Recognition and representation: two faces of the same coin


While humans and computers both have the capacity to recognize faces, pattern recognition problems in computer vision seek to represent data in an appropriate way for the problem to solve. Machine learning methods approach pattern recognition as a statistical problem of searching for patterns in data. Through classifying data into different categories, reducing the data’s dimensions, approximating parts of the data, and other techniques that exploiting geometry, algebra, and other quantitative features of the data, computers can recognize faces, handwriting, images, and other visual stimuli in ways similar to humans.

Neural networks and deep learning methods have had practical applications in fingerprint analysis, disease etiology, and voice recognition, to name a few examples. Artificial intelligence continues to find success in various areas of research. But before computers can behave like humans, they need to represent the world in some way. The way computers interpret input data lets them represent the world.

These representation methods include principal component analysis (PCA), in which eigenfaces estimate variance among data. These eigenfaces, mathematical representations of key features used in human face recognition, are calculated using the the covariance matrix of the probability distribution over the high-dimensional vector space of face images. In other words, they let computers discern basic patterns among images of faces. PCA reveals eigenfaces that correspond to the least-squares solution so that the data variance is maintained while getting rid of existing correlations that don’t contribute to it. Generating eigenfaces involves extracting relevant facial information, through methods like searching for statistical variation between images, and representing them efficienctly, such as through using symmetry or other geometric features. While eigenfaces are automatic and easy to code, especially in how they can make complicated faces simple, they can become very sensitive to external features such as lighting and struggle to provide useful information about the faces themselves.

Other machine learning techniques such as classification find categories to map input data by discriminating between different features and representing those features with their distance from one another depending on their similarity. Fisherfaces, named after statistician Ronald Fisher, result from the basis vectors of a subspace representaiton of face images when performing linear discriminant analysis (LDA). Fisherfaces are less sensitive to lighting issues than eigenfaces and require data built upon continuous independent variables, such as skin tone or shape.

While eigenfaces depend upon PCA to account for data variance, fisherfaces use LDA searches for differences between classes of data. A team lead by computer science professor Peter Belhaumer at Columbia University found lower error rates among fisherfaces than among eigenfaces. In their paper, “Eigenfaces vs. Fisherfaces: recognition using class specific linear projection,” they accounted for variations in lighting and facial expressions. Regardless, researchers in computer vision can use both methods to minimize error when solving problems in recognition and representation.

Both eigenfaces and fisherfaces also struggle in capturing changes in expression and emotion among faces. For researchers in computer vision to approach facial expression analysis means understanding the nuance and complexity of the face. Muscular movements originate in the nerves by the VIIth cranial nerve from the brainstem between pons and medulla. The motor root of the nerve gives somatic muscle fibers to the face that create facial expressions. With enough data and efficient routines, pattern recognition can identify emotions from expressions and determine which parts of the brain may be involved in creating them. Neuroscientists have shown face muscles in lower parts of the face are more represented in the motor cortex which are especially involved in speech. From these patterns from hundreds and thousands of faces, computers may soon be be able to discern function from the form of a face itself.

The seven universal facial expressions of emotion (happy, surprise, sadness, fear, anger, contempt, and disgust) have seven ways to regulate themselves (expression, deamplified, neutralized, qualified, masked, amplified, and simulated). Psychologist Paul Ekman determined these emotions and expressions were universal among humans across different countries and levels of industrialization or development in his manuscripts “A New Pan-Cultural Facial Expression of Emotion” and ” The repertoire of nonverbal behavior: Categories, origins, usage, and coding.” He found that humans produced these expressions in response to similar conditions even regardless of how we may judge a face as expressing a certain emotion. The extent to which the emotions are universal, however, remains up to debate. Ekman supported his work by surveying humans across different civilizations, including tribes in New Guinea, but he argued this non-cognitive component is only a part of emotion. This automatic appraisal detects stimuli almost instantly identify elicitors which then activate the seven universal expressions that further cause the physiological elements of the emotional response. This would include any bodily change such as the feeling of one’s heart dropping, skeletal muscles tightening, facial muscles loosening,  changing voice pitch, and other features of the nervous system.

As recognition and representation depend upon one another, neuroscience and artificial intelligence continue to support one another despite their different paths. As expression and emotion intertwine into one another, we create a more nuanced picture of perception that speaks to who we are as humans. While eigenfaces and fisherfaces support similar goals as well, their different methods lets computer vision researchers attend to the variety of challenges deep learning has to offer.

Philosophy faculty empower students to tackle ethical issues in data science

How would Aristotle approach Facebook’s methods?

The future of data science is a mystery surrounded by concerns about autonomy, responsibility, and other ethical issues related to technology. The recent Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal raised concerns of personal privacy, ethical principles for social media businesses, as well as misinformation.

In his single-credit PHIL 293 course “Ethics for Data Sciences”, assistant professor of philosophy Taylor Davis challenges students to re-think what they believe about morality in the wake of these controversies in science and technology.

In light of advancing technologies in artificial intelligence and machine learning, Davis said it is becoming more clear that ethical training is necessary for data science.

“Broadly what is happening, especially we see Mark Zuckerberg testify in front of Congress, is ethics pervades all of our lives as we become more reliant on it in many ways,” Davis said.

Partnered with the Integrative Data Science Initiative, faculty are planing to make the course three credits with an online version, said Matthew Kroll, post-doctoral researcher in philosophy, and even advance ethics through other initiatives.

“One of the questions I start the class with is ‘What does it mean to be ethical in the age of the big data?'” Kroll said. The students discuss current events like the Facebook Cambridge Analytica data scandal and individuals and organizations should have done.

Kroll has also previously taught the course by giving students a “tool kit” of philosophical methods of reasoning to address these issues as well as concerns of rights and autonomy with respect to artificial intelligence and autonomous cars.

“If you’ve never taken an ethics course, you at least get to dip your toes in the water of what ethics is,” Kroll said.

By teaching students how to form philosophical arguments and put issues in historical perspectives, Kroll hopes to teach students how to make better ethical decisions.

“If these students feel like in their professional lives they reach a moment or a threshold that, if there’s an ethical issue in their workplace like ‘Are we gonna sell data to a particular government interest?’ to at least say ‘I don’t think this is right’ or ‘I think this is an unethical use of user data,'” Kroll said. “If one, two, or three students do that, then I’ll feel like the class is a success.”

Through an applied ethics course, Davis emphasized philosophy runs in the background as he instructs. In contrast to the standard philosophy-based methods of beginning with general, theoretical principles, he delivers current events as case studies.

Davis created the course by substituted data science with engineering from an engineering ethics course.

