Flashcards in Articles - Neuroethics Deck (26):
Recent developments in neuroscience raise the worry that understanding how brains cause behaviour will undermine our views about free will and, consequently, about moral responsibility. Adina Roskies of the Department of Philosophy at Dartmouth College provides three reasons to think that these worries are misplaced. Give them.
1. Problems for common-sense notions of freedom exist independently of neuroscientific advances.
2. Neuroscience is not in a position to undermine our intuitive notions
3. Recent empirical studies suggest that even if people do misconstrue neuroscientific results as relevant to our notion of freedom, our judgements of moral responsibility remain largely unaffected.
Why does Adina Roskies of the Department of Philosophy at Dartmouth College mean that problems for common-sense notions of freedom exist independently of neuroscientific advances?
Because both the ideas of a God, and the ideas of a naturalistic world raise the problems of determinism - which causes a threat to free will.
How does the idea of a god raise deterministic problems?
1. If god is omnipotent and controls our actions, then we could not have acted other than we did. Theologians have often responded to this by allowing that God's omnipotence means that he cold control our actions if he so wished, bu that human freedom is preserved because he refrains from controlling us. However, God's omniscience presents a further problem for human freedom, for even if God does not control our actions, if he knows now how we will act before we act, then we are not free to do otherwise. Foreknowledge seems to foreclose the possibility of freedom of the will, for our actions are predetermined.
How does the idea of a naturalistic, mechanic, world raise the problem of determinism?
If there are no supernatural forces in the universe, and evolution of the universe is determined by its prior state and the operation of natural laws, then everything, including our actions and the brain activity that causes them, is as it is only because of the initial state of the universe and natural laws. If this is the case, then we cannot do other than we do, and so are not free.
Why does Adina Roskies of the Department of Philosophy at Dartmouth College mean that neuroscience is not in a position to undermine our intuitive notions?
Because a deterministic system can radically diverge in its behaviour depending on infinitesimal changes in initial conditions, no evidence for indeterminism, at the level of neurons or regions of activation will have any bearing on the fundamental question of whether or not the universe is deterministic.
Because a deterministic system can radically diverge in its behaviour depending on infinitesimal changes in initial conditions, no evidence for indeterminism, at the level of neurons or regions of activation will have any bearing on the fundamental question of whether or not the universe is deterministic. What neuroscience CAN indicate is that ...
regardless of whether or not the universe is deterministic, the brain effectively is.
Why does Adina Roskies of the Department of Philosophy at Dartmouth College mean that recent empirical studies suggest that even if people do misconstrue neuroscientific results as relevant to our notion of freedom, our judgements of moral responsibility remain largely unaffected?
We care about free will primarily because we care about what comes along with it - moral responsibility. So maybe the deep worry is that the fabric of society will dissolve if people come to believe that we are not free and thus not morally responsible. The issue is then not whether or not neuroscience actually challenges human freedom, but whether or not we think it does. Experimental evidence points toward the fact that not even that matters - Nichols and Nobe's study indicates that that actual psychological processes involved in everyday moral judgements of responsibility are likely to operate largely independently of theoretical views about determinism and mechanism.
Consciousness is perhaps the greatest mystery in science. How has neuroscience already improved our knowledge about consciousness?
Severe brain trauma can leave a person in impaired states of consciousness, such as MCS or PVS. fMRI studies and further, and existing knowledge of the localisation of different faculties, can help us discover to what extent these patients are impaired.
The Schiff et al. (2005) publication on MCS patients' fMRI responses to different narratives received a lot of press, in part due to its appearance at the height of the Terri Schiavo controversy. The Terri Schiavo case was a legal struggle over end-of-life care in the United States from 1990 to 2005, involving Theresa Marie "Terri" Schiavo, a woman in an irreversible persistent vegetative state. Schiavo's husband and legal guardian argued that Schiavo would not have wanted prolonged artificial life support without the prospect of recovery, and elected to remove her feeding tube. Schiavo's parents argued in favor of continuing artificial nutrition and hydration and challenged Schiavo's medical diagnosis. Some heralded the Schiff et al. publication as evidence that Schiavo was in fact conscious and should have been saved. Critique the use of the paper for this view.
1. Terri Schiavo was not a MCS patient, she was in a PVS.
2. The implication that response of brain areas to verbal stimuli indicates comprehension or consciousness is misleading. Priming studies use presentation of stimuli of which the subject is unaware, but many higher order processes can be affected by the prime nonetheless.
