note on pathology vs. neurology

Filed under: by: Kevin

It is interesting to note that while much of the phenomenological literature draws on pathology for its psychological data, much of the more mainstream computationalist literature draws on neurology. There is something telling in this discrepancy: pathology has already built into it notions of normativity and functionality (or dysfunctionality) within an environment. This is useful to the phenomenologist, for whom the original project is to characterize how the subject takes up with her environment. In a sense, intentionality is part of the level of description from which pathology begins. The computationalist, on the other hand, is interested in describing the neural architecture of the brain from the standpoint of the methodological solipsist. The starting point isn't how the subject experiences and performs in her environment, but how neurological processes can be correlated with cognitive processes. Neurology has none of the normativity built into it that pathology does. The pressing question for neurology then is how to derive intentionality and phenomenal experience from the low-level brain processes that it studies. The pressing question for pathology is how to correlate the segments of intentional behavior or experience that it isolates with the observed brain damage. The former is down-up and the latter is top-down. The question, then, is: how do we allow for the two approaches to meet? Without integrating data from both research programs, there is too much room for talking past each other.