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"Your Brain is Like a Computer: Function, Analogy, Simplification", Mazviita Chirimuuta (Phil, Pittsburgh) — Hosted by Susanna Schellenberg

Tuesday, December 04, 2018, 01:00pm - 02:30pm

Busch Campus, Psych 101

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Talk Recording



The relationship between brain and computer is a perennial theme in theoretical neuroscience, but it has received relatively little attention in the philosophy of neuroscience. This paper argues that much of the popularity of the brain-computer comparison (e.g. circuit models of neurons and brain areas since McCulloch and Pitts [1943]) can be explained by their utility as ways of simplifying the brain. More specifically, by justifying a sharp distinction between aspects of neural anatomy and physiology that serve information-processing, and those that are ‘mere metabolic support,’ the computational framework provides a means of abstracting away from the complexities of cellular neurobiology, as those details come to be classified as irrelevant to the (computational) functions of the system. I argue that the relation between brain and computer should be understood as one of analogy, and consider the implications of this interpretation for notions of multiple realisation. I also consider some limitations of our understanding of the brain and cognition that may stem from the radical abstraction imposed by the computational framework.


Suggested Reading

The RuCCS Colloquia Series is organized by Dr. Julien Musolino and Dr. Sara Pixley. The talks are held on Tuesdays in the Psychology Building, Room 101 on the Busch Campus from 1:00-2:30pm.

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