Wednesday, March 2, 2011

309: The Brain and the Opposition

Two weeks in a row my newspaper pays a lot of attention to the subject that concerns us here: the brain. And now it is the opposition talking.

The opposition is represented by long articles and interviews with professors in psychology and psychiatry. The critics are so important for our discourse, that I interrupt our line of thought about the evolutionary history and biology of emotes.

You have to hear this. It will give you arguments to think about and it reveals a big philosophical problem, that we'll discuss in the near future. Maybe at the end of this lecture you know what that philosophical problem is. If not I'll tell you.

People have a history of giving meaning, of motives, desires and emotions. Inside this you find the main explanations for mental processes. And you' won't find them in the brain.
Jan Derksen, Professor of clinical psychology at the University of Niimegen.
- end quote

The book "We are our brain" by Dick Swaab, the internationally renowned neuroscientist, published in March 2010, has sold more than 100.000 copies in the Netherlands! In his book he argues that all human behavior is enshrined in the brain.

-quote ( Frank Koerselman)
The criticism of Dick Swaab is that he takes it too far, and I agree with that. When Swaab says: everything is in the brain, he isn't wrong, for without a brain we wouldn't exist. But then, can you explain everything with this?

I don't think so. It can be quite useful to look inside the brain, but a statement like "Everything is enshrined in the brain" is saying something like "Every painting consists of paint."

Then you miss the mood and emotion, which the painting evokes. And then of course you miss the experience. Explaining and experiencing often don't get along to well.
-end quote

These are the words Frank Koerselman, professor of psychiatry and psychotherapy at the University of Utrecht. in an interview covering two pages of my newspaper.

And then a long article of the Herman M. van Praag, retired professor of psychiatry at the Universities of Groningen, Utrecht, Maastricht and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. (In the meantime you also learn a little about Dutch topography:-)

What do I mean with "mind". The person,who I am or at least think I am. My thinking, my emotional life, my religious, aesthetic and affective needs, my expectations, my disappointments, my loves, my habits. An enumerations which isn't more than an anthology.

(…) Suppose, we would know the neural substrate of aesthetic experiences in full detail, what would it teach us about the origin of those experiences, about the nature of these experiences, about our aesthetic preferences and inter-individual differences?

(…) What does the knowledge of the brain teach us about our hope, our expectations, our disappointments, our grief, happiness, shame, feelings of love, our moral sense?

The answer is: little to nothing. The mind is indeed dependent on a functioning brain, but can not be analyzed, studied, appreciated through the brain . The mind is a world unto itself. It is in many ways an independently operating product of the brain.

(…) We exist due to our brain. We are not our brain. We are much more than our brain. We are also a MIND. Everyone of us has, with the help of our brain, built a world far away from the material and mechanistic one. That is done in a way that transcends the brain
- end quote

One thing is clear. We are marching along in the front rows of the most important philosophical debate of today. Even newspapers spend pages on the subject.

But what to do with all this criticism with respect to our project? Are we on the wrong track? No. Are these critics missing the point? No. On the contrary.

However, to judge the criticism properly we have to be well aware of the conceptual difference between THE mind and MY mind. All this criticism points at the SUBJECTIVE mind, my mind, your personal mind.

Or formulated in other words, they all point at subjective consciousness. It is one thing, that the brain can generate consciousness. We even can scientifically proof that someone is conscious (although there seem to be exceptions in certain cases of coma).

But what we can not scientifically explain is SUBJECTIVE consciousness. When I see a dog and you see the same dog, are our mental states identical? Can't be because I can say seeing that dog is MY experience and in that sense it differs from yours.

Subjective consciousness is an extremely difficult philosophical nut to crack. Later we'll get to that subject. The quoted critics refer to that problem, but it doesn't lead to the conclusion that we therefore should give up our quest into the Mystery of the Brain.

The next lecture will be March 15. I will be gone for a short Spring vacation or actually to escape the Carneval events and happenings, which disrupt normal live for the coming week in the region I live.

If you get bored I can give you a subject that is closely related with what I presented today: neural determinism. Just start a google on that and you're in the middle of an ongoing debate.

