Friday, September 3, 2010

266: The Mystery of the Brain introduced

Welcome all. It is a great joy to see you all back again.I hope your vacation was as good as mine.

Here in front of me on my desk in RL I have a book. Its title is "A materialist Theory of Mind" (1968) by D.M. Armstronng. I bought is September 24 in 1976 and it cost me the fortune of almost US$20. And that was a fortune for a student in those days.

The flap text begins thus: " Professor Armstrong defends the view, currently much discussed by analytical philosophers, that mental states are purely physical states of the brain."

What already was on my bookshelves since July 1973 was "The 'Mental and the 'Physical' " (1958) by Herbert Feigl. I think it was my main inspiration philosophically.

This was basic reading for the subject of my thesis for graduation then in 1976. And here I am again with the same thesis. (….smiles….) Did I never get further in all these years. Didn't I get wiser? We'll see.

Much has changed since 1976, especially regarding our knowledge of the brain. The mind is no longer only a philosophical topic. Other sciences have entered the arena.

I don't mean just psychology, but especially neurobiology and neuroscience. Now we have men like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Dan Dennet. They have changed the philosophical scenery considerably.

For me this is going to be a special project. It is not just an academic presentation of a subject with many different points of view possible. It will be a personal stand. I will stand for a materialist theory of mind.

This means that the series of lectures I have scheduled will be a kind of argumentation to make my point. However, it is not my intention that at the end of the semester you all have to say: yes you are right.

The lectures and the research for them will be more of a test, a searching for the answer whether the materialist view is tenable or not, to clarify the arguments in favor and against this view.

To find out what happens, when you take a materialist interpretation of the mind as the most plausible one, which philosophical questions you then still have to face.

But my starting point will be the assumption that a materialist theory of the mind is our best choice to understand ourselves as conscious beings.

The subject with which I will begin this project is the concept of "Supersense" as explained by Bruce M. Hood in his book "Supersense: Why do we believe in the unbelievable" (2009)

We thus, to begin with, deal with the phenomenon of the supernatural in our existence and try to understand it. We'll investigate the balance between rationality and our irrational ideas.

The next stage will be a journey through the latest developments in neurosciences. I even allow begging the question by spending time on discussing the biological roots of our emotions.

After this materialist introduction we'll begin with investigating the history of the philosophy of mind. What questions and answers have been put forward regarding consciousness, the mind, the Self, personal identity since the early days of philosophy.

I guess our final station will become the question, whether this materialist starting point has helped us to find satisfactory answers to our philosophical questions or not.

This is not going to be an easy project. That I can promise you. Not easy for you and certainly not easy for me, but I hope that is will achieve its main goal: that it will be entertaining and especially educational for all of us.

Thank you.