With a case-study based bottom-up approach, students begin with real world problems then figure out how to reason with those actions in mind. From these methods of isolating actions from agents and forming arguments, they learn how ethical principles such as not causing unnecessary harm to others and respecting personal rights come into play.

Through these methods, students find truth and clarity on tricky issues that they may apply to other problems such as autonomy of self-driving cars and gene editing technologies, Kroll said.

“Machine learning algorithms perform calculations in opaque methods,” Davis said. “They create a complicated model that researchers need to understand.” Davis said this would let researchers determine how to resolve social inequality issues related to women and minorities or forming predictions on individual habits. He wants students to consider how similar people are to robots that may perform human-like actions and how that raises issues about personal agency.

“The idea is to give people that kind of training to see and identify ethical issues,” Davis said.

Students will continue to grapple with what it means to be human in the “age of big data”, Kroll said. “The ethics in data science instruction serves to empower students in their future careers.”

The King’s Headache: a story about artificial intelligence

Getting rid of a headache is a feat for a king.

Once upon a time, in a small country by the sea, at the highest point of its highest castle, atop two thrones adorned with precious metals, there lived a King and a Queen. Theirs was a long and blessed reign: their people lived in good health, at peace with their neighbors, enjoying brief winters, generous summers and abundant harvests. But all fortunes must eventually change, and in time, the small country by the sea was ruled only by a King.

The bereaved King lived in mourning, sat alone and draped in dark, funerary colors. But as the years whitened his beard and tugged his jowls earthward, there came a time when the court, noting his childlessness and nervous at the prospect of an empty throne, broached with him the difficult subject of remarriage. The kingdom held lavish Balls and opulent feasts in the hopes of arranging a new match. Many noble houses competed to see one of their own crowned Queen, but in the end, the King could not bring himself to choose a new suitor, and glumly dismissed them all. The Queen’s throne remained empty, and the whole kingdom lamented. The depths of despair are often fertile soil for new ideas, and so it was that the Chief of the Royal Guild of Engineers came forward with a proposal of a very different sort.

She offered to build an heir for the King. It was to be unlike anything which had come before, a being of chrome and silicon; wise, tireless and immortal. The King accepted, and work began. A year passed, during which time the Guild’s factory worked without respite. Acrid smoke poured from its chimneys; the din of hammers and bellows rang throughout the city; and the glow of its lamps and furnaces illuminated crowds which pressed all around, hoping to glimpse the molten zygote of the new Prince. When the child was ready, it was presented in a grand ceremony to the King, who was pleased. The Guild were as skilled in the craft of flattery as they were in metallurgy, and so it was beautiful, rendered in chrome and gold, with starlight behind its eyes, and bore the mixed likeness of the King and his late wife.

But more marvelous than the look of the child, were its speech and motion. Its voice was melodic, its pronouncements sage, and its movements were as delicate as they were precise. All the kingdom looked on it with pride. But as the years drew on, and the Prince made the castle its home, the King found himself plagued by an unsettling thought. He watched as his successor played, learned and grew, and in his mind the thought grew in parallel. Just what was this creature, to which he would one day entrust his kingdom? Did a mind dwell in the maze of wires behind the chrome child’s scintillating eyes? Or was it a dead thing, eating without hunger, moving without desire, and speaking without thought.

Eventually the King could stand his uncertainty no longer, and made the long pilgrimage by winding rivers and towering cliffs to Delphi. There, he posed his question to the Oracle: how can I know, he asked, whether my heir has a mind, or is a mere machine? She sat quietly for a moment, wreathed in tendrils of pungent incense, then gave her response: “You will have the answer to your question, when you can tell me the width of a headache.” The King pondered this riddle as he made the return journey, and on arriving at his Palace summoned two of the most brilliant minds in the kingdom.

First came the head of the School of Psychologists, followed soon after by the most senior member of the Royal Society of Neuroscientists. The King relayed his conversation with the Oracle: what, he demanded to know of them, is the width of a headache? Naturally, there was some grumbling from the scholars, who pointed out that this was the 8th century and the King should really have come to his scientists first, rather than trusting drug-addled clairvoyants to provide sensible insights into the nature of minds. But they were eventually forced to concede that neither of them had an answer, either to the Oracle’s question, or the larger question of the chrome prince’s mind. The psychologist protested, not unreasonably, that though headaches may have widths, such questions had never been his remit. He was interested in headaches, to be sure, but in their subjective character, how we get them and get rid of them, and how they dispose us to think, feel and act. In his work, a headache is a thing that just *is*, a black box which exists in causal relation to other things and the world, but isn’t explained in language which would be familiar to a chemist or a microbiologist. He wasn’t in the business of studying mental life at the level of physical stuff, so the question of what a headache is in terms of physical concepts, was not one he could answer. That, surely – and at this he turned to the neuroscientist with a slight smirk – was a question for his colleague. Then it was the neuroscientist’s turn to give an unsatisfying answer. She explained that though her science was a natural science – and so dealt in the material concepts of the natural world like charge, frequency and width – headaches were not a part of that linguistic sphere. She could ask a subject questions about their mental life while scanning their brain, and in doing so sometimes identify physical goings-on which correlated with features of that inner life – the parts which light up when they are happy, and so on.

But knowing the neurons which fire when a head is in pain is not the same thing as knowing what pain is, any more than you can know what value is by studying the material qualities of paper banknotes. Neuroscience has, she explained, no real place for the word ‘headache’ in the story which begins with a bump on the head and ends with the arm reaching for an aspirin. Perhaps the head *is* hurting, but when she peers inside the brain, she sees only an electric symphony of firing neurons, not the feeling of pain. As the day drew on, more scholars were summoned to give their accounts. Each was posed the Oracle’s question, but none was able to answer it. With each sigh or shake of the head, their divisions were thrown into starker relief. To join the psychologist came the thinkers of the human sciences; economics, sociology, anthropology. They could deliver sermons in the language of the mind, and filled their books with talk of thoughts, beliefs, desires, and their sister concepts. But they could not offer a material account of these things – of what, exactly, a headache is as an arrangement of physical stuff. Then there were the natural scientists; a great swarm of physicists, chemists, biologists, geologists, and engineers, who filed in to stand behind the neuroscientist. Like her, they spoke fluently in the language of the natural world, setting out with rulers and scales to understand the universe in terms of physical concepts. But each was mute on the topic of mental life. None saw a place for headaches in their explanations of the universe, any more than they saw one for imps and fairies. At hearing all this, the King, who had until now been silent, wondered aloud (and in fouler language than mine) what good their sciences could be, if they couldn’t make sense of so simple an idea as the width of a headache. One side knew about headaches, the other about widths, but nobody could bridge the linguistic rift and pose the Oracle’s question in words which their science could make sense of. None could say what it meant for a jumble of atoms to feel pain. Dejected and impatient, the King returned to Delphi and begged for another audience with the Oracle. He marched up to where she sat, on a dais lit by sunbeams, and accused the gods of tricking him with an impossible question.

