The neurological fallacy

Reuven Tsur*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This non-article explores the limitations of applying brain science in "higher" disciplines. Many brain scientists believe that it is only a matter of time that everything human will be accounted for by the findings of brain science. Michael Polányi in the nineteen-sixties and recently Michael Gazzaniga argued against such determinism. They say that while "lower-level" processes constrain "higherlevel" ones, they cannot determine them. The human mind is an emergent process, and it cannot be predicted from brain structure anymore than traffic can be predicted from the structure of a car. I claim that in many instances, the application of brain science in psychology and literary studies merely re-states in brain-language what has already been said in psychology-language or literature-language. It can, however, be fruitfully applied when it refutes prevalent erroneous assumptions or resolves certain incongruities in the domain of "higher" disciplines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-446
Number of pages18
JournalPragmatics and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2012


  • Brain processes and higher processes
  • Brain science and literary studies
  • Emergence
  • Neurological fallacy
  • Principle of marginal control
  • Reductionism


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