Mechanisms, Coherence, and Theory Choice in the Cognitive Neurosciences

In Peter McLaughlin, Peter Machamer & Rick Grush (eds.), Theory and Method in the Neurosciences. Pittsburgh University Press. pp. 70-80 (2001)
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Let me first state that I like Antti Revonsuo’s discussion of the various methodological and interpretational problems in neuroscience. It shows how careful and methodologically reflected scientists have to proceed in this fascinating field of research. I have nothing to add here. Furthermore, I am very sympathetic towards Revonsuo’s general proposal to call for a Philosophy of Neuroscience that stresses foundational issues, but also focuses on methodological and explanatory strategies.2 In a footnote of his paper, Revonsuo complains – as many others do today – about what is sometimes called “physics imperialism”. This is the view that physics dominates the philosophy of science. I am not sure if this is still the case nowadays, but it is certainly historically correct that almost all work in the field of methodology centered around cases from physics. Although this has been changing, there are still plenty of special sciences philosophers did not worry about much. Admittedly, I am myself a trained physicist and not a neuroscientist and will therefore probably be biased negatively. As it is, I will discuss some examples from physics in order to illustrate my points.

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Stephan Hartmann
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München


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