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An argumentative reconstruction of the computer metaphor of the brain

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Abstract

The computer metaphor of the brain is frequently criticized by scientists and philosophers outside the computational paradigm. Proponents of the metaphor may then seek to defend its explanatory merits, in which case the metaphor functions as a standpoint. Insofar as previous research in argumentation theory has treated metaphors either as presentational devices or arguments by analogy, this points to hitherto unexplored aspects of how metaphors may function in argumentative discourse. We start from the assumption that the computer metaphor of the brain constitutes an explanatory hypothesis and set out to reconstruct it as a standpoint defended by a complex argumentation structure: abduction supported by analogy. We then provide three examples of real arguments conforming to our theoretically motivated construction. We conclude that our study obtains proof-of-concept but that more research is needed in order to further clarify the relationship between our theoretical construct and the complexities of empirical reality.

Keywords: abduction; analogy; argumentation; metaphor; scientific explanation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 31, 2019

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