This, as it turned out, was a slight severe enough to earn their indignation. The Oracle’s lips moved, and the voice of Apollo emerged: “That is a serious accusation.” The King relayed the testimonies of his scientists, that for all they could tell, the question was nonsense. If, he reasoned, we cannot ask sensical material questions about minds, like how wide or heavy or pink they are, then they must be immaterial things. Pain, like the number four or the concept of liberty, has no width, no physical presence in the world, and so the question was a trick. Apollo’s answer came in the form of another riddle: “Do atoms have a physical presence in the world?” The King feared yet more travel and fruitless exchanges with academics, but much to his relief, this time the god did not wait for an answer. “Nobody has ever seen an atom,” Apollo continued. “They are too small. All we see is a footprint, a beep on a measuring machine here, the buffeting of a pollen grain there, a set of causes and effects which somebody one day pointed to and said “let’s call that an ‘atom’. This is all it really means to *be* a physical thing, to sit as a node in the causal web of other physical things, influenced by them and influencing them in return. For what would be the difference between a world made of physical atoms, and a world made of non-physical entities which did all the same things? If water really boils thanks to angels hiding in the kettle, after all, then angels hiding in the kettle are really just heat.” The King pondered for a moment. “But surely not everything with causal powers is a physical thing? What of abstract things, like businesses or governments? You can’t touch or feel a government, and they certainly don’t have widths, and yet they can affect and be affected by goings on in the natural world. When I need taxes, I tell the government, and when the government shows up at your door, you pay it taxes. Cause and Effect.” “Ah,” replied Apollo, “but there is no mystery there. A government can influence the world and be influenced in return because the word ‘government’ is just a label we apply to a great assemblage of physical entities – politicians, bureaucrats, police officers – who act together in concert. The government may collect taxes, but it is the tax man, not the abstract concept of the State, who rings the doorbell. The parts may exist in constant flux, but without any parts, the government would, like that of ancient Babylon, be only an idea or a memory. So as far as cause and effect go, a government just is the sum of those parts, just as an ocean wave just is a rhythmic disturbance of water molecules. “ With this, the King was forced to agree, but confessed he didn’t see the point.

Apollo went on: “To be a material thing is to nudge the world, and be nudged back in return. If the mind, then, is an immaterial thing, how do we make sense of its connection to the world? When you believe there is a fly on your nose and desire its absence, your arm moves to swat it. When you consume food, hunger is sated. Mind and material. Cause and effect. Now, you might be tempted to wonder whether the mind, like a government or a water wave, is just a convenient linguistic stand-in for some underlying system of moving parts. If you want to make a wave machine, after all, you don’t cast about for something which can generate the abstract concept of a wave, you find a way to make water move rhythmically, which is really the same thing. But what, in the case of the mind, is that underlying system? This is the question your scientists struggled to comprehend, let alone answer, which is what makes minds very different to governments and water waves, whose physical reality is easy to understand. The science of brains has no thoughts on minds, and the science of minds has little to say about brains. If we could answer this question, and say with confidence what moving parts were sufficient to create a mind, then this whole discussion would be moot, and the task of building one would be much simpler. But we do not, and so the mind resists efforts to sweep it under the carpet in this way. “So you want me to believe the mind is a material thing,” mused the King, a note of despair creeping into his voice, “an object in the material world, but one which doesn’t appear anywhere in scientific accounts of it. So where do we find it? What is the width of a headache?” The Oracle shrugged: “It needn’t have been the width of a headache; it could just as easily be the charge density of a belief, or the volume of a desire. The point is, that if your goal is to arrange matter so as to create these things, you must have some idea of how these things result from arrangements of matter; how nerves become nervous. Only then will you be able to look at the chrome child, and know whether it is everything it purports to be. You were right to suspect that this question matters. A competent zombie may not make for a bad king, but the chrome prince will not be the last of its kind, and when they are subjects as well as administrators, then you will have to know how to treat them. As ever, philosophy must keep apace with technology.

But where you went wrong, was to imagine that this is a question which science alone can answer. If you want to make a machine pump water or fly to the moon, for that you need only science. But to make a machine appreciate beauty, or understand ideas, or feel a headache, for all this you need something additional: you need to understand what all these words mean. You need to understand what minds are.” The King paused for a moment, lost in thought. “I don’t suppose there’s an answer to my question hidden in this thicket of riddles?” The Oracle chuckled dryly. “There are some wrong answers. But no right ones, as yet. Not a very satisfying response, perhaps, but the best I can do under the circumstances. In any case, this is really a question for you humans to answer. We made you guys, this next lot is all on you.”

A humanistic paradigm for mental illness

Da Vinci’s “The Skull”

Mental illnesses are much more than biological, physiological phenomena. Any attempt to reduce them down to the same features as other illnesses such as fever or cancer is inherently flawed. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS, pronounced “gee wahs”), attempts to scan individuals for thousands of genes to determine which variations lead to traits we can observe, have shown little substance for the past few decades. GWAS supporters argue that, if we find these genetic variations (single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, pronounced “snips”) more frequently among those with a certain genetic trait (or a phenotype, an observable characteristic), the SNPs must be related to them somehow. GWAS studies themselves have already shown little correlation and similarity between one another, and, instead, many GWAS studies under the same conditions have returned significantly different results. Contemporary scholars such as Robert Plomin, in his book Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are, have argued GWAS is a form of a “polygenic score” which can predict disorders. But these methods of de-humanizing mental illness and psychiatry into strict, science-exclusive disciplines have not shown the results they have claimed they will produce. Psychiatry as a field needs to return to its roots through philosophy and humanized notions of disease. Through thought-provoking questions and discussions on the nature of mental illness as it relates to the unconscious, debates between Freudians and Jungians on how to understand experience, and the resistance to pharmaceutical-lead pressures from industry to turn mental health into a for-profit system, we need a new humanized paradigm for psychiatry.