The Discussion

[13:22] Adriana Jinn: whaooo
[13:22] AristotleVon Doobie: I fully suspect this will be one helluva good time. :)
[13:22] Adriana Jinn: that is a program
[13:22] herman Bergson: Yes I hope I wont let you down ...
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: and do you have any references for us to read on the web???
[13:23] Repose Lionheart: a great adventure, this
[13:23] herman Bergson: Well ..for a start find Bruce Hood...
[13:23] AristotleVon Doobie: you have my mind clicking already, Herman
[13:23] herman Bergson: There is a lot of him, also on youtube...
[13:23] herman Bergson: Sounds good Aristotle ^_^
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:24] herman Bergson: You also can start looking around for neurobiology or neurosciences...
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate:
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:24] herman Bergson: English Wikipedia is ok for a start
[13:25] herman Bergson: It is gonna be a lot of work ^_^
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: i guess
[13:25] herman Bergson: That is for sure
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ LOL ♥
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: as usual
[13:26] herman Bergson: It seems that nobody has any questions about my chosen starting point?!
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: the origin of our selves have occupied a lot of my thinking
[13:27] Adriana Jinn: well very interesting but vast
[13:27] herman Bergson: might find something here then Aristotle
[13:27] Adriana Jinn: wide subject
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: if the brain is the seat of consciouness, where do you think its root resides in the physical brain?
[13:28] herman Bergson: The brain generates consciousness
[13:28] herman Bergson: no brain no consciousness :-)
[13:29] herman Bergson: That is why I speak of the mystery of the brain.....
[13:29] Jozen Ocello: and perhaps also generate subconsciousness?
[13:29] herman Bergson: and not the mystery of the mind or consciousness
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: but could it be similar to 'the computer in the hands of the human'?
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: without the computer no online
[13:30] herman Bergson: The computer is the human, Aristotle
[13:30] herman Bergson: The subconscious is a whole different story...
[13:31] herman Bergson: it is a theoretical construct invented by the psychoanalytical school
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: yes, agree
[13:31] herman Bergson: it is a concept of a higher theoretical level than I want to start from
[13:32] Jozen Ocello: i see
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: smiling, it is my suggestion that the mind needs the machine (brain) to communicate and direct the body only
[13:32] herman Bergson: the subconscious presupposes an extensive theory about what the mind is..
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: this will be a long discussion every week i think
[13:33] herman Bergson: Well Aristotle...this going to be a fight....^_^
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: the cart and the horse, which is in front? :)
[13:33] herman Bergson: The debate about dualism and monism....
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, I am excited :)
[13:33] herman Bergson: You sound dualistic in your statements :-)
[13:33] Jozen Ocello: this makes the class more interesting, I suppose :)
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:33] Adriana Jinn: yes exciting
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: unless we fall of track!
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: indeed, maybe even quadralistic LOL
[13:34] herman Bergson: You may give a lecture on that Aristotle ^_^
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: I look forward to attaining more data
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: LOL, I may scare folks away
[13:36] herman Bergson: Well..the main development in philosophy of mind is, I think, that the materialist point of view is discussed more openly now and that more sciences are involved in that debate...
[13:36] herman Bergson: A big change...
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: I think so, but I worry about sciences becoming religious in their posture
[13:37] itsme Frederix: skeptic magazine vol.15 2009 .. has an artivcle about Bruce
[13:37] herman Bergson: We will get to that debate Aristotle....
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: :)
[13:37] herman Bergson: It is interesting to see how we think about science....
[13:38] herman Bergson: especially related to our supersense
[13:38] AristotleVon Doobie: yes
[13:38] AristotleVon Doobie: it is hard to keep the subjective at bay
[13:38] herman Bergson: Is that article online Itsme?
[[13:39] herman Bergson: Phew....the kick off.....
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ LOL ♥
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:40] herman Bergson: I will do my utmost to make this project work for you ( and me)
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: :) a bright step forward
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: very nice
[13:40] herman Bergson: So....thank you al for your attention and get ready for next Tuesday :-)
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: Tuesday we begin!!
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: I suspect very strongly you will not disappoint, Professor
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: good to be back
[13:41] Adriana Jinn: looking forward to it
[13:41] Jozen Ocello: ah is it on Tuesday from next week onwards?
[13:41] Beertje Beaumont: thank you Herman
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: and see all the old students and the new ones
[13:41] Adriana Jinn: thank you professor
[13:41] Jozen Ocello: thanks Professor :)
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: Thank you, Prof
[13:41] Jozen Ocello: see you all next Tuesday
[13:41] Josiane Llewellyn: Thanks Professor
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:41] SonolaLuna Greymoon: :) danke professor
[13:41] herman Bergson: every Tuesday and Thursday at 1 PM SL time, Jozen
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: Bye, Bye ㋡
[13:41] Jozen Ocello: ah i see
[13:41] Jozen Ocello: thanks :)
[13:41] herman Bergson: Thank you all...:-)
[13:41] Adriana Jinn: bye bye all and thanks again
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: ye Adriana
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: bye
[13:42] itsme Frederix: I'm already reading - see you nex week!
[13:42] Beertje Beaumont: bye Herman
[13:42] herman Bergson: Bye Beertje :-)
[13:42] herman Bergson: ok Itsme
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: good bye folks, and thanks again Herman
[13:43] Repose Lionheart: bye
[13:43] Jozen Ocello: bye everyone
[13:43] herman Bergson: my pleasure Aristotle ^_^
[13:43] Sartre Placebo: thx herman and bye everyone
[13:43] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye all:-)
[13:43] herman Bergson: bye Bergie
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