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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 January 2009

Kathleen V. Wilkes
St Hilda's College, Oxford


As philosophers of mind we seem to hold in common no very clear view about the relevance that work in psychology or the neurosciences may or may not have to our own favourite questions—even if we call the subject ‘philosophical psychology’. For example, in the literature we find articles on pain some of which do, some of which don't, rely more or less heavily on, for example, the work of Melzack and Wall; the puzzle cases used so extensively in discussions of personal identity are drawn sometimes from the pleasant exercise of scientific fantasy, at times from surprising reports of scientific fact; and there are those who deny, as well as those who affirm, the importance of the discovery of rapid-eye-movement sleep to the philosophical treatment of dreaming. A general account of the relation between scientific, and philosophical, psychology is long overdue and of the first importance. Here I shall limit myself to just one area where the two seem to connect, discussing one type of neuropsychological research and its relevance to questions in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of psychology.

Copyright © The Royal Institute of Philosophy 1980

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1 . See Nagel, T., ‘Brain Bisection and the Unity of Consciousness’, Synthèse XXII (1978), 396413Google Scholar; Puccetti, R., ‘Brain Bisection and Personal Identity’, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science XXIV (1973), 339355CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and my ‘Consciousness and Commissurotomy’, Philosophy 53 (1978), 185199.Google Scholar

2 They do not always permit. Commissurotomy patients, with a history of severe epileptic fits, frequently have some brain damage.

3 All tastes are experienced by both hemispheres together; these cannot be lateralized.

4 I shall argue later that psychologists can and should allow themselves to do this. Prima facie, however, it is at least mildly odd to talk of half-brains thinking, guessing, believing and so forth.

5 The cutting-off might be due to damage to the splenium (the lower end of the corpus callosum, across which visual data are transmitted), or it might be due to a lesion deep in the white matter of the left parieto-occipital junction. See Geschwind, N., ‘The Alexias’, in Geschwind, N., Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, XVI (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1974), 382430.Google Scholar

6 Ibid., 395–396

7 Hinshelwood, J., Letter-, Word-, and Mind-Blindness (London: H. K. Lewis, 1900), 6971.Google Scholar

8 Gardner, H., The Shattered Mind (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977), 121.Google Scholar

9 Ibid., 16.

10 See Geschwind, , op. cit., note 5, 396397.Google Scholar

11 Luria, A. R., The Working Brain (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973), 10.Google Scholar

12 Gardner, , op. cit., note 8, 153156Google Scholar; and Bornstein, B., ‘Prosopagnosia’, Problems in Dynamic Neurology, Halpern, L. (ed.) (Jerusalem: Hebrew University Press, 1963), 132164.Google Scholar

13 Luria, A. R., Tsvetkova, L. S., and Futer, J. C., ‘Aphasia in a Composer’, Journal of Neurological Sciences 2 (1965), 288292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

14 Op. cit., note 11, 142.

15 Ibid., 297–302.

16 Op. cit., note 8, 75–83.

17 Op. cit., note 5, 207 and 319.

18 Ibid., 319–320; and Luria, A. R., Restoration of Function After Brain Injury (New York: Macmillan, 1963), 9293.Google Scholar

19 Gerstmann, J. describes ‘his’ syndrome in ‘Zur Symptomatologie der Hirnläsionem im Ubergangsgebiet der unteren Parietal und mittleren Occipital wendung’, Nervenarzt III (1930), 691695.Google Scholar

20 See Geschwind, N., ‘Developmental Gerstmann Syndrome’, in op. cit., note 5, 370381.Google Scholar

21 See Luria, A. R., Human Brain and Psychological Processes (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), 9192; and his op. cit., note 18.Google Scholar

22 Valenstein, E. S., Brain Control (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1973), 131143.Google Scholar

23 Geschwind, N., ‘Acquired Disorders of Reading’, in op. cit., note 5, 14.Google Scholar

24 See Dunham, P. J., Experimental Psychology: Theory and Practice (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), 142143.Google Scholar

25 Mandler, G. and Kessen, W., The Language of Psychology (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1959), 79.Google Scholar

26 It is Puccetti (op. cit., note 1) who goes so far as to talk in terms of two persons coexisting in a single body.

27 Mutatis mutandis, the same freedom belongs to workers in artificial intelligence describing the powers of their machines. For further discussion, see my ‘Anthropomorphism and Analogy in Psychology’, Philosophical Quarterly XXIV (1974), 126137.Google Scholar

28 In Physicalism (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978).Google Scholar

29 Quine, W. V. O., ‘Natural Kinds’, in his Ontological Relativity and Other Essays (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969), 128.Google Scholar

30 When Aristotle says (in the Nicomachean Ethics III, 1Google Scholar) that the voluntary agent is one who has the archē in himself, to act or refrain from acting, this ‘archē’ is not the will. It picks out what we need to cite to explain the action—i.e. the agent himself, with his plans and beliefs, rather than a blow or a gust of wind. As for ‘sense-datum’, the rare form ‘aisthemata’ (the nearest Aristotle ever gets to ‘sense-datum’) never means a private or inner object of sight in the discussion of perception.

31 Dennett, D. C., ‘Intentional Systems’, Journal of Philosophy LXVIII (1971), 87106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

32 Earlier versions of this paper were read at the universities of Ottawa and Western Ontario, and I am most grateful for the comments and criticisms in the ensuing discussions. I am also indebted to Tom Nagel for his helpful remarks.

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