Psychiatry has dealt severe blows to Aristotle’s notion of man as inherently rational and, instead, embraced the idea that much of who we are is determined by genetics and other biological factors. The simplistic, reductionist view of mental illness as purely a genetic disorder has left psychiatry in the doldrums of intellectual activity and only furthered the stigma of mental illness itself. Regardless of these negative consequences, however, the differences between the science of the mind and that of the body are enough to present issues with this view in principle. The mind and body have different languages, different concepts (with differing levels of abstraction and complexity), and different sets of tools and techniques we use to study them. Psychological and physiological study of a patient in a state of anxiety might result in two separate and distinct sets of descriptive data, measurements, and formulations. There is no way to unify the two by translation into a common language or conceptual framework. We rely on analogy and comparison using abstract concepts of “disease,” instead. From a computational perspective, our psychophysiological and psychosomatic data consist in essence of covariance data, demonstrating coincidence of events occurring in the two realms within specified time intervals at a frequency beyond chance.

Arguing mental illnesses are just like body illnesses causes us to view those suffering from mental health issues as fundamentally flawed or different from other people. It leaves those suffering in fatalistic, defeatist views and, in many cases, even a cynical, disillusioned state of mind. In the most extreme case, they may even lead to eugenics-based arguments that throw ethics under the bus for the pursuit of scientific perfection. The body-based view of mental illness has let psychiatrists, researchers, and other industry professionals ignore much of what makes mental illnesses what they are. Depression becomes simply a lack of serotonin that Prozac will alleviate, and other illnesses only need patients to take medicine without much else. It’s easy to see how these disease models can be abused for industry-related motives to maximize profit under the veil of minimizing human suffering.

Instead, we need to view mental illness through dynamic, human-based issues everyone faces about who we are as human beings. We can, then, treat individuals from existential points of view in their methods of valuing life and finding a purpose in the world. Those entering psychiatry with backgrounds in mathematics, economics, and biology need to understand the etiology of disease, metaphysics of psychology, logic of diagnosis, and causal assumptions underlying epidemiology. They need the patience and reflective abilities to discover what the human mind undergoes when suffering from mental health issues far beyond what sort of gene may be responsible for depression or schizophrenia. Even the causal models GWAS purportedly infers need to be scrutinized for their epistemic limits before being put into practice. Since their inception, GWAS studies have put forward hundreds of genes responsible for different phenotypes, and, despite the wide availability of data and the large of amount of data to begin with, these GWAS studies haven’t had much more success than the genetics studies before them. Instead, scientists argue that, because they haven’t found correlations, the causes must be more complicated and composed of more and more genetic phenomena. They’ve yet to uncover specific mechanisms or causal relationships for disease, and rely on reductionist approaches that genes that are significantly expressed must cause the phenotypes themselves. Neuroscientist Kevin Mitchell summed it up: “Simply put, nothing really definitive comes out. In fact, the strongest result from these studies is a general one, and it is ‘negative’: there are no convergent patterns of gene expression in adult brain that characterise these various psychiatric conditions.” in his blog post “If genomics is the answer, what’s the question? A commentary on PsychENCODE.”

Psychiatry needs a deeper understanding of the etiology of disease. As Freud wrote in Mourning and Melancholia, psychopathology has two etiological components: constitutional (including genetic) predispositions and early experiential factors. He used this multifaceted dynamic view of psychiatric illness to demonstrate the role environmental factors and traumatic events play in the causation of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially ones early on in life. Much the same way Johann Sebastian Bach was Bach not because he simply had the appropriate genes, but through his study of music at such a young age, the brain forms through these combinations of genetics and experience. Studies such as those by psychiatrists Charles Nemeroff and Paul Plotsky have verified depressed patients release more corticotropin-releasing factors (CRFs) in their central nervous system in mammals. Memories themselves form and evolve through the prefrontal cortex as it integrates sensory information and links this information to planned movement. Research in neuroscience has revealed the prefrontal cortex is part of a short-term holding function for information, including information stored in declarative memory. Neuroscientists Joaquin Fuster and Patricia Goldman suggested the prefrontal cortex represents some aspects of working memory in recalling from preconscious to conscious. It plays essential roles in speaking, driving, weighing ethical decisions, or performing mathematical calculations. This suggests it may be involved in coordinating functions that psychoanalysis experts claim function between ego and superego. This holds promising results for the benefits of psychoanalytic therapy. The extent to which psychoanalysis may bring about changes in habits, attitudes, and conscious and unconscious behavior through differences in gene expression that produce neurophysiological changes relies on this connection between biology and psychoanalysis. Brain imaging techniques may, then, improve these techniques for neurotic illnesses through psychotherapy. Neuroscientist Eric Kandel has further argued the need for a dialogue between biology and psychoanalysis towards these goals.

Such a dialogue should address how biology and psychoanalysis have drifted apart from one another over the 20th century. Both fields have faced a mix of strides and setbacks over this time period. Advances in bacteriology would lead biologists to believe toxins in the intestine, mouth, and sinuses harm brain functions. While it may have seemed controversial at the time, recent microbial work has suggested possible that bacterial imbalance alters the body’s metabolism of dopamine and other molecules that may contribute to depression. Similarly, the theory bacteria causes peptic ulcers proposed in 1983 was met with widespread contempt, but, as experimental evidence has since shown it true, antibiotics are now regularly used to ulcers. Meanwhile, the twisted practice of the transorbital lobotomy spread across the United States in the 1940s. It was only until the 1970s it was banned in most countries, after psychiatrists raised concerns of its safety, ethics, and effectiveness. Psychiatry itself faced challenges to its legitimacy given its stance of homosexuality as a mental illness until the 1970s as well as the reformation of mental hospitals from what scientists compared to concentration camps. Psychiatrist Aaron Beck proposed the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral techniques in treating psychiatric disorders with a 1977 study showing cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) outperforming one of the leading antidepressants of the time. Researchers would further show the neurophysiological basis for CBT, suggesting the more we discover about the brain the easier it will be to disregard the apparent divide between mind and body. CBT has faced criticism, though, with its supposed effectiveness and its own theory that don’t appropriately account for agency, free will, and rationality. These chaotic, turbulent histories of both fields make a dialogue between them difficult, but possible and necessary to address the issues they face.

Psychoanalysts themselves have raised arguments for and against a reductionist biology of mind. Psychiatrist and author Marshall Edelson wrote in Hypothesis and Evidence in Psychoanalysis, “Efforts to tie psychoanalytic theory to a neurobiological foundation, or to mix hypotheses about mind and hypotheses about brain in one theory, should be resisted as expressions of logical confusion. Efforts to tie psychoanalytic theory to a neurobiological foundation, or to mix hypotheses about mind and hypotheses about brain in one theory, should be resisted as expressions of logical confusion.” Others believe there’s fertile room for cultivating psychoanalysis in the context of the science of the mind. French biologist François Jacob wrote in 1998, “The century that is ending has been preoccupied with nucleic acids and proteins. The next one will concentrate on memory and desire. Will it be able to answer the questions they pose?” in Of Flies, Mice, and Men. Kandel also believes future research on the mind will focus on memory and desire through a combination of biology and psychoanalysis with greater scientific understandings of the unconscious. Kandel has argued that research in biology will make strides in the genetic basis for the unconscious mental processes and their roles in psychopathology in solidarity with psychoanalysis.

