A Pure Physiological Basis for the Life of the Psyche

Mar 31 2011 Published by under From the Melodye Files

It isn't the sort of argument Pointsman relishes either. But he glances sharply at this young anarchist in his red scarf. "Pavlov believed that the ideal, the end we all struggle toward in science, is the true mechanical explanation. He was realistic enough not to expect it in his lifetime. Or in several lifetimes more. But his hope was for a long chain of better and better approximations. His faith ultimately lay in a pure physiological basis for the life of the psyche. No effect without cause, and a clear train of linkages.

"It's not my forte, of course," Mexico honestly wishing not to offend the man, but really, "but there's a feeling about that cause-and-effect may have been taken as far as it will go. That for science to carry on at all, it must look for a less narrow, a less . . . sterile set of assumptions. The next great breakthrough may come when we have the courage to junk cause-and-effect entirely, and strike off at some other angle."

"No--not 'strike off.' Regress. You're 30 years old, man. There are no 'other angles.' There is only forward--into it--or backward."

(Pynchon winkingly giving cognitive science a what-for. cc: "levels of analysis")

10 responses so far

  • Fred says:

    You're saying the notion of levels of analysis as it's used in cognitive science (i.e. the Marr or Pylyshyn view---not that they're the same) has led---or is still leading---us astray?

    I think a good defense could be mounted for something like the computational level, if only from an instrumentalist point of view. I see it as a sort of wedge into the data, a initial (rough) map of the terrain that we can use to roughly guide the application of physiological/algorithmic analyses (taking care, of course, to ward off the evil eye of overhasty reification).

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