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The brain and the mind

  1. May 2, 2008 #1
    Would it be possible to say that the brain in some aspects has nothing to do with the functionality of the mind?
    For me personally, I don't care how my brain works, it's totally irrelevant for me living my life, but what does this mean? To me it seems obvious that we have to separate the mind and the brain.

    It's like this with a lot of things for humans, we don't have to know how our car works to drive it and enjoy it, and get places, but in the case of consciousness we don't have to mentally know /anything/ about even the steering wheel or the transmission, so to speak, it all goes automatically.
    The steering wheel and the transmission would be analogous to our mind, not the physical brain, right?

    If it is so that we can control our brain with our minds, in some way, are there any scientific findings to support this lately?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 2, 2008 #2
    Mind and brain

    Is this a physics question? Well, I think it is, for what is really 'matter' when it can display such properties as 'mind' and 'personalness' when it is in the form of a human brain in a human body? (Cf AR Peacocke, Creation and the World of Science, 2004 [1979])

    There seems to be evidence for really close connections between physical brain states and mental experience. For instance is there research that show that visual experience and brain patterns are such correlated that if one knows the personal "code" of this correalation, one can infer a persons visual experience from brain-scan images. (Cf J Gallant et al, Sage Center for the Study of the Mind, University of California)

    Clearly, 'mind' is dependent on the physico-chemical state of the brain. To address the analogy with the steering wheel and transmission, sure, you do not need to know how it works to use it, but if the car breaks down, someone needs to know how it works in order to fix it.

    When this is said, there should also be said something for the autonomy of mind. Surely, in our day to day our experience of a 'free will' can not be just illusionary? If I want to pppress 'p' thrice while writing 'press' I can do it! Or was it preordained what I was going to do?

    It seems reasonable to maintain that 'mind' is a autonomous function of the brain, while still being dependent on it for its subsistence. The mind can utililze the brain for its own purposes, but it suffers in case of dysfunctions in the brain.

    These considerations where from the perspective of 'emergent monism' . But what if one where to say that it is the genes which are the real agents? (Cf R Dawkins) Then it would be genes that utilize mind, which in turn utilize brain and body in the interest of the genes. Then the autonomy of mind would just be illusionary. Does this make sense?
  4. May 2, 2008 #3
    The only way that you can even come up with the concept of a mind is that you have a brain. I personally believe that there is nothing separate from the physical brain, such as a 'mind', and I think the evidence is in my favor.

    Think about what it would be like to be say a metal detector (or any modern measuring device). You could detect things around you and outside yourself, but it would be awfully difficult to understand that all you are is a device that sends, receives, and interprets signals. To you it would seam like you had a mind, but in actuality your mind is just the experience of your sensation abilities. Now granted the human mind is many orders of magnitude more complex than any type of computer, but that doesn't mean that it is any different. Neurons either fire enough to create a signal, or they don't (1 or 0).

    Yes, you can drive a car without knowing how it works, but you cannot drive the car without the car.
  5. May 2, 2008 #4
    I understand both your points about how you cannot drive a car without the car, but I do feel there is a subtle difference between a car going on autopilot, and a driver actually driving the car.
    Even though they can both do the exact same things when viewed from the outside, the source of the signal that guides the car comes from two entirely different places.

    If we were to say there is no separation between mind and brain, then the signal would come from somewhere out of any conscious control.
    I feel the core of this issue is to find out where the source of the signal comes from, and how it works, so yes i guess it is a scientific query.

    But on a philosophical level, the sole problem of consciousness and free will lies with the fact that humans are capable of predicting an outcome before making a choice, and that prediction capability adds awareness, which again adds choice.
    If I have a crossroad in front of me, I can choose to go down either path, and you could say as a determinist that I will choose based on an ultimate physical event, and this could make sense, but then what is the point of awareness? And did the mind influence that choice at all?

    And to even complicate it further, I must also say that the body and brain - a closed system - makes decisions based on its own agenda, not the agenda of the entire universe since the big bang, and if the mind is controlled by physical events and is solely composed of such (random physical or not, doesnt matter) then the entire event system of the universe would be determined from the big bang or some other event like it.
    But this would only be true if there was no energy added to the universe, from an outside source that is not included in the universe, but this again brings the question of whether or not it SHOULD be included after all, because how can an outside source interact with the universe and not be considered a part of it.

    In other words - this is pretty confusing, and any holes I may fall into, I appreciate your comments.
  6. May 2, 2008 #5
    Again only my opinion backed by scientific evidence, but a huge hole that you can avoid all together is that there is no 'mind' separate from the physical brain. Perception and conscience is just the manifestation of your experience of your scenes. It may seem odd that such an ephemeral experience such as choice or thought can just be electrochemical signals in your brain, but think about how many individual neurons there are in the average human brain: about 1,000,000,000,000. Way more than the number of transistors in the average computer.

    I would defiantly recommend purchasing an AP or introductory level psychology book and read the nueroscience section. I took a psychology course a couple years ago and it was really eye opening for me.
  7. May 2, 2008 #6
    wel i heard something interesting,

    consciousness is the only part that the brain allows us to see, so its doing a million and one things behind our backs and we dont even know about it!! hell its probably plotting how to shut me up at the mo....damn i have a weak brain!

    the brain is very powerful indeed, far beyond what anyone can explain about it, but the actual truth is that we dont need to know what its doing or how to use it all either, since some claim we only use 2% of our brain...what matters is that we dont go intoxicating it with booze and drugs....
  8. May 3, 2008 #7
    Any claim of any percentage being or not being used by the brain is entirely false. Any intro. psychology book will explain where these popular myths arise.

    And yes absolutely the brain is constantly processing info. completely unaware to our conscience mind, actually much more info. than we could ever stand to process consciencly. The brain is truly an amazing organ.

    Again any introductory neuroscience book could answer all of you guys' questions and much more.
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