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“Me & My Brain”: Exposing Neuroscienceʼs Closet Dualism

Mudrik, Liad and Maoz, Uri (2015) “Me & My Brain”: Exposing Neuroscienceʼs Closet Dualism. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27 (2). pp. 211-221. ISSN 0898-929X.

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Our intuitive concept of the relations between brain and mind is increasingly challenged by the scientific world view. Yet, although few neuroscientists openly endorse Cartesian dualism, careful reading reveals dualistic intuitions in prominent neuroscientific texts. Here, we present the "double-subject fallacy": treating the brain and the entire person as two independent subjects who can simultaneously occupy divergent psychological states and even have complex interactions with each other-as in "my brain knew before I did." Although at first, such writing may appear like harmless, or even cute, shorthand, a closer look suggests that it can be seriously misleading. Surprisingly, this confused writing appears in various cognitive-neuroscience texts, from prominent peer-reviewed articles to books intended for lay audience. Far from being merely metaphorical or figurative, this type of writing demonstrates that dualistic intuitions are still deeply rooted in contemporary thought, affecting even the most rigorous practitioners of the neuroscientific method. We discuss the origins of such writing and its effects on the scientific arena as well as demonstrate its relevance to the debate on legal and moral responsibility.

Item Type:Article
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Mudrik, Liad0000-0003-3564-6445
Maoz, Uri0000-0002-7899-1241
Additional Information:© 2014 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Posted Online September 22, 2014. L. M. was supported by the Human Frontier Science Program, the Weizmann Institute of Scienceʼs National Postdoctoral Award Program for Advancing Women in Science. U. M. was supported by Florida State Universityʼs “Big Questions in Free Will” initiative, funded by the Templeton Foundation; by the Ralph Schlaeger Charitable Foundation; by the Bial Foundation; and by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. Versions of this article were presented and discussed at the Towards a Science of Consciousness Conference, 2012; at the Society for Philosophy and Psychology Annual Meeting, 2012; at the Advanced philosophy students conference, Tel Aviv University, 2009; and the Neuroscience and Society conference, Van Leer institute, Jerusalem, 2009. We thank the participants of those conferences for their insightful comments. We are especially indebted to Ralph Adolphs, Marcelo Dascal, Nathan Faivre, Alfred Mele, Adina Roskies, Max Velmans, and Gideon Yaffe for thoughtful and highly constructive comments on this manuscript. We further acknowledge our debt to Bennett and Hacker (2003), who featured more prominently in some earlier drafts of this paper.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Human Frontier Science ProgramUNSPECIFIED
Weizmann Institute of ScienceUNSPECIFIED
Florida State UniversityUNSPECIFIED
Templeton FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Ralph Schlaeger Charitable FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Bial FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Van Leer Jerusalem InstituteUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20150202-110656399
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Official Citation:“Me & My Brain”: Exposing Neuroscience's Closet Dualism No Access Liad Mudrik, Uri Maoz Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience February 2015, Vol. 27, No. 2: 211–221.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:54297
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:04 Feb 2015 04:25
Last Modified:05 Mar 2020 00:17

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