Reading Eric Kandel’s wonderful book, In Search of Memory, I recalled the marvellous little Dan Reeder ditty from his first CD:
The book is fascinating, and even exciting. As the Times reviewer noted:
If there is another book that does a better job of demonstrating how biological research is done, or of telling the story of a brilliant scientist’s career, I don’t know it. Nor do I know one that better conveys the unique excitement that drives the success of research . . . or that gives a better descriptive narrative of the historical evolution of our understanding of mind
The fact that he seems to endorse the philosophical views of my undergraduate bête noir, Thomas Nagel, is a minor point. (I skimmed ahead to find this out. Maybe I’ll feel differently on a full reading.)
Kandel notes that memory is of two kinds: the type that we use consciously (Who was the first president?); and the unconscious kind, e.g. remembering how to ride a bike after not doing it for years. This was a very important discovery in neuroscience, and it has philosophical implications. He notes that Gilbert Ryle, in 1949, discussed the two kinds of knowledge: knowing what, and knowing how. I wonder… are they really so different? As Julian Jaynes pointed out, a lot of what passes for conscious ratiocination, e.g. logic, is not that at all.
I also enjoyed reading Kandel’s discussion of Dr. Galvani’s landmark contribution to the foundations of a science of mind.