Cognitive Recycling

Theories in cognitive science, and especially cognitive neuroscience, often claim that parts of cognitive systems are reused for different cognitive functions. Philosophical analysis of this concept, however, is rare. Here, I first provide a set of criteria for an analysis of reuse, and then I analyze reuse in terms of the functions of subsystems. I also discuss how cognitive systems execute cognitive functions, the relation between learning and reuse, and how to differentiate reuse from related concepts like multi-use, redundancy, and duplication of parts. Finally, I illustrate how my account captures the reuse of dynamical subsystems as unveiled by recent research in cognitive neurobiology. This recent research suggests two different evolutionary justifications for reuse claims.

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Posted in Cognitive neuroscience, Cognitive science, Cognitive systems | Tagged , ,

Habermas: A Guide for the Perplexed

Jürgen Habermas’ work ranges across critical theory, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, the philosophy of science, citizenship, and democracy, religion, and psychoanalysis, forging new paradigms and engaging with other key thinkers. Habermas: A Guide for the Perplexed is the ideal starting point for anyone studying Habermas. It follows Habermas’s critical and philosophical project through all the stages of its development – the early critical theory, the linguistic turn, communicative action and discourse ethics, the theory of deliberative democracy-building up a complete overview of his work, and offering close and incisive analysis throughout.

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Women’s Activism, Feminism, and Social Justice

A wide range of issues besieges women globally, including economic exploitation, sexist oppression, racial, ethnic, and caste oppression, and cultural imperialism. This book builds a feminist social justice framework from practices of women’s activism in India to understand and work to overcome these injustices. The feminist social justice framework provides an alternative to mainstream philosophical frameworks that promote global gender justice: for example, universal human rights, economic projects such as microfinance, and cosmopolitanism. McLaren demonstrates that these frameworks are bound by a commitment to individualism and an abstract sense of universalism that belies their root neo-liberalism. Arguing that these frameworks emphasize individualism over interdependence, similarity over diversity, and individual success over collective capacity, McLaren draws on the work of Rabindranath Tagore to develop the concept of relational cosmopolitanism.

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Posted in Activism, Feminist, Women | Tagged , ,

A Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should Be Uncivil

What are our responsibilities in the face of injustice? How far should we go to fight it? Many would argue that as long as a state is nearly just, citizens have a moral duty to obey the law. Proponents of civil disobedience generally hold that, given this moral duty, a person needs a solid justification to break the law. But activists from Henry David Thoreau and Mohandas Gandhi to the Movement for Black Lives have long recognized that there are times when, rather than having a duty to obey the law, we have a duty to disobey it. Taking seriously the history of this activism, A Duty to Resist wrestles with the problem of political obligation in real-world societies that harbor injustice. Candice Delmas argues that the duty of justice, the principle of fairness, the Samaritan duty, and political association impose responsibility to resist under conditions of injustice. We must expand the political obligation to include a duty to resist unjust laws and social conditions even in legitimate states. For Delmas, this duty to resist demands principled disobedience, and such disobedience need not always be civil. At times, covert, violent, evasive, or offensive acts of lawbreaking can be justified, even required. Delmas defends the viability and necessity of illegal assistance to undocumented migrants, leaks of classified information, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, sabotage, armed self-defense, guerrilla art, and other modes of resistance. There are limits: principle alone does not justify lawbreaking. But uncivil disobedience can sometimes be not only permissible but required in the effort to resist injustice.

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Posted in Disobedience, Rebellion, Uncivil | Tagged , ,

Foucault and social media: life in a virtual panopticon

This is the first installment in a three-part series.
Part 2. I tweet, therefore I become
Part 3. The call of the crowd
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You start the day bleary-eyed and anxious. You stayed up late last night working on a post for your blog, gathering facts and memes from about the web and weaving them into an incisive whole. Has it produced a spike in the stats? You sign in on your iPhone as you brew the coffee. But it’s too early to slip into the professional headspace – you decide that you don’t want to know. Someone has messaged you on Facebook, so you check that instead. Japanese manga mashup! Killer breaks off the cost of Lombok. Lady Gaga is a man and we have photoshopped evidence to prove it! A friend will appreciate that one, so you share it with her directly. Perhaps not something that you’d want to share widely. Two new contact requests on LinkedIn. Your profile needs updating. Should you include details about the design work you completed for the local event the week before? You are not sure. You are building your profile as a graphic artist and looking for quality clients. Perhaps this is a part of your personality that you will let incubate for a while longer.

