Plato's Camera: How the Physical Brain Captures a Landscape of Abstract Universals

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MIT Press, Jan 20, 2012 - Philosophy - 304 pages
A noted philosopher draws on the empirical results and conceptual resources of cognitive neuroscience to address questions about the nature of knowledge.

In Plato's Camera, eminent philosopher Paul Churchland offers a novel account of how the brain constructs a representation—or "takes a picture"—of the universe's timeless categorical and dynamical structure. This construction process, which begins at birth, yields the enduring background conceptual framework with which we will interpret our sensory experience for the rest of our lives. But, as even Plato knew, to make singular perceptual judgments requires that we possess an antecedent framework of abstract categories to which any perceived particular can be relevantly assimilated. How that background framework is assembled in the first place is the motivating mystery, and the primary target, of Churchland's book.

Unexpectedly, this neurobiologically grounded account of human cognition also provides a systematic story of how such low-level epistemological activities are integrated within an enveloping framework of linguistic structures and regulatory mechanisms at the social level. As Churchland illustrates, this integration of cognitive mechanisms at several levels has launched the human race on an epistemological adventure denied to all other terrestrial creatures.



A Fast Overview
Structural Changes in the Brain and the Development of Lasting Conceptual Frameworks
On the Evaluation of Maps and Their Generation by Hebbian Learning
Dynamical Changes in the Brain and DomainShifted Redeployments of Existing Concepts
The Regulation and Amplification of First and SecondLevel Learning through a Growing Network of Cultural Institutions

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About the author (2012)

Paul M. Churchland is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul, Matter and Consciousness: A Contemporary Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind (both published by the MIT Press), and other books.

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