June 25, 2019

"The injury to my brain highlighted the degree to which my identity and my powers of identification have a specific seat in my brain."

"The concussed condition was an intimation of how terrifying dementia and other brain disorders must feel — the loss of a thread that has so far tied together one’s life and tethered it to the lives of those one loves.... Though my condition was transient, it highlighted the degree to which the brain serves as an anchoring center of control.... I’m not sure where my identity resides or even what my identity is or consists in, but I am sure that my brain is crucial in the continuing orchestration of a world that feels inhabitable and a life that feels livable. Brain and body cannot be separated, and yet there are episodes when they fall out of phase, the one wounded and diminished while the other projects a picture of health and ability.... I... suspect that my thinking about my own brain and the specter of dualism is symptomatic of the injury itself. Perhaps when I recover fully, dualism will seem as ridiculous as it once did, receding into the background along with the muscular effort required to read."

From "A Philosopher on Brain Rest/A mild traumatic brain injury forced me to question where the 'I' in my identity truly lies" by Megan Craig" (NYT).

38 comments:

Fernandistein said...

Here is a painting by the philosopher.

rhhardin said...

Eddington thought that the universe was made of mind-stuff, and physical laws reached only part of it.

Michael K said...

I quit reading at "feminist philosophers."

rhhardin said...

Mostly women can't do actual philosophy. They can't sustain an interest in (to them) empty problems that occupy males.

Sydney said...

I wish I could read that, but I have used up my free NYT reads.I am not sure if the author is truly a philosopher or more of an artist since her position is in a department of Art and Philosophy. If she is truly someone grounded in philosophy, I would like to read her perspective on her brain injury.
There was a book written by a neuroscience professor about her stroke and how she experienced it as someone who has studied the brain extensively. My Stroke of Insight. It was kind of interesting, although a little too heavy on the autobiographical background. Because her left brain was the damaged part of her brain, she found that suddenly having only a functioning right side of her brain made her feel more oriented toward the transcendent.

Dave said...

One of the biggest issues I have faced in dealing with professors, scientists, and doctors, is the clinging to the free will model of the soul. While this philosopher says that no serious philosopher takes dualism seriously, they all act as if everyone has free will. Sure they might talk about race, class, and other circumstances, but that's not how they treat people in my experience.

David Chalmers is the man on the hard problem of consciousness: qualia.

Dave said...

Well, in the defense of the women with no interest in philosophy, much of it is actually of little use. Truth is one value among many; value is everything.

Fernandistein said...

Philosophers Noriaki Kanayama, Tomohisa Asai, Takashi Nakao, Kai Makita, Ryutaro Kozuma, Takuto Uyama, Toshiyuki Yamane, Hiroshi Kadota and Shigeto Yamawaki say "Subjectivity of the Anomalous Sense of Self Is Represented in Gray Matter Volume in the Brain".

My personal theory is that consciousness/sense-of-self and the illusion of free will are spandrels of the (attempted) ability to understand other people and predict their actions.

Fernandistein said...

@Dave, a bunch of debate-like posts:
https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/category/free-will/

gilbar said...

of how terrifying dementia and other brain injuries ...

I dis-concur! After my major traumatic brain injury, after i was out of the coma; for four weeks i was in the hospital, with absolutely NO memory of ANYTHING before being in the hospital. They'd told me about my motorcycle accident, and called me by my name; but i had no memory of anything.
I was completely helpless, and had to be retaught everything; including how to go to the bathroom. While i was there, i was completely at ease... It didn't Bother me that i had no memories.
It wasn't until LATER, when i started regaining my memories, that i started to be concerned about it. Finally, when i had recovered every thing (except from the day before the accident through the next two weeks)(so, i no have memories of having no memories)... THAT'S when i became Terrified! I still am in horror of Ever having another TBI*
You have to know what you can lose to be afeared of losing it.
When you've already lose yourself; you don't know you're gone.

ps. Thanx GOD! and Thanx Iowa Methodist Hospital! for giving me back to myself!!

gilbar said...

(so, i no have memories of having no memories)...

should be
(so, i now have memories of having no memories)...

gilbar said...

OMG! sorry, i'm Brain Damaged**

When you've already lose yourself; you don't know you're gone.
Should be
When you already lose yourself; you don't know you're gone.


