Neural plasticity and the limits of scientific knowledge

Parpia, Pasha (2015) Neural plasticity and the limits of scientific knowledge. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

Western science claims to provide unique, objective information about the world. This
is supported by the observation that peoples across cultures will agree upon a common
description of the physical world. Further, the use of scientific instruments and
mathematics is claimed to enable the objectification of science.

In this work, carried out by reviewing the scientific literature, the above claims are
disputed systematically by evaluating the definition of physical reality and the scientific
method, showing that empiricism relies ultimately upon the human senses for the
evaluation of scientific theories and that measuring instruments cannot replace the
human sensory system.

Nativist and constructivist theories of human sensory development are reviewed, and it
is shown that nativist claims of core conceptual knowledge cannot be supported by the
findings in the literature, which shows that perception does not simply arise from a
process of maturation. Instead, sensory function requires a long process of learning
through interactions with the environment.

To more rigorously define physical reality and systematically evaluate the stability of
perception, and thus the basis of empiricism, the development of the method of
dimension analysis is reviewed. It is shown that this methodology, relied upon for the
mathematical analysis of physical quantities, is itself based upon empiricism, and that
all of physical reality can be described in terms of the three fundamental dimensions of
mass, length and time.

Hereafter the sensory modalities that inform us about these three dimensions are
systematically evaluated. The following careful analysis of neuronal plasticity in these
modalities shows that all the relevant senses acquire from the environment the capacity
to apprehend physical reality. It is concluded that physical reality is acquired rather than
given innately, and leads to the position that science cannot provide unique results.
Rather, those it can provide are sufficient for a particular environmental setting.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Engineering and Informatics > Informatics
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BD Speculative Philosophy > BD143 Epistemology. Theory of knowledge
Q Science > QP Physiology > QP0351 Neurophysiology and neuropsychology > QP0431 Senses
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2015 07:51
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2016 06:35
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/58460

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