Thursday, 19 June 2014

Workshop on Functions in the Mind and Brain Mechanisms

Mickeln Castle
On May 19th and 20th, we had the chance of hosting “Functions in the mind and brain mechanisms” – an international workshop, at the Schloss Mickeln of the Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf (Germany). This event was organized in the broader context of our research project devoted to the classification of mental disorders (B06) of the CRC 991 research center on the Structure of representations in language, cognition and science.

The workshop aimed at taking a closer look at the increasingly tighter relations between psychiatry and cognitive neuroscience, while focusing on the role of abnormal cognition in cognitive scientific inquiries. Researchers from disciplines as diverse as psychiatry, philosophies of mind and science, that are unfortunately only tenuously connected, were invited to explore the different available approaches of mental disorders in psychiatry and their relation to cognitive scientific meta-theoretical accounts, such as the widespread mechanistic view of neuroscience.

After a thematic introduction by me, Jens Harbecke and Markus Eronen introduced some of the most pressing constraints on multi-level explanations in cognitive science broadly construed. The former argued that neither Maar’s computational model nor Craver’s mechanistic framework are materially adequate, but that they might combine to provide an adequate characterization of explanation in cognitive neuroscience. The latter focused on the notion of ‘level’, arguing that a deflationary account is the only way to escape important metaphysical difficulties raised by the assumption that multi-level explanations require a plurality of non-identical ontological levels.

Kengo Miyazono and Jean-Michel Roy explored various aspects of delusions, as tokens of abnormal cognitive phenomena. Kengo highlighted the relations between various forms of functionalism in the philosophy of mind and doxasticism with respect to delusions. He emphasized that doxasticism is likely to be true within a teleo-functionalist framework, as opposed to the context of “drier” functionalist frameworks. Jean-Michel argued that the content of the pathological experience of control delusion is no different than an illusory non-pathological experience of external control in what he calls the Sense of Ownership/Sense of Agency interpretation.

Peter Hucklenbroich opened the workshop’s second day with a thorough discussion of the various constraints shaping psychiatry as a field of scientific investigation, as well as an academic discipline and an institutionalized therapeutic practice. Jürgen Zielasek presented a detailed overview of the state of the art, research directions and issues with respect to classification of mental disorders. Stressing the complexity and the heterogeneity of the involved variables, he emphasized that that the overall atheoretical and descriptive approach of ICD-10 and DSM-V will remain stable in the near future.

Focusing on the normativity issue in the philosophy of psychiatry, Tim Thornton provided some pervasive insights with respect to the naturalization of biological and cognitive functions. Tim argued that even Millikan’s account, which he takes to be the most promising one, faces the Wittgensteinian challenge raised by the rule-following problem that eventually leads teleo-functionalist accounts towards a vicious regress. Finally, Derek Strijbos reviewed the different theoretical approaches of the concept of ‘mental disorder’, and advertised the benefits of causal network approaches analyzing the causal structure of psychiatric conditions without necessarily relying on hidden dysfunctioning variables.

All in all, the workshop provided an excellent overview of some of the central issues in the philosophy of psychiatry. It highlighted the importance of sharing research results between different fields of investigations, both within philosophy as well as across disciplines, which, at a time of advanced academic specialization, tend not to interact enough. The organizers plan to have another workshop next year, this time emphasizing on psychiatry rather than philosophy. I shall be announcing the workshop here in due time.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated.