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Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2016 - (Page 8)

Over two summers, Ariel Uy explored human cognition through two different lenses. After studying the mind from a philosophical perspective, she turned her focus to the physical brain and its functions. As she explains here, doing both gave her a deeper understanding of how we think, perceive, and remember. by Ariel Uy I didn't know what to expect when I signed up for Philosophy of Mind at CTY, as philosophy wasn't a topic I had ever encountered in school. But I was drawn to philosophy because it seemed to question everything we assume to be true-including the existence of other people and even ourselves. As it turned out, questioning everything was a major feature of the course. Ways to Think about Thinking We started by studying the fundamentals of logic and reasoning to learn how to write a proof-a series of statements leading from a premise to a conclusion-a skill that would be necessary throughout the rest of the course. We learned how to represent statements using symbolic logic, a system in which logical expressions are represented by symbols. For example, ∧ represents "and," ∨ represents "or," and � represents "if/then." Once we knew the symbols, we could write proofs more quickly, and more easily identify logical fallacies in our own or others' arguments. We read works by important philosophers including Descartes, Hobbes, and Nietzsche, and analyzed writing such as Plato's Allegory of the Cave. These works led us to examine interesting arguments such as the mind-body problem: Are the mind and the brain the same thing, or are they distinct? To think about the answer, we 8 imagine explored different theories of the mind. Dualism, for example, is the view that both physical and immaterial phenomena exist, and that the mind is immaterial. Before I took this class, I believed that all phenomena were physical and that the mind was the same as the brain. Now, I was beginning to wonder whether mental phenomena-beliefs, sensations, desires-existed as more than brain states. Throughout the course, we worked on our writing skills, which culminated in a three- to five-page essay on a topic of our choice. I'm interested in artificial intelligence, so I chose to write about the Chinese Room argument, which attempts to disprove computationalism, the view that cognition is nothing more than information processing. The American philosopher John Searle proposed this thought experiment: He imagined himself sitting in a room, where he is passed slips of paper on which questions are written in Chinese. He does not know Chinese, but using a very detailed set of rules on how to respond to inputs in Chinese, he writes Chinese characters in response and passes the paper outside the room. To the Chinese speaker reading the responses, it seems that the person in the room understands Chinese. Similarly, if a computer can take Chinese inputs and use a program to produce appropriate responses, indistinguishable from those of a native Chinese speaker, does the computer truly under- May/June 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2016

Big Picture
In My Own Words Karl Deisseroth, Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry, Stanford University
Mind Brain Philosophy and neuroscience at CTY
A Meeting of the Minds at the National Brain Bee
Mind over Matter Overcoming communication barriers via technology
A Fish of a Different Color My neuroscience internship
Immersed in Brain Science Summer research at Rockefeller University
Brain Training Four graduate students share their research
Prime Time for Brain Science Exciting new findings, from brain maps to mindfulness
Making the Connection Teaching kids about mind, media, and health
Selected Opportunities and Resources
Pitch Perfect The lure of rugby
My Stress-Free Adventure Scuba, sailing, and discovery
Off the Shelf Review of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant
Word Wise
Exploring Career Options Interview with neuropsychologist

Lisa Jacobson


One Step Ahead Ten commandments for college success
Planning Ahead for College Can your dream school become a reality?
Students Review New York University
Creative Minds Imagine Fiction contest winners
Mark Your Calendar
Knossos Games
Mind + Brain Philosophy and neuroscience at CTY

Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2016

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