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Neuroscience and the humanities

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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
• Is it morally permissible to eat meat? NO
• Is the unexamined life worth living? NO
• Is truth subjectivity? YES
• Is virtue necessary for happiness? YES
• Can a computer have a mind? YES
• Can humans know reality as it is in itself? YES
• Is hell other people? YES
• Can art be created accidentally? NO
• Can we change the past? NO
• Are numbers real? NO
• Is it always better to know the truth? YES

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Interesting essay here by a scientist about neuromania, or the endeavor to explain everything through brain stuff. Sample excerpt:

Comparing the humanities and the sciences is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. It isn’t clear that the goals are the same. Scientists may employ a variety of different intellectual and material techniques, but they all seem geared towards gaining power over nature: both physical control and explanatory power. Science is about what is the case, not what ought to be the case. Science describes, but does not prescribe. The humanities do involve explanation, but I think they are more closely wrapped up with theoughts. The humanities are never far from the question of how the individual and the society ought to behave. The humanities explore values, whereas many scientists and philosophers agree that choosing what we should value is outside the strict purview of science. Science can describe how the brain and body encode and make manifest our personal value systems, and how values spread through societies, but it is not equipped with tools for deciding what to value in the first place.


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