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Roger Wolcott Sperry

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Cognitive introspective psychology and related cognitive science can no longer be ignored experimentally, or written off as "a science of epiphenomena", nor either as something that must, in principle, reduce eventually to neurophysiology. The events of inner experience, as emergent properties of brain processes, become themselves explanatory causal constructs in their own right, interacting at their own level with their own laws and dynamics. The whole world of inner experience (the world of the humanities) long rejected by 20th century scientific materialism, thus becomes recognized and included within the domain of science.

 
Roger Wolcott Sperry

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Instead of maintaining the traditional separation of science and values, cognitive theory says the two come together in brain function. If we are correct in saying that our conscious mental values not only arise from, but also influence brain processing, then it becomes possible to integrate values with the physical world on a scientific rather than supernatural basis. It's been the traditional role of religion to affirm the primary importance of our higher values in this world by invoking a supreme power. In cognitivism, it is science that affirms the powerful controlling role of higher values, and it is able to do so on grounds that are verifiable that is, testable against reality as it really is.
On these new terms, science no longer upholds a value-empty existence, in which everything, including the human mind, is driven entirely by strictly physical forces of the most elemental kind. We get a vastly revised answer to the old question "What does science leave to believe in?" that gives us a different image of science and the kind of truth science stands for. This new outlook leads to realistic, this world values that provide a strong moral basis for environmentalism and population controls and for policies that would protect the long-term evolving quality of the biosphere.

 
Roger Wolcott Sperry
 

One of the more important things to come out of the split-brain work, as an indirect spin-off, is a revised concept of the nature of consciousness and its fundamental relation to brain processing. The key development here is a switch from prior non-causal, parallelist views to a new causal, or "interactionist" interpretation that ascribes to inner experience an integral causal control role in brain function and behavior. In effect, and without resorting to dualist views, the mental forces and properties of the conscious mind are restored to the brain of objective science from which they had long been excluded on materialist-behaviorist principles.

 
Roger Wolcott Sperry
 

I hope I have seduced the reader to consider that we have in front of us the possibility of an open-ended quest for resonant passages between human experience and cognitive science. The price however is to take first-person accounts seriously as valid domain of phenomena. And beyond that, to build a sustained tradition of phenomenological examination that is almost entirely nonexistent today in our western science and culture at large.

 
Francisco Varela
 

The impact of Sperry's philosophy, similar to that of his scientific discoveries previously, has now transcended the boundaries of science and reaches into human awareness worldwide. Dr. Robert Muller, former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, for instance, is deeply impressed by, and actively promotes, Sperry's work He fully recognizes the significance of the neuroscientist's theory of emergence and downward causation, which transcends dualism and reductionism, leads in an unbroken continuum from atoms to subjective experience, and describes each newly emergent phenomenon in the universe as an entity in its own right with laws and properties that never before existed. Such new emergents (which disappear in reductionist thinking) affect everything else on earth, including the elements that created them (downward causation) but most importantly the future quality of evolution. Values, thus as emergents of brain function are recognized as the most powerful determinants on earth, even in the world of science.

 
Roger Wolcott Sperry
 

The advance of psychology, of industrial methods, and of the experimental method in science makes another conception of experience explicitly desirable and possible. This theory reinstates the idea of the ancients that experience is primarily practical, not cognitive a matter of doing and undergoing the consequences of doing. But the ancient theory is transformed by realizing that doing may be directed so as to take up into its own content all which thought suggests, and so as to result in securely tested knowledge. "Experience" then ceases to be empirical and becomes experimental. Reason ceases to be a remote and ideal faculty, and signifies all the resources by which activity is made fruitful in meaning.

 
John Dewey
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