Where does the mind dwell? This question has occupied the best brains for thousands of years. Now, a patientwho is self-aware – despite lacking three regions of the brain thought to be essential for self-awareness – demonstrates that the mind remains as elusive as ever.
Assumptions need to be true, but it is crucial not to regard them as “the truth”. When our understanding is changing, it is vital to re-examine underlying assumptions. Rethinking assumptions may be necessary but it is easy to suggest a similar idea. The only difference may be the introduction of new terms. Alva Noë argues that the suggestion that our joys and sorrows are nothing more than a vast assemble of nerve cells shares similarities with René Descartes’ idea that each of us in a thinking thing. Francis Crick’s idea that our mind is nothing more than the activity of nerve cells, glia cells and molecules may have been described as an astonishing hypothesis yet one mystery have only been replaced by another. The common assumption, shared by Descartes and Crick is that consciousness happens inside our head.
Brains do not have minds but people and animal do. The world is there for us and we can be open to it. Our body is not a robot where the brain is placed. Instead, our brain is part of what we are. Body, brain, and world play a role in making us. The brain does not alone hold the answer to the question of how the world shows up for us. The brain is necessary but it is part of a whole system. Consciousness does not simply happen to us. It is something that we do and what we do depends on the environment and the context. Consciousness is not something that happens in the brain. Taking a wider view of the whole organism interacting with its environment makes sense.
Many of us may argue that the weak point of this idea is “How can you imagine a mind anywhere else than in our head?” Where would you suggest? And is this a valid question?
Photo: “Paragliding ” by graur razvan ionu