"How we might be able to understand the brain"
The neurosciences can account for many basic processes, but processes such as those associated with language present a more serious problem, the difficulty in understanding the brain being in essence a difficulty in seeing the 'trees' (logically coherent units) for the 'wood' (the whole nervous system), and in understanding how the 'trees' work together. In this paper the effectiveness of the design is attributed to three factors: mathematical underpinnings of the components of the design, observational emergence, and representational redescription. As is the nature of design, the physical structure is accompanied by a notional explanatory structure, but in the case of the brain this has special features, viz. observational emergence, providing, in accord with the hyperstructure scheme of Baas, for the accumulation of structures fitting the prescribed mathematical schemes notwithstanding variations in context, while the representational redescription process of Karmiloff-Smith makes possible a developmental progression to working at more abstract levels. The proposed scheme should be able to impose a clear structure on a very unclear problem. For example, a specific process such as language can be seen to utilise specific abstractional schemes, and integration of the present proposals with analyses such as those of Jackendoff and Arbib should make possible a precise theory of language. The significance of a specific aspect of language, that of syntax, is discussed in this light.