Thursday, September 01, 2016

Neuroscience can be critical

I've said before that neuroscience needs to be more critical (see previous post). If it wants to include psychology, it is essential that it is seen as more than a physical science. Psychology inevitably includes human aspects which cannot be described in physical causal terms. Human knowledge includes meaningful understanding of action.

For example, Andrew Huxley wrote the website introduction to Cambridge Neuroscience. As he said:-
Perhaps the most difficult, and at the same time the most interesting problem in neuroscience, is the nature of consciousness and its relationship to physical events in the brain.
He suggested that:-
[T]his is the biggest problem facing neuroscience at the present time. Whoever solves it will have earned a place in the history of science comparable to that of Newton and Darwin.

This objective has always been the wishful hope of neuroscience. But maybe it needs to take a more pragmatic approach and realise that the mind-brain problem won't be solved, as it is a philosophical not neuroscientific problem. As far as psychiatry is concerned, this means that trying to understand the reasons for mental health problems and helping people deal with them is what is central for practice. Understanding their problems in terms of brain abnormalities is missing the point.