Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hurley's Observations on Braille Readers

To take one fascinating idea, consider Susan Hurley on “variable neural correlates.”  We are comfortable with the correlation between types of experience and types of brain states, and undoubtedly such variation is one important source for the idea that the mind is in the head. Hurley notes, however, that there is also a dependence of experience on type of interaction with the environment, one not aligned to strictly neural properties. For example, when blind people haptically read Braille text, activity in the visual cortex seems to correlate with tactile experience. In people who are not blind, tactile experience correlates with activity in the tactile cortex. What explains the common enabling of tactile experience by the different kinds of cortex seems to be tactile causal coupling with the environment, rather than strictly neural type. (Myin, 2010, p. 590).
I haven't read all of Hurley's long and difficult paper, "Varieties of Externalism," but by Myin's account, it looks to be an instance of the kind of argument Noë gives in his Out of Our Heads book.  I give the cartoon reply here.  I discuss this argument in more detail in my "Consciousness: Don't Give up on the Brain."

So, it looks like I should look over the science concerning the brains of those who read Braille.

Myin, E. (2010). "Unbounding the Mind". Science 29 October 2010: 589-590.

Noë, A. (2009). Out of our heads: Why you are not your brain, and other lessions from the biology of consciousness. New York, NY: Hill and Wang.

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