Michael Gazzaniga’s Neuro-cognitive Antireductionism and the Challenge of Neo-mechanistic Reduction

Diego Azevedo Leite


Abstract: Michael Gazzaniga, a prominent cognitive neuroscientist, has argued against reductionist accounts of cognition. Instead, Gazzaniga defends a form of non-reductive physicalism: epistemological neuro-cognitive non-reductionism and ontological monist physicalism. His position is motivated by the theses that: (1) cognitive phenomena can be realized by multiple neural systems; (2) many outcomes of these systems are unpredictable; and (3) multi-level explanations are required. Epistemological neuro-cognitive non-reductionism is presented as the most appropriate stance to account for the way in which phenomena should be explained in cognitive neuroscience. In this paper, I argue, however, that a recent form of (ontological and epistemological) neuro-cognitive reductionism, namely neo-mechanistic reductionism accounts for the arguments presented by Gazzaniga. Thus, the theory offers a more consistent and well-articulated view of the relationship between cognitive and neural phenomena that is specifically compatible with the explanatory strategies and aims of contemporary cognitive neuroscience.

Keywords: Neo-mechanistic Philosophy; Michael Gazzaniga; Non-reductionism; Reductionism; Philosophy of Cognitive Neuroscience


L’antiriduzionismo neurocognitivo di Michael Gazzaniga e la sfida della riduzione neomeccanicista

Riassunto: Uno dei più importanti neuroscienziati dei nostri tempi, Michael Gazzaniga, si è schierato contro una concezione riduzionista della cognizione. Al contrario Gazzaniga difende una forma di fisicalismo non-riduzionistico che risulta dalla combinazione, sul piano epistemologico, di un anti-riduzionismo cognitivo e, sul piano ontologico, di un monismo fisicalista. La sua posizione è motivata dalla tesi per cui (1) i fenomeni cognitivi possono essere realizzati da molteplici sistemi neurali; (2) molti esiti di tali sistemi non si possono prevedere; (3) e sono pertanto necessarie spiegazioni a livelli plurimi. La concezione presentata come più adeguata per dare conto sul piano epistemologico di come i fenomeni dovrebbero essere spiegati all’interno delle neuroscienze cognitive è una forma di anti-riduzionismo neuro-cognitivo. In questo articolo si sostiene tuttavia che una recente forma di riduzionismo neuro-cognitivo (epistemologico ed ontologico) può dare conto degli argomenti presentati da Gazzaniga. Si tratta di una teoria che offre una interpretazione maggiormente coerente ed articolata della relazione fra fenomeni cognitivi e neurali e che offre un modello di spiegazione compatibile con gli scopi esplicativi delle neuroscienze cognitive contemporanee.

Parole chiave: Filosofia neomeccanicista; Michael Gazzaniga; Nonriduzionismo; Riduzionismo; Filosofia della neuroscienza cognitiva

Parole chiave

Neo-mechanistic Philosophy; Michael Gazzaniga; Non-reductionism; Reductionism; Philosophy of Cognitive Neuroscience

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.4453/rifp.2018.0013

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