Comment on Body vs Mind

Yu Jie Sun, Jan 20, 2008
An interesting concept, separating the mind from the body.

On the matter of whether the mind is separate from the brain, I believe it is. A brain is a muscle, part of the body, the mind is what exists within it and is formed and characterized by electro-chemical compositions, neuron transmissions and whatnot. Neurology is one large subject and I do not claim to understand it at all, but from what little I know, I gather that the mind can exist in another environment without the need for a brain as we have now.

On the matter of the mind existing in a different environment, I would have to say that it might be possible (theoretically and with basis in philosophy rather than in science) to transfer an already developed mind with the right host from the original body. But I would think that it would be impossible for a mind to be created from scratch in one of these hosts. The human mind is molded via different influences from the environment and various stimulus that it learns to react to. Unless a way is found to allow minds to learn using physical influences and stimulus in an artificial host, I would think that a mind would have to be cultivated first before moving it into a host.

Roald Dahl wrote a short story, William and Mary in which this issue is discussed at some lengths.
The story begins with Mary Pearl receiving a note from her recently departed husband, William. The letter tells how Landy, a doctor, approaches William, a well-regarded philosopher, about his cancer. He suggests that William undertake a procedure, which he explains in great detail, that would mean his brain being transplanted from his body after death, and attached to an artificial heart. One of his eyes could also be hooked up so that he would be able to see. Although the doctor is uncertain whether the brain would regain consciousness, he remains hopeful. The brain, he says, could probably live as long as 200 years connected to the machine. William initially reacts violently to this suggestion, but by the end of their discussion has lightened up to the idea more. Thinking it over later, he is initially concerned with the idea of phantom limb, believing that as a brain alone he may be in terrible trauma, wishing for the use of his body. However, he writes, he eventually embraced the idea, being very fond of his brain and liking the suggestion that it could live on.
He had attempted to bring up the discussion with Mary a number of times earlier, but she had pushed him aside. His reason for the note then, was in the hope she might more adequately pay attention to what she couldn't in his own lifetime. He adds that by the time she reads the letter, the procedure should have been undertaken a week earlier, and suggests that she contact Landy. She does so and immediately begins to take care of him. The procedure had gone as well as could be expected, and William had regained consciousness within two days. His connected eye also appears to be functioning properly. Mary finds the previously dominating William to be attractive in his helplessness and wishes to take him back home. Landy, not at all expecting such a reaction, tells her she should stick to being a widow, and the story ends with William's future uncertain.


The possible implications and ethical issues that need to be addressed are immense!

Insightful post, folkert!