The Neuroscience of Freedom and Creativity

Earlier this year I trailed Joaquín Fuster’s latest book that he so kindly sent me as an uncorrected galley. I’m pleased to report that the book is now finally available. Not surprisingly, Hayek features in this work. If anyone suitably qualified would like to review this book for The Journal of Mind and Behavior or Cognitive Systems Research, please let me know. Pat Churchland has given it a resounding thumbs up.

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Hayek in Today’s Cognitive Neuroscience

Check out Joaquín Fuster’s recent paper:

Only now, more than half a century after the publication of his theoretical book (Hayek, 1952), is the reaction to Hayek’s argument beginning to be heard. And it’s a positive reaction, now supported by facts. He used to say that without a theory the facts are silent. Now, belatedly reacting to his book, we can confidently say that modern facts speak eloquently for his theory. In order to understand how modern facts meet Hayek, it is necessary to understand where his thinking came from and where cognitive neuroscience has been going in the past 50 years. Only in this manner can we fully appreciate the happy convergence of two trends of cognitive neuroscience that for most of the 20th century have developed far apart from each other. One is the ‘‘modular’’ trend (one cerebral module for each cognitive function), the other the ‘‘distributed’’ or reticular trend (brain networks of distributed knowledge participating in all the cognitive functions that adapt the individual to his environment). In his The Sensory Order, Hayek was the first to theoretically adopt the latter trend, which has lately developed greatly. Yet, astonishingly, to this day, most of the main actors in the field of cognitive neuroscience don’t even know of Hayek. In my opinion, the chief reason for this lingering neglect of his ideas is the language he used in his book. For example, he used terms that are unusual in physiological psychology, such as ‘‘following’’ and ‘‘map,’’ to characterize what in modern translation corresponds to synaptic association and neural network, respectively. Three powerful intellectual currents shaped Hayek’s psychology: Vienna’s logical positivism, Gestalt psychology, and psychophysics. Curiously, he tried to disown all three, yet ended up modifying them and incorporating them in his thinking.Afourth current, the dynamic systems theory of Von Bertalanffy (1950), came natural to him to theorize about the brain after having accepted the relational code of Gestalt (Koffka, 1935). After all, Hayek had been applying general complex systems theory to economics. With his application of that theory to psychology came the acceptance of a cortical dynamics in which the whole is more than the sum of the parts and irreducible to them: a cortical dynamics in which relationships were established by cell connections. Yet, in his time, little was known about the connectivity or physiology of the brain to support the relational anatomical code or the dynamics of the perceptual system that he devised. Now we know much more about them. Like the positivists of the ‘‘Vienna Circle,’’ Hayek advocated the use of the scientific method devoid of metaphysics as the only valid approach to human knowledge. In dealing with perception, however, he rejected the purely empiricist tenets of the positivists (like his friend Karl Popper, another quasi-renegade among them). According to Hayek, no perception was reducible to raw sensation. The concept of the brain as tabula rasa or passive recipient of sensations was to him unacceptable. The ‘‘elementary sensations’’ (e.g., a pure color) proposed by Ernst Mach (1885), the famous psychophysicist, were literally meaningless as a foundation for perception. Even the simplest of sensations is based on prior experience, either by the self or by the species – thus, in the latter case, inherited.

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Connectome

Here’s a recent WSJ article summing up the state of play in mapping brain connectivity. Here is Susan Bookheimer who holds the Joaquin Fuster Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience chair at UCLA – Fuster is off course a name many readers will recognise from my postings here and here. The images are from the Human Connectome Project.

“The study of connectivity is as hot as hot can get,” said Susan Bookheimer, a neuropsychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who is the new head of the Organization of Human Brain Mapping, a large international professional society of neuroimaging researchers.

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Hayek in Mind: Editorial Introduction

Here is an uncorrected proof (do not cite) of my introduction to Hayek in Mind: Hayek’s Philosophical Psychology. Further details will be made available just as soon as the publisher has updated the webpage for this book (according to Amazon the book will be made available on December 13th). A dedicated website to the volume can be found here.

