Friday, October 8, 2010

Post-Coffee Morning Meditation

I've been over-interested lately in the question of whether the Self is moved or changed by chemical influences in the brain. My "influences" of choice have been coffee and wine. Here's a relevant excerpt from a semi-formal dialog I had with a friend not long ago:
MC: ...i want to nudge you, even just slightly, towards my view of the brain as a tool, and the spirit as work, and *some* space between the identity of the two.

CP: I don't understand that view yet, but I'm willing to.

MC: well, this feels like a jump ahead, but if then it's at all possible to appeal to that view, i think i'm trying to separate the 'mind' from the 'brain' in order to keep the work of the mind from being diminished by the chemical 'aiding' of the brain.

CP: Go real slowly here with me: so, the brain can receive chemical aid (because it's physical?) while the mind is sort of super-chemical?--or is that too simply dualistic?

MC: i do believe that the mind is somewhere, super-chemical, in the space "after," while the brain is capable of existing, let's say, "supra-chemically" -- before.

CP: Okay I can work with our definitions now; I'm with you.
Today, when I reflect on that conversation, I want to go even slower. It seems to me that one way to resolve this problem of the brain/mind distinction would be simply to say that the brain is everything that takes place, chemically, in the organ known as the brain (and maybe in the spinal column) whereas the mind is everything that takes place, chemically, in the brain and spinal column and the entire rest of the body. Let me reiterate: this is just how I'm thinking today. But, today, I'm loathe to entertain the idea of some non-physical specter that has influence over the brain, without existing in the realm of physical reality. That seems like rubbish and superstition to me, and so I'm trying to resolve it.

So when I have a glass of coffee, understandably, my brain is moved from its "baseline" (is there a baseline?). But the question is whether my mind is moved by--or with--my brain in those caffeinated moments. I don't mean to make a zen riddle out of this; unfortunately it has to sound something like: Am "I" (mind?) able to watch "myself" (brain?) getting charged by caffeine, or do "I"-the-watcher (mind?) become caffeinated too? Is there no Self isolated from the effects of "the world?"

How and why did we reach this conclusion that there is a significant dualism?--that there is an experiencer, and then a reflective self? Perhaps we don't like the notion that a cup of coffee can alter our whole identity. But our preferences certainly have no bearing on truth. What other problems arise if I admit that my whole identity changes when I take LSD, drink coffee, or wine?

1 comment:

  1. eahhhhh let's just do what works and keep weighing the results.

    ReplyDelete