Up@dawn 2.0

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Chapter Seven Summary of Stephen Mumford's Metaphysics

     This chapter sought to challenge the reader into thinking deeper into the relationship between ming and body. Is the mind just a byproduct of the interaction of the body’s molecular and chemical substances? Is thought just the firing of certain neurons in the brain? Can consciousness be explained by chemistry and biology? Or are mind and body two separate substances, body being a physical substance and mind being a ‘spiritual’ substance?

     Descartes believes there are two parts, mind and body. Body, being a physical substance, meaning it has a place in space, a physical location. The mind, since it is a spiritual substance, does not have a physical place thus meaning it does not reside in space, ie. it has no height or length or girth. Some suggest it resides in time. The more I contemplate the implications here, there more questions I have. Following the rule that two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time seems to coincide with this theory. The body occupies the space, but with the mind residing in time, it is not bound by a location. The implications then is that the mind can continue on disembodied after the physical substance in which it is bound is gone. I struggle with this notion because it is suggesting what sounds like an after life. But if the mind is not bound by the physical and thus resides in time, why then can we not remember anything before our birth? Why can we not remember where the mind was or what it was doing before it was bound in the physical substance? And why then, can it not choose to leave at any time?

The other view is that the mind is just the byproduct of chemical and molecular interactions in the brain. Thus taking us back to the first chapters in Stephen Mumford’s book where emergence is discussed. So, is the mind and consciousness an emergent of the physical? If so this would mean if the body dies, so does the mind. Although less imaginative, this seems to be a more suitable explanation. What then of coma patients who claim when they wake up that they were fully aware the entire time and can recall conversations being had while they were laying there helpless and in all other aspects no longer functional? Does this not then prove mind and body are separate?

2 comments:

  1. "What then of coma patients who claim when they wake up that they were fully aware the entire time and can recall conversations being had while they were laying there helpless and in all other aspects no longer functional? Does this not then prove mind and body are separate?"

    No. It might more plausibly challenge our understanding of what it means to be comatose. It's hard to imagine any explanation of this phenomenon that did not involve a deeper appreciation of our natural human condition. Mind-body dualism itself seems moribund, from a neuroscientific perspective. But the notion of mind as a larger category of discourse still seems promising. Perhaps we can stick with a definition of "brain" as the res cogitans, Descartes' Thinking Thing, and refer to mind as the brain PLUS whatever personal and cultural associations allow us to speak of ourselves as spirited beings (by which I mean: beings infused with the breath of life and impelled to seek self-understanding, purpose, and meaning). All of the latter is emergent, in the sense that it only becomes salient when people use their brains to raise questions about the meaning and purpose of embodied human existence.

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    1. On the question of emergence: my old prof John Post had a distinctive take on the issue, and defended "non-reductive physicalism" in his book "Faces of Existence"... might be worth a look, if you're interested. http://laidotoz.ru/zegiw.pdf

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