Thursday, 13 November 2008


The first thing to enter into the equation is that a neuroscientist is primarily a scientist and therefore functioning within a paradigm originated during the enlightenment.

Before I go on I should say that I am here enquiring into Human Resolution which I’ve touched on before in my writing, and after exploring the above idea I shall return to this notion.

So, that being said, that the scientist is a creature of a paradigm that originated scientists, there should be no limit in terms of reflecting on their subject because a proviso of the idea of scientific method is of being open, of being innovative. I say this because the greatest work done in the last century were works of the mind - witness Einstein’s thought experiments. His genius was not simply having an idea bout the world which was through revelation, but of having the ability to pull that insight out of a place generally inhabited by mystics, but then being able to articulate his insights to the rest of us. In so doing he changed our perceptions - one might even say, changed our minds.

Though Relativity theory was originated a century ago, it’s taken us the whole of that century to begin to throw off the Newtonian Paradigm to be able to think in quantum terms. Newton had a model which involved mechanics, therefore cause and effect came into play. Einstein was looking at the material through the immaterial unlike Newton and I am aware that Einstein was at odds with the quantum lobby, but Einstein’s genius was so great they simply fold in behind him to my mind - others would have it the other way round.

My point is that the Neuro-Scientists are still inhabiting the Newtonian norm when making descriptions of the mind. They begin to have tools that come from beyond that paradigm, yet see the outcome of the use of that equipment in prior terms. In media we understand this as a re-mediatory act, where the re-mediation is about for instance the early adopters of photography who saw it as a means to enhance painting. It took some time before photography as it revealed itself to be came into the consciousness of those utilising the technology.

In short they are looking at the immaterial through the material - which is of Newton, instead of adopting Einstein’s process which was the other way round.

It really does matter which of these approaches you use - if you adopt the looking at the immaterial through the material strategy, you have no option but to dismiss the immaterial because it functions under the Aristotelian Paradigm. Aristotle quite rightly struggled against the imprecise mythologising of the everyday and employed the early scientific method: weighing and measuring.

In weighing and measuring the brain there are incongruities of data that show up. Generally you get the message: Apply pain here, brain lights up there.
Further. there is an inconsistency of data in situations where a person is asked to press a button at any moment they choose, where it is found that there is a one fifth of a second registering of the conscious brain after the ‘unconscious’ brain has sent the signal to press the button. In other words in this scientific model the consciousness of an individual is a bookkeeper of the real world - a ‘noticer’ and ‘organiser’ of events and a planner of things to do with those events in the future?

Looked at the other way, where one is looking at consciousness as being the point of the development of the material - which is how the eastern philosophers first looked - then one has measurable instances where something is registering in the material of the brain. The language is old and arcane but suggests a neuro-science that understands that material gathers around thought. The finger button story above tells us that there’s something in this.

Neuro-scientists call this the ‘hard-problem’ meaning presumably that it’s intellectually hard because one as a material being is looking at one’s material state through material means for a material end point. I think they might be using the wrong adjective. Or rather they show what their thinking is ‘hard’ as an adverb with reference to the material.

So far in looking at and listening to the propositions of those that would enlighten our understanding of self and body I’ve heard nothing to challenge the idea that thought precedes materiality, but I’ve heard lots of assumptions without evidence of the opposite. A set of characteristics, when viewed from a position that is looking for characteristics to prove a hypothesis does exactly that. ‘True logic’, i.e, that which follows an idea rigorously, which does not leap in hope, but requires a decisive piece of ‘evidence’ that is not partisan is hard to come by.

Until that happens here’s a thought:

I’ve written about the borderline of perception where the two technologies of eye and brain flutter and shift between each other thus producing the sense that colour is heightened at the moment of dusk. I’ve also written that this may also be happening at certain levels of resolution where a ‘confusion’ sets in about what is real and what is imaginary. When you look at the silhouette of a vase and suddenly see two faces looking at each other, then suddenly the understanding flips back again to the image of the vase. As this happens then you are on a borderline of perception once again where yet another material sensibility is being pushed at its boundary. We are creatures with contradictory technologies in us. Those technologies are there for the dealing with the world.

Might there be a similar proposition around mind and brain, consciousness etc? Might consciousness be all the things that are said of it by the neuroscientists, that it is a bookkeeper of reality, noticing what is happening (arguably after it has happened by 1 fifth of a second) but might it in its other guise as button presser one fifth of a second before, also be what the mystics have called the soul?

Does it matter that some people call it ‘soul’ ? Shall we dismiss it because of its connotations? Looking closer at that description we can see that the button presser is the tip of the iceberg, that it is miniscule in relation to the size of the whole. That its presence is not bound by time, that it exists, before, during and after the temporal consciousness.

So a description might be that consciousness is only seemingly in the present but deals with the future, the button presser actually deals with the present. There is a story of the gorilla and the basket ball team. A group of people are asked to note how many passes are made during a basket ball match. At the end of the match they reply a certain number. Then they are shown a specific piece of video where a gorilla walks through the players whom they now see. Being busy counting, their consciousness didn’t catch the information. Equally the police use hypnotists to ask people to remember the details of a moment - not what was happening to them, but what they didn’t notice at the time - the police mine the memory and ask the subject to ‘listen’ to the surrounding sounds, or ‘look’ at their peripheral vision...

I tend towards a gestalt here, a whole description as opposed to a partial description. Might consciousness accrue in a location and then matter gather around it, be it in the brain (after all when parts of the brain are destroyed so then abilities are re-distributed and other parts re-purposed) or be it in the material realm in general ?

So far, I’ve yet to hear anyone refute this idea conclusively.