Sunday, 14 September 2014

Probing the brain? A "Syai" perspective on the old mind/ body controversy.

Before birth there are only the rudiments of connections between the brain-cells with each other and the rest of the body. At the time of a viable birth, when the organism begins to breath the outside air,  an explosion occurs that could be likened to "the Big Bang". It could also be regarded as the beginning of the entrance of the mind into brain, body, that locality of the living environment - even properly into the Universe itself.

Our present bio-science would (I think) have to go along with the above, despite the difficulty of defining in scientific terms what is meant by the mind.  For reasons that are easily understood - mostly to do with emotions - the prospective parent often finds it hard to understand what kind of an organism the "unborn child" is. Bio-science has to be more objective about this. Scientist's job is also to look into a wider context of social health and humanity's future, and not be swayed by falling foul of popular sentiment and the views of religious propagandists.

Nevertheless, philosophers and theologians need to correct the tendency in science to down-play or even dismiss the concept of the mind. The mind is not just a spiritual concept. It is necessary to make sense of knowledge.  Like (but unlike) the brain, the mind has a structure; a structure which psychologists like Freud have from long ago been trying to probe into and map. What is the special difficulty of this? It is that the mind is, as it were, a meta-structured unstable non-material thing, produced from the physically examinable structure of the brain and body and the whole hard-to-fathom, life-enabling environment. As such, it produces the abstract, but dynamic structures of our ways of thinking and shifting emotions.

A philosophically apparent absurdity is the attempt to by-pass the mind. That dead-end was pursued by some in the behaviourist school. Our brain certainly has a vital part to play in our human curiosity to examine and understand the brain, the body, and all that surrounds it.  However, without the mind's abstractive development of pattern, picture and explanation, the activity of the brain (and body) in probing the secrets of the brain would be as vacuous as one mirror confronting another.The mind is not centred in the physical brain despite the fact that the brain is its "starting engine", playing a primary role. The secondary role is played by the rest of the body. But there is still a tertiary role that is of the utmost importance. It is the whole surrounding biosphere of our life-home, the Earth.

Home-sickness? To get the feeling of just how real  the h(r)uman mind-and-soul is, you might try a stint of living in a physically life-sustaining bubble on Mars.

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