The Transdisciplinary Legacy of Ernst Mach: From the Analysis of Sensations to the GPS Inside the Brain
Ernst Mach’s writings remain as thought provoking today as when he first produced them but not so much for his treatment of physics as for the epistemological implications inherent in his vision of how sensations unify the physical with the psychical. For over a hundred years the breach between the objective and subjective or theory and the empirical has been widening due to the increasing abstraction of mathematical frameworks necessary to conceptualize the ever smaller scale of elementary particles contemplated by present day theory.
In contrast to that widening gap, neuroscience has simultaneously been creating the basis for a deeper understanding of the physiological basis of sensations that when united with the investigations of cognitive science concur surprisingly well to Mach’s theory of how sensations make possible the discovery of the concepts of science without resorting to metaphysics. This paper attempts to draw together the threads of Mach’s thought that anticipate present day insights such as the functioning of the hippocampus and contingent cortical modules, innate spatial maps and the innate structures of the developing mind that lead to innate proclivities underlying the formation of concepts.