Monday, October 31, 2011

Today's must read ...

... Bryan's piece is characteristically excellent: My Brain Scan | Bryan Appleyard. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

... a ghost appears in the machine. If Larry and I have the same brain states and yet different experiences, where is the person who is having the experience if he is not in the brain state? The hard problem is very hard.
To think there must be a "you" inside the brain seems to me to be somewhat on the order of assuming there is a "you" in the telephone receiver. The telephone is a device that enables me to hold a conversation with someone else who is someplace else. Neither of us is in the receiver. Perhaps the brain - perhaps the body - is a communications device, both receiver and transmitter, and that what the scan reveals is the pattern of its activity, not the source of it. Perhaps the "you" is elsewhere.
I don't think is necessarily a mere restatement of the hard problem. To begin with, we do not experience our selves as epiphenomena of brain activity. The traditional view, going back at least to Plato has been that the body is the vehicle of the self - a selfing device, as it were.


  1. Anonymous9:24 PM

    If the brain is only like a telephone device, it does not explain the impact brain damage has on abilities.
    For instance, damaging certain areas of the brain will impair a person's ability to understand the meaning of word. Another area will impair grammatical skills. Abilities, memories, can all be impaired by destroying specific areas.

    Which leads to the question "if i am not my brain, it means i am not my ability to speak, i am not any of my abilities, i am not my memory. then what am i?"

    The biggest argument for "you are your brain" is all the medical cases of brain damage and the resulting ability impairment.

  2. Susan9:54 PM

    Except, Anon, that if there were damage to the telephone device (sounds so 1910, doesn't it? The telephone device), it would also impair the communication in various ways.

  3. Anonymous10:12 PM

    If we accept that abilities such as talking, perception, manipulation of concepts and memory are in the brain, what does that leave us with? What would the brain communicating with? Or more correctly, what are the characteristics/abilities of the "thing" that uses the brain as a device?