on epistemology (in particular, a section on naturalised epistemology), the philosophy of cognitive science, the philosophy of biology or metaphilosophy. Though the paper touches on foundational issues in philosophy, it is a relatively straightforward read and an excellent conversation starter. Suitable for undergraduates of all levels, but also appropriate for graduate-level courses.

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Churchland, Patricia, , . The impact of Neuroscience on Philosophy
2008, Neuron 60, November 6
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Diversifying SyllabiChurchland claims that experimental science has gradually (and rightfully and successfully) replaced philosophical investigations of the world, and suggests that the time has come for philosophy of mind and moral philosophy to “cede” to experimental science. She claims that conceptual analysis has been undermined by “a torrent of neuro­psychological results” that contradict folk psychology (i.e. intuition). Thus, self­respecting philosophers of mind have begun to engage with experimental science. Moral philosophers have not yet realized that their field is going in the same direction, and that their stories are about to be superceded by a “naturalistic framework for looking at human morality and decision making” (409). She gives some examples from animal studies bearing on social behaviour and organization like monogamy, trust and cooperation, social attachment, group cooperation or amalgamation. One central point is that moral rules play only a partial role, if at all, in the “brain’s decision” when faced with “constraint­satisfaction problems” (410).

Comment: This text offers a perfect way to address the common reservations regarding the validity and usefullness of philosophy in the age of neuroscience among the students. It clearly distinguishes between the questions which can and cannot be answered empirically, and shows how the aims of philosophy and neuroscience differ. As the text is very approachable, it can easily be used even outside of a philosophy class; in more focused ethics or philosophy of mind classes it might be best accompanied by more specialised texts.

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Figdor, Carrie, , . Neuroscience and the multiple realization of cognitive functions
2010, Philosophy of Science 77 (3):419-456.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Carrie Figdor

Article: Many empirically minded philosophers have used neuroscientific data to argue against the multiple realization of cognitive functions in existing biological organisms. I argue that neuroscientists themselves have proposed a biologically based concept of multiple realization as an alternative to interpreting empirical findings in terms of one-to-one structure/function mappings. I introduce this concept and its associated research framework and also how some of the main neuroscience-based arguments against multiple realization go wrong.

Comment: This is a direct reply to Bechtel and Mundale (1999) and I know some more aware people have paired it with that paper in the classroom. It's philosophy of neuroscience, philosophy of mind.

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Heinzelmann, Nora, , . Deontology defended
2018, Synthese 195 (12):5197–5216
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Björn Freter

Abstract: Empirical research into moral decision-making is often taken to have normative implications. For instance, in his recent book, Greene (2013) relies on empirical findings to establish utilitarianism as a superior normative ethical theory. Kantian ethics, and deontological ethics more generally, is a rival view that Greene attacks. At the heart of Greene’s argument against deontology is the claim that deontological moral judgments are the product of certain emotions and not of reason. Deontological ethics is a mere rationalization of these emotions. Accordingly Greene maintains that deontology should be abandoned. This paper is a defense of deontological ethical theory. It argues that Greene’s argument against deontology needs further support. Greene’s empirical evidence is open to alternative interpretations. In particular, it is not clear that Greene’s characterization of alarm-like emotions that are relative to culture and personal experience is empirically tenable. Moreover, it is implausible that such emotions produce specifically deontological judgments. A rival sentimentalist view, according to which all moral judgments are determined by emotion, is at least as plausible given the empirical evidence and independently supported by philosophical theory. I therefore call for an improvement of Greene’s argument.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Roskies, Adina L., , . Neuroscientific challenges to free will and responsibility
2006, Trends in Cognitive Sciences 10(9): 419-423.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Abstract: Recent developments in neuroscience raise the worry that understanding how brains cause behavior will undermine our views about free will and, consequently, about moral responsibility. The potential ethical consequences of such a result are sweeping. I provide three reasons to think that these worries seemingly inspired by neuroscience are misplaced. First, problems for common-sense notions of freedom exist independently of neuroscientific advances. Second, neuroscience is not in a position to undermine our intuitive notions. Third, recent empirical studies suggest that even if people do misconstrue neuroscientific results as relevant to our notion of freedom, our judgments of moral responsibility will remain largely unaffected. These considerations suggest that neuroethical concerns about challenges to our conception of freedom are misguided.

Comment: Roskies offers an overview of the debate, providing useful glossary of positions related to it together with a graph representing the relations between them. This can be particularly useful when explaining the differences between the metaphysical, epistemic and ethical claims made in this debate.

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Series, Peggy, , Mark Sprevak. From Intelligent machines to the human brain
2014, in M. Massimi (ed.), Philosophy and the Sciences for Everyone. Routledge
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Added by: Laura Jimenez, Contributed by:

Summary: How does one make a clever adaptive machine that can recognise speech, control an aircraft, and detect credit card fraud? Recent years have seen a revolution in the kinds of tasks computers can do. Underlying these advances is the burgeoning field of machine learning and computational neuroscience. The same methods that allow us to make clever machines also appear to hold the key to understanding ourselves: to explaining how our brain and mind work. This chapter explores this exciting new field and some of the philosophical questions that it raises.

Comment: Really good chapter that could serve to introduce scientific ideas behind the mind-computer analogy. The chapter zooms in on the actual functioning of the human mind as a computer able to perform computations. Recommendable for undergraduate students in Philosophy of Mind or Philosophy of science courses.

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