Neuroscientists and Philosophers Debate Whether the World Exists
Philosopher Alva Noë explains why neuroscientists assume the answer to an old philosophical question that really can’t be resolved.
You might not think there’d be much overlap between neuroscience and philosophy, but that’s not what philosopher Alva Noë sees. Where philosophers have long debated how much we should trust our perception of the external world, neuroscientists operate on the assumption that we shouldn’t trust it much at all. According to neuroscience, says, Noë, it’s pretty much all in your head.
Your world, through neuroscience’s empirical lens, is a construct you’ve built from patterns your brain has identified in sensory experiences. Not so fast, says Noë.
Noë talks here about color, but he could just as easily be talking about sound. Like color, we don’t directly perceive things that make noise. When a sound is generated, it causes changes in the surrounding air. These fluctuations in air pressure reach our ears, vibrate our eardrums, and finally excite thousands of tiny hairs, called cilia. These hairs produce what our brains interpret as sound. But as with light, a sound is also shaped by changing variables, such as the physical space in which a sound occurs and air humidity.
There’s a reason philosophers can’t resolve this issue: Our sensory experience of the world is a reality we can’t look behind to see what’s really there. Maybe neuroscience shouldn’t be so sure.
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We take fewer mental pictures per second.
- Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
- In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
- The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
It's not just a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
- A new study suggests children who endure trauma grow up to be adults with more empathy than others.
- The effect is not universal, however. Only one kind of empathy was greatly effected.
- The study may lead to further investigations into how people cope with trauma and lead to new ways to help victims bounce back.
It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?
- Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
- Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
- Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.
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