The Certesian doctor is not the only one to separate body and mind in his everyday thinking. Ever since, let’s say Gorg and Morg the cave couple started to carve themselves as ghosts leaving their own body at sleep has man found it easy to separate what we think and feel, from who we are. Haven’t you ever thought about why religion is so big, because the basic thought of soul comes so natural to us. Faith is a form of insurance. While we are awake, we can protect our consciousness, but what happens in sleep, and even worse, after we die. That is why we are so concerned by the mind/body discussion. It is the very essence of our existence.
Why is this relevant to the Cartesian Doctor. He/She can’t really grasp the greatness of the debate. It isn’t in his/hers repetoar or schedule. But, science has made it’s way to the mind/body discussion. But we are far, very far from the truth. Weather you are a dualist, behaviourist, functionalist, internationalist, microphysicalist or biologist, you realise that one if not all of you trails of arguments are missing a link.
A long time ago, consciousness was thought of to be something Divine, not explained nor bound to the physical. However, the birth of medical sciences gave a new light to the once already solved debate of mind/body where dualism was the most common notion available. Scientists such as William James and Max Wertheimer did not have great access to effective equipment, but they realised that they could use subjects and subjective reports by stimulating the consciousness and looking for subjective reactions.
Consciousness as a scientific agenda did not manage to develop fully due to two factors; 1) the soul is an important factor, so if we find the area of the brain containing consciousness, we are thought to disprove the soul, which is not true, but commonly believed. 2) Philosophical schools still have a great influence on the debate, reluctant to accept that there might be a pure materialistic explanation, which is not bad, but we all know that when two sides collide, there is no argumentative progress only creative verbal slaughter of ideas.
Thanks to Phineas Cage, scientist started to react to just how much of our personality, ourselves was in the brain. In the light of that day, Daniel Dennett and Roger W Sperry fought very hard to prove that biological mechanisms are responsible for the emergence of consciousness. Findings such as the split brain syndrome and other adverse neuropsychological problems such as neglect and prosopagnosia gave scientists hints of what was hiding where in the functionality of a human being.
So many theories have been born from the bare thought of consciousness being born in the brain, that it would overload yours just to think about it. Here is a small composition of the neural theories of consciousness, a small list to summarise. KLICK ON ANY OF THESE TO GET MORE INFO ABOUT THEM!
Dennett; Multiple Draft Theory
Searle; Biological Naturalism
Chalmers; Natural Dualism
Metzinger; The self model theory of subjectivity
Dretske & Tye; Representationalist Theories
O’Regan & Noe; NCC Neural Correlates of Consciousness
Varela & Lutz; Neurophenomenology
Velmans; Reflexive monism
Baars & McGovern; Global Workspace Theory
Crick & Koch; Neurobiological framework
Tononi & Edelman; The Dynamic Core
Lamme; Recurrent processing theory
Damasio; Neurobiological theory, EQ Descartes Error
Revonsuo; The inner presensce
Churchland; Reductivism, brain causes consciousness
You can’t examine a microscope with another microscope!
So, now that you know the scientific history, let us go to my opinion. As the title says, I came to the conclusion that you can not investigate a microscope with another microscope, and why is that?
If you should find systematic errors in every microscope you view, how can you the rely that the microscope you are using to investigate the properties of others is reliable? With other words, you can’t address consciousness by using consciousness to view it with. As cognitively advanced as we humans are, and we are quite advanced believe it or not (however not as nearly advanced as chimps unfortunately) we are not able to, in this point in time solve this problem. We “suffer” from consciousness and there for we
can not investigate it objectively, even if we are coming closer and closer and technology is getting better and better. But to, and remember it is this point in time, claim to have found the origin, purpose and use of consciousness is just as reliable to say that we can assure that we know exactly how the universe came to. Even if we have pretty good ideas, we still aren’t even close to the truth due to conceptual limitations and technological limitations. An MRI will show you what areas of the brain are active, and it’s accuracy is 97%. If your motor cortex is activated I might just assume you are thinking or acting out a motoric movement while in real life you are thinking about bats, can you see the problematics? We assume, based on what we know that we can see thought and strains of consciousness when in real life, we really can’t be inside of anybody’s head…yet. To overcome the problematics, we must unify and work together instead of working apart. Cognitive theorists together with Neuroscientists have to join forces and remove the status of consciousness research from darkened new age categorised library shelf’s to modern high tech hospitals. If we are ever to make a progress in either disproving Descartes and educating the Cartesian Doctor or realising that he was right all along. While I, still am sceptic to the possibility of looking at consciousness with what we have today, I am very enthusiastic about the future. When the time comes and we actually will be able to view consciousness with something other than consciousness. And thanks to Francis Crick who led us to the finding of the properties of claustrum, perhaps the true journey has just begun.
I would like to thank Proffessor Antti Revonsuo who introduced me to this problem, and the possibilities it has brought along with it.