In this post, I attempt to present two major metaphysical accounts of space by Kant and Leibniz, then present some recent findings from cognitive neuroscience about the neural basis of spatial cognition in an attempt to understand more about the nature of space and the possible connection of philosophical theories to empirical observations.
Immanuel Kant’s account of space in his Prolegomena serves as a cornerstone for his thought and comes about in a discussion of the transcendental principles of mathematics that precedes remarks on the possibility of natural science and metaphysics. Kant begins his inquiry concerning the possibility of ‘pure’ mathematics with an appeal to the nature of mathematical knowledge, asserting that it rests upon no empirical basis, and thus is a purely synthetic product of pure reason (§6). He also argues that mathematical knowledge (pure mathematics) has the unique feature of first exhibiting its concepts in a priori intuition which in turn makes judgments in mathematics ‘intuitive’ (§7.281). For Kant, intuition is prior to our sensibility and the activity of reason since the former does not grasp ‘things in themselves,’ but rather only the things that can be perceived by the senses. Thus, what we can perceive is based on the form of our a priori intuition (§9). As such, we are only able to intuit and perceive things in the world within the framework naturally provided by the capabilities and character (literally the under–standing) of our understanding. Kant then takes our intuitions of space (and time) as concepts integral to pure mathematics and as necessary components of our intuition (§10.91). More
The one day of the year dreaded by the many people in, out of, and between relationships has come and passed. Being a huge neuroscience nerd, I spent much of February 14th searching for articles and scholarly papers about the neuroscience of love, sex, attraction, friend zones, what have you. But nothing really blew me away. In my third year of studying neuroscience, I have a relatively extensive knowledge of the brain. I certainly have heard all about neurochemicals being released during sex, when you’re constantly thinking (to the point of obsessing) about that special someone, and even when you just look at a photograph of them. And sure, it’s cool the first five times you read about how fascinating oxytocin and serotonin are. But I’m over hearing it. More
If you were to ask any reasonable person (or reasonable physicist) how quantum mechanics works, 9 out of 10 times he/she would probably give you the same answer: magic. Yes, the field of quantum physics is known far and wide across academia as being both pretty difficult (lots of math) and pretty confusing (it just seems like it makes stuff up as it goes). However, despite all the tedium and wizardry that surrounds quantum mechanics, if you look hard enough at the many applications that the science has to offer to other fields, you may quickly come to find that it is also pretty dang awesome. Indeed, even the field of neuroscience has experienced some cross over with quantum physics in an attempt to explain many of the mysteries of the mind. But, what specific oddities about the brain are so opaque that they would need something as complex as physics’ black magic to explain them?
Yes, I know it’s a little bit early to be bringing this up. While the holiday itself may have already passed, many of you are probably still recovering from the hangover that the entire country was forced to endure. I mean really, this isn’t even a good feeling to wake up from this hangover, not that a hangover is something you should usually look forward to. But lets be honest, there is more damage done than overall achievement. This isn’t the morning after where you reminisce about the absolutely stupendous series of events that took place hours ago. This isn’t one of those mornings where you are left in shambles in a downright disgusting alley looking around for your best friend who was lost the day of a wedding. Plain and simple, this is not a good time.
