Mar 16, 2011

the squishy self

If V.S. Ramachandran has a new book out, you can bet your sweet occipital lobe I'm going to link to Colin McGinn's review.
Why is neurology so fascinating? It is more fascinating than the physiology of the body--what organs perform what functions and how. I think it is because we feel the brain to be fundamentally alien in relation to the operations of mind--as we do not feel the organs of the body to be alien in relation to the actions of the body. It is precisely because we do not experience ourselves as reducible to our brain that it is so startling to discover that our mind depends so intimately on our brain. It is like finding that cheese depends on chalk--that soul depends on matter. This de facto dependence gives us a vertiginous shiver, a kind of existential spasm: How can the human mind--consciousness, the self, free will, emotion, and all the rest--completely depend on a bulbous and ugly assemblage of squishy wet parts? What has the spiking of neurons got to do with me?
I disagree with McGinn: neurology isn't any more fascinating than physiology, because as Lawrence Rosenblum's See What I'm Saying compellingly argues, neurology and physiology are blissfully codependent.  You are the mind your body builds, and the body your mind conceives.

Mind-body problem solved.  Wasn't that simple?

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