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Posted by Harvey on May 16, 2003 15:27:51 UTC


***" This is what science and philosophy is all about." Now you raised the red flag. Philosophy doesn't go from A-Z the way science does. Today's philosophy is tomorrow's historical curiosity. There's far more room for disagreement in philosophy than there is in science.***

Philosophy and science are so often mired that its tough to separate. Philosophy does have more disagreement, but the rewards for producing good philosophy can be greater since good philosophy can produce great science. Many of the largest achievements in science happened when there was a philosophical shift in the science (e.g., shift from dynamical laws to assuming certain symmetries is a recent example).

But, in terms of the issue of consciousness, there are many philosophical issues raised that can help cognitive and neuro science in the research. For example, Hilary Putnam has outlined philosophical reasons why certain 'neuro net' topologies might be more promising in terms of artificial intelligence. He and other philosophers have worked with researchers in providing certain criteria for their research. So, besides Dennett, there's much being done in the way of development.

We can always throw up our hands and say we are ignorant, but with the lag between software and today's hardware, we can't afford to do this. We have to pursue these issues so that software development can make major strides in trying to keep up with things like quantum computing, parallel processing, artificial intelligence, etc. If the approach taken now is more akin to what is taking place in our brains, then conceivably this kind of approach enables the greatest potential for today's software developments. Of course, this is happening in research labs at universities, so few are aware of the philosophical influences are having in some of these research areas.

Probably more research and studies should be done that charts the benefits of philosophical influence in science. Perhaps more should be spent on developing philosophy departments and more work should be done to keep philosophers engaged with the needs of science. Cognitive research is one of the areas where philosophers are having their biggest daily influence on science. Although, the amount of that influence is difficult to assess.

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