The Free State
"Man, in a word, has no nature. What he has is - history."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Neurology > Philosophy

V.S. Ramachandran talks on Charlie Rose for half an hour. Watch it here.

Man vs. animals, the origins of empathy, cultural transmission vs. biological evolution (humans change/learn with each generation at lightning pace, evolution takes millions of years), the nature of consciousness (why does the color red look as it does?)... It seems no existential or philosophical question escapes Ramachandran's grasp.

And in the face of the armies of scientists today - with their case studies, experiments, brain scanners, drugs and the vast, growing body of knowledge they draw upon - it strikes me that philosophers never stood a chance.

Not that neurologists or other scientists have made all that much progress yet on the big questions, but when Plato and Aristotle, Kant and Descartes or as recent as Freud and Betrand Russell pondered the human mind and existence, they never seemed to get much further than little mind games. Shadows in a cave, a demon in my head, a barber who shaves everyone in the town except men who shave themselves ('does not compute!') and, last but not least, really it all boils down to 6 year-old you wanting to bang your mom...

I can't help but think it was about as futile as camp-lit tribesmen speculating on the nature of the spheres and dots of light scattered across their night sky.

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