The mind is what the brain does

The title is the brief explanation for “mind” given in Steven Pinker’s How the Mind Works. I don’t like the definition because it leaves out the other things that the brain does. In short, the mind is all brain, but the brain isn’t all mind. If it was, we would constantly hear “My heart is beating, Breathe in, My heart is meating, Breathe out, Blood Ph normal.” That would get annoying.

Michael Egnor has a response to a post by Steven Novella (They’ve been arguing about this for a while now) in which Egnor attempts to laugh off Novella’s arguments against dualism. Egnor blogs for Evolution News & Views, part of the Discovery Institute.

Egnor argues that “salient characteristics of the mind, such as intentionality, qualia, free will, incorrigibility, restricted access, continuity of self through time, and unity of consciousness (the ‘binding problem’) seem to be impossible to explain materialistically.” I think he’s full of crap, and I’ll explain why for a few of his issues. Specifically, I’ll be talking about qualia and free will.

Remember, I have a Regents Bachelor of Arts degree with an emphasis on psychology and two semesters of philosophy under my belt, which means I sometimes ask questions that seem new to me that are old hat to others. But I read a lot, so I think I can get through this. What I would like to propose is a thought experiment.

A child is born without the ability to see, hear, taste, smell, or touch. The only exception is that the child can feel (without tasting) if something is in his mouth or throat. His body is also able to monitor all of his internal organs, but not his skin. After a series of tests, doctors determins that there is nothing wrong with the child’s brain, but connective nerves are either severed or dead. The baby will eat, which allows him to stay alive, but cannot hold onto his bottle.

Now, the following questions: Would the child be capable of thought? Could you ever teach the child anything? Does the child have a sense of self, or is it possible to have a sense of self when you have no connection with the outside world?

If someone could answer these questions, I’ll talk about free will in relation to the answers.


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