Thursday, November 11, 2010

285: The Brain ... The fifth Revolution

When you engage in the philosophical debate about the mind, it is impossible confine the debate to a philosophical discourse only. Too many other disciplines are involved too, like anthropology, biology, cognitive psychology, neurobiology.

The mind is no longer the private playground of philosophers. In my former lectures I referred to a Dutch publication by Dick Swaab, "We are our Brain". It is a bestseller at the moment. In other words, the brain is a hot issue these days.

The neurologist , Vilyanur Ramachandran, of the University of California in San Diego called it 'the Fifth Revolution". The latest in a series of scientific warp jumps, which toppled world views and caused great spiritual and social changes.

The first one occurred in the 16th century. Copernicus was the great revolutionary then, who proved that the earth was not the center of the universe but just a planet rotating around the sun.

The universe was God's creation and as everybody then believed, the earth was the center of this creation….
No longer and this gave rise to all kinds of fundamental questions.

The second revolution took place in the 19th century, when Charles Darwin showed that all living organisms are descended from basic organisms, which then had evolved in millions of directions by adapting themselves to a constantly changing environment.

The third shock came when Sigmund Freud introduced the mind, the psyche, as an objective entity that could be studied. And even more shocking was, that he showed that a lot of our actions aren't controlled at all by our ratio. There appeared to be something like the subconscious.

Half a century ago the fourth revolution took place. By discovering the structure of heredity James Watson and Francis Crick transformed biology into a science for engineers.

Genetic engineering is a common thing today. In our lectures on supersense we also observed that genetic engineering can get into conflict with our supersense ideas about life. Is it good or bad all this meddling with genes?

Just dig into the subject of "haplogroups". By historic DNA analysis we have discovered how mankind spread over the earth, where its cradle stood and that the Aryan race for instance is only a fiction.

What is the fifth revolution? Look at the picture named "The Brainmap". As we have unraveled the human genome, we would also be able to map the entire human brain.

Just think about this question: What will happen to the human mind if we have mapped every braincell and its function and every connection between them?

How will it affect our idea about being an individual person, a Self, an Identity. When we know and understand the function of every braincell, could we change personality whenever we like for instance.

Everything that makes us human finds its origin in brain tissue. Do we get reduced to chemical processes, electric pulses and processes that blindly follow the laws of nature?

Religion then is called a normal neurological phenomenon, moral choices are no longer the expression of spiritual development and integrity of the soul,

but can partly be explained as the result of automatic processes, which emerged from a blind and amoral evolution.
How are we going to explain consciousness……?

The fifth revolutions seems to lead us to a neurocentrism, a way of thinking which locates the essence of being human in the brain and where the brain tells you who you are.

I made the Evolution map to give you an impression of where we stand from a historical point of view. Evolution used almost 5 million years to toy with the Hominids (humans and great apes) and their brain.

New models emerged and disappeared again. Brain volume increased and again new models on the market…… eventually the Neaderthals and Homo sapiens.

And as you see, we are only a very young group of hominids in this millions of years lasting evolutionary process. We like to think, that we are the final outcome of evolution, but what about the next million years?

No philosopher can ignore these developments. Then, let us go and see what this fifth revolution will mean for our philosophical discourse on the Mind.

