Today, the Kent State University working group on the neurosciences and the humanities held its second meeting of Fall 2011 semester to discuss, among other things, Neil Levy’s “Neuroethics and the Extended Mind” from The Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics edited by Judy Illes and Barbara J. Sahakian (Oxford UP, 2011).
These are my stream-of-consciousness notes on the conversation from the meeting:
Empathy and mirror neurons
Marco Iacoboni’s Mirroring People book
Martha Nussbaum’s article “Not for Profit”, cursory account of empathy, her argument won’t fly in modernist circles, making it fully linguistic–can we do this?
language puts us right in there with these issues
Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf, neuroscience and reading
Keats talked about seeing a bird pecking the ground–being there, as if experiencing as the bird
(what about Thomas Nagel’s “What Is It Like to be a Bat?”)
Shelley, “A Defense of Poetry,” similar argument to Nussbaum
Me: Evolutionary questions around empathy, altruism and conserving resources–why did we evolve this resource wasting/non-gene passing along adaptation?
Some others: Lots of sentimentalism about what it means to be human, but I don’t think that we are getting to the core of where this came from. Simply saying that we are different from animals (not something that I buy anyways)
Philosophers debate two aspects of empathy: 1) imagining what someone else feels or projected empathy, and 2) motivating someone to do something as a result of emapthy
Hardwired empathy–it would seem so.
narrow view of what the mind does–propositional knowledge
Why is it important that he is only focused on propositional knowledge? Is he favoring language as the medium of thought?
Godel’s theorem = undefinable propositions
Language always leaves something out (Lacan)
How do we think? in language? natural language?
Ganlan–mental activity that language rests on
Indeterminacy, thinking of the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle applied to language
Speech act theory, language does something that only language can perform
Machines that count as humans
Selfobject–can be a literal object, a person, an environment or setting, need that relationship to otherness
Damasio–core self consists of feedback loops, don’t really change over the whole life, those core states don’t changes, other things self
Science of consciousness and emotion, tree of emotion, drives > basic emotions > complex emotions
Clumping emotion and feelings together
Does consciousness begin in the body?
Community integrity–deaf persons and their children, for example
Functional intervention–someone needing a drug to enhance mental performance, memory, alertness, etc., then taking that drug away, what then?
Me: not troubled by extended mind, all for a posthuman future and the rapture of the nerds, related my own experience with identity transformation through medical interventions, that is not any different than non-intervention changes, though it is mediated by technology–cyborg? yes! (on the way home, I was thinking that I should have suggested steering the conversation towards haves-and-haves-nots for pharmacological and other technological interventions).
Identity–changeable and transformative over time | interventions in identity, drugs, plugging things into our brains, cyberpunk
Consider adding things to mind, but also the possibility of taking things away from mind
PTSD and Mrs. Dalloway–story of a woman who commits suicide and story of a woman hearing the story of the woman who commits suicide
Neuroscientists > PTSD is for past traumas more than the trauma that triggered PTSD, maybe forgetting the trigger event won’t help, this is why out of a group of people who experience the same trauma only some develop PTSD while others do not
extended mind–countering externalized soul?
Interventions > “you are playing god” > not consistent, hyperreligiosity
Milton > Blake, Milton lives on in him but not in the sense of reincarnation
Damasio–all about the self, the protoself is purely brain, core self built upon the brain
Denett–qualia and mind
Thomas Metzinger–The Ego Tunnel, he argues that there is no self, for next meeting