Psychiatry needs philosophy. Researchers in the field need to draw from Plato, Freud, Jung, Adler, and many other thinkers who have put forward ideas on what it means to be human given the constrains of the human mind. When Freud laid the foundations of psychoanalysis, one may have argued that his ideas paralleled Plato’s. He adopted Plato’s theory of dreams and similar ideas of the tripartite human soul. Freud’s idea of unconscious also bears similarity to Aquinas’ who believed human acts come through reason, yet still have unconscious desires and habits. Freud contrasted Jung on the meaning of sex as the former believed it was the cause of all human desire and the latter had his doubts about that idea. Freud contested Adler’s ideas of the social realm of equal importance to the individual and that role of sole interest individuals have in advancing social welfare. Though these theories have met a combination of arguments for and against them in many different contexts over the past century, their relevance remains. Kandel has argued that we should not get stuck on Freud to idolize or denigrate him. While many of Freud’s ideas have been rejected as pseudoscientific or sexist, many elements of psychoanalysis remain in psychiatry and psychology. Psychiatric literature and psychoanalysis themselves need Nietzsche, Proust, Schopenhauer, Kant, and Descartes to put them in an appropriate context.

These issues of psychiatry have formed the foundation for many of society’s issues. We’ve created an individualistic view that our psychological shortcomings are solely due to biological deficiencies as though we were computers that simply haven’t been programmed the right way. The same way culture fashions us to understand aesthetics, value, ethics, and other humanistic qualities, our struggles with mental illness are better explained in the way our bodies understand the world. In this sense, our mental health is the way we search for meaning and satisfaction in the world. As such we need a humanized notion of mental illness.

Aim-oriented thinking for a wiser tomorrow

A celestial map from the 17th century, by the Dutch cartographer Frederik de Wit

In addressing threatening problems of climate change, population growth, nuclear warfare, and other issues of today’s era, we need a type of rationality that embraces ideas from both science and philosophy. Towards this goal, philosopher Nicholas Maxwell has argued for education to instill more wisdom in students rather than only knowledge. Through his work on the nature of physics and philosophy as they relate to one another, he has also put forward ideas about the inquiry and quest for wisdom both fields should embrace. Physical accounts of the mind present the problem of how to determine the mental act of thinking about things such as the greenness of a blade of grass. It’s up to debate how these mental actions follow from or relate to the physical property of greenness, a feature determined by the physical and molecular structure of grass itself. Both science and philosophy create wonder for one another as we determine the limits of the methods. The former empirical, hypothesis-driven, and subject to the constraints of the natural world and the latter speculative, argument-driven, and subject to the constraints of the mind come together in Maxwell’s aim-oriented empiricism. Maxwell has written on its value in education for the academic enterprise as a whole and, most important of all, for the capacity of humanity to learn how to solve the grave global problems that threaten our future. Aim-oriented empiricism represents the way we restrict how much we know about the universe through assumptions and, as we claim to know more and more about the universe, the less restrictive our assumptions become. For research in physics and other areas of science to recognize the metaphysical assumptions that their theories and knowledge make about the universe leads to this method of unifying both science and philosophy, and understanding this view would lead to wiser world, as Maxwell intends.

With aim-oriented empiricism, we view scientific research through a series of seven levels, each corresponding to how much we know about the world from empirical information. At the highest level, we assume the universe is partially knowable. We can understand what our theories tell us about the universe. One step down, we have the assumption our universe is meta-knowable, or that we have ways to improve our methods of understanding the universe. Another level down, we may assume the universe is comprehensible. Everything in the universe has something that causes things to happen the way they do. It could be God, a purpose, a fundamental law, or anything that lets us understand the universe in the best way to improve knowledge. The next level is physicalism, or the idea that we can physically comprehend the universe with physical phenomena such as gravity, electromagnetism, and relativity. Next down in the hierarchy are the assumptions which do best justice to theoretical knowledge in physics. String theory resides here as it explains the universe using quantum strings. Below this level are the best accepted fundamental theories, general relativity and the standard model. Finally, at the bottom are empirically-driven laws that experiments tell us. These levels describe the relationship between various aspects of scientific research and the metaphysical assumptions at each level in such a way that research can improve the nature of science itself.

As philosophers and scientists have described the mind-brain problem and the related issues in understanding consciousness and experience, we find our theories and arguments often at limits with what we try to describe. It’s important to understand the purpose and intention behind scientific explanations, such as the physics of neuroscientific phenomena or attempts to create neural correlates of experience, to determine what we can know about consciousness and experience. On a broader level, Maxwell attempts to describe a solution to the human-universe, how we understand physics and what it tells us about the world. First, physics only describes the universe in a very highly specialized sense. While it may be the most fundamental science and place great emphasis on the nature of matter and reality itself, it tells us nothing about many features of experience such as what things sound like, what things look like, or what mental experience it is to have a mental representation of something. If physics describes the causal influence of the universe as though we could create a true physical theory of everything, then we interpret its laws analytically yet factual, empirical, and testable. This means its physical entities exist with necessary properties. Physics doesn’t need our experiences nor the features we describe from it. Maxwell even goes as far as arguing that physics itself can’t predict experiential features such as greenness. Yet this limitation, Maxwell believes, is what gives physics its power to predict explanatory theories that describe the causal phenomena of the universe.

Though science tells us nothing about mental processes, philosophy research on the mind means mental processes aren’t mysterious or inexplicable. They simply reside outside of physics. Maxwell further describes two differences between the objective and subjective in describing these processes. The objective exists while the subjective appears to, but doesn’t. The objective has an independent character from people while the subjective relies on something about people. Then, we may describe the mind-body problem as similar to the physics-universe problem. As in, the way describe the relationship between mental experiences and brain processes parallel features that we observe in the universe and the physical processes underlying them (such as the greenness of grass separate from the physics behind the grass).