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Trailing Hayek in Mind

Here is the table of contents for my forthcoming (in press) edited volume focusing on The Sensory Order – this is the first salvo of shameless promotion.

CONTENTS

“SOCIALIZING” THE MIND AND “COGNITIVIZING” SOCIALITY

Leslie Marsh

“MARGINAL MEN”: WEIMER ON HAYEK

Walter Weimer

PART I: NEUROSCIENCE

HAYEK IN TODAY’S COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE

Joaquín Fuster

THE NON-CARTESIAN VIEW AND THE BRAIN

Erol Başar

PART II: PHILOSOPHY OF MIND

HAYEK’S QUESTION: HOW CAN PARTS OF THE WORLD COME TO MODEL THE REST OF THE WORLD

Joshua Rust

HAYEK’S SPECULATIVE PSYCHOLOGY, THE NEUROSCIENCE OF VALUE ESTIMATION AND THE BASIS OF NORMATIVE INDIVIDUALISM

Don Ross

HAYEK, POPPER AND THE CAUSAL THEORY OF THE MIND

Edward Feser

PEIRCE AND HAYEK ON THE ABSTRACT NATURE OF COGNITION AND SENSATION

James Wible

HAYEK’S POST-POSITIVIST EMPIRICISM: EXPERIENCE BEYOND SENSATION

Jan Willem Lindemans

A NOTE ON THE INFLUENCE OF MACH’S PSYCHOLOGY IN HAYEK’S PSYCHOLOGY

Giandomenica Becchio

PART III: MIND AND SOCIALITY

THE EMERGENCE OF THE MIND: HAYEK’S ACCOUNT OF MENTAL PHENOMENA AS A PRODUCT OF SPONTANEOUS PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL ORDERS

Gloria Zúñiga y Postigo

HAYEK’S SELF-ORGANIZING MENTAL ORDER AND FOLK-PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORIES OF THE MIND

Chiara Chelini

BEYOND COMPLEXITY: CAN THE SENSORY ORDER DEFEND THE LIBERAL SELF?

Chor-yung Cheung

COGNITIVE OPENING AND CLOSING: TOWARDS AN EXPLORATION OF THE MENTAL WORLD OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Thierry Aimar

GETTING TO THE HAYEKIAN NETWORK

 Troy Camplin

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Brain-Body-Mind

Here is the recently published book by my chum Erol Başar who as it happens is also contributing to my forthcoming edited book entitled Hayek in Mind: Hayek’s Philosophical Psychology. Not surprisingly,  there is much reference to Hayek’s The Sensory Order peppered throughout Erol’s book most notably in section 2.12 (pp. 39-41). Other distinguished neuroscientists who appreciate the virtues of Hayek’s prescient insights include of course Fuster and Edelman. Erol writes:

The writing of a monograph on brain-body-mind is extremely ambitious. This is because I think that Friedrich von Hayek was correct when he stated (1952), “The mind must remain forever in a realm of its own, which we shall never be able fully to explain.”

I unfashionably argue for this view in a forthcoming paper borrowing Colin McGinn’s phrase “Cognitive Closure.”

Joaquin Fuster

I recently had the honor and good fortune to be on the same panel as neuroscientist Joaquin Fuster. We had been in correspondence over the years: the intellectual generosity of this man, one of the giants in the field, knows no bounds. I was thrilled to finally meet him in person. Below are some shots of him in full flight – his talk was entitled “Frederick Hayek’s Theory of Mind and Human Cognition.” (As co-panelist I was pitching Hayek as an extended mind theorist of sorts). Here is a lecture of Joaquin’s entitled “Distributed Memory and the Perception-Action Cycle” that is not far removed from his talk in San Diego. Here are some highlights from a recent lecture entitled “The brain is a search engine.”

In conversation with Roland Zahn, another fascinating mind.

Dinner with yours truly.

Hayek: cognitive scientist avant la lettre

Here is the uncorrected proof of my essay – do not cite.

Hayek in Mind

Here is an interview with the editors of Advances in Austrian Economics.