Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Naturalizing the Spiritual: Lessons from Cognitive Science



On November 13th, 2007, I gave a talk at a meeting of the Yale Divinity School Initiative in Religion, Science and Technology, entitled: "Naturalizing the Spiritual: Lessons from Cognitive Science". This recording includes introductions from both James van Pelt and Wendell Wallach, so the lecture itself doesn't start until about 6:30 into the recording. Also, I took far too long to get to the point, spending the first half of my time on a tutorial concerning the various means of naturalization (reduction, elimination, etc). So at the end, there are many slides that whiz by with no comment from me. If anyone goes to the trouble of freeze-framing these final slides long enough to read them (or, more plausibly, reads them in the PowerPoint file, below) and wants to know more, they should feel free to email me.

Abstract: The primary goal of cognitive science is to naturalize the mind: to show how mental phenomena, with their distinctive properties of normativity and subjectivity, can be accommodated within a natural scientific world view that is usually thought to have little room for such notions. Over the course of two decades of disputes as to how or whether this can be done a number of possible strategies, conceived as relations between mental and physical discourse, have been identified: non-reductive elimination, reductive elimination, reductive accomodation, and non-reductive accommodation. These distinctions will be applied to the case of (some kinds of) spiritual discourse to help identify the possibilities for, and prospects of, the naturalization of the spiritual.

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