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Cognitivism/Neuroscience

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Ever since the 1960s, an important [[body ]] of [[thought ]] has developed in reaction to the presumed behaviorism according to which [[intellectual ]] [[activity ]] is beyond the grasp of any [[form ]] of [[scientific ]] investigation. Cognitivism has marked a [[return ]] to a scientific approach to [[mental ]] activity that has materialized in the [[development ]] of the cognitive [[sciences]].
The term refers to those sciences that study systems for representing [[understanding ]] and the processing of information. Included in the term are certain areas of speculative research ([[philosophy ]] of [[mind]]), artificial intelligence, semantic, syntactic, and lexical models ([[linguistics]]), the study of [[human ]] activities ([[psychology]]), and the neuronal basis of those activities (neuroscience). These disciplines do not fall entirely within the field of cognitive [[science ]] ([[social ]] psychology or the [[neurobiology ]] of development, for example).
Cognitivism originally developed as an interdisciplinary activity. The [[work ]] of Jean Piaget on genetic [[epistemology ]] and the work of Edward Toman on cognitive [[mapping ]] opened the way in psychology long before [[Miller]], Galanter, and Pribram's seminal work, Plans and the [[Structure ]] of [[Behavior ]] (1960). The term "artificial intelligence" was coined during a [[seminar ]] by Herbert Simon.
The application of the methods of cognitive science to the field of [[psychopathology ]] is more [[recent ]] (M. C. Hardy-Baylé, 1996) and is based on work in the philosophy of mind and a renewed interest in [[phenomenology ]] as well as on expert systems in artificial intelligence (models of [[paranoid ]] thought, Parry), and especially experimental research (anomalies in the processing of information during [[schizophrenic ]] states or a slowing down of the decision-making [[process ]] during depressive states).
The development of cognitivism did not fail to arouse suspicion and opposition on the part of [[psychoanalysts]]. Some of their reservations were based on a confusion with so-called cognitive therapies, which in [[reality ]] have to do with the [[content ]] of representations (judgment errors) and not the underlying mechanisms. They are based on the use of [[suggestion]], which falls within the [[domain ]] of behavioral [[therapy]], which in turn draws on behaviorism. More serious reservations involve the fact that cognitivism, which is primarily concerned with understanding, has often neglected the [[role ]] of affects and has not sufficiently taken into consideration the question of motivation or the role of the body.
For their part cognitive science specialists have contested the scientific [[value ]] of [[psychoanalytic ]] theories and, until recently, have had little interest in the area of [[pathology]].
In fact it is easy to show that Sigmund [[Freud]]'s early work clearly makes use of a cognitive approach (H. K. Pribram, M. Gill, [[1968 ]] ), as does chapter seven of the [[Interpretation ]] of [[Dreams ]] and a [[number ]] of later [[texts]]. Gradually the emphasis on a [[dynamic ]] and [[economic ]] approach shifted the investigation to why rather than how. David Rapaport and, later, Georges [[Klein ]] resumed the study of thought mechanisms to compare [[them ]] with experimental results. Their premature deaths and the still strong influence of behaviorism on the psychology of the [[time ]] explain the delay before psychoanalysts actually got around to confronting these issues directly (P. Holzman, G. Aronson, 1992, D. Widlöcher, 1993).
This confrontation appears to have shocked psychoanalysts, to the extent that they were accustomed to question these disciplines in [[isolation ]] (psychology, linguistics, [[logic ]] modeling) and not within an interdisciplinary framework. If [[psychoanalysis ]] is to assume its [[place ]] within this framework, the [[terms ]] of its inclusion must be specified. It would be necessary to acknowledge that psychoanalysis is a unique form of [[communication ]] and not a science. The [[knowledge ]] gained from it concerns [[complex ]] [[objects ]] that [[other ]] approaches must first break down into more simple objects.
Such an [[exchange ]] can benefit the cognitive sciences by exposing them to an area of mental [[life ]] that has not been explored by them. Psychoanalysis can benefit by escaping the intellectual isolation of their field. It is less obvious how psychoanalytic [[treatment]], as the investigation of the [[unconscious]], can benefit from a more [[analytic ]] knowledge of the complex objects it engages.