The Discussion

[13:24] herman Bergson: Thank you...
[13:25] herman Bergson: What was your remark Qwark?
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: it is amazing how it has changed from the first man
[13:25] Qwark Allen: the bone that is making the direction, you ask
[13:25] Simargl Talaj: herman Bergson: Everything that makes us human finds its origin in brain tissue. Do we get reduced to chemical processes, electric pulses and processes that blindly follow the laws of nature? My answer:We can mourn: alas, there is nothing sublime, we are just chemicals. Or we can affirm: marvelous, chemistry does these things!
[13:25] Qwark Allen: it`s the sphenoid
[13:25] BALDUR Joubert: what has exhanged?
[13:25] Qwark Allen:
[13:25] Simargl Talaj: Consciousness is an activity. Mind is what brain does. Brain and mind are dancer and the dance.
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: the brain even the size and shape
[13:26] Qwark Allen: you can see where evolution is getting us, by understanding the evolution of sphenoid
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: hmm ok
[13:26] Abraxas Nagy: mmmm I am no Darwinist
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: you have a link?? q?
[13:26] Qwark Allen:
[13:26] Qwark Allen: i saw several documents about it
[13:26] Simargl Talaj: The dance survives, even when we know the choreogrpaher.
[13:27] Simargl Talaj: Every human experience that led us to belief in god etcetera still exists. Whatever was valuable is still valuable. Whatever is sacred is still sacred, if natural.
[13:27] herman Bergson: I'll check it out Qwark..
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: I will read that later
[13:27] Qwark Allen: ok
[13:27] Qwark Allen: you`ll find it very interesting
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: aa have to check it out then
[13:27] herman Bergson: Great!
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: my brain and me: the ultimate master/slave? Frightening
[13:28] herman Bergson: That is the fundamental problem Aristotle….
[13:28] Simargl Talaj: Qwark there's research suggesting genes for weaker jaw muslce relieved pressure on sagital crest that suppresses skull expansion.
[13:28] herman Bergson: my brain and me, while me is the brain....
[13:28] herman Bergson: that is what philosophers fight about ^_^
[13:28] Simargl Talaj: Master, slave? If you own yourself there is neither.
[13:29] BALDUR Joubert: master-slave- these are terms used in social relationships..
[13:29] herman Bergson: It is a metaphore yes
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: I am not convinced of course....I am master of my brain to the extent of my operative skills
[13:29] Simargl Talaj: What do you mean, Ari, please?
[13:30] BALDUR Joubert: well.. aren't we slaves of your body' ? ask Dawkins
[13:30] herman Bergson: But a fundamental problem is that I can think about myself....where myself is semantically not identical with the "I" who is thinking
[13:30] Simargl Talaj: Who is this "I" of which you speak? That is not itself a brain?
[13:30] herman Bergson: we'll get to that problem sooner or later
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: I suspect we are much more than cells
[13:30] herman Bergson: Yes is the homunculus problem...
[13:31] herman Bergson: There is a little man in my head that controls me, that is the "I"
[13:31] Simargl Talaj: I wish I could read more than two lines of Ari at once :)
[13:31] herman Bergson: but the problem is that the homunculus has a head with a brain in it too and so on
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: does the brain project itself into our self awareness?
[13:32] herman Bergson: the brain generates the self awareness
[13:32] Simargl Talaj: little fleas have lesser fleas/ upon their backs, that bite 'em/ and lesser fleas have lesser fleas/ and so, ad infinitum.
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: no more free will then
[13:32] herman Bergson: Here you already touch on a major issue...
[13:33] Simargl Talaj: I see it as entirely a semantic problem, not one of real operation.
[13:33] herman Bergson: we can do all kinds of physiological statements about the brain....
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: th locatioin of self awareness has been discovered?
[13:34] herman Bergson: and indeed simargl ..some philosophers regard words like mind, self , self awareness as a semantical problem
[13:34] BALDUR Joubert: and we can do all kinds of supernatural statements too
[13:34] herman Bergson: In a way yes, Aristotle...
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: where is the you that is looking out of you eyes right now?
[13:35] Simargl Talaj: Aristotle much consciousness is the sum effect of different centers working together. A stream of reports from different offices in the building.
[13:35] herman Bergson: I think I'll go into that issue soon, but a person can change into a complete different Self because of brain damage
[13:35] Simargl Talaj: Herman --- yes.
[13:35] Simargl Talaj: we are organic.
[13:35] herman Bergson: In fact Alzheimer is an example of that....
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: and self determination originates where?
[13:36] BALDUR Joubert: ari.. by looking at the other