The Discussion

[13:27] herman Bergson: Thank you
[13:27] Aristotle von Doobie: :)
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: oki
[13:28] herman Bergson: Hello Clerisse ^_^
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: hi Clerisse
[13:28] Mick Nerido: thanks, Is Neural determinism the same as Biocenterism?
[13:28] Clerisse Beeswing: hello professor
[13:28] Aristotle von Doobie: Of course, being the center of the universe, my mind it the ultimate in subjectivity, it is the Captain Kirk where my brain is Mr Spock
[13:29] Aristotle von Doobie: hello Clerisse
[13:29] herman Bergson: Not sure Mick..don't know that term
[13:29] herman Bergson: Should I beam you up, Aristotle?
[13:30] Mick Nerido: A theory that our minds create the universe not the other way around.
[13:30] Aristotle von Doobie: LOL, no that is Scottie
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: haha
[13:30] herman Bergson: That is called Idealism Mick.....
[13:30] Aristotle von Doobie: perhaps he is represents the body
[13:30] herman Bergson: the idea that what is real is just our mind
[13:31] Aristotle von Doobie: I agree Herman and based on our specific emperical data gathering, that may be very well be different
[13:31] Aristotle von Doobie: Ill Get u My Pretty And Your Little Dog To
[13:31] Aristotle von Doobie: Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha
[13:31] Mick Nerido: It ties into the subatomic theory in Physics
[13:31] Merel Heron: it is a lot you give us to think about professor
[13:31] Aristotle von Doobie: Ill Get u My Pretty And Your Little Dog To
[13:31] Aristotle von Doobie: Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha
[13:32] Aristotle von Doobie: oooop[s a gesture gone amok'
[13:32] herman Bergson: Yes Merel....I know..:-)
[13:32] Merel Heron: but it is so interesting
[13:33] Merel Heron: i started on the book from Dick Swaab about the brain
[13:33] herman Bergson: Oh nice...a good companion to these lectures
[13:34] Merel Heron: yes that is what i thought too
[13:34] herman Bergson: The lectures follow his basic ideas...
[13:35] herman Bergson: But I started this project before his book was published
[13:35] herman Bergson: He just thinks the same way as I do :-)
[13:35] Merel Heron: mmmm yes and like you say it isn't only the brain but also the connection to our whole being
[13:35] Qwark Allen: do you ever talk personally with him?
[13:35] Clerisse Beeswing: ahh two minds that think alike..pretty cool
[13:36] herman Bergson: No Qwark .....
[13:36] herman Bergson: I have seen him in an interview on TV...
[13:36] Qwark Allen: ok
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: oki
[13:36] herman Bergson: His book is pretty upsetting for some people
[13:37] :: Beertje ::: in what way?
[13:37] Qwark Allen: you should send him a mail then
[13:37] Qwark Allen: should be a interesting exchange of ideas
[13:37] herman Bergson: Well Beertje....if everything is just a product of the brain..God is too....
[13:37] herman Bergson: and here we go....^_^
[13:37] Merel Heron: mmm i think so far it is very clear the way he write about the brain
[13:37] :: Beertje ::: maybe he is right
[13:38] herman Bergson: Oh in my opinion he is quite right Beertje
[13:38] Clerisse Beeswing: ahh is he a atheist
[13:38] herman Bergson: no...not an atheist...
[13:38] Clerisse Beeswing: sorry my spelling is crappy
[13:38] Aristotle von Doobie: if the brain produces the mind, where did it put it?
[13:38] herman Bergson: Just someone who is puzlled by ideas other people have
[13:39] herman Bergson: Ahhhh Aristotle.....
[13:39] Mick Nerido: The Universe could be a big brain...
[13:39] Qwark Allen: the mind it`s the electricity that powers the brain
[13:39] herman Bergson: That is a good remark....
[13:39] Qwark Allen: maybe without mind, there is no brain
[13:39] herman Bergson: Let me give you an example....this is important....
[13:39] Clerisse Beeswing: neat qwark
[13:39] Qwark Allen: :-)
[13:40] herman Bergson: Take a glass of water....
[13:40] Aristotle von Doobie: I wave my hand over my head but can not find it
[13:40] herman Bergson: in that glass are H2O molecules.....
[13:40] herman Bergson: and the water is liquid.....
[13:41] herman Bergson: If the H2O molecus produce the liquidity...where did they put it?
[13:41] Clerisse Beeswing: we put it back in the air
[13:42] herman Bergson: liquidity is only a quality which can exists with H2O molecules.....
[13:42] herman Bergson: it is not a property as such....
[13:42] Mick Nerido: there is ice
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: its a matter state
[13:42] herman Bergson: like you can have water on the one hand and liquidity on the other hand
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: like ice liquid gas plasma
[13:43] Aristotle von Doobie: LOL it will surly run through your fingers, but can be touched....maybe it is ether
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:43] herman Bergson: that is how the brain and mind are related...
[13:43] Qwark Allen: i`m not so sure about that
[13:44] Qwark Allen: how you relate it?
[13:44] herman Bergson: We haven't the slightest idea why H2O molecules cause liquidity at a given state
[13:44] herman Bergson: neither do we know how the brain causes consciousness in a given state
[13:44] Clerisse Beeswing: like rain
[13:44] Qwark Allen: that depends on temperature
