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Older brains & wisdom

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• Is the world eternal? YES
• Do humans have contra-causal free will (i.e., can humans do otherwise)? NO
• Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? YES
• Do humans have souls? YES
• Are there natural rights? YES
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• Is virtue necessary for happiness? YES
• Can a computer have a mind? YES
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• Is hell other people? YES
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• Can we change the past? NO
• Are numbers real? NO
• Is it always better to know the truth? YES

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A NYT article suggests that older brains are slower at some tasks, but then outperform younger brains when it comes time to remploy information in beneficial ways. In other words, as one researcher says:

“These findings are all very consistent with the context we’re building for what wisdom is,” she said. “If older people are taking in more information from a situation, and they’re then able to combine it with their comparatively greater store of general knowledge, they’re going to have a nice advantage.”

Are the cog scis going after wisdom? Hey, that’s our turf!

Anyway, good news for us older brains.

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4 Comments

  1. Kleiner says:

    I’m going to sound like a broken record here.

    Very interesting study, but let’s be careful thinkers and not make the unwarranted reductionistic assumption the cognitive scientists make. You will notice that they reduce “judgment” to “data access”. I see no reason at all to make that reductionistic move, but instead will stick with my previously argued “3 acts of the mind” view – apprehension, judgment, and reasoning – none of which can be done by matter alone.

    Just because the brain is involved in thinking (and might change as it ages) does not mean that the brain is all there is to thinking. This move is so obviously fallacious that I find it shocking that more materialist philosophers don’t recognize it as such. Cog scientists, in “discovering” that the brain plays an essential role in consciousness and thought have, in fact, not discovered anything new at all. Aristotle knew this perfectly well 2000 years ago (though he did not have the brain scanning tech to lean on). Read Aquinas’s Summa Questions 75 and 76 for his version of Aristotle’s arguments.

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  2. Huenemann says:

    I’d say: okay, let’s go ahead and insist that there is more involved in thinking than the brain. We can even write it in capital letters: THERE IS AN IMMATERIAL SOUL.

    Meanwhile, let’s also go ahead with the cog sci research and see what we can understand on the basis of what’s testable and measurable.

    My prediction: the soul thesis becomes an increasingly idle wheel, and after a while we have to consult historians to find out what “soul” used to mean.

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  3. Kleiner says:

    What, is my philosophy getting in the way of your science?

    Look, I am all for studying the brain, and I suspect we will continue to learn all sorts of fascinating things about this material instrument. But if we get clear on what it means to talk about knowledge, reasoning, and judgment, we won’t find any ultimate answers in cog science.

    Here is the philosophical concern: It is just plain sloppy thinking to make the unwarranted reductionistic assumption that the brain being involved in thinking means the brain is all there is to thinking. Scientists, who by their trade must restrict themselves to what is testable and measurable, should do so. But we are not scientists, we are philosophers. Our job description does not include restricting ourselves to the measurable (even if this irks you). Instead, one of our jobs is to rail against sloppy thinking! So why just move ahead and ignore that one alleged “proof” of materialism (the cog sci research) is based on fallacious reasoning?

    I suspect Hume thought he had put “soul talk” to bed for good. Well, a couple hundred years later it is still around. Either the holdouts (like me) are really stubborn or there is something to all the soul talk and that is why it is still around. Obviously I think the latter. Here is the shocking bit of news that the cog researchers all conveniently forget – without an immaterial soul and a teleologically organized world, their own scientific research is impossible!!! Why aren’t we having that conversation?! How/Why is scientific knowledge possible in the first place? Isn’t this a perfectly legitimate and important philosophical question to ask? The moment you become so eager to skip over those questions to just get to your science, I think you cease to be a philosopher.

    As philosophers, let’s not be “useful idiots” who allow fallacious reasoning (and I think dangerous lies) about the nature of the human person to be perpetuated.

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  4. Huenemann says:

    By the way, “soul talk,” at least among philosophers of mind, has been put to bed, apparently for good — except in Thomist enclaves. Machuga is a singular exception.

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