[13:36] herman Bergson: Because of such observations we will encounter great difficulties with concepts as the Self , personal Identity and consciousness
[13:36] herman Bergson: As I told you in the very beginning....
[13:37] herman Bergson: Different from a project on 100 philosophers, which is known ground for me, this project is a quest for me...
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: it is a mysterious journey for sure
[13:37] Simargl Talaj: Herman, then why is it a philosophical quest at all, since the answers lie in studies of the organic?
[13:38] herman Bergson: I have no idea (well global ideas yes) what lies ahead of us...where we will arrive at
[13:38] Simargl Talaj: No epistemology anymore -- just cognitive neurobiology, education psychology.
[13:39] herman Bergson: The philosophical part is in the fact that we can talk about ourselves, describe ourselves
[13:39] Simargl Talaj: Why look for a ball in center field after you've seen it fly out toward first base?
[13:39] Qwark Allen: according to the sphenoid, we`ll be anatomically similar to the "grey aliens", with expanded minds
[13:39] herman Bergson: and in the fact that neurobiology answers certain questions but certainly not all
[13:39] Simargl Talaj: What is left for philosophers , then?
[13:39] Qwark Allen: witch is very curios thing
[13:40] herman Bergson: That is our question Simargl....
[13:40] herman Bergson: to give a "simple: example......
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: as long as thought exists, there will be philosophers
[13:40] BALDUR Joubert: plenty simargl.. just as there was plenty left after kopernicus
[13:40] herman Bergson: Do we have a free will.......?
[13:40] Simargl Talaj: or as long as endowed chairs exist anyhow :)
[13:41] abraxa Qork: wb gemma ㋡
[13:41] herman Bergson: If everything is just chemical processes, etc...then all is deterministic…according to the rules of nature
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: wb gemma
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:41] herman Bergson: But we still believe that we are not automatons....that we decide ourselves
[13:42] herman Bergson: That the decision in not the outcome of pre-programmed chemical brain processes
[13:42] Simargl Talaj: So you can create paradigms to describe it, metaphors, models, that are not merely descriptions of organic and chemical processes.
[13:42] BALDUR Joubert: culture has any role in that?
[13:42] BALDUR Joubert: what we decide'
[13:43] BALDUR Joubert: ?¨
[13:43] herman Bergson: One of the questions amy be whether our descriptions of the mind are just metaphors or not
[13:43] Simargl Talaj: Herman why is it so hard to accept that we are both the product of natural causes, and also the creators of more causes? I don't see the conflict.
[13:43] Simargl Talaj: Looks just like a cascade reaction in chemistry.
[13:43] herman Bergson: There you go.....
[13:44] herman Bergson: We are the result of natural causes....AND CREATOR of causes...
[13:44] herman Bergson: that creator is transcending the natural causes in this statement
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: aah
[13:44] BALDUR Joubert: like a volcano in indonesia
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: I believe that I, my mind, issues direction to my brain, and it responds within the realm of natural law as to success or failure or those commands
[13:44] herman Bergson: someone/something else than the result of natural causes
[13:45] Simargl Talaj: " herman Bergson: But we still believe that we are not automatons....that we decide ourselves" ....stated as if the two were opposed, mutually exclusive. They do not seem so to me. Nature works like that all the time.
[13:45] herman Bergson: But Aristotle....were does your mind come from????
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, where is it?
[13:46] BALDUR Joubert: culture'
[13:46] BALDUR Joubert: ?
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: I can not hold it to show
[13:46] Simargl Talaj: CUlture is also a product of minds:)
[13:46] Simargl Talaj: The fact that culture is a product of minds and minds are a product of culture are not opposites. No paradox.
[13:46] BALDUR Joubert: culture is a product of the minds.. in history
[13:46] herman Bergson: My statements are no definite answers or observations Simargl, they are considerations, thoughts, attempts
[13:47] BALDUR Joubert: no paradox.. but a basis..
[13:47] herman Bergson: As you see, in no time things are getting pretty complex here
[13:47] BALDUR Joubert: we can't talk about the mind without talking about the "programming"
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: is it that we are sop grounded in our physical perceptions that we are blinded to the truth?
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: as usual the complex part lol'
[13:48] BALDUR Joubert: brain-yes.. chemical.physical..
[13:48] herman Bergson: Ok.....
[13:48] Simargl Talaj: I do not agree that being a creator of causes is to transcend natural causes. It is one set of causes and effects generationg another set of causes and effects, as an outcome of the previous set, not in contradiction of it.
[13:49] herman Bergson: the trend of today is that neurobiology is gonna answer a lot , maybe all, questions that puzzled philosophers