[13:45] Qwark Allen: it`s a physical process
[13:45] Clerisse Beeswing: hmm I see
[13:45] Qwark Allen: depends on the angle of the atoms inside the molecule
[13:45] Mick Nerido: I think the brain is a machine The Mind is a work it does
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: molecules moving at different speeds and energy grab each other in a different way that why these states happen in matter
[13:46] Aristotle von Doobie: yet with water, new theories as to why can be tested...proved or debunked, with the mind that is not possible
[13:46] Clerisse Beeswing: every organ in our bodies is a machine or something
[13:46] herman Bergson: that applies to the brain too Qwark...when you freeze it there is no mind either :-)
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: the mind may bee a bit more complex indeed
[13:46] Qwark Allen: it`s very complex
[13:47] Mick Nerido: Not all minds achieve consciousness
[13:47] herman Bergson: oh yes..and the them of today hits a central nerve....subjective consciousness
[13:47] Qwark Allen: it`s where we got in the metaphysic
[13:47] Aristotle von Doobie: the mind borders on being mystical
[13:47] Qwark Allen: ehheeh
[13:47] Aristotle von Doobie: a mystery for sure
[13:47] herman Bergson: The subjective mind does , Aristotle
[13:48] herman Bergson: The phenomenon of subjectivity is a big philosophical problem...
[13:48] Mick Nerido: I think therefore I am...
[13:49] Merel Heron: it is difficult to see the difference between mind and brain
[13:49] Qwark Allen: remember my question 2 years ago? when we die, where does this electricity goes? we know in nature nothing is lost, everything transforms
[13:49] Merel Heron: i am puzzled about it
[13:49] herman Bergson: Well Mick even that is a problematic statement....
[13:49] herman Bergson: Because Descartes smuggled something in, that wasnt there...the "I"
[13:49] Aristotle von Doobie: I think therefore I think I am
[13:50] Qwark Allen: can we be souls without a body, waiting for a body in a kind of limbo?
[13:50] herman Bergson: the only thing he really could have said that there was tinking....
[13:50] herman Bergson: Not that there was an "I"
[13:50] herman Bergson: where did that "I"come from...with identity, a past and a present...?
[13:50] Mick Nerido: But that is at the center of conciousness the "I"
[13:50] Aristotle von Doobie: what could the should be other than the mind?
[13:50] Aristotle von Doobie: soul
[13:51] herman Bergson: soul is just a word....
[13:51] herman Bergson: no idea who invented the word
[13:51] Qwark Allen: soul, it`s the electricity that is on the brain
[13:51] Mick Nerido: Soul might mean consciousness to some people
[13:51] Aristotle von Doobie: well, religion sure loves the word
[13:52] Qwark Allen: mind = soul
[13:52] herman Bergson: True Aristotle...., but that doesn't prove a thing...
[13:52] Aristotle von Doobie: maybe Dante invented it
[13:52] herman Bergson: Why naming consciousness soul or electricity....
[13:53] herman Bergson: do we really know what the concept of consciousness means...
[13:53] Qwark Allen: because we are humans
[[13:53] herman Bergson: We have that discussion waiting for us...:-)
[13:53] Qwark Allen: we need to catalogue everything
[13:54] Merel Heron: you have different levels of consciousness
[13:54] Mick Nerido: Consciousness is a highly developed self awareness
[13:54] herman Bergson: Qwark is gonna take his consciousness to his party ^_^
[13:55] Aristotle von Doobie: later on Q-Man
[13:55] herman Bergson: Duty calls , I guess :-)
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:55] Mick Nerido: lol
[13:55] Qwark Allen: yes
[13:55] Qwark Allen: i got to go
[13:55] Qwark Allen: was interesting class
[13:55] Qwark Allen: ¸¸.☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`☆ H E R MA N ☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`
[13:55] Qwark Allen: ty
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: ok cu there Q
[13:55] Aristotle von Doobie: bye Qwark
[13:55] Qwark Allen: ˜*•. ˜”*°•.˜”*°• Bye ! •°*”˜.•°*”˜ .•*˜ ㋡
[13:55] herman Bergson: Well..then it is time to offer you a well deserved vacation for a week...^_^
[13:55] :: Beertje ::: have a nice evening quark
[13:55] Clerisse Beeswing: bye qbaby
[13:56] Mick Nerido: Bye Quark'
[13:56] herman Bergson: I guess you have enough to think about now
[13:56] Mick Nerido: Yes thanks
[13:56] Merel Heron: ohhh yes we have
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: hehe yes was interesting as usual
[13:56] :: Beertje ::: yes as always Herman:)
[13:56] Mick Nerido: Have a nice vacation
[13:56] Aristotle von Doobie: it will surely take a very hight level of consciousness to find the mind
[13:57] Merel Heron: thank you professor Bergson
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: have a nice time now Herman and cu afterwards againb ㋡
[13:57] Clerisse Beeswing: thank you professor..good class
[13:57] Merel Heron: have indeed a nice vacation
[13:57] Aristotle von Doobie: Thank you Professor....relax and enjoy your time off :)
[13:57] :: Beertje ::: escape from Carneval:)
[13:57] herman Bergson: Class dismissed...see you all on March 15 again ^_^
[13:58] Merel Heron: oké bye bye all
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: cu ㋡
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: bye

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