still dichotomous

Was amused recently to read (in a fairly daunting exposition of how different parts of the brain get activated under exposure to different language-related stimuli) that truth isn’t a dichotomous variable.

The argument seemed to go: Extreme Position A is known not to be tenable (eg, that there is some specific part of the brain that is devoted to language processing), and Extreme Position B is also known not to be tenable (eg, that all parts of the brain get activated at once, given any kind of stimulus). Our best guess of what really goes on in the brain when listeners are processing language is some combination of these extremes. Therefore, truth is not dichotomous.

Irrelevant to the discussion, and false anyway.


4 thoughts on “still dichotomous

  1. This hasn’t anything to do with language but, speaking of “what really goes on in the brain,” have you heard of the brain condition in which certain people experience sound (especially music) as colors? The French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) had it. For instance, he might say that, if someone played a C-Major chord on the piano, he “experienced” the sound as being brown. A very strange thing, yet scientists think that, in that condition, certain “wires get crossed” in the brain, thereby linking sounds with colors, which doesn’t happen in a “normal” brain.

    I wonder what the “wiring” is like in people with photographic memories…


  2. Richard, it’s called synaesthesia. Very interesting (but unfortunately outside of my expertise).

    Cath, for all we disagree, I have to echo your disapproval of this odd line of reasoning. Why are people so keen to demote truth to some vaporous relativism?

    I am curious to see the original, though. It seems to me (based on no context) that they might have been talking about our neurological construction of truth. The brain certainly is a messy place, and we are indubitably capable of strange distortions in our beliefs about what’s true.


  3. Synaesthesia, yes – meant to say so at the time. Someone in the Psychology dept at Edinburgh studies it, and apart from that I know nothing about it.

    Could try and find it when I’m back in Ed, but it was a random philosophical point in what was otherwise a discussion about patterns of brain activation.

    Is truth not relative then, do you think?


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