Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought

philosophyinthefleshI am currently reading Philosophy in the Flesh: The embodied mind and its challenge to Western thought. Authored by Cognitive Scientists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, this book asks 1) What do major lines of Western philosophical thought assume about the mind? 2) What has cognitive science learned about the mind through rigorous research? 3) Are there discrepancies between Western philosophical assumptions about the mind and leading cognitive scientific theories of the mind? and 4) What implications do these discrepancies have for various streams of Western philosophy that build upon what now appear to be shaky premises regarding the mind? Continue reading

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Don’t We All Hear Voices? A Mindfulness-Informed View of Schizophrenia and the “Normal” Mind

The hallmark of schizophrenia is perceiving things that are not there. Auditory hallucinations, including “hearing voices”, is particularly common. [Post-publishing edit (Jan 19/2013): I’m not insinuating that schizophrenia’s defining feature is hearing voices, but rather hallucinatory and delusional errant perception in general, including sensory illusions and paranoia-laden perceptions and inferences. Perhaps, however, I should have said “a major hallmark” rather than “the hallmark”.]

What if this clinically distinguishing feature of schizophrenia differs from the cognitively distinguishing feature? What if, cognitively speaking, what distinguishes schizophrenia is not the presence of voices, but rather how one interprets them?

WHAT IF WE ALL HEAR VOICES? Continue reading

Is belief in God a choice?

The following satirical video, “Gay Scientists Isolate Christian Gene”, pokes fun at the concept of a “gay gene” and religious opposition to homosexuality.

The proportion of people who believe that homosexuality is chosen is decreasing. That’s not to imply that homosexuality is the phenotype expressed by a “gay gene”. Just that whatever makes one gay – e.g., some range of interactions between genetic, hormonal, neurological and/or social/environmental factors – it’s not the sort of conscious deliberations a teenager makes when choosing which college to attend.

Part of what makes the video above funny is that it suggests that being Christian is not a choice. To me, this invites the question (ignoring the particular religion)

Is belief in God a choice?

Can you simply choose to believe or not believe? Continue reading

Solving The Mind-Body Problem in Five Minutes

What is the relationship between mind and matter?

Materialism holds that the mental is a product of the physical – the mind is what the brain does. By contrast, dualist accounts are consistent with our common sense  notion that the mental is fundamentally different from the physical. How much does a thought weigh? a dualist might ask. In this post I will offer a materialist position that offers all the strengths of materialism as commonly understood, but with none of the shortfalls.

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