I misquoted you with my "We strip away..." What I meant to refer to was your "So the business of cognitive science will be to strip away what is non-essential to thinking and confine it to the realm of mere things." So as I understand you, thinking would be not a mere thing. But what is it? Your characterization of any characterization as an interesting failure is interesting.
Nagarjuna goes on to distinguish essences as nullities versus things without essence that drive their "thingness" from their functionality, their place in the matrix of causes and conditions. This contains all the begged questions and paradoxes of mereology in general.
So his solution is to argue that things are only things because of their functionality. That we can perceive them and how they function proves they are things. "Essence", since it does not reside in the matrix of causes and conditions, does not function, so therefore does not exist.
Nargajuna occupies a unique place in Buddhist thought. He is regarded as the person whom Buddha prophesied as the only person following him to really get it right. So, at least Mahayana-ites all have to assert they conform to his writings - with more of less success.
So all this is probably way more response than is functional, but its been tough writing for quite a while now, and this just flowed to a greater extent than has been true. So I went with it. Hope you found it reasonably interesting.
Perhaps my Buddhst buddies' long version can be condensed to a stanza.
Augmenting the Dalai Lama's famous (poorly paraphrased as)"if science contradicts anything Buddhism teaches we'll have to revise it" he said something about science's basic "ontological confusion". That is describing how something works is not describing its essence - since essence does not exist.
The essential Nagurjuna puts like this:
Essence arising from
Causes and conditions makes no sense.
Essence arisen from causes and conditions
Would be created.
So if "we strip away the non-essential" fully, we are left with nothing.
Absolutely. As I said, a quibble. But on reflection, the idea that brains can develop differently in an observable way as a result of a difference in the sensory field it processes is pretty breathtaking.
For me, the word "rewiring" has a visceral immediacy that perhaps over emphasizes the "re" part of it. Still, I think science reporting too often is not as precise as it could be and still retain readability.
Your last paragraph interests me... At this point in the proceedings, how can we think anything else?
A rhetorical quibble:
In this context, "rewires" seems not quite the right metaphor. Not surprisingly, the abstract uses more scientific rather than metaphoric language. Since the paper examines the scans of very early onset blindness, it may be more a case of their brains developing differently rather than "rewiring" which suggests individual brains changed structurally.
Such adaptability in development would be just as significant as any acquired changes in structure.