I Am Not My Brain

When I speak or write, my brain generates neural signals that activate my lungs, vocal cords, mouth, or alternatively my fingers on a keyboard to form words and sentences. This sort of activity applies to anything “I” do. It seems natural then to propose “I am my brain.”

Citing difficulty with the notion of “I”, some neuropsychologists would prefer to say, “The mind is the brain.” The naturalist philosopher Daniel Dennett, who agrees with this position, took it further and once predicted that personal pronouns such as “I” and “you” would likely disappear from human speech in the not-too-distant future.[1] In that happy time neuropsychologists and psychiatrists may understand much better than today how to treat brains and their disorders. Or maybe not.

We don’t have to wait a hundred years to find a group of people whose concept of “I” or self has been shattered. They already exist. They are people with severe mental illness, especially schizophrenia. Continue reading “I Am Not My Brain”

The Middle Domes

The middle domes of life absorb most of our daily attention. By the middle domes I mean those that lie between the smallest – my individual skull – and largest – a horizon of universal reality approachable by faith or by science, depending on one’s disposition.

The middle domes therefore comprise groups as small as a pair of individuals or as large as a culture, but less than all, that form the subject in we-sentences. Examples include friendships, marriages, families, churches, schools, bowling and other sports leagues, clubs, local and state politics, nations, business groups, hobby groups, news and entertainment media, professional societies, military and public safety forces, and charitable organizations.[1]

About 150 years ago an ill-named tide of modernity began to overrun the place of the middle domes. Modernity began to insist that truth governs every event in life, and modernity recognized only universal truth. Continue reading “The Middle Domes”

Should We Make Every Choice Scientifically?

Psychology, the science of mental events, has grappled from the start with a critical question of moral neutrality. The science of psychology with its ideal of the impassive observer began as a branch of philosophy in the latter decades of the 19th century. In the United States William James, philosopher and close friend of Charles Peirce, was recognized as an originator of psychology. But philosophy including that of James and Peirce raises questions of value-choices.

Are human thought and behavior best defined from a position of scientific neutrality? It should come as no surprise that psychology took just such a value-neutral turn in 20th century modernity. Continue reading “Should We Make Every Choice Scientifically?”

Gilbert Ryle, Reconnecting Mind and Body

Just after World War II and near the halfway mark of the 20th century, philosopher Gilbert Ryle published The Concept of Mind, a book widely credited with ending the philosophical division between physical and mental realms of reality. Continue reading “Gilbert Ryle, Reconnecting Mind and Body”

Reflections on Race

In this continuing search for GSOT, the last 2 blogs gave a personal history of race relations from the viewpoint of a white boy growing up in Mississippi. Does the developing theory of GSOT (the grand scheme of things) give any insight for issues of race and ethnicity?

Let me recap here the barest essentials of GSOT as they appear so far:

Two facts that completely lack explanation confront me: 1. The world exists. 2. I move in it. Continue reading “Reflections on Race”

Medical Education for the World and Home

When Arthur Guyton assumed the chair of physiology at the 2-year University of Mississippi Medical School in Oxford in 1948, he recognized a personal inadequacy because he actually never had taken a full graduate physiology curriculum. His knowledge derived only from medical school courses at Harvard, as well as what he had picked up in surgical internship and brief surgical residency and his term with the Navy in the war. Continue reading “Medical Education for the World and Home”

Power and Systems

Witnesses from Schopenhauer to Frances Perkins agree that a sense of responsibility accompanies choices made by force of will, whether in the life of an individual or a nation. If I or we choose, then I am or we are accountable.

Yet on occasion something happens that looks very much like choosing, and it seems impossible to assign accountability. Nobody takes responsibility. Continue reading “Power and Systems”