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Biological Underpinnings of Objectivist Epistemology

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I have applied for admission to graduate programs in psychology, seeking to research the cognitive nature of learning.  My goal is to study Objectivist epistemlogical principles in the context of learning.  Specifically, I want to study the nature of concept formation.  My goal is to study the conceptual basis of learning from a cognitive psychology/human development perspective.

 

Last week, I had a series of interviews with many faculty members at a one of the best psych programs in the field for which I have chosen to enter,  However, somehow I have been backed into having a final interview next week with a neuroscientist who uses fMRIs to study the nature of learning.  This interview is the final interview that I will have before the admission committee meets.  

 

My question is what in the world should I talk to this guy about.  How can one examine neural underpinnings to attempt to support Objectivist epistemology?

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If you don't mind me asking, which schools have you applied to? I'm curious if it's affiliated at all with where I've taken some classes related to psychology.

 

You probably don't need to say anything about Objectivist epistemology. I dunno how the interview will work, but I'm sure you'd be asked why neuroscience matters to your studies. Neural underpinnings matter in terms of cognitive architecture to support a theory of how it works.

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Someone who studies the neural underpinnings of learning will have an empirical approach to the whole topic.  I think he will be looking for the proper attitude, that a respect for genuine discoveries within neuroscience means discarding theories that are falsified by contradictory facts.   The theory of Objectivist epistemology, particularly the theory of concept formation, is sufficiently abstract that it is difficult to qualify it in the eyes of an empiricist as a falsifiable theory.   So beware.

 

Objectivism claims knowledge is hierarchical (presumably that is not a claim unique to Objectivism).  That follows from the structure of sense/perceive/conceive, and Rand's theory for relating concepts.  It should be possible to verify a hierarchical structure in the brain between its senses and the place where its most abstract conceptions reside, the neocortex.  So you could talk about that.

 

Jeff Hawkins' theory called Hierarchical Temporal Memory is a theory of how the brain is organized. His repeating patterns and layers of neurons are the same thing in principle from primitive edge detection in vision to the most abstract conception.  His is a theory in the middle space between neuroscience and epistemology, and potentially compatible with Rand's theory of concept formation.  Links to some videos of Hawkins explaining aspects of his theory in this thread.  Discussing this theory is a way to make your interests relevant to neuroscience and not come across to your interviewer as some wild-eyed ideologue hellbent on his pet Objectivist theory facts-be-damned.  

 

Be rational.

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Neuroscience answers completely different questions than epistemology. There may be some interesting connections to be made but really it won't be appropriate most of the time to bring up philosophy unless someone says something really off the rails. 

If someone for example started making claims about philosophy based on some finding, then you could perhaps correct them or show how that doesn't work. 

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As Hairnet was saying, I don't think you should be worrying too much about philosophy in the context of your interview. You're being interviewed about neuroscience, not philosophy - it may have connections, but it's doubtful those connections will be too relevant to your interviewer.

 

Beyond that, keep in mind that if any philosophy, including Objectivism, is consistent with reality, it will hold up under empirical scrutiny. Approaching neuroscience in the empirical manner that you'd be expected to as a neuroscientist should not violate your ideas as an Objectivist. Perhaps you may consider a different end goal for your studies - you want to understand how learning works, right? You don't necessarily need to put that in the context of Objectivism. If Objectivism is consistent with reality, nothing you learn in your studies should contradict it. 

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Beyond that, keep in mind that if any philosophy, including Objectivism, is consistent with reality, it will hold up under empirical scrutiny.

Agree.

If one suspects that an experimenter is barking up the wrong tree or is interpreting it incorrectly, that can be valid criticism, but this type of interview is the not the right place. A final interview of this type is probably with someone who has been in the field for a while and has thought about the aspects that seem uncomfortable. If someone with far less experience expresses doubts about how that research can be reconciled, and asks the expert whether he thinks they can be reconciled and, if so, how... that shows interest and knowledge. On the other hand, if the young pup is already sure the professor is full of crap, then it's likely the professor will think: "Well, I guess I have nothing to teach you then."

Edited by softwareNerd

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