Monday, October 09, 2006

Neural networks and intellectual virtue

From Nancey Murphy's “Using MacIntyre’s Method in Christian Ethics,” in Virtues and Practices in the Christian Tradition: Christian Ethics after MacIntyre, ed. Nancey Murphy, Brad J. Kallenberg, and Mark Thiessen Nation (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press, 1997), 40:
Paul M. Churchland has proposed to explain learning of all types by means of a model that relies on the notion of neural "prototypes"; that is, neural networks are formed by a learning process in such a way that receptors are set to fire in response to particular patterns of stimulation. This understanding of brain function suggests that both moral behavior and application of moral concepts depend on building up specific sets of neuronal connections. He concludes that neurologically we are much better endowed to think in terms of virtues than rules.
She cites Churchland, The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul: A Philosophical Journey into the Brain (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995), 144, 146.
I'm looking forward to checking out Churchland and comparing his claims to what George Siemens says in his new book.
W. Jay Wood, in his Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998), put me on to Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski's work in Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry INto the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996), and I've also checked out her Divine Motivation Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004) and her edited volume, Rational Faith: Catholic Responses to Reformed Epistemology (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame Press, 1993): lots to chew on here.
The best piece I've read on theological education is Craig Dykstra's "Reconceiving Practice in Theological Inquiry and Education in the
Virtues and Practices volume noted above.
All of this is beginning to come together for me as I look at social constructivism; now if I can only get it out on paper . . .

No comments: