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the excluded middle way

“we are nothing but a loom of electricity and enzymes”

And yet… from the inside… “we feel like the ghost, not like the machine”.

This is a great summary of the two fundamental perspectives in psychology. Thank you c4chaos for a great spot from the LA Times.

C4CHAOS wrote:

Jonah Lehrer has an insightful article on the LA Times urging neuroscientists to go beyond reductionism. Below is a key quote.

“The mind is like music. While neuroscience accurately describes our brain in terms of its material facts — we are nothing but a loom of electricity and enzymes — this isn’t how we experience the world. Our consciousness, at least when felt from the inside, feels like more than the sum of its cells. The truth of the matter is that we feel like the ghost, not like the machine.

“If neuroscience is going to solve its grandest questions, such as the mystery of consciousness, it needs to adopt new methods that are able to construct complex representations of the mind that aren’t built from the bottom up. Sometimes, the whole is best understood in terms of the whole. William James, as usual, realized this first. The eight chapters that begin his 1890 textbook, “The Principles of Psychology,” describe the mind in the conventional third-person terms of the experimental psychologist. Everything changes, however, with Chapter 9. James starts this section, “The Stream of Thought,” with a warning: “We now begin our study of the mind from within.”
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“With that single sentence, James tried to shift the subject of psychology. He disavowed any scientific method that tried to dissect the mind into a set of elemental units, be it sensations or synapses. Modern science, however, didn’t follow James’ lead. In the years after his textbook was published, a “New Psychology” was born, and this rigorous science had no use for Jamesian vagueness. Measurement was now in vogue. Psychologists were busy trying to calculate all sorts of inane things, such as the time it takes for a single sensation to travel from your finger to your head. By quantifying our consciousness, they hoped to make the mind fit for science. Unfortunately, this meant that the mind was defined in very narrow terms. The study of experience was banished from the laboratory.”


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Filed under: AQAL, both/and, Brain, conceptual mind, gross mind, Integral, Mind, Science, , , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses

  1. […] both/and wrote an interesting post today on "we are nothing but a loom of electricity and enzymes"Here’s a quick excerptThis is a great summary of the two fundamental perspectives in psychology…. […]

  2. gregoriokelly says:

    I found the LA Times article by Lehrer to be ill-informed and tendentious. If the success of modern neuroscience can be laid at the feet of reductionism, then where are its failures to be deposited? Lack of research, the complexity of the subject matter? Reductionism is only effective when it is founded on the principles of the physical sciences since, in the descent through the scales of mass ans size, we end up at the atomic and subatomic level.
    The trouble is neuroscience never made it to this level. That is why its alleged success is a pallid hint of its potential, and its clinical poverty is deep into its second century. It is still struggling with the failure to assimilate understanding of the electrochemical nature of the nerve impulse in redox coupling, and the paleobiological role of nerves and nervous tissue in the evolution of multi-cellular bioenergetics.
    Instead neuroscience is limited to the the study of neuropathology, and to endless speculation about the nature of consciousness when the latter is an epiphenomenal consequence of the electrochemical activity of the brain. Neuroscientists like Bert Sakmann, and Eric Kandel still believe in the ionic channel model of nerve impulse propagation, and in chemiosmosis as a form of biological energy transduction, long after the man responsible for the idea (John Eccles) abjured the model for which he received a Nobel in 1963, as grossly inadequate for information processing and encoding in a world in which the brain is figured to involve those very things.
    Reductionism requires that at some point one leave the world of biology and enter the world of physics. This has not yet been done, and can’t be done as long as bioelectrics are modeled according to the Nernst equation.
    Kleiber’s Law (look in Wikipedia) provides the math that makes the ascendancy from the subatomic, electrochemical level to the level of the organism and the society of organisms (seen as biomass) seamlessly continuous, and models the nature of evolution as primarily metabolic, and only secondarily genetic. This is beyond the capacity of neuroscience, and fits instead in the field of mathematical biology where the physical sciences are given full force.

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