- This pseudo-Paper is intended as the mechanism to record time spent on the Note 'Brain1' during my Thesis research, as from 2011.
- For the actual time recorded, click on "Paper Statistics" above.
Write-up2 (as at 17/05/2020 21:51:50): Brain
- There is a view that we are4 really, most fundamentally, our brains. It seems to promise some good things for both the “psychological criterion5” and “bodily criterion6” camps, since the brain is indeed part of the body7, and, in the absence of a soul8, the source of all our psychological functions. However, we seem to be much more than our brains. After all, who would want to be a Brain in a Vat (BIV9)? According to Johnston (see "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings"), BIVs are “maximally mutilated” human beings; which seems to be along the right lines. Note the important distinction between your surviving in a maximally mutilated state (as a brain) and you “really” being your brain.
- This is an issue Animalism10 has to contend with - whether a BIV is an animal. Paul Snowdon claims11 that no-one seems to think this, a view that Olson shares but on which he may be open to objection. He says that an animal with a prosthetic leg is a smaller animal with something non-animal attached. If this is admitted, don’t we end up with a sorites12 argument, that a BIV is a (very much) smaller animal; though not, I think, with any paradox?
- The big question is whether an animal’s brain is just another organ (like its liver) or whether it has some other status. That it is somehow special can be presupposed if we start conceptually with the brain as the core from which other parts are shaved off. Whether this is the right approach depends, I think, on what the brain does for the animal, and where the animal is on the phylogenetic tree. The brain is a much more important organ in some animals than others; in some lower animals it has no psychological functions and (maybe) its regulatory functions aren’t essential13.
- Why is Woody Allen’s expostulation (in Sleeper) that his brain “(is his) second favourite organ” amusing? Firstly, of course, because of the sexual innuendo and the ultimately strange prioritisation (since you can’t enjoy sexual excitement without a brain), but also, I think, because your brain isn’t an organ that you “have”. Without your brain, there’s no “you” at all, or at least this is a strong intuition.
- You can obviously (given even today’s technology), do without a liver, and it seems that on a life-support machine your body can do without its brain – where the brain is looked upon merely as a regulator. But the reference of “you14” is a bit slippery in these contexts. There is a sense in which you as an organism can do without a brain – on life support – but “you” as an essentially psychological being cannot. The animalists claim that you – being identical to an animal – have no essential psychological predicates; yet it is difficult to resist the intuition that there’s a reference of “you” that does have essential psychological predicates. This is to you as a person15 – but the big question is whether this person is a separate substance constituted by16 the human animal, or is just a way of describing the animal when possessed of the appropriate psychological predicates. Saying that you can’t do without your brain is just another way of saying that your psychological predicates are those most important to you (the animal); those without which the other predicates cannot be enjoyed.
- The issue fundamentally concerns the integrity of organisms17. It is said that a brain isn’t an organism; but does an organism have to be self-supporting (the main reason for denying the status of organisms to disembodied brains)? After all, we seem to be allowing that an organism on life support is correctly described as an organism. We’ll discuss this further in its place (ie. under organisms18).
- These issues are especially important when we consider various Thought Experiments19, in particular Brain Transplants20. Transplantation21 of all sorts seems to involve fusion22, with its logical problems for identity23 (not just for persons).
- Given that brains are important in lots of contexts related to personal identity, it is important to understand how they work – or at least to have some familiarity with some of what is known about how they work. Consequently, the reading lists below have some books on neuroscience. It is difficult to decide how the lists should be divided between this Note and that on the Brain Criterion24. As a first stab, the bulk appear under this Note, though some may be moved as I get further into the topic.
- For a page of Links25 to this Note, Click here. Sadly, there’s an absurdly large number of links, very many of them irrelevant, so I’ve not done an updating run.
- I’ve tried to exclude from the lists below items covered in other related notes, in particular:-
→ Brain Death27
→ Brain State Transfers28
→ Brain Transplants29
- Works on this topic that I’ve actually read33 include the following:-
- "Bear (Mark), Connors (Barry) & Paradiso (Michael) - Neuroscience", Bear Etc.
