Philosophy of the Arts


Cognitive Science and Understanding Human Life


Astronomy describes in scientific manner the state and history of the universe. We cannot but acknowledge that the state and history of the universe form the necessary conditions of everything that happens in our lives: Our lives are determined by what happens and happened in the universe, how can they not be?
Yet, we think that astrology, which predicts our daily lives on the basis of what it takes to be the state and history of the universe, is a pseudo-science. And rightly so: not only is daily life complicated and comprises the mixing of many factors; it is also co-determined by human choices, and these are, as hermeneutics tells us, overdetermined, and semantically so (we don’t mean that there are many intertwined causal mechanisms at work here, but that people have many explicatory reasons for their behaviour and we need good, i.e. coherent, theoretical points of view to sort things out).

The attractiveness of astrology is in its consoling effect: suddenly we can forget about our troubling feelings of guilt and responsibility, because it was all written in the stars.

Cognitive science

Why then is it that we we allow cognitive science to play both roles? Cognitive science describes in minute detail the state and history of brain states and neural processes. And it, too, claims, that everything people do or decide is fully determined by these brain states and neural processes. As with the state of the universe, how can we disagree with the claim that everything we think and feel has these brain states and processes as their determination?
A major bestseller in the Netherlands says that “We are our brains” and it goes as far as predicting what our lives will be like given the state of our brains.

Now you make the analogy.