DANIEL WIDLÖCHER
See also: Amnesia; [[Archetype ]] (analytical psychology); Body; Non-[[verbal ]] communication; [[Psychic ]] [[causality]]; Psychogenesis/organogenesis.[[Bibliography]]
* Hardy-Baylé, Marie-Christine. (1996). Troubles de l'information et troubles mentaux. In Daniel Widlöcher (Ed.). Traité de psychopathologie (pp. 463-496). Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
== In the work of Slavoj Žižek ==
Slavoj Žižek’s engagements with life-scientific treatments of human mindedness should be [[understood]], straightforwardly enough, as fundamentally motivated by his [[materialist ]] commitments. Žižekian [[materialism ]] can fairly be portrayed as involving a reactivation of the [[German ]] idealist ambitions of the youthful Tübingen trio of [[Schelling]], Hölderlin and [[Hegel]]. Th is late-eighteenth-century [[philosophical ]] agenda, carried forward by Schelling and Hegel over the course of their subsequent intellectual itineraries, aimed at a difficult systematic [[synthesis ]] of the [[apparent ]] opposites of [[natural ]] substance à la [[Spinoza ]] and the [[transcendental ]] [[subject ]] ''à la'' [[Kant ]] and [[Fichte ]] (an agenda sometimes subsumed under the banner of a “Spinozism of freedom”). Needless to say, in the more than two hundred years between the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the twenty-first, countless philosophical, scientific, [[political]], [[religious ]] and other changes directly relevant to “The Earliest [[System]]-Programme of German Idealism” (a succinct 1796 manifesto authored by either Hölderlin or Hegel) have amassed. While carefully taking these historical changes into consideration, Žižek nevertheless seeks likewise to develop a robust account of [[autonomous ]] [[subjectivity ]] as immanent-yet-irreducible to asubjective [[being ]] as conceived of within the constraints of a strictly materialist [[ontology]]. Of course, as is common knowledge, he favours [[Lacanian ]] psychoanalytic [[theory ]] as an indispensable post-[[Hegelian ]] resource for this effort to revivify the legacy of [[German idealism]].
However, the role of [[Marxism ]] in relation to Žižek’s redeployment of the German idealists (Hegel especially) warrants a few remarks. Like [[Marx ]] and Engels as well as the [[Lenin ]] of the ''[[Philosophical Notebooks]]'' before him, Žižek labours to retrieve from Hegelian philosophy, viewed as the apex of [[German idealism]], its specifically materialist [[concepts ]] and moments. That is to say, Žižek’s Hegel already espouses versions of historical and [[dialectical ]] materialisms (albeit ''avant la [[lettre]]''). The [[Marxist ]] [[tradition ]] also is highly relevant apropos the topic of the empirical life sciences in relation to [[theoretical ]] materialism. Although Žižek himself does not spend much time highlighting this, a [[good ]] number of Marxists, starting with Marx and Engels themselves (who were galvanized by the 1859 publication of Darwin’s ''[[The Origin of Species]]''), grappled with the implications of [[biology ]] and its branches for historical/dialectical materialism. Key examples of this include [[three ]] books by Engels (''[[Dialectics of Nature]]'', 1883, ''[[Anti-Dühring]]'', 1887, and ''[[Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy]]'', 1888), Dietzgen’s ''[[The Nature of Human Brain-Work]]'' (1869), Lenin’s ''[[Materialism and Empirio-Criticism]]'' (1908) and Bukharin’s ''[[Philosophical Arabesques]]'' (1937). Brusquely dismissed by the young Lukács and subsequently eclipsed from consideration in most Western Marxist circles, these pioneering efforts to interface historical/dialectical materialism with the natural sciences find echoes in Žižek’s explorations of contemporary cognitive science and neurobiology (as well as echoes in the works of Stephen Jay Gould, to whom Žižek periodically appeals, and the Richards Levins and Lewontin).
''[[The Indivisible Remainder: An Essay on Schelling and Related Matters]]'' contains arguably Žižek’s first sustained examination of a [[natural science ]] in its [[third ]] and final chapter, “Quantum [[Physics ]] with Lacan” (this is appropriate for a book on Schelling, whose science-inspired Naturphilosophie is one of the main orientations represented within German [[idealism]]). Quite recently, in the fourteenth and final chapter of ''[[Less Than Nothing|Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism]]'', Žižek revisits the terrain of [[quantum physics]] (incidentally, this hulking tome also contains an “Interlude” formulating an incisive critique of cognitivist Douglas Hofstadter’s 2007 book ''[[I Am a Strange Loop]]''). However, in so far as Žižek is interested in forging a neither reductive nor eliminative materialist theory of minded [[subjects]], the physics of the extremely small is far from enough for his purposes. A turn to the biology of the mid-sized organisms that are human beings is necessary.
One of Žižek’s earliest ventures onto the territories covered by cognitive science is his 1998 essay “[[The Cartesian Subject versus the Cartesian Theater]]” (in ''[[Cogito and the Unconscious]]'', a multi-contributor volume he edited). Therein, he employs American Analytic [[philosopher ]] of mind [[Daniel Dennett ]] (specifically, Dennett’s 1991 book ''[[Consciousness Explained]]'', with its quasi-Humean, neuro-science-inspired assault on standard notions of [[self]]-hood or personal [[identity]]) as a foil enabling him to clarify further his rendition of subjectivity as a [[cogito]]-like [[void ]] of kinetic negativity – more precisely, Lacan’s [[barred ]] subject ($) and the Freudian–Lacanian [[death-drive]] as re-read through the lenses furnished by Kant and the post-Kantian idealists. Situating Dennett within a larger contemporary constellation of all those declaring the modern subject [[dead ]] or deconstructed in different ways – anti-Cartesianism makes for very strange bedfellows, bringing together a wide variety of otherwise unrelated or even antagonistic orientations (as observed through a paraphrasing of the opening lines of ''[[The Communist Manifesto]]'' at the start of 1999’s ''[[The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology]]'') – Žižek strives to extract from Dennett’s stance resources for his own [[position ]] as well as to pinpoint what a cognitive and evolutionist approach of this sort fails to appreciate in [[German idealist]] and Lacanian models of subjectivity, themselves [[interpreted ]] as elaborations and extensions of the [[Cartesian ]] [[model]].
