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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On Reductionism: Quote from The New Atlantis

Those who would use science to solve real human problems often must first translate those human problems into narrowly technical problems, framed in terms of some theoretically tractable model and a corresponding method. Such tractability offers a collateral benefit: the intellectual pleasure that comes with constructing and tinkering with the model. But there is then an almost irresistible temptation to, as E. A. Burtt said, turn one’s method into a metaphysics—that is, to suppose the world such that one’s method is appropriate to it. When this procedure is applied to human beings, the inevitable result is that the human is defined downward. Thus, for example, thinking becomes “information processing.” We are confronted with the striking reversal wherein cognitive science looks to the computer to understand what human thinking is. Matthew B. Crawford, "The Limits of Neuro-Talk," The New Atlantis, Winter 2008

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