Your groggy, you must resume your daily routine, you have to be at work in an hour, the clock already says your going to be 30 minutes late with the estimated travel time, and you probably gained a minimum of 5 lbs considering how many potatoes you’ve consumed. Hell, you nearly re-enacted the exact opposite of the Irish potato famine in your dining room, not to mention the 20 loafs of bread consumed in ‘this that and another’ stuffing. And then to add insult to injury, you have to open the fridge and think to yourself, “Hmm what the hell am I gonna have for lunch today” right? Wrong! What your really saying to yourself is, “How the hell am I supposed to make turkey or thanksgiving leftovers of any sort sound appetizing again?” And while this may be true, that should be the least of your problems. What your primary worry should be is, “How am I going to stay awake for this crucial late afternoon presentation my boss conveniently scheduled the day after this lovely thanksgiving massacre, when I’m stuffing (pun intended) down marshmallow covered sweet potatoes, [explicit] turkey sandwiches, and some classic Campbell’s green bean casserole at the 2 o’clock lunch break?” Tie all these delightful dishes together and you yourself have found the ultimate thanksgiving myth: Are turkey and all the other thanksgiving fixings responsible for your holiday hangover? Let us find out shall we… More
Know any of the above words from ubongo to brein? If so, you can (surprisingly to you of course) say BRAIN in Hawaiian, Swahili, Spanish, Italian, French, or Dutch. And if you can (read this and) fluently speak at least one of these languages, or another not shown, you are multilingual (again, SO surprisingly to you…) – and may consequently reap some benefits from this status! More
When humans fall ill, we can go to the doctor to receive a diagnosis and treatment. We have a form of communication, and our body has good indicators that can help the doctor diagnose the problem. But what happens when we are trying to diagnose organisms that have no way to tell us what is wrong, and no way of knowing how badly they are affected? For instance, in the case of many marine organisms, illness is being caused by humans. We have used our oceans such that they now contain areas with little to no oxygen, where life is barely sustainable. How does this, combined with ongoing pollution and human activities, stress marine life? More
The mantis shrimp diverged evolutionarily from the crustacean mainline about 400 years ago and have since developed unique characteristics. Unlike most other crustaceans, they actively hunt prey and kill it with a crushing blow which has been theorized to be strong enough to create bubbles containing gas at temperatures upwards of 2000 Kelvin. This quality, however, is nowhere near as stunning as the mantis shrimp’s most incredible attribute: their eyes. In April 2001, the most comprehensive paper to date describing the mantis shrimp’s visual system was published by Justin Marshall and Thomas Cronin in The Biological Bulletin. In their paper, the authors described the unusual characteristics of the mantis shrimp visual system and hypothesized the applications of this system in the development of machine vision. More
Philosophy of Mind came into its most compelling forms during the age of modern philosophy beginning with René Descartes. Perhaps infamously, Descartes claimed that mind and body are two distinct substances – philosophical jargon for what exists without the aid of any other thing. For Descartes, the world was clearly and distinctly physical in one sense and entirely mental in another. This seems perplexing, and Descartes did concede that the mind and body were closely intertwined and appeared to act with respect to one another, but his arguments clearly press that they are not causally connected in any way. These notions of dualism seem nearly preposterous with the advent of modern science, but were nonetheless important in developing our thought about the mind in the modern era.
Dualism gave rise to other interesting, yet now strongly refuted movements. One of these was idealism, or the doctrine argued famously by George Berkeley that states that all that exists are either ‘ideas’ or minds that perceive them. In this sense, an idea is defined as that which is perceived, inclusive of information imprinted on the senses, passions and operations of the mind, and conceptions formed by imagination and memory. Importantly, Berkeley argues that these ideas exist ‘in the mind’ exclusively: that is, they are purely mental and all things are simply combinations and aggregations of ideas. These immaterial ‘ideas’ then, are the only objects of human knowledge under idealism, and this theory denies the existence of physical objects entirely! The notion seems preposterous, but there is a very interesting argument found within idealism that can throw our conception of perception for quite the proverbial loop. More
As I’ve struggled to think of a topic to kick off my sophomore year blog series, I’ve scanned over practically every YouTube video and online article trying to find some sort of inspiration to come up with the next hot topic. While pop culture is at a stand still at this point with the media hiding under every surface because of the heat from “Occupy this, that, and the next big city,” I’ve decided that I’m going to switch up my role as a writer.
Rather than informing you, my lovely audience, about some irrelevant pop culture icon or explaining random biological processes, I’m going to create my own rant about success. However, this wouldn’t belong in the nerve blog if it was just some college student rambling about his own opinions that nobody cares to listen to, so for that reason, I’ll tie in a norepinephrine reference to make it real ‘neuroscience-y.’ So if you’ve made it through my introduction and are interested in seeing what I have to say, please continue. But, if your already making disgruntled looks at your computer screen after the first two paragraphs, now is the time for you to return to Facebook or whatever else you may be doing… More
“As I closed my eyes, images – if they can be called such – began racing at an ever-increasing speed before me. Swirls of colors, shapes, forms, textures and sounds simply overpowered me to the point where I became immobile. Like many others before me, no doubt, I became somewhat frightened. What had I let myself in for? When I opened my eyes, the phantasmagoria of forms vanished, and I saw myself in the same room with the others”
Donald M. Topping’s description is very similar to the accounts many others have given. He brought up many questions on the vividness of visions produced after his very first ingestion of the hallucinogenic brew Ayahausca. What underlying brain mechanisms allow potentially healing, uplifting and fearful experiences to occur behind closed eyelids? That is what Draulio B. de Araujo and others sought out to find. More