Plato's Camera: How the Physical Brain Captures a Landscape of Abstract Universals

Plato's Camera: How the Physical Brain Captures a Landscape of Abstract Universals

by Paul M. Churchland
Pub. Date:
MIT Press

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Plato's Camera: How the Physical Brain Captures a Landscape of Abstract Universals

In Plato's Camera, eminent philosopher Paul Churchland offers a novel account of how the brain constructs a representation--or 'takes a picture'--of the universe's timeless categorical and dynamical structure. This construction process, which begins at birth, yields the enduring background conceptual framework with which we will interpret our sensory experience for the rest of our lives. But, as even Plato knew, to make singular perceptual judgments requires that we possess an antecedent framework of abstract categories to which any perceived particular can be relevantly assimilated. How that background framework is assembled in the first place is the motivating mystery, and the primary target, of Churchland's book.

His account draws on the best of the recent philosophical literature on semantic theory, and on the most recent results from cognitive neurobiology. The resulting story throws immediate light on issues that have been at the center of philosophy for at least two millennia, such as how the mind represents reality, both in its ephemeral and in its timeless dimensions.

Unexpectedly, this neurobiologically grounded account of human cognition also provides a systematic story of how such low-level epistemological activities are integrated within an enveloping framework of linguistic structures and regulatory mechanisms at the social level. As Churchland illustrates, this integration of cognitive mechanisms at several levels has launched the human race on an epistemological adventure denied to all other terrestrial creatures.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262016865
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 01/31/2012
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

Table of Contents

Preface vii

1 Introduction: A Fast Overview 1

1 Some Parallels and Contrasts with Kant 1

2 Representations in the Brain: Ephemeral versus Enduring 4

3 Individual Learning: Slow and Structural 11

4 Individual Learning: Fast and Dynamical 16

5 Collective Learning and Cultural Transmission 25

6 Knowledge: Is It True, Justified Belief? 30

2 First-Level Learning, Part 1: Structural Changes in the Brain and the Development of Lasting Conceptual Frameworks 35

1 The Basic Organization of the Information-Processing Brain 35

2 Some Lessons from Artificial Neural Networks 38

3 Motor Coordination 45

4 More on Colors: Constancy and Compression 50

5 More on Faces: Vector Completion, Abduction, and the Capacity for 'Globally Sensitive Inference' 62

6 Neurosemantics: How the Brain Represents the World 74

7 How the Brain Does Not Represent: First-Order Resemblance 78

8 How the Brain Does Not Represent: Indicator Semantics 90

9 On the Identity/Similarity of Conceptual Frameworks across Distinct Individuals 104

3 First-Level Learning, Part 2: On the Evaluation of Maps and Their Generation by Hebbian Learning 123

1 On the Evaluation of Conceptual Frameworks: A First Pass 123

2 The Neuronal Representation of Structures Unfolding in Time 139

3 Concept Formation via Hebbian Learning: Spatial Structures 157

4 Concept Formation via Hebbian Learning: The Special Case of Temporal Structures 165

5 A Slightly More Realistic Case 170

6 In Search of Still Greater Realism 174

7 Ascending from Several Egocentric Spaces to One Allocentric Space 180

4 Second-Level Learning: Dynamical Changes in the Brain and Domain-Shifted Redeployments of Existing Concepts 187

1 The Achievement of Explanatory Understanding 187

2 On the Evaluation of Conceptual Frameworks: A Second Pass (Conceptual Redeployments) 196

3 On the Evaluation of Conceptual Frameworks: A Third Pass (Intertheoretic Reductions) 204

4 Scientific Realism and the Underdetermination of Theory by Evidence 215

5 Underdetermination Reconceived 223

5 Third-Level Learning: The Regulation and Amplification of First- and Second-Level Learning through a Crowing Network of Cultural Institutions 251

1 The Role of Language in the Business of Human Cognition 251

2 The Emergence and Significance of Regulatory Mechanisms 255

3 Some Prior Takes on This Epicerebral Process 261

4 How Social-Level Institutions Steer Second-Level Learning 268

5 Situated Cognition and Cognitive Theory 274

Appendix 279

References 281

Index 287

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