The Spontaneous Brain by Georg Northoff

The Spontaneous Brain by Georg Northoff

Author:Georg Northoff
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Mind-body problem; World-brain relation; Consciousness; World-brain problem; Copernican revolution
Publisher: The MIT Press
Published: 2018-10-25T00:00:00+00:00

Structural Realism IIIa: Conflation of the Notion of Difference

How can we determine the notion of “difference” in an ontological rather than merely empirical sense? This is even more important given that a possible counterargument about false inference from empirical to ontological levels may be raised. Let me detail this.

One may now want to argue that I so far did not really provide any argument for moderate OSR of the brain in terms of world–brain relation. Rather I merely stated my assumption and distinguished it from the alternative supposition, namely, the determination of the brain’s existence and reality by elements or properties. Even worse, the philosopher may want to accuse that I infer from the empirical level to the ontological determination of the brain.

This amounts to what can be called the empirical–ontological fallacy that historically can be traced to Kant and his characterization of Locke as a “physiologist of reason” (Kant, 1781/1998). Thereby, the concept of the empirical strictly conforms to observation as in science independent of whether any knowledge is acquired; hence the notion of the empirical is distinguished from that of the epistemic. The fallacy pointed out thus amounts to an empirical–ontological fallacy (rather than an epistemic–ontological fallacy; see chapter 14 for the latter).

Specifically, one may say that I infer from the empirical observation of difference as in the brain’s difference-based coding to the ontological level of relation that can also be determined by difference. I thus conflate two notions of difference: the empirical concept of difference as the difference between different stimuli in difference-based coding and the ontological notion of difference as inherent in relation. One and the same concept, that is, the concept of difference, is thus used and applied in both contexts, that is, empirical and ontological.

I suggested that the brain’s difference-based coding implies the ontological determination of its existence in terms of relation (i.e., world–brain relation). Those who take an opposing view may now want to argue that I inferred the ontological concept of difference as inherent in the notion of relation from the empirical one as in difference-based coding. Since the empirical level of observation and the ontological level of existence and reality are not identical, any inference from the brain’s difference-based coding to the brain’s existence and reality must be considered fallacious. That amounts to nothing less than an empirical–ontological fallacy (see figure 9.1).

Figure 9.1 Empirical–ontological fallacy.


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