What is the mind?

Ray Scanlon rscanlon at wsg.net
Thu Dec 10 17:26:24 EST 1998

Anders N Weinstein wrote in message
<74h8gq$2k6$1 at usenet01.srv.cis.pitt.edu>...
>In article <36694e2d.0 at ns2.wsg.net>, Ray Scanlon <rscanlon at wsg.net> wrote:

>>Teleology belongs to religion, I thought everyone understood that. On
>Biology would not exist as a science without teleogy, to say
>nothing of ethology, the study of animal behavior.

I'm afraid there is more than one biology in this world. You may be a
creationist for all I know. The biologists that I have known go to great
lengths to avoid teleological expressions. Still they must write in English.
The limitations of language being what they are, they think it hopeless to
scrub out every reference to purposiveness, but they do try.

>>The reality remains, for Science man is a mammal, a vertebrate, an animal.
>>Of animals, man is one of those that possess a neural net. All behavior of
>>such an animal is driven by its neural net. One attempts to examine the
>>neural net to determine which neurons do what. One examines the molecules
>>a neuron to determine which molecules do what.
>>This is neuroscience.
>This is a crude form of physicalism that simply does not follow. I repeat,
>behavior can be taken under many descriptions. Under some descriptions,
>neuroscience can explain it; but under others it cannot.
>To take one claring example, a neuroscientific explanation must leave
>out all features of context that go into the constitution of behavior
>as a social act. Paying my rent by mailing a check, for example, is a
>form of human behavior. But those neurally produced motions of my body
>can only constitute paying rent (or even attempting to pay rent) if
>certain human institutions are in effect. But it is no part of
>neuroscience to deal with those, i.e. no part of neuroscience to deal
>with behavior under these descriptions. So in a way, neuroscience
>cannot explain why I paid my rent by check; it only explains why may
>arm moved in various ways around ink and paper.

I see no reason for leaving out "features of context that go into the
constitution of behavior as a social act". This is babbling. One brain is
composed of neurons. Two, three, four, or more brains are also composed of
neurons. How many brains does it take to constitute a society? Are they all
not composed of neurons? Do you invoke something supernatural?

I fear this discussion is going nowhere. My interest is in neurons and what
we may explain as following from the activity of neurons. You wish to speak
of paying the rent, buying a bottle of milk, running after a bus, and
similar human activities as though they were somehow different from other
animal behavior. To me all this is brain driven. To me an ant pushing a
grain of sand and a human writing a check are equally driven by neurons.
Only in religion do I find it otherwise. Possibly you wish to bring in an
homunculus in the form of "mind" or "the thinker" or whatever. This is a
popular form of escapism.

If we cannot explain rent paying today then we shall tomorrow. You must
remember that today we deal with Aplysia, a simple animal, tomorrow is a
different story.

Those interested in how the brain works might look at

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