Tuesday, April 21, 2009

You are not your brain…

"…'You Are Your Brain!' … has become almost a mainstream notion now. But the subtitle of [Alva Noë's] book begins 'Why you are not your brain.' What's wrong with the 'You are your brain' view?

Noë: It's one thing to say you wouldn't be you if not for your brain, that your brain is critical to what you are. But I could say that about your upbringing and your culture, too. It's another thing entirely to say that you are your brain."

–– hat tip to Denyse O'Leary at Mindful Hack

It is heartening to see a leading philosopher of cognition (at UC Berkeley) resisting neuribilistic reductionism (Salon.com, Gordy Slack, 25.3.09). The rising tide of embodied cognition (à la H. Dreyfus, A. Clark, T. Rockwell, F. Varela, D. Melser, et al.) is the death knell for that archaic reductionism, since, gradually, we are (re)discovering that who we are just is who we are as substantial, historically situated beings. Year after year, brain identity theorists have been forced to expand their meaning of "brain", so that now the entire nervous system and our whole array of cognitive/perceptual "tools" (i.e., organs) is viewed as a coherent, integrated agent pursuing rational ends in a dynamic field of intelligible objects. But this concession is just to reintroduce hylomorphic dualism without knowing it (yet). And to do so is, in time, to welcome nature back to the table of our discourse, whereupon it is just a stone's throw from asking Nature herself Who brought her to us, and us out of her.

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