Addressing the Quantitative and Qualitative: A View to Complementarity—From the Synaptic to the Social


History and anthropology reveal the perdurable human characteristic of attempting to create and employ some form of quantifiable representation of the qualitative aspects of life and the natural world. The recent revolution in the ability to quantify neurobiological processes through advanced neurotechnologies, and the announcement of comprehensive mapping of neuronal pathways as priorities both within the United States (e.g. the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnology, BRAIN, Initiative), and internationally (e.g. the European Union’s Human Brain Project) call forth questions about how data, both quantitative and qualitative, can and should be leveraged to sustain neuroscientific research and related applications that are ethically sound, technically viable, and socially relevant. As neuroscience evermore gains influence in medical, public, economic and political spheres, it will be important to ask (early and iteratively) what such science—as a human endeavor—seeks to achieve, and how the methods selected (whether quantitative, qualitative, or some combination thereof) may help to realize such goals. In this paper we explore potential sources of tension, alignment, and integration with respect to the quantitative and qualitative domains of neuroscientific research, its influence upon society, and the role that the field of neuroethics can—and arguably should—play in rendering balance to the use of neuroscientific knowledge as both lens into the brain, and mirror upon human thought and action. Ultimately, we propose a stance of complementarity with a view toward maximizing the benefits of both the quantitative and qualitative domains.

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Giordano, J. , Rossi, P. and Benedikter, R. (2013) Addressing the Quantitative and Qualitative: A View to Complementarity—From the Synaptic to the Social. Open Journal of Philosophy, 3, 1-5. doi: 10.4236/ojpp.2013.34A001.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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