3. These studies were single-case studies, and cannot be generalised from
4. fMRI methods provide no particular information about the health or normalcy of the local networks in those regions.
Mention one study you need to know of which looked at the structural correlates of consciousness in PVS patient(s).
Owen et al., 2006 used fMRI on a patient that had been in a PVS for 5 months. They reported that the patient showed activity in the normal range in a network of brain areas in response to verbal stimulation. However, they recognised the illegitimacy of drawing conclusions about the patient's conscious state from this data, noting the extensive neural processing that can take place in response to verbal stimuli in the absence of awareness. They thus conducted a second experiment in which the patient was given verbal instructions to imagine herself playing tennis or imagine herself navigating through her house. Rather unexpectedly, the patient showed sustained activation of brain areas involved in motor imagery when asked to imagine playing tennis and in other regions involved in navigation when asked to imagine walking through her house. The regions activated overlapped with those activated during the same two tasks in a group of control subjects.
What is the "hard problem of consciousness"?
The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why any physical state is conscious rather than unconscious. It is the problem of explaining why there is "something it is like" for a subject in conscious experience, why conscious mental states "light up" and directly appear to the subject.
What are the "easy" problems of consciousness?
The problems of explaining the function, dynamics, and structure of consciousness. These features can be explained using the usual methods of science.
Why, according to Chalmers can we not use a reductive explanation for consciousness?
Because consciousness, according to Chalmers, cannot be functionally analysed. He uses a "zombie" as an explanation. They are physically identical to us, therefore also functionally identical, but they are by definition unconscious. So you cannot explain consciousness by its function. (but zombies don't exist... )
What is a reductive explanation of a phenomenon, like the gene in the terms of DNA?
The gene may be reductively explained in the terms of DNA as follows:
1. The gene = the unit of hereditary transmission
2. Regions of DNA = the unit of hereditary transmission
3. Therefore, the gene = regions of DNA
What is Chalmer's conclusion to how we deal with the hard problem of consciousness?
1. We deny that it exists at all.
2. Add consciousness to our ontology as an unreduced feature of reality, on par with gravity and electromagnetism.
What is Thomas Nagel's viewpoint on the hard problem of consciousness?
He argues that the facts about conscious states are inherently subjective - they can only be fully grasped from limited types of viewpoints. However, scientific explanation demands an objective characterization of the facts, one that moves away from any particular point of view. Thus, the facts about consciousness elude science and so make "the mind-body problem really intractable". How is it like to be a bat - for the bat?
You should know 7 different theoretical responses to the hard problem of consciousness. Name them.
2. Strong reductionism
3. Weak reductionism
5. Interactionist dualism
7. Dual aspect theory /neutral monism/panpsychism
What is an eliminativism approach to the hard problem of consciousness?
Eliminativism holds that there is no hard problem of consciousness because there is no consciousness to worry about in the first place.
What might justify consciousness eliminativism?
If science tells us what there is, and science has no place for nonfunctional intrinsic qualities, then there is no consciousness, so defined.
What is a strong reductionist approach to the hard problem of consciousness?
Strong reductionism holds that consciousness exists, but contends that it is reducible to tractable function, non intrinsic properties. Strong reductionism claims that the reductive story we tell about consciousness fully explains without remainder, all that needs to be explained about consciousness.
What is the definition of reductionism?
Reductionism is the idea that complex phenomena can be explained in terms of the arrangement and functioning of simpler, better understood parts.
What is a weak reductionist approach to the hard problem of consciousness?
Weak reductionism, in contrast to the strong version, holds that consciousness is a simple of basic phenomenon, one that cannot be informatively broken down into simpler non conscious elements. But according to the view we can still identify consciousness with physical properties. What's more, once the identity has been established, there is no further burden of explanation. Identities have no explanation: a thing just is what it is.
What is a mysterianism approach to the hard problem of consciousness?
The mysteries response to the hard problem does not offer a solution; rather, but holds that the hard problem cannot be solved by current scientific method and perhaps cannot be solved by human beings at all. There are two varieties of the view: temporary and permanent mysterianism.
What is a temporary mysterianism approach to the hard problem of consciousness?
It holds that the hard problem cannot be solved by current scientific method, which is similar to weak reductionism. It differs from weak reductionism in that the mysterious reject the idea that current reductive proposals do anything to close the gap.
What is a permanent mysterianism approach to the hard problem of consciousness?
The "permanent mysterianism" argues that our ignorance in the face of the hard problem is not merely transitory, but permanent, given our limited cognitive capacities. Perhaps the hard problem requires cognitive apparatus we do not possess as a species.