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Is There a Difference Between the Mind and Brain

Is There a Difference Between the Mind and Brain



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Published by Theo Clark
The brain operates by electronic processes. The mind consists of our subjective mental experiences. Do the electronic processes of the brain 'create' or 'give rise to' the mind; or is it that the electronic processes are the mind?
The brain operates by electronic processes. The mind consists of our subjective mental experiences. Do the electronic processes of the brain 'create' or 'give rise to' the mind; or is it that the electronic processes are the mind?

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Theo Clark on Apr 06, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial No-derivs


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Is there any difference between the mind and the brain?
Theo Clark
Scientific knowledge suggests that the world is inanimate, purposeless, made up of materialthings which operate on a cause and effect basis; yet the mental world seems to involveconsciousness, planning, desire etc.
It would seem paradoxical that one world is the productof another. Yet this is the conclusion we are faced with if we are to make any sense of theevidence at hand and resolve one of the major questions of all
time. “Do the electronic
processes of the brain 'create' or 'give rise to' the mind; or is it that the electronic processes
are the mind?” The
ratiocination of this question is essentially philosophical, but by necessity,it is grounded in the world of empirical science.The brain is the organ of soft nervous tissue which fills the cranium of humans and othervertebrates. The mind, on the other hand, is the element of a person that enables them to beaware of the world and their experiences in it; it is the faculty of consciousness and thought.
 With these typical definitions for the brain and mind, how can the brain be the mind at all? Iwill
argue that the mind is an ‘emergent property’ of the brain. Moreover, the mind comes
after the brain
mental events are the subjective experiences of the physical events whichoccur in our brains. As a consequence, the mind is nothing more than the feelin
g of ‘being menow’.
 There are two vantages from which one can study the mind.
The first-person account ("I seered") and the third-person ("He says he sees red when certain pathways in his brainencounter a wavelength of six hundred nanometres").
This can be broadly labelled as'Introspectionism' and 'Behaviourism' respectively.
As one cannot directly see into another'shead, methodological problems arise using Introspectionist techniques, a result of which canbe seen in the foibles of much introspective psychology (such as Freudianism). Behaviourismholds that any mental events are outside the realm of empirical science;
ergo, it is now thebrain which is the focus, as opposed to the mind.
 As pointed out by Ramachandran and Blakeslee, if in the scheme of empirical science the firstperson account is disregarded, the implication is that consciousness doesn't exist.
(It is afigment of our imagination, if you will
though of course none of us have an imagination!).Even if mental events are not among the data of science, this doesn't mean they can't be
studied. Black holes are not among the data (in that we can’t observe them directly), but we
do have good scientific theories for them.
As Daniel Dennett explains, human consciousness is an experience of phenomena. There arevarious items of conscious experience that have to be explained. For this he uses the termphenomenology. Phenom, our experience of phenomena, can be classified as three distincttypes: [1] experiences of the 'external' world
sights, sound, smells, positions of our limbs,textures etc; [2] experiences of the internal world
fantasy images, daydreaming,recollections, bright ideas; and [3] experiences of emotion or 'affect'
bodily pain, hunger,thirst, anger, joy, lust, pride, fear etc.
It is the job of any materialistic 'theory of mind' to beable to do these phenom justice.
 Historically, we can see this problem began with Descartes, who considered the body andsoul to be ontologically separate yet interacting through the pineal gland at the base of thebrain.
The body (in our case the brain) is physical and the soul (the mind) is non-physical.There are various philosophical problems associated with this. For example, how doimmaterial substances affect material substances? Dualists, those who hold such a belief,have various answers to these problems which are generally found lacking; but the biggestproblem would seem to be an empirical one. Looking at one particular part of the brain to seeits affect on the mind, it becomes evident that we don't really need an immaterial mind whenwe can explain it as a material one quite well.The amygdala is an almond-shaped area of the brain that is responsible for the sense of fear.
When an individual is frightened, the neurones in their amygdala are highly active. If the amygdala is lesioned, the individual looses their sense of fear. For example, monkeys withdamage to the amygdala have a dramatic drop in fearfulness and rats with targeted amygdaladamage loose their fear of cats.
Here we can see that tampering with the brain,inadvertently or not, most certainly affects the mind. Adding the further hypothesis of theimmaterial mind is without any sound scientific point. As William of Ockham said, "It is vain todo with more what can be done with fewer."
Of course, a material mind has its ownassociated problems.
The Problem of Phenomenology 
Cast your mind back to the last brilliant sunset you saw. Imagine the delicate pink, orange,yellow and red hues of the clouds. This is a personal item of your own phenomenology. Howcan science explain this? "Nothing could be less like an electron, or a molecule, or a neuron,than
the way the sunset seems to me now 
or so it seems... How could anything composed of material particles
the fun I'm having now?"
As mentioned earlier, a good theory of mindshould be able to explain this. Consider another example.The version of a classic thought experiment I will now consider involves the colour-blind'super-scientist' (call him Dr. Grey) and the normal colour perceiving subject (call him Mr.
Pigment) of the scientist's investigation.
Dr. Grey is a 'super-scientist' as he has completeaccess to, and an understanding of, Mr. Pigment's brain. Dr. Grey's brain is of normalfunction, it is his eyes
which are missing cones
that are the cause of his colour-blindness.Mr. Pigment can see a blue sky, red and green apples, yellow bananas etc. To Dr. Grey, theyare all just shades of grey, so he wants to find out what Mr. Pigment means by these terms.Dr. Grey points a spectrometer at the surface of a red apple. The wavelength of the reflectedlight is six hundred nanometres. Because he can't experience it himself, he still has no ideawhat colour this might correspond to. He then studies the workings of Mr. Pigment's eyes andbrain, until he has a complete description of the laws of wavelength processing. His theory isnow able to outline the process of the light reflecting from the apple into Mr. Pigment's eyes,turning into the information that goes into Mr. Pigment's brain, where he is able to monitorthe neural activity antecedent to Mr. Pigment saying 'red' when asked to describe the colourof the apple. Thus Dr. Grey completely understands the 'laws' of colour vision. He is able totell, in advance, what word Mr. Pigment will use to describe the colour of an object, withoutactually being able to 'see' the colour himself. Dr. Grey can represent the whole process witha diagram, but is that enough?"This is you seeing red," says Dr. Grey, showing Mr. Pigment the diagram."Sure that's what is going on in my brain, but I also see red. Where is red in yourdiagram?" protests Mr. Pigment.Dr. Grey, somewhat confused, responds, "What are you talking about, what doyou mean?""Red is the part that is the actual, ineffable experience of seeing colour, which isimpossible for me to convey to you, because you are colour-blind."The conclusion we can draw from this reasonably probable conversation, is that the data, no-matter how good it gets, cannot even in theory describe our own phenom to another person.I.e., we can say when we feel fear, to use a previous example, "I'm experiencing high activityin the neurones in my amygdala." But this is inadequate, as it doesn't convey the essentialqualitative features of our first-person perspective. We aren't aware of the physical fact thatwe are undergoing high activity in our amygdala. We are aware of our experience of fear. Theonly way to convey this accurately to another individual would be to give them the sameexperience. Or, in the case of Dr. Grey, replace his deficient eyes with new working ones.
 This is why the mind is an important concept. Perhaps, in the end, this is just a matter of semantics, but it is semantically important. In fact, if we accept that the electronic processes
the mind, then the term 'mind' becomes redundant. Only a modest amount of philosophical or linguistic acumen is needed to see the unfavourable result of such a move -as distinct concepts, mind and brain allow us to think clearly about the physical processes

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