Date: Sep 2, 2013 11:13 AM
Author: GS Chandy
Subject: Brain and 'Mind': connecting the rational and the 'irrational'?

"Mindless", by Adam Gopnik, from the New Yorker
http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2013/09/09/130909crbo_books_gopnik?printable=true¤tPage=all

A fascinating article. Like anything in the New Yorker, the article tells us a great deal about the 'latest thinking' on the subject.

I don't agree with some of the current and most lauded research - but we do need to try to understand what we do not agree with: this is a useful 'cultural characteristic' to cultivate/imbibe. We may then come to understand where we may be wrong (if we are), and how we may possibly set our ideas on the right track (if we are at a stage in our journey at which the 'right track' can be discovered at all).

We need to remember that the mysteries of the brain and 'mind' are more complex than the human 'mind' can readily comprehend: the most advanced research into the mysteries of the brain has not yet exposed the 'mind' to us - but yet it is probably impossible at this stage to claim (as some neuroscientists do) AND verify that such a thing as 'mind' does not really exist. It's a bit like the existence of 'God': as a 'passionate sceptic' I can still only be an agnostic, not a full-blown atheist, notwithstanding Richard Dawkins. (And this is not merely a matter of 'insurance', 'just in case', or anything of that sort).

-- "Neuroscience can often answer the obvious questions but rarely the interesting (GSC: or the important) ones". E.g., "What - if it exists - is 'mind'"? - Alternatively: "Prove that the 'mind' does not exist". Can't be done (at least, not at this stage of our intellectual development).

- -- "(Neuroscience) has become what the 'cultural' turn was a few decades ago: the all-purpose non-explanation explanation of everything". (Gopnik)

- --"The really curious thing about minds and brains is that the truth about them lies not somewhere in the middle but simultaneously on both extremes. We know already that the wet bits of the brain change the moods of the mind: that's why a lot of champagne gets sold on Valentine's Day. On the other hand, if the mind were not a high-level symbol-managing device, flower sales would not rise on Valentine's Day, too. Philosophy may someday dissolve into psychology and psychology into neurology, but since the lesson of neuro is that thoughts change brains as much as brains thoughts, the reduction may not reduce much that matters. As Montaigne wrote, we are always double in ourselves. ..." (Gopnik)

I've not read the books/studies reviewed in Mr Gopnik's article:

- --"A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind" (St. Martin's), by Robert A. Burton;

- --"Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuro-Science" (Basic), by Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld; and

- --"Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind" (Princeton), by a pair of cognitive scientists, Nikolas Rose and Joelle M. Abi-Rached.

(There are various others referred to in the article).

I hope to rectify this deficiency soonest possible.

I do believe that the current brain-'mind' research does suggest that Robert Hansen's belief that "Children must be PUSHED to learn" is almost certain to be entirely the wrong track.

Equally, all available knowledge seems to indicate that the famous slogans chanted by Haim and Professor Bishop are bound to be taking us down the wrong track, insofar as developing educational systems is concerned.

GSC


Message was edited by: GS Chandy