As he similarly underscores in his contributions to the 2000 book ''[[Contingency, Hegemony, Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left]]'' (co-authored with [[Judith Butler]] and [[Ernesto Laclau]]), Žižek in 1998 claims that dissolutions of a [[stable ]] self or “me” into a [[plurality ]] of disparate bits and pieces, whether as Dennett’s “multiple drafts” depiction of [[consciousness ]] or any other number of other fragmentations of the “I” as classically conceived, ironically bring the cogito-like modern subject into even sharper relief, rather than, as this subject’s critics intend, invalidate it. Th is [[claim ]] [[about ]] the self-subverting irony of these sorts of critiques is underpinned by Žižek’s [[thesis ]] according to which Cartesian-style subjectivity is [[nothing ]] other than the hollowed-out [[virtual ]] [[space ]] of an insubstantial, anonymous, faceless emptiness – not to be confused with the substantial, fleshed-out [[contents ]] of familiar selfhood or recognizable personal identity – serving as a condition of possibility for the [[manifest ]] comings and goings of the fragments of the disunifi ed “postmodern” person. Kant’s and Hegel’s dismantlings of the substance [[metaphysics ]] of early-modern “rational “[[rational]] psychology” and Lacan’s [[distinction ]] between the ego (''moi'') and the subject (''[[sujet]]'') are pivotal precursors and points of reference for this Žižekian line of argumentation.
In the 2004 books ''[[Organs without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences]]'' and ''[[Conversations with Žižek]]'' (with [[Glyn Daly]]) Žižek deepens his engagements with cognitive science and neurobiology. Through references to life-scientifi c thinkers such as [[Richard Dawkins]], [[Lynn Margulis]], [[Humberto Maturana]], [[Stephen Pinker]] and [[Francisco Varela]], he outlines a number of speculative trajectories stemming from his approach to things [[biological ]] via the [[triad ]] of [[German idealism]], Marxism and psychoanalysis: the emergence of the cogito-like subject from the substances and [[processes ]] described by biology and evolutionary theory; the implications for [[images ]] and [[ideas ]] of [[nature ]] of this precise sort of Hegelian-dialectical emergentism; the immanent genesis of dis/mal-adapted humanity out of evolutionary pressures; the compatibility of German idealist, Marxist and psychoanalytic perspectives on [[language ]] with meme theory; and the agreements and disagreements between a Lacanian theory of the [[libidinal ]] [[economy ]] and more naturalist renditions of the motivational forces and factors moving humanity. These musings set the [[stage ]] for Žižek’s most significant treatment of biological topics in his 2006 book ''[[The Parallax View]]''.
Therein, Žižek wrestles directly with the neurosciences through readings of [[Antonio Damasio]] and [[Joseph LeDoux]] in [[particular]], in addition to addressing once again a number of Analytic [[philosophers]], cognitive scientists and evolutionary theorists addressed by him in previous texts (some of whom are mentioned above). Damasio’s and LeDoux’s research in “affective “[[affective]] neuroscience” is critically evaluated on the basis of Lacan’s [[metapsychology ]] of [[affect]]. But the [[figure ]] of contemporary philosopher [[Catherine Malabou]], a former student of [[Jacques Derrida|Derrida]] and [[author ]] of a Žižek-[[beloved ]] study of Hegel (''[[The Future of Hegel: Plasticity, Temporality and Dialectic]]'', 2004), is by far the most important new reference along these lines featuring in ''[[The Parallax View]]''. In ''[[What Should We Do with Our Brain?]]'' (2008) and other texts, Malabou utilizes the empirical fact of [[neuroplasticity]] to initiate a comprehensive philosophical reassessment of biological [[analyses ]] of [[humans ]] in the vein of [[dialectical materialism]]. Although Žižek, in the fourth chapter of 2010’s ''[[Living in the End Times]]'', subsequently voices reservations about Malabou’s more recent book ''[[The New Wounded: From Neurosis to Brain Damage]]'' (2012) – he faults her for misunderstanding [[the cogito]] as a pure void surviving even the most psychically devastating traumas impacting the self as well as for failing to grasp the [[true ]] nature of Lacanian [[jouissance]] proper – her Hegel-inspired and science-informed materialist recastings of subjectivity remain extremely close to Žižek’s heart.
What Žižek and Malabou share in common is a determination fully to take into consideration the undeniable relevance of the natural sciences for a materialist theory of the subject without, for all that, giving up on the irreducibly nonnatural dimensions of subjectivity as uncovered within the [[past ]] two centuries of European philosophy as well as [[Freudian ]] psychoanalysis. This requires a series of very delicate balancing [[acts]]. But a categorically anti-naturalist materialism is no materialism whatsoever. 
==References==
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