Maxwell continues to advocate for a wisdom-based education through schools and universities to implement a knowledge-inquiry of science and scientific reasoning to other ares of life. As Western civilization has embraced since the Enlightenment, we can learn from scientific progress how to achieve social progress through methods such as aim-oriented rationality, a method of thinking about the world from aim-oriented empiricism. Aim-oriented rationality means constructing similar hierarchies of whatever problem we wish to solve. We continue to contemplate and reason about problems we want to solve in the world through an imaginative and critical manner, especially as we find our universities more and more emphasizing specialization and marketability-driven motives and purposes.

Though his goals may echo Enlightenment ideals, Maxwell clarifies three ideas the Enlightenment got wrong. Scholars need to identify the progress-achieving methods of science, they should generalize them correctly to apply them to any problem, and they should explore these generalized methods to make social progress for a wiser world. The natural philosophers like Voltaire and Diderot failed to apply these generalized scientific processes in ways to other areas of life. Had they addressed these issues, Maxwell argues, academia and universities would be much different than they are now. With a wisdom-driven education, we could resolve the conflict between Rationalism and Romanticism and what mindful hearts and heartfelt minds we could use to address the issues of tomorrow. Academia would have a more humanistic education to realize what we value in life through intellectual and technological methods. We’d have institutions of learning well-designed from the standpoint of helping us create a better, wiser world.

With these ambitious goals, Maxwell envisions five revolutions that need to happen in academia for these results to occur in his paper “Arguing for Wisdom in the University: An Intellectual Autobiography.” For the first two, the philosophy of science and science itself both need to heed to aim-oriented empiricism. The third is that the social sciences and humanities need to address the problems of living through aim-oriented rationality. Fourth, academia must help people understand what to value in life, and, finally, we should prioritize cooperative problem-solving rationality and aim-oriented rationality so that we realize what is of value as we live in so far as this is possible.

I find Maxwell’s ideas of wisdom and embracing a dual scientific-philosophical approach to solving problems of the world and universe alluring. His aim-oriented empiricism lays a foundation for putting scientific and philosophical theories into a context such that they may address the issues brought upon by metaphysics and epistemology. I caution myself in reading too much into aim-oriented rationality, though. I worry it may be scientistic to apply science or scientific reasoning to other areas in life where it might not be applicable or very limited.

Finding meaning from fMRI research

Scientists and philosophers have discussed the assumptions and premises in fMRI research as they relate to features of the mind. fMRI tends to rely on localizing functions to various parts of the brain, such as the motor cortex being responsible for controlling muscle groups. Psychologists Stephen Hanson and Russell Poldrack and philosopher Martin Bunzl argued brain processing acts holistically with many parts of the brain acting in tandem with one another for cognitive tasks in their paper “An Exchange about Localization of Function.” They put forward the thought experiment of a radio repair man taking a tube from a radio that causes the radio to whistle with the repair man concluding that he ripped out the anti-whistling tube. The man confuses the function of the effect the same way neuroscientists in brain lesion and neuroimaging experiments.

Scientists and philosophers have discussed the assumptions and premises in fMRI research as they relate to features of the mind. fMRI tends to rely on localizing functions to various parts of the brain, such as the motor cortex being responsible for controlling muscle groups. Psychologists Stephen Hanson and Russell Poldrack and philosopher Martin Bunzl argued brain processing acts holistically with many parts of the brain acting in tandem with one another for cognitive tasks in their paper “An Exchange about Localization of Function.” They put forward the thought experiment of a radio repair man taking a tube from a radio that causes the radio to whistle with the repair man concluding that he ripped out the anti-whistling tube. The man confuses the function of the effect the same way neuroscientists in brain lesion and neuroimaging experiments.

Cognitive scientists who use the brain activity activation to validate cognitive theories also fall victim to many instances of circular reasoning. In some situations they believe that a region in the brain causes an effect on the body and these effects on the body cause regions of the brain to activate.

We may further press fMRI researchers for their use of reverse inference of using the instances when brain regions activate to infer a cognitive process when the inference depends on the likelihood of the pattern a task employs a given cognitive process and the likelihood of the pattern of activation for the process. Neuropsychologist Max Coltheart raised the issue that neuroimaging has not been used in accordance with psychological theory. Philosopher-cognitive scientist Adina Roskies argued this it’s impossible for brain imaging to be consistent with all psychological theories.

Some neuroimaging techniques rely on using a single cognitive process inserted into another set of cognitive processes without affecting the rest.

Philosopher-neuroscientist Joshua Greene has performed research using fMRI to study ethics. Taking philosophy back to its empirical roots, Greene embraces the trolley problem to test how people respond to various scenarios and decisions involving the problem. In the problem, a runaway trolley speeds down railroad tracks as it approaches five people tied to the tracks in front of it. You may pull a lever to switch the trolley to another path that would only kill one person. In an alternate experiment, you may push a man off a bridge in such a way he would stop the trolley from killing the five people.

The research has shown the majority of people believe it’s moral to pull the lever but not push the large man. Greene’s fMRI research has shown that, when people think through both dilemmas, they take a rational, utilitarian approach. This is rooted in the brain’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Pushing a man off the bridge also involves a neural system with emotional responses in the way it produces a strong negative response.

Are mental states reducible to neurobiological states?

Examining arguments of how neuroscience and psychology relate to philosophy by looking at how skeptics and enthusiasts have touched upon the subject. We’re going to take apart how psychology and cognitive science can be reduced to neuroscience.

Principled skepticism

These skeptics may argue there is a distinctive mental dimension that is not reducible to anything physical. Among them are those that argue this mental dimension actually harbors a separate mental substance as the nonphysical mind or the soul (substance dualism) or whether it’s limited to nonphysical properties of the physical brain (property dualism). There are also skeptics who argue a principled skepticism of reductionism uses the hypothesis that generalizations of psychology emerge with respect to the generalizations of neuroscience. Mental states and processes create a domain of study that’s autonomous with respect to neuroscience with functionalist arguments. They reject the dualist position.

Substance dualism

Mental states are not of the brain, but a different substance. It requires explanation for the way two different substances may interact and how the nonphysical mind creates those mental states. They must also account for free will in a nonphysical mind. Ultimately consciousness and qualities of felt experience may be explained with neurobiological terms or the logical-meaningful dimension may have a causal neurobiological explanation. Generally the dualist philosophers that attempt to explain the subjective experience may treat it as an irreducible property, in what we call property dualism.

These property dualists argue that, although there are nontrivial differences among the hypotheses advanced by assorted property dualists, they maintain that, even if the mind is the brain, subjective experience qualities are emergent with respect to the brain and its properties. The commonsense conceptual framework to understand psychological properties in a way that doesn’t reduce to any future neuroscience. Within intertheoretic reduction, we recognize subjective experiences won’t reduce to neuroscience. Property dualists don’t believe there’s a nonphysical substance inherent to experiences. They believe subjective experiences are produced by the brain and affect the brain even if they aren’t actual physical properties of the brain.

