Saturday, September 22, 2012

Neuroscience Good; Neurobabble Bad

Storm clouds above our house

I tell my philosophy students that, if you want an interesting career, go into neural studies. Neuroscience, for example, and its application.

I began my neural studies in the early 1980s. My dissertation was on metaphor theory, and included some research on the neural processing of metaphor, and how metaphor was processed different than other tropes such as simile. In current metaphor theory 'metaphor' is not an 'elliptical simile,' as many thought (following Aristotle) prior to the 1970s. I was my great privilege to have James Ashbrook on my committee. Dr. Ashbrook, a psychologist, was a pioneer in neuropsych studies as applied to theological matters such as the experience of God. (See "James B. Ashbrook: Pioneer in Neurotheology.")

After my dissertation was finished I laid off metaphor studies and neural studies for several years, wanting to research other things. But in the last 15 years my love for these things has again blossomed, and I'm doing ongoing reading in these areas. (See, e.g., Zoltán Kövecses, Metaphor: A Practical Introduction; and Language, Mind, and Culture: A Practical Introduction.)

Thanks to the recent explosion of neuroscience and neural-applications to almost everything, there is now a feast of literature being generated from this exciting field. But there's also a lot of neurobabble going on. Therefore, be careful. See "Your brain on pseudoscience: the rise of popular neurobollocks."