An excellent profile of Felipe De Brigard

… at Duke Today. An excerpt:

De Brigard believes that our considerations of what actually happened, what could have happened and what might happen are closely linked in our brains because these kinds of mental simulations are likely to allow us to rehearse ways the world could be. He think’s it’s a hedge against future uncertainty.

He maintains that memory is not primarily for remembering, but is rather part of a larger system for playing out hypotheticals. Every time you retrieve a memory it becomes subject to distortion. Research by De Brigard and others suggests this lack of fidelity serves some purpose in affecting the way you think about your future.

Many philosophers, and a handful of neuroscientists, are skeptical that their two fields can bolster one another, De Brigard said.

Philosophers in particular seem resistant to the idea of applying scientific methods and tools, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, to questions they deem traditionally philosophical, he said.

“A lot of philosophers are not convinced that what I do is really philosophy,” De Brigard said, adding that it feels risky to ask such unconventional research questions.

“At this time and age, I see no better way to advance knowledge than to work at the intersection of research disciplines, and I cannot think of a university that is better positioned to do so than Duke,” said De Brigard, who arrived at Duke in July 2013.

Here again is the whole thing, and here again is the site for the Templeton-sponsored Summer Seminars on Neuroscience and Philosophy that De Brigard and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong will be hosting at Duke beginning in May, 2016.