Philosopher Frank Jackson used the thought experiment of Mary the neuroscientist to show that differences between knowing our states through introspection and knowing through nonintrospection give the grounds to reduce psychology to neuroscience. The thought experiment supposes Mary is a neuroscientist who has lived her entire live in a room with no colors, yet she is still taught everything about how the brain works. Even if she knows everything about the brain, she still doesn’t have the experience of seeing color. There’s something in psychology not captured by neuroscience. It’s possible these two methods of knowing about the world are subject to different learning methods. Others may argue that Mary would still be able to identify the color red as it is an empirical question.

Dualist theories may include our capacity for introspection just as light still exists as a phenomena even if it may be reduced to electromagnetic radiation. A reductionist may also believe an evolved psychology can reduce to an evolved neuroscience.


Acknowledging there are categories of folk psychology that are incorrect for categorizing mental states, these categories delimit intentional states and logical processes, and they don’t reduce to categories are the neurobiological level of description. In this context, we introduce functionalism as the thesis that mental states are defined in terms of their abstract causal roles in the wider information-processing system. We characterize mental states as they relate to causal relations of environmental stimuli. Happiness is about the behavior associated with being happy and the way it relates to neurobiological phenomena that govern it. Mental states and processes are functional in a usually physicalist manner. We can describe causal and logical relations among perceptions, beliefs, desires, and behavior at the structural level. The same way switches in a computer govern the way it functions, a functionalist theory may believe that our physical phenomena of what goes on in the brain may govern behavior and actions.

One may argue that, if mental states and processes are functional, we can understand how to solve problems, think, reason, and perform similar actions by their functional organization. Neuroscientific methods of reasoning and theory need to focus on functional systems with knowledge of minutiae for other significant areas such as for neuropsychiatric disorders. Cognitive scientists determine the functional or cognitive theory of mind while neuroscientists figure out the physical devices that instantiate the cognitive “program.” Computational psychology is an autonomous science. This line of reasoning runs into issues with the Chinese room argument, as philosopher John Searle articulated, that one can copy intelligent action without interpretation or understanding through a purely functional system. An individual in a room with only Chinese symbols in a box with an English rule book for using the symbols in various ways may follow commands to send the symbols in a certain method without understanding the meaning of the symbols themselves. Philosopher Patricia Churchland continues to press functionalism that intertheoretic reductions aren’t conditional on a one-to-one mapping of higher-level theory to a reduced theory. One may argue against reductionism in this sense that there are fundamental differences between neuronal explanations and functional computational explanations.

Co-evolutionary research ideology

Cognitive psychology is autonomous with respect to neuroscience in the sense neurobiological data are irrelevant to the cognitive “program” the mind runs. We may argue this on the grounds that our mental state and processes are states and processes of our brains, the nervous system evolved from simpler nervous systems, brains are the classiest information processes available for study, neuroscience research cannot be ignored by cognitive scientists, and categories at levels that specify the fundamental kinds may need revision. This method of reasoning lets us use the mathematical development of statistical mechanics to, for example, expand to include temperature, equilibrium, entropy, and similar properties as discoveries at both lower and higher levels. We may deduce there are many relationships between genes and their functions, instead of a one-to-one mapping mentioned earlier. Similar co-evolution can show that genes have input-output functional properties we characterize through functions and laws that combine lower-level and higher-level discoveries.

Some functionalists believe input-output operations can be realized in no unitary mechanisms at intermediate or lower levels. We may be inclined to assume the abilities at the cognitive level are precise and the method of research influence will be from higher levels to
lower levels. Co-evolution is far from interactive.
Neuroscience and psychology need one another as neuroscience needs to know what the system does while psychology needs to know how those lower-level specifications emerge in input-output theory of functionalism. But the co-evolutionary development of neuroscience and psychology means reduction is bound to occur at some point or another. The practical difficulties, understanding how the mind brain works, lack of mathematical and computational theory, and the bare fact that it might be true that psychology isn’t reducible to neuroscience.


Much of what we discuss has an aboutness. When we believe, desire, think, intend, or anything similar we have a semantically coherent system such that these things have content and intention as they’re about things. If psychological explanations of human behavior rely on matching representational states to parts of the human being, we may object to reductionist ideas as mental states are identified in terms of logical and semantical relations.

Logical relations

Mental states have causal relations to other states, but mental representations have causal roles in virtue of their formal properties, as Fodor argues. There are arguments against reduction that don’t depend on giving a nonphysical status to representations. Psychological states for which these arguments are built upon are the sentiential attitudes (beliefs, desires, etc.). For these sentiential attidues, logic defines the relations between sentences.


That the philosophical tradition that espouses a logical-meaningful dimension of mental business isn’t naturalist may seem to support the idea logical relations between states can’t be explained with causal relations between neurobiological states. It also may seem this way given there are limitations of neuroscience such that no theory in neuroscience can tell us a lot of information. But it may be possible we explain neurobiologically what goes on in the brain unless the psychological phenomena are indeterministic with respect to the relevant neurophysical level.

In addition some criteria folk psychology uses in specifying content on features that are irrelevant to the causal role of the mental state as it interacts with other mental state. We may cite semantic features such as truth and justification as evidence of these interactions. Antireductionists may argue there are folk psychology categories that we cannot reduce representational states to, but these arguments lack the empirical evidence to support them.

Information processing

We may describe an information-processing theory as sentiential if the cognitively relevant internal states have content, the theoretically relevant relationships between cognitive states are characterized by logic, the state transitions are a function of logical relationships between sentences that identify the states, and we evaluate cognitive virtue as a function of the extent to which it succeeds in doing what the logical theory of state transition says it should do. We may also define cognitive processes as sentence-processing processes. Such an information-processing system should also have methods of determining which knowledge is relevant to its purpose. Such an artificial intelligence being would also have to do this

Describing our world through philosophy, science, and coffee

I take a sip from my coffee mug and lean back as I stare at my writing. Through libraries, coffee shops, hospitals, and other venues, I write and hack away on my laptop. On the intersection of neuroscience and philosophy, I present An introduction to ethics, An introduction to philosophy, and Contextual emergence. I hope these resources prove useful to others.

