Where O where is habituation? I mean, after repeated exposure to something, isn’t one’s reaction supposed to get less? Well, maybe the fact that this article has me depressed rather than angry is a sign of habituation. In any case, it is a well know philosopher on the real science of mind.
The real science has nothing to do with fMRI experiments, of course. And here’s why not:
it provides little insight into psychological phenomena. Often the discoveries amount to finding stronger activation in some area of the brain when a psychological phenomenon occurs. As if it is news that the brain is not dormant during psychological activity! The reported neuroscience is often descriptive rather than explanatory.
And that’s just false, I say, having skimmed through the first 70 articles Academic Search brought up, besides having some background here. The “it’s just about brain location” argument has been floating around for about 10 years, and it certainly seems problematic. Even a cursory glance shows that the claims are often implicitly or explicitly comparative. And they also invoke some knowledge of the functions of the areas of the brain in question.
You can see both characteristics in a study in Science that we commented on here.** The studies may provide very rich hypotheses. For example, a comparison between borderline and non-borderline people looked at the insula, which apparently becomes very active as one senses norms are being violated. Interestingly, seriously borderline people seemed able to register when they transgressed against someone else, but not when someone transgressed against them. That’s quite the opposite of what their behavior suggests, and so may indicate a more global way in which they are missing cues.
A lot of work is being done on the differences between people who have had strokes, do have alzheimer’s, and more. Here again there are comparisons. If one wants to find the cause and then the cure of some condition, a comparison between the with and the without conditions seems like a very good idea.
This is not to say there are no just complaints. There are studies with too few samples, along with, it seems safe to say, very sloppy ones. And disability theorists may indict a normalizing that goes on with the result that the neuroatypical are seen as inferior. The latter is very serious.
Burge starts off talking about science journalism’s reports of brain studies. There’s certainly a lot to complain about there. But it isn’t clear that the philosopher has understood the difference between the journalism and the science.
***My apologies to anyone who tried the link before thurs pm and went to an entirely different study on the sense of self. The studies are equally telling against Burge; you can find the sense of self here.