TBI* Traumatic Brain Injury

I'm Brain Damaged** two years after my coma (so, in 2003); my friend Ben said:
"When are you going to Stop using that excuse?" And i said: "NEVER!"

Dave said...

Thank you, Fernandistein, for that link. I added it to my bookmarks.

Yancey Ward said...

Some wag just the other day wrote in these comment sections that you have no choice but to believe in free will (yes, it is an old joke).

Dave said...

Here is a question for Ann about free will, because honestly I have no idea. Maybe some of the lawyers can speak to this as well. Is the concept of free will important to the law and our justice system? Do we sentence based on whether a criminal "had free will" or not? Seriously, I just watched a lot of Barney Miller when I was a kid, so all I know is that Ron Glass was great on firefly.

Roughcoat said...

If there is no free will, what is there? And why?

Is Chalmers not a dualist? Is he regarded as serious philosopher?

I'm genuinely asking these questions. I know very little on the subject, next to nothing actually. It intrigues me.

Dave said...

I thought this was a decent discussion of free will and the law:
https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1187&context=dlj

"It is clear with the recent advancements in the field of geneticsthat the free will foundation upon which the criminal justice system isbased is in serious jeopardy."

It is from 2003.

Google has really started bothering me with recaptcha requests. I'm signed in.

mccullough said...

It’s amusing to watch these dudes struggle with the sense of self. Like watching bugs under a glass.

Dave said...

Here is Chalmer's site: http://consc.net/

I think his most convincing argument is that there is no need for subjective experience from an evolutionary perspective. Then he asks, so why do we have it?

That's all I know.

In animal learning they do experiments to see what part of the stimulus the animal responds to. So they might use two different square targets that are blue. That's what google is doing to me. It's making me peck targets. I comment less because of that. So feature, not bug.

traditionalguy said...

How can a man be perfect? Free will is what imposes on a person responsibility for his acts. The Laws and myriad rules educate us on what it is that we should not be doing, thereby exposing our life of failures. But the Providence of God balances that crushing total responsibility burden. So do you best to love others, and that's about it.

Fernandistein said...

"It is clear with the recent advancements in the field of genetics that the free will foundation upon which the criminal justice system is based is in serious jeopardy."

That's was my take-away from skimming it. But the criminal justice system doesn't depend on people possessing free will, it depends on people reacting predictably to punishment or the prospect of punishment, IOW, the opposite of free will.

Pinker: "More to the point, you don't need to invoke a soul or some mysterious process of free will to hold people accountable. Indeed, one could argue the opposite of that: If we really are totally unconstrained—if there is a self or soul that can do what it damn well pleases—that's when holding people responsible would be futile. The soul could always choose to ignore contingencies of credit, blame, reward, or punishment: "I don't care if you think that I'm a lying, cheating bastard. I do what I damn well please."

Kay said...

Fernandistein said...
Here is a painting by the philosopher.
6/25/19, 10:37 AM


It doesn’t look like a painting but I like it.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks for the description of your experience, Gilbar. Glad you made it back to the world of the memory-havers.

Bill R said...

I occasionally suffer from what is called a "complex migraine". My face droops. My thinking slows. I can't remember things or find words. On one occasion I wanted my niece to call an ambulance but could not think of the word for "ambulance". I asked her to call the "truck with lights on top". "An ambulance?", she asked. Smart girl.

It's just like a stroke except that with the migraine, you get better in an hour or two.

The odd thing is, you remain yourself. You can feel this happening to you. Like HAL in the movie you think "My mind is going Dave, I can feel it."

While your mind is going, there's still an "I" there to feel it go.

I don't know what, if anything, this means.

rhhardin said...

A mind is a terrible thing to lose. aka

"When you take the UNCF model that, what a waste it is to lose one's mind, or not to have a mind is being very wasteful, how true that is." Dan Quayle

Dave said...

I don't even know what I'm arguing. Not sure I am arguing anything really. I did note that there was a quote from Holmes in that paper that said what you said, F. Is this the same as what you are saying?

