Friday, October 24, 2008

Decartes and Dualism

Yesterday morning, I listened to this On Point about Renee Descartes, his philosophy, it's implications, the man, and what happened to his bones. Very interesting story. 

Anyway, I was musing and mulling this over and decided to write down a few notes about my thoughts on the whole Mind-Body dualism question:

I think >> I am

I sense >> I am
I sense >> I think >> I am

What does a mind think if born without senses? Does it?
Is this the epitome of a rationalization of existance? 
Is it possible that reality is seated at the interface of the mind and body? 


Matt Fate said...

You ask a very good question - could an isolated mind, deprived of initial external input, even form thoughts? Or are all of our thoughts actually just embellishments on experience and sense data? What nucleus would such a mind have around which to form ideas? Could it exist as a quantum superposition, a mind which by being completely blank but with the ability to think would simultaneously have no thoughts and all possible thoughts occurring within its gray-matter confines?

If such an isolated mind could think, the framework of those thoughts would likely be completely alien to you and I, whose thoughts are organized and patterned after those of our progenitors and the need to communicate in an intelligible fashion with the society and world that surrounds us. In order to think, the isolated mind would have to create its own symbolism (language), logic, and meaning - which could be so far from our realm of experience that we wouldn't even recognize the result as "thoughts".

Or, maybe, the isolated mind would sit there idle for eternity, simply waiting for the need to think.

Jesse said...

You know I hadn't really thought of this as a Schrodinger's Cat sort of problem, but basically it is. If you try to find out if there is a consciousness in there, well then you are going to have to probe it with something that results in sensory input- and in the process you've skewed the results.

Another imagined path my mind wandered down has to do with what that person's reality would be like- assuming rational thought does exists in a senseless person. Maybe it would allow for other sensory methods to be developed.

Who are we to day that the 5 senses we know of are the only ones? Maybe they are really just a bunch of white noise drowning out some other more subtle senses? The beginning of our lives is composed almost entirely of making some kind of understanding of the information our senses overloads our brain with during those developing years. The brain develops pattern recognition routines, audio noise canceling for crowded restaurants, etc. Maybe through that process something deeper is also lost?

Maybe not...