Neuroethics: the delicate balance of neuroscience and morality

Pew pew pew

How can we create frameworks of practical moral reasoning in the absence of free will? Can neuroscience research shed light on how we make moral judgements? What are the general implications of neuroscience research itself? How can we differentiate between the study of the mind or the brain to begin with? In the current development of neuroscience research, scenarios have changed. Researchers are beginning to uncover a new knowledge about personal identity, emotions, awareness, and free will. All of these are key pieces in the understanding of the puzzle of the mind human. These issues that seemed to be alien to science are now exposed in the scenario of Neuroethics, the ethical issues brought upon by neuroscience as well as the neuroscience of ethics itself. As presented by Kathinka Evers, principal investigator of the Center for Research in Ethics and Bioethics from the University of Uppsala, we can investigate a slew of questions that born in this interface between the sciences of the human spirit and the natural sciences in her book “Neuroetica.” It should be remembered, in the face of this reconciliation between science and ethics, that there have been challenges and struggles to write on neuroethics. Understanding “the analysis of the concepts involved in practical moral reasoning “(p 21), and the first, according to Robert Hooke, as “knowledge of natural things, and of all useful arts, manufactures, and mechanical practices, artifacts and experimental inventions “(p.22), it’s easy to come to incorrect conclusions on these ethical issues.

Fortunately, through history not all modern thinkers have seen science in this way. As Evers points out, in accordance with philosopher Francis Bacon’s views of science, the study well-organized and detailed in nature, science should be much more than the mere school search for knowledge. The sciences have to fulfill a fundamental function, namely: to allow human beings to improve their life on earth (p.21); objective that would be difficult to achieve if it were insisted on keep excluded the philosophical, political, moral and metaphysical that are born in their same this particular case, within the neurosciences.

Now, although the ethical problems initially raised in neuroscience referred to the practice and use of brain imaging technologies, neuropharmacology or the interests of research and sponsors of this, currently neuroscientific research itself is also concentrated in the construction of “adequate theoretical foundations that are required to be able to deal appropriately with the problems of application “(p.28). This establishes a distinction clear between an applied neuroethics and a theoretical neuroethics, concerned about the capacity that could have the science of nature to improve our understanding of moral thinking. We can determine whether the former is really important for the latter by considering both concerns as part of a greater question, that is, if human consciousness can to be addressed or not in biological terms.

It should be mentioned that any attempt to expose the complete set of ideas that go through neuroethics and the development of these would be foolish. We can still refer to a small, but representative, set that begins with the idea of unifying different levels and types of knowledge, taking both the techniques and the methodologies of each discipline, in order to build bridges. Fragile as they may be, they would allow the flow of the knowledge of the neurosciences to other sciences and disciplines, integrating in turn, this knowledge in the conception that have human beings of himself. It resonates through the world and morality in a shared theoretical framework (p.30 and p.57). The materialism position may respond, aptly illustrated and proposed in chemistry by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard in 1953 and extended by neuroscientist Jean-Pierre Changueux, to the neuroscience of the present. It may be that far from any naive reductionism and dualism (ontological), we can assume the brain as “a plastic, projective organ and narrative, which results from a sociocultural, biological symbiosis that appeared in the course of evolution … ” (p 69), judging emotion as the characteristic mark of consciousness from an evolutionary perspective.

Following, you can expose an idea pretty striking, a neurophilosophical model of the free agency that tries to answer how even though Free will is or can be: “1) a construction of the brain, 2) causally determined, or 3) initiated unconsciously “(p.80), it is not something” illusory .” As Evers argues, first, the fact that free will be a construction of the brain not necessarily means that it is an illusion, and that perhaps if it is an illusion it will be for other reasons (p.86); second, “causality is a prerequisite for the free agency “(p.88), otherwise the behavior would be totally random, in addition, causal determinism does not imply an invariable and necessary relationship between cause and effect, to the extent that this relationship can be variable and contingent; third, although the processes non-conscious appear to be far from control aware, the relationship and influence between both are “To a certain extent mutual, and not unilateral” (p.104). Of course, to understand the development and integration of each argument to think of free will as “The ability to acquire a causal power, combined with the ability to influence the use of said power ” (p.107), you need to read chapter II of the book, where Evers makes use of different authors (Changueux, Le Doux, Libet, Freeman, Churchland, Pinker, Blakemore, Pylyshyn, among others) to recreate the scenario in which situates all this discussion and each one of his ideas.

Finally, we note the normative relevance of the neurosciences according to the understanding of the neural bases of development of thinking and moral behavior. We can mention four innate tendencies closely related that appeared in the evolution: 1) self-interest, 2) the desire to control and security, 3) the dissociation of what can be considered unpleasant or threatening, 4) selective sympathy. Regarding the latter, the author risks saying that the human being is a xenophobe with natural empathy insofar as it is “empathic by virtue of [your] understanding of a relatively large set of creatures; but […] nice so much more narrow and selective towards the restricted group [in which born or has chosen to join] “(page 132). Although understanding (empathy) can be extended to broad groups (i.e. foreigners), the affective bond that unites human beings is restricted to their group more close. There’s an indifference to the foreigner or the which is considered different.

Keeping in mind these innate preferences, there’s no doubt about the difficult situation of current moral discussions. It becomes a priority then, to establish a diagnosis in neurobiological terms to be able intervene human behavior, recognizing that the structure of the brain determines to some degree the social behavior, moral dispositions and the type of society that is created, although the latter has an influence on brain development (p.149). At the same time, we can pose the question about the scientific responsibility of neuroscience at the socio-political level in terms of its adequacy (formulation of real problems), conceptual clarity, and application of methods and techniques without forgetting the origins and interests. Making it clear what a finding or fact (if it is) of neuroscience is not can give off categorical imperatives. A duty can be universal because of knowing that you have an innate preference does not follow that it is okay or that it must conceive this fact as good or bad.

In short, “Neuroethics” is an excellent introduction for both the unnoticed reader and for professionals from different areas of health (Psychology, Psychiatry, Neuropsychology, Medicine) and other professionals such as philosophers, lawyers and politicians, concerned about the participation of neurosciences in the understanding of the mind, the behavior, socio-cultural organizations, mental health, education, but first of all in the perception of human existence and its future. It may be “A Critique of the Neuroscientific reason,” a clear demarcation of the limits of this knowledge and its uses in society, a judgment by the other disciplines, to the extent that knowledge about the brain seems to give to neuroscientists certain power to expand their ideas beyond the laboratory, expanding their horizons and its explanatory power in domains already mentioned. It’s sometimes quite assertive when plotting new research paths, other times. But other times it’s about attacking different fields of knowledge by not knowing the limits of its frame of reference and in the impossibility to purge the investigations carried out of their own cognitive biases. That would respond more to the interests of certain ideologies than to the objective to improve human life on earth.