allzermalmer

Truth suffers from too much analysis