, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 347-368

Neuropragmatism, old and new

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Abstract

Recent work in neurophilosophy has either made reference to the work of John Dewey or independently developed positions similar to it. I review these developments in order first to show that Dewey was indeed doing neurophilosophy well before the Churchlands and others, thereby preceding many other mid-twentieth century European philosophers’ views on cognition to whom many present day philosophers refer (e.g., Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty). I also show that Dewey’s work provides useful tools for evading or overcoming many issues in contemporary neurophilosophy and philosophy of mind. In this introductory review, I distinguish between three waves among neurophilosophers that revolve around the import of evolution and the degree of brain-centrism. Throughout, I emphasize and elaborate upon Dewey’s dynamic view of mind and consciousness. I conclude by introducing the consciousness-as-cooking metaphor as an alternative to both the consciousness-as-digestion and consciousness-as-dancing metaphors. Neurophilosophical pragmatism—or neuropragmatism—recognizes the import of evolutionary and cognitive neurobiology for developing a science of mind and consciousness. However, as the cooking metaphor illustrates, a science of mind and consciousness cannot rely on the brain alone—just as explaining cooking entails more than understanding the gut—and therefore must establish continuity with cultural activities and their respective fields of inquiry. Neuropragmatism advances a new and promising perspective on how to reconcile the scientific and manifest images of humanity as well as how to reconstruct the relationship between science and the humanities.