- "Bess (Michael) - Why upgrading your brain could make you less human", Bess
- "Churchland (Patricia) - The Brains Behind Morality", Churchland
- "Churchland (Patricia) - Brain-wise: Studies in Neurophilosophy", Churchland
- "Churchland (Patricia) - Neurophilosophy - Towards a Unified Science of the Mind/Brain", Churchland
- "Crane (Tim) - The Mental States of Persons and their Brains", Crane
- "Damasio (Antonio) - Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain", Damasio
- "Dennett (Daniel) - Where Am I?", Dennett
- "Edwards (Paul) - The Dependence of Consciousness on the Brain", Edwards
- "Epstein (Robert) - The empty brain", Epstein
- "Genova (Lisa) - Still Alice", Genova
- "Graziano (Michael) - Build-a-brain", Graziano
- "Johnston (Mark) - Human Beings", Johnston
- "Kaku (Michio) - The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest To Understand, Enhance and Empower the Mind", Kaku
- "Lewin (Roger) - Is Your Brain Really Necessary?", Lewin
- "MacKay (Donald) - Brains, Machines & Persons", MacKay
- "Marsh (Henry) - Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery", Marsh
- "Miller (Kenneth D.) - Will You Ever Be Able to Upload Your Brain?", Miller
- "Parkin (Alan) - Explorations in Cognitive Neuropsychology", Parkin
- "Steinhart (Eric) - Persons Versus Brains: Biological Intelligence in Human Organisms", Steinhart
- A reading list (where not covered elsewhere) might start with:-
- "Andrewes (David) - Neuropsychology: From Theory to Practice", Andrewes
- "Baker (Peter) - An Explanation of How Brains Think", Baker (Peter)
- "Bennett (M.R.) & Hacker (P.M.S.) - Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience", Bennett & Hacker
- "Blakemore (Colin) & Greenfield (Susan), Eds. - Mindwaves: Thoughts on Intelligence, Identity and Consciousness", Blakemore & Greenfield
- "Borst (C.V.) - The Mind-Brain Identity Theory", Borst
- "Changizi (Mark A.) - The Brain from 25,000 Feet", Changizi
- "Claxton (Guy) - Intelligence in the Flesh: Why Your Mind Needs Your Body Much More Than it Thinks", Claxton
- "Damasio (Antonio), Ed. - The 'Scientific American' Book of the Brain: The Best Writing on Consciousness", Damasio
- "DeMyer (William) - Neuroanatomy", DeMyer
- "Dennett (Daniel) - Brainchildren - Essays on Designing Minds", Dennett
- "Eccles (John) - Evolution of the Brain, Creation of the Self", Eccles
- "Feinberg (Todd) - Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self", Feinberg
- "Greenfield (Susan) - Soul, Brain and Mind", Greenfield
- "Jubak (Jim) - In the Image of the Brain - Breaking the Barrier Between the Human Mind and Intelligent Machines", Jubak
- "Kinsbourne (Marcel) - Asymmetrical Function of the Brain", Kinsbourne
- "Obler (Loraine K.) & Gjerlow (Kris) - Language and the Brain", Obler
- "Popper (Karl) & Eccles (John) - The Self and Its Brain", Popper & Eccles
- "Restak (Richard) - The Modular Brain", Restak
- "Smart (J.C.C.) - The Mind/Brain Identity Theory", Smart
- "Wilkerson (T.E.) - Minds, Brains and People", Wilkerson
- "Wills (Christopher) - The Runaway Brain - The Evolution of Human Uniqueness", Wills
- This is mostly a place-holder34.
Footnote 11: Footnote 13:
- This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (17/05/2020 21:51:50).
- Link to Latest Write-Up Note.
- I need to check this.
- The idea is that in some lower animals, regulation is distributed throughout the body, with the brain playing a less central role.
- This is true of the octopus – a highly intelligent animal – with many neurones distributed throughout its tentacles.
- The same is also true (though to a lesser extent) of human animals – the PNS undertakes various co-ordinating functions, which is why brain-transplant TEs are somewhat simplistic.
- However, maybe I need to distinguish between different neural functions – regulation, coordination, sensation, etc.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020