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: if the mind truly is separate fromthe brain, it would be in the natural order
[13:50] herman Bergson: if you allow me to say so...simplified but we have books on the shelves now that say WE ARE OUR BRAIN
[13:50] BALDUR Joubert: well..we have a brain.. just like arms and legs..
[13:51] BALDUR Joubert: doesn't answer the philosophical question what we are
[13:51] herman Bergson: I think our project is to answer the question if the statement WE ARE OUR BRAIN really answers all our philosophical questions about ourself, about human existence, about ethics and so on
[13:52] herman Bergson: Yes Baldus….We have a brain or we are a brain........
[13:52] herman Bergson: just that simple linguistic difference contains a lot of questions and implications
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: I need some of those imbedded electrodes so I could behave better, just stir it up a bit
[13:52] BALDUR Joubert: we have.. like many other living species
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ LOL ♥
[13:53] Simargl Talaj: We experience responsibility and agency. The source of these in phyysics does not alter the fact that we experience them
[13:53] Simargl Talaj: and must respond to them.
[13:53] herman Bergson: No Simargl…so what is the relation between what happens physicaly and what we experience....
[13:54] Simargl Talaj: I cannot solve a moral problem by rearranging some electrons with tweezers. I use the means available to me. They are, incidentally, rearranging electrons.
[13:54] herman Bergson: that will be the subject of the next lectures as we will dig into neurobliological issues then
[13:54] BALDUR Joubert: we cannot take the brain as something apart from everything else.. its devellopment is unthinkable without the social component..
[13:54] Simargl Talaj: social component = other brains.
[13:55] herman Bergson: that has already been showing the lectures on the supersense Baldur
[13:55] BALDUR Joubert: smile . rigt
[13:55] BALDUR Joubert: suoeersense?
[13:55] herman Bergson: I think you now have a good idea of what lies ahead of us....:-)
[13:55] BALDUR Joubert: that i can see ghosts ?
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: aah
[13:55] AristotleVon Doobie: :))
[13:56] Qwark Allen: heheeh baldur ---> you`ll come for sure to next class
[13:56] AristotleVon Doobie: deja vu
[13:56] herman Bergson: So, may I thank you all for you participation
[13:56] BALDUR Joubert: or are you talking about bats sonar system.. suoersens e for us?
[13:56] herman Bergson: Oh one sad message....
[13:56] Qwark Allen: check at blog previous class, you`ll understand better what we are talking about ^^
[13:56] Simargl Talaj: Thank you Herman. Thanks for preparing the visual aids too.
[13:56] herman Bergson: Next thursday I wont be able to be here....
[13:56] Qwark Allen: AAHH!!!
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: ah we get a vacation
[13:57] Qwark Allen: ehhehe
[13:57] Abraxas Nagy: ╔╗╔═╦╗
[13:57] Abraxas Nagy: ║╚╣║║╚╗
[13:57] Abraxas Nagy: ╚═╩═╩═╝
[13:57] herman Bergson: I have to burry a dear friend in RL who passed away at the age of 57....
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: hmm ok
[13:57] Gemma Cleanslate: you mean the 11??
[13:57] Qwark Allen: ohh
[13:57] Gemma Cleanslate: on gosh
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: aaaw
[13:57] Simargl Talaj: I am very sorry to hear it Herman.
[13:57] Abraxas Nagy: o no :((
[13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: hmmmm, condolences Herman
[13:57] Abraxas Nagy: my condolences herman
[13:57] Gemma Cleanslate: ys
[13:57] Rodney Handrick: condolences
[13:57] Simargl Talaj: Very hard.
[13:57] herman Bergson: caused a shock to all of us
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: thats to bad
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: :(
[13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: I am sure
[13:57] Abraxas Nagy: i can imagine
[13:57] herman Bergson: SO I hope to see you all next Tuesday
[13:57] Qwark Allen: terrible
[13:58] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[[13:58] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:58] Abraxas Nagy: ok i will be
[13:58] Simargl Talaj: Thank you Herman.
[13:58] herman Bergson: Class dismissed and thank you all
[13:58] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:58] Qwark Allen: ¸¸.☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`☆ H E R MA N ☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`
[13:58] Qwark Allen: thank you
[13:58] Abraxas Nagy: thanks herman
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: was interesting as always
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:58] abraxa Qork: me too if abra drags me hehee
[13:58] Qwark Allen: indeed
[13:58] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, take care and Thanks for the wonderful lecture, Professor
[13:58] Beertje Beaumont: my condolences Herman
[13:58] BALDUR Joubert: take care..:)
[13:58] Abraxas Nagy: sure I will
[13:58] abraxa Qork: wooohooo
[13:58] herman Bergson: thanks Beertje
[13:59] herman Bergson: RL still exists....

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