Tag Archives: neuroscience

Brain and Culture

V.S. Ramachandran (Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition and Distinguished Professor with the Psychology Department and Neurosciences Program at the University of California, San Diego, and Adjunct Professor of Biology at the Salk Institute)
– lecture begins at 3:10


Edward O. Wilson (Harvard Univ. Museum of Comparative Zoology Faculty Emeritus Pellegrino University Professor, Emeritus)
On the Relation Science and the Humanities – Nine Parts

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Teaching Cartoon – Systems are not in Nature, they are in the mind of humans.

teaching cartoon

h/t The Wizard of Id (used without permission)

“The fixity of the milieu supposes a perfection of the
organism such that the external variations are at each
instant compensated for and equilibrated…. All of the vital
mechanisms, however varied they may be, have always
one goal, to maintain the uniformity of the conditions of
life in the internal environment …. The stability of the
internal environment is the condition for the free
and independent life.” *

* Claude Bernard, from Lectures on the Phenomena Common to Animals and
Plants, 1978. Quoted in C Gross, “Claude Bernard and the constancy of the internal
environment”, The Neuroscientist, 4:380-5 1998

Claude Bernard 1813–1878

Bernard introduced the concept of the milieu intérieur – the regulatory function that the nervous system applies to the stability of internal secretions and tissues. It anticipated the notion of homeostasis, introduced by Walter Cannon (1871-1945) in 1932, which has been at the heart of many psychological theories of learning and motivation.

The range of Bernard’s experimental research was vast, being concerned initially with digestion and its nervous control, and extending to the whole of experimental physiology and its philosophical underpinnings. His influence on physiology, both through his teaching and his many textbooks, was far-reaching. His studies of control mechanisms in the vascular system led him to propose a more holistic view of physiology: he stated that “Systems do not exist in Nature, but only in men’s minds”. Bernard rejected the prevalent approach of comparative physiologists who emphasised species differences, proposing a general physiology which “does not seek to grasp the differences that separate beings, but the common points that unite them”. He was also skeptical about the use of averages in the study of complex systems, favoring the presentation of results from the “most perfect experiment” as a reflection of the true state of affairs. source: Portraits of European Neuroscientists

The Things We Do. Using the Lessons of Bernard and Darwin to Understand the What, How, and Why of Our Behavior Gary Cziko

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Master and Emissary

Iain McGilchrist

The last two paragraphs from Iain McGilchrist’s Introduction [pdf] to his book The Master and the Emissary

There is a story in Nietzsche that goes something like this. There was once a
wise spiritual master, who was the ruler of a small but prosperous domain, and
who was known for his sel?ess devotion to his people. As his people ?ourished
and grew in number, the bounds of this small domain spread; and with it the need
to trust implicitly the emissaries he sent to ensure the safety of its ever more
distant parts. It was not just that it was impossible for him personally to order all
that needed to be dealt with: as he wisely saw, he needed to keep his distance from,
and remain ignorant of, such concerns. And so he nurtured and trained carefully
his emissaries, in order that they could be trusted. Eventually, however, his
cleverest and most ambitious vizier, the one he most trusted to do his work, began
to see himself as the master, and used his position to advance his own wealth and
in?uence. He saw his master’s temperance and forbearance as weakness, not
wisdom, and on his missions on the master’s behalf, adopted his mantle as his
own – the emissary became contemptuous of his master. And so it came about
that the master was usurped, the people were duped, the domain became a
tyranny; and eventually it collapsed in ruins.

The meaning of this story is as old as humanity, and resonates far from the
sphere of political history. I believe, in fact, that it helps us understand something
taking place inside ourselves, inside our very brains, and played out in the cultural
history of the West, particularly over the last 500 years or so. Why I believe so
forms the subject of this book. I hold that, like the Master and his emissary in the
story, though the cerebral hemispheres should co-operate, they have for some
time been in a state of con?ict. The subsequent battles between them are recorded
in the history of philosophy, and played out in the seismic shifts that characterise
the history of Western culture. At present the domain – our civilisation – ?nds
itself in the hands of the vizier, who, however gifted, is effectively an ambitious
regional bureaucrat with his own interests at heart. Meanwhile the Master, the one
whose wisdom gave the people peace and security, is led away in chains. The
Master is betrayed by his emissary.

(SC) My associate Kenneth Warren brought McGilchrist’s work to my attention. One of the first so-called turns a new publicized model goes through is for it to be stripped down and reattached to the folk estimations (or constructs,) which emerge when a representation of domain-specific research is loosed into the public source. Put differently: the representational concepts transform into hypotheses, and then people deploy these possible explanations in new, and untested areas and experiences.

This ad hoc meta-abduction pulls experiences and situations and potential matches and mappings back toward the explanation; and explanation held by human awareness. This entanglement could describe aspects of a social complex. It’s important to comprehend that it is first embodied, next emboldened, then reembodied; and that there is a parallel biosemiotic operation. A sense given by this view is that the transformation of domain-dependent concepts into something else altogether–where the concepts are made to visit new domains–is more complicated than the transforms caused by concepts being metaphoric or analogues.

A practical possibility, then, is that, for example, an ecological space such as a room or building, may be designed with the model in the designer’s mind.

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