Monday, September 12, 2005

Mind your brain !

Welcome to this new blog dedicated to the Brain and the Mind.

I will be blogging on the Brain and Mind Sciences in relation to Society. These Sciences are progressively challenging many critical aspects of our individual and social life. Unlike Genetics which offer us a window on who we are in the chain of life and who we are as individuals, the Sciences of the Mind hold the promise of a profound understanding on who we are as Humans.

Contrary to post modernist belief, science is not a source of disappointment, it is an infinite source of progress and knowledge. Because as humans we live in the future, our expectations are always set high and because not one science could stand alone in the field of knowledge when it comes to the question of Meaning, Life and Self, many promises of the sciences don't turn out what we expected them to be.

In order to offer an informed update, this blog will be commenting on the Sciences of the Brain and the Mind from a systemic perspective which considers the mind as embedded in a system made by the organism and its environment.

My sources will be multiple, from Biological and Neurological Sciences to Philosophy, Psychology, Human Sciences and science reporting in newspapers.

Bienvenue à ce blog dédié aux sciences du cerveau et de la conscience, à leur recension dans les media et à leur réception par le public.

Ces sciences nous offrent une autre compréhension des phénomènes de la conscience, de l'intellect et de l'esprit qui remet en question des aspects critiques de notre vie individuelle et sociale. Alors que la génétique nous permet de nous situer en tant qu'êtres humains dans la chaîne de la vie, les sciences du cerveau promettent de nous offrir une meilleure compréhension de notre condition humaine.
Contrairement à ce que la pensée post-moderniste laisse croire, les sciences sont une source de connaissance toujours renouvelée et de progrès. Elles ne déçoivent que parce que l'humain, vivant toujours projeté dans le futur, a des attentes élevées, et parce qu'aucune science ne peut, à elle seule dans le vaste champ des connaissances, produire du sens quand il s'agit de nous, de notre vie et du regard intérieur que nous portons sur ces aspects.

Ce blog offrira, dans une perspective systémiste et critique qui considère que l'esprit et l'intellect font partie du système formé par l'organisme et son environnement, des commentaires sur les sciences du cerveau en relation aux problèmes existentiels de l'individu et de la société. Mes sources seront multiples provenant de publications scientifiques et philosophiques ainsi que de la presse écrite.


Olaf Krassnitzky said...

I would benefit from a clarification of 'mind being embedded in a system made by the organism and its environment.'

My background is partially in phenomenology, without adhering to any specific philosophy. As to the mind/brain problematic if recognize several classes of phenomona (percpetual classes, to go back to the original Greek sense of the term)of the same entity: "organism" - nervous and sensory system, brain, much of it observable with specific technologies; individual experience, "mind"; "behaviour", including spoken language, even listening, that which is observable without observational technology; the ecological processes of billions of neurons and glia cells, that would be 'meaningful to them - not really accessible, or not yet.The later would include the ecology of conscious expereince, or consciousness,to use s more popular term.

Given these multiple phenomenologies, it is not at all straightforward to talk about 'explanation', - what are we explaining with what? Without putting the merits of (proper!) science in question, science is reducible to one class of phenomena trying to explain other classes of phenomena.

To summarize for "Mind" and "Brain"
mind is how we experience "it" from within, brain is as what we observe "it" from outside, and there is only one "it", not one embedded in the other?

Sonia Mansour-Robaey said...

Thanks Olaf for the comment.

A clarification: my approach to the mind is a genetic approach. How the mind emerged actually. In this sense you cannot make a clear distinction between the inside and the outside because factors from the outside, like evolutionnary pressure and physical interactions during development are actually participating in the shaping of the brain and the mind. Also, at this point, I don't make a distinction between the two, between the structure of the brain and the structure of the mind.
At the phenomenological level, we only own what we experience. This means our experience is trapped inside our brain, body and mind but it is not only the product of those entities. It is the product of interactions between the inside and the outside of the body.
On the observational level, we cannot observe the entire intimate (phenomenological) experience from the outside but we can explain its processes and mechanisms once we have the complete set of factors (physical and biological) participating in this experience. This is not to say that explaining is the same thing as feeling (I am borrowing from Pat Churchland, also I don't agree on most what she says about the mind). We can certainly explain how feelings are produced but we cannot engineer the explanation into a particular feeling. I believe that this may be due to the actual impossibility of integrating time, history and memories in our models of the mind. I am not talking here about personal time, history and memory but about transgenerational time, history and memories., a process by which we are transforming the very structure of the brain and the mind.
Every time you create a piece of art, a piece of scientific knowledge, a piece of music, a piece of technology, you are transforming the way each generation view and interact with reality, and by the same process, you are transforming the structure of brains and minds of the next generation who will have access to these new cultural and technological products. In this regard, the brain and mind and personnal experience are completely dependant on the outside.
It is a hegelian vision of the mind.

I hope my answer made things more clear and not more obscure !

Hopefully we will continue the discussion.