Does your final paper reflect your use of the feedback provided thus far?
September 17, 2018
Can cognitive (or brain) function be improved after birth, and after environmental damage has been done?
September 17, 2018

How would you explain to someone else, another college student say, what reductionism means?

 In what contexts (where and from whom) have you heard the term before now?  How about outside of class?  What was it used to mean there?  How is/was it often misused?  What’s wrong with saying, “Oh, that’s just a theory”?  What does Strange say it means?  What does he say is important about theory in the first two paragraphs?

2.  Have you heard of ADHD (or ADD) before now?  Where and in what context?  How were its causes explained to you, or how did you imagine it could be explained? (If you have never heard of it before, say so, and move on to the next Q.)

3.  Answer the question at the end of section I about your first critical reaction to the chemical- genetic explanation of ADHD given so far.  How does it (the theory/explanation) of ADHD sound to you at this point?  Be frank.  What other human actions (complex behaviors or traits) have you heard described as having genetic, or hormonal, or biological causes (make a list)?

(The remaining questions, but especially 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10, demand a little more detail, as well as more soul-searching.)

4. a) What are the possible shortcomings stated here (but translate into you own words) with the chemical-genetic explanation of Isabelle’s ADHD?  b)  What can be said to be missing from the chemical-genetic explanation/theory?  c) What is meant by “blaming the victim”?  Do you feel the chemical/genetic theory does this to Isabelle?  How so, or how not? What is your reaction to the other examples mentioned here of blaming the victim?  Do they?

5.  a) What is Gabor Mate’s alternative explanation for the problems of children like Isabelle?

 b) Show how Mate’s theory/explanation can be applied to Isabelle’s specific case (in other words, translate his general theory into what we know about Isabelle’s social context (meaning her relation to other people and groups, and the history of those relations.)  c)  Give some features, or processes at work in the social world (social context) in which Isabelle’s parents and relatives operate which might create pressures and stresses on them, pressures that are easily communicated to children.  So should we put all blame on the parents?

6. What is your own list of the most pressing problems of our time (my list is on page 18)?

Why do these (sometimes ponderous sounding) issues matter?

7.  Throughout this essay (especially section V and VI), a number of other issues or problems are referred to (like the housing bubble, schizophrenia, etc. etc.) which could be explained either reductionistically, or more holistically (by social context.)  a) Pick  any one of these issues, or one of your own. Explain what the issue or problem is.  Show what an explanation that reduces the answer to a biological factor, or to some form of biological determinism, would look like.

b) Where would you look for a more holistic explanation?

8. a) Pick one other issue or problem that is often explained not by something biological this time, but by putting all the weight of explanation on the individual, or to individual or group mental characteristics (or to some other partof a larger social whole, like those shown in the circles just before page 9.  What issue have you chosen?  b) What would, or does, a more reductionistic explanation look like?  What part of what whole is being used to explain something?  What is missing from such an explanation?  What would a more holistic explanation look like and include?  c) What is wrong with explaining our huge wealth gaps in the US by “greed,” or with explaining Iran’s governmental actions by religion (see especially pages 12, 13, and 14)?

9.  a) How would you explain to someone else, another college student say, what reductionism means? b) What makes some forms of reductionist explanation moreextreme (more heavily reductionistic) than others? c) Looking at the two-sided, one page handout by Neville, “Neuroscience exposes..” and “Race Gap..”, how would you argue that “genes are not destiny.”  Why aren’t they?  e) What accounts for gaps in test scores between blacks and whites?  What would have to happen in order to erase (or reverse) these gaps?

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