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Posted in Foucault, Social media | Tagged ,

Neurobiologically Poor? Brain Phenotypes, Inequality, and Biosocial Determinism

The rise of neuroplasticity has led to new fields of study about the relationship between social inequalities and neurobiology, including investigations into the “neuroscience of poverty.” The neural phenotype of poverty proposed in recent neuroscientific research emerges out of classed, gendered, and racialized inequalities that not only affect bodies in material ways but also shape scientific understandings of difference. An intersectional, socio-material approach is needed to grasp the implications of neuroscientific research that aims to both produce and repair neurobiological differences. Following Benjamin’s critique of the “carceral imagination” of technoscience, this article considers how such research may fix in terms of helping, or in contrast, fix by classifying and reifying, vulnerable subjects. I address the potential for biosocial determinism in linking neural phenotypes and social problems. I use an intersectional approach to consider the presence and absence of race in this body of research and explore how some methodological and conceptual framings of the “brain on poverty” mark poor and minority children for intervention in concert with neoliberal approaches to poverty.

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Posted in Neuroscience, Poverty | Tagged ,

Critical Neuroscience and Socially Extended Minds

The concept of a socially extended mind suggests that our cognitive processes are extended not simply by the various tools and technologies we use, but by other minds in our intersubjective interactions and, more systematically, by institutions that, like tools and technologies, enable and sometimes constitute our cognitive processes. In this article, we explore the potential of this concept to facilitate the development of critical neuroscience. We explicate the concept of cognitive institution and suggest that science itself is a good example. Science, through various practices and rules, shapes our cognitive activity so as to constitute a certain type of knowledge, packaged with relevant skills and techniques. To develop this example, we focus on neuroscience, its cultural impact, and the various institutional entanglements that complicate its influence on reframing conceptions of self and subjectivity, and on defining what questions count as important and what kind of answers will be valued.

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Posted in Extended mind, Neuroscience, Socially Extended Minds | Tagged , ,

Social Science and Neuroscience beyond Interdisciplinarity

This article is an account of the dynamics of interaction across the social sciences and neurosciences. Against an arid rhetoric of ‘interdisciplinarity’, it calls for a more expansive imaginary of what experiment – as practice and ethos – might offer in this space. Arguing that opportunities for collaboration between social scientists and neuroscientists need to be taken seriously, the article situates itself against existing conceptualizations of these dynamics, grouping them under three rubrics: ‘critique’, ‘ebullience’ and ‘interaction’. Despite their differences, each insists on a distinction between sociocultural and neurobiological knowledge or does not show how a more entangled field might be realized. The article links this absence to the ‘regime of the inter-’, an ethic of interdisciplinarity that guides interaction between disciplines on the understanding of their pre-existing separateness. The argument of the paper is thus twofold: (1) that, contra the ‘regime of the inter-’, it is no longer practicable to maintain a hygienic separation between sociocultural webs and neurobiological architecture; (2) that the cognitive neuroscientific experiment, as a space of epistemological and ontological excess, offers an opportunity to researchers, from all disciplines, to explore and register this realization.

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Posted in Interdisciplinarity, Neuroscience, Social sciences | Tagged , ,

Social and Cultural Anthropology: The Key Concepts

Social and Cultural Anthropology: The Key Concepts is the ideal introduction to this discipline, defining and discussing its central terms with clarity and authority. Among the concepts explored are:

Cybernetics
Ecriture Feminine
Gossip
Human Rights
Moralities
Stereotypes
Thick Description
Violence.

Each entry is accompanied by extensive cross-referencing and an invaluable list of suggestions for further reading, making this a superb reference resource for anyone studying or teaching anthropology.

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Posted in Cultural anthropology, Social anthropology | Tagged ,

Neuroscience Reveals Why Favorite Songs Make Us Feel So Good

Music reward sensitivity relies on fronto-striatal circuits, McGill study finds.

A new study by researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University in Canada reveals that it’s possible to increase or decrease someone’s enjoyment of music by enhancing or disrupting certain brain circuits using a non-invasive technique called “transcranial magnetic stimulation” (TMS).

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Posted in Brain, Brain networks, Music | Tagged , ,