What is the mind?

Ray Scanlon rscanlon at wsg.net
Fri Dec 11 20:37:22 EST 1998

Nigel & Julie Thomas wrote in message <36710B55.6EBBCD78 at earthlink.net>...
>Ray Scanlon wrote:
>> Not at all, I merely want to make a distinction between that which
>> to the material universe and that which does not. The soul (mind) does
>> belong to the material universe.
>This, of course, is the metaphysical position known as dualism.

Ah! but which flavor?

>contemporary philosophers reject it as incompatible with a scientific
>to reality.

Because most contemporary philosophers are materialists and reject dualism.
Some of the younger men, I do believe, are dualists.

>> The philosopher makes it his business to
>> erect castles of words, wonderful, beautiful castles that obscure the
>> reality that the soul (mind) is not part of the world of experience.

You reject the word "beautiful", not realizing it was said as hyperbole.

>> Man lacks the intellectual equipment to understand the relationship
>> body and soul (mind).
>Why are you so sure? Because *you* don't understand it? Because the
>community as a whole hasn't understood it (or, rather, we hasn't come to
>agreement on a solution) yet?

Firstly, from reading (more than half a century ago) "Flatland" by A.
Square, (pseud. Edwin Abbott), 1884. Lately put out by Dover

Secondly, from reading McGinn, a contemporary.

Thirdly, from thinking about the subject.

But why am I sure? Surety is the feeling we experience, I conjecture, when
the reticular nucleus of the thalamus  is inhibited. Sometimes the
inhibition is stronger than others. On the question above I am only one half
to three quarters sure.

>Plenty of scientifically well informed people
>thought that life was scientifically inexplicable before the work of Watson

I'm afraid that vitalism is still with us, just not as popular as it once
was. As for the molecular basis of life, I think the seminal work was
Schroedinger's lecture "What is Life?" in Dublin, 1944-1945 (?). Some feel
that molecular biology dates from that lecture. The reason the lecture was
given in Dublin is interesting. Schroedinger's life was in danger (like
Auschwitz, for example) so the President of Ireland invited him, in 1940,
to come to Dublin and take a chair in the Institute for Advanced Studies.
One of the requirements of his chair was to give a public lecture suitable
for educated laymen. Thus the theoretical physicist, a Nobel Laureate,  came
to give a public lecture on the foundations of biology. This is from memory
and doubtless wrong. I shall be indebted to anyone who knows the truth and
is willing to share.

>Really hard problems can take a long time to solve.

They certainly can.

  To treat philosophers and scientists as
>entrenched intellectual enemies with radically divergent aims is simply to
>ignorance of the history and the nature of both disciplinary areas.

I think that in neuroscience today the philosopher is viewed not as an enemy
but simply irrelevant.

Those interested in how the brain works might look at

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