"Justice Oliver Holmes expressed this notion even more bluntly:If I were having a philosophical talk with a man I was going to have hanged (or electrocuted) I should say, I don’t doubt that your act was inevitable for you but to make it more avoidable by others we propose to sacrifice you to the common good. You may regard your-self as a soldier dying for your country if you like. But the law must keep its promises.108"

Maybe I was arguing that in my dealings with doctors, professors, and scientists that free will seems to be an assumption they use in dealing with matters in their day to day lives, while at the same time they profess to be determined materialists. Is that an argument? Not sure. Seems like an assertion based on my experience.

I actually don't like to argue at all. I apologize if anything I said could be misconstrued as me trying to assert something in disagreement with what you said.

I was really just actually trying to ask a question about law and free will. I should have known better.

daskol said...

From the inside looking out, I've gone through times when I know I've not been myself. From the outside looking in, it's easy to see that people with brain damage such as advanced dementia are no longer themselves. You can see the latter on an MRI as a blank space where gray matter used to reside.

gilbar said...

Ann Althouse said...
Thanks for the description of your experience, Gilbar. Glad you made it back to the world of the memory-havers.


Thanx Professor Althouse! The good news was, i got to enjoy re-reading all my heinlein novels again for the first time :)

Well, the Really good news is i was able to
remember who i was
go back to work
graduate from college
get a monotonous job as a database administrator
earn enough money to retire early
and them, CATCH LOTS AND LOTS OF TROUTS!

Christy said...

James Gleick convinced me, much against my will, in the 1987 Chaos... that free will is a myth.

Nobody said...

That’s a kind of injury that any philosophizer would kill for. I am pretty certain that there are two individuals living in my brain, they get along sometimes and argue sometimes. Like when I swing a golf club, on the back swing, the guy is in control who wants everything to be measured and controlled, after setting up the grip, stance, and alignment, of course (Posture, Grip, Alignment: PGA) but on the downswing, another guy takes over who shouts “Fuck it! Hit it into next week!”

Nobody said...

What’s the difference if free will is “real” or an “illusion”? If say, the government takes away my “illusion of freedom” you can be damn sure that my “illusion of suffering” will be pretty fucking real.

Nobody said...

Kant was a philosopher, Emerson was a philosophizer. Philosophy ended in the 18th century but philosophers gotta philosophize.

Dave said...

How do you know if something else is aware?

Dave said...

The only thing I can figure is that if it (something aware) reacts to a stimulus, it must be aware of the stimulus. So I think the more stimuli an entity reacts to, the more aware it is. Take a tree, is it aware somehow of water in the soil, and stretches roots out towards it? Surely it is aware of the septic tank lines!

What are computers aware of? That makes me think of John Searle and the Chinese Translation Machine.

Chalmers argued that there is no need for "qualia", for example the sensation of red. There is no need for a tree to "taste" water. It needs only the ability to locate water in the soil. I only need the ability to locate and consume water when my body is low of it. There is no need for me to experience the sensation of thirst.

So why did evolution throw in awareness?

daskol said...

Awareness prevents a chainsaw from felling you under most circumstances I can think of, for a taste of its advantages.

Dave said...

You have a great point! I used to have a Stihl 084 with a 3ft bar. I was hyper aware of its location. :)

But, could a robot be programmed to avoid it?

If the robot could avoid the saw without awareness, then what would be the advantage of having it? Chalmers argues that from an evolutionary standpoint that there is no need to experience color, or sound, or any or "qualia". He is a dualist.

Thanks for talking to me!

Nobody said...

I think that they teach in philosophy 101 that solipsism is the only rigorously defensible philosophy but everybody pretty much agrees that odds are its wrong because reasons.

Dave said...

Thanks for joining me in this abandoned thread!

If I am conscious of something I respond to it. The most basic level of response is the pure experience, but in a physical world, this is a physical response. So, when the sun sets, if I am aware of the smouldering red clouds over the mountain top, that means that something in my brain has responded to the stimuli coming from the sunset.

If I ask myself, how do I know I am aware, I get the same answer every time. I know I am aware when I respond to a change in my environment in some way. Like a tree responding to sewage bleeding from a septic line.

Do you think a robot could ever been earn or given personhood? What would it take to certify an AI with human rights? If it tells you it's alive and it feels pain so don't kill it, would you believe it?