The Autonomy of the Mental


[T]here are some basic conceptual problems hovering about the interpretation of brain scans as pictures of mentation. In parsing these problems, it becomes apparent that the current “neuro” enthusiasm should be understood in the larger context of scientism, a pervasive cultural tendency with its own logic. A prominent feature of this logic is the overextension of some mode of scientific explanation, or model, to domains in which it has little predictive or explanatory power. Such a lack of intrinsic fit is often no barrier to the model nonetheless achieving great authority in those domains, through a kind of histrionics. As Alasdair MacIntyre has shown in another context (that of social science), all that is required is a certain kind of performance by those who foist the model upon us, a dramatic imitation of explanatory competence that wows us and cows us with its self-confidence. At such junctures, the heckler performs an important public service.

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