One of the biggest questions that modern philosophers have struggled w/ is the idea of what our mind really is. How do we think? How does the process work, from thinking about what I'm going to say to sending signals to my fingers to type these words. Back in Descartes' day (1596-1650), there was a lot less known about how our bodies work; but even today, we're still figuring out new ways that the brain works. His famous saying is, "I think, therefore, I am." In other words, b/c we can think about our minds, that means we have a mind.
We discussed lots of different ways to figure out whether or not we have a mind. The points included:
- Our minds interpret sensory input and compare that input to our memories / experiences, in essence, a great synthesizer. Our mind is a combination of memories, experiences and emotions. One piece of evidence that shows we have a mind is that we demonstrate reason, morals and problem-solving;
- Society defines what our minds are - our consciousness gives us awareness;
- We don't have a mind at all, but what we call a mind is our way to describe how we think; we don't possess the language to accurately describe what goes on in our heads; Alex added that since we exist in the natural world and we can't fully understand ourselves, and this failure to comprehend how our brains work is the reason why we haven't created a true A.I. (artificial intelligence);
- I don't think we came to a conclusion on whether there's a spiritual aspect to the mind (is this our soul)?
- Lastly, a couple of you said, in effect, "yeah, we have a mind. So what?"
I started thinking of examples of why we need to understand the mind-body problem. In class, we mentioned the Terry Schiavo case (2005) and whether or not a fetus has a mind. Additionally, I thought that getting a better picture of this dichotomy would help w/:
1. Analyzing the competency of a mentally ill suspect to stand trial for crimes he/she had committed;
2. What does our "real" self consists of - Is it just a bunch of grey matter?
3. Figuring out what animates zombies - are they just animated bodies w/o a mind? Check out this link for more info - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P-zombie
4. Are we really responsible for our actions if something inside our mind makes us react? Think fight or flight idea.
Here's a video on the use of MRI technology to see what is going on in your mind:
Now that you've had some time to think about this concept again w/ some new perspectives (I'll bet you never thought I'd come up w/ zombies, did ya?), tell me your thoughts about your mind. Has your concept of what the mind changed since before you started the class? Why or why not?
Due Friday, October 30 - 150 words minimum.
Here's another video talk from Ted.com - Henry Markram talks about a brain in a computer.