Minimal Intelligence Lab (MINT Lab)
Philosophy of plant neurobiology: the birth of a discipline
The last decade witnessed the origins of Plant Neurobiology as a new area of research, when the Society for Plant Neurobiology (later renamed Society of Plant Signaling and Behavior) <http://www.plantbehavior.org> was formed, and the journal Plant Signaling and Behavior began. According to Plant Physiology orthodoxy, action potentials (APs) are a nuisance. Plant physiology either ignores APs altogether (there is no single reference to APs in the Fifth edition of Lincoln Taiz's classic Plant Physiology, 2010), or considers APs as some kind of ‘error' or ‘blind alley' in plant evolution. By contrast, under the lens of Plant Neurobiology, APs play a central role in integrating the plant body via rapid electric signals. These are perfectly suited to provide an additional basis for plant-specific forms of learning and memory.
The Philosophy of Plant Neurobiology is the interdisciplinary study of plant intelligence, embracing the philosophy of science and plant electrophysiology, cell biology, molecular biology, and ecology, among other disciplines. Older analytic or mechanistic models have now been superseded in this emerging field by organic, non-reductionist explanatory programs that aim to combine decomposition techniques with an integrated, system-level, ecological perspective. The result is the interdisciplinary take on the philosophical and scientific study of plant signaling and adaptive behavior.
The philosophy of science interfaces with plant neurobiology in a number of related areas. First, notions central to the philosophy of science such as scientific explanation and intertheoretic reduction are to be applied to the field of plant neurobiology. Likewise, empirical results from plant neurobiology bear directly upon the quest for intelligence; our understanding of cognition, behavior and perception; learning, memory, decision-making, etc.; and even consciousness and the discussion of free will.
At present, no programs or courses in the Philosophy of Plant Neurobiology have been instituted in any university. MINT Lab aims to foster more frequent collaboration between philosophers of cognitive science and plant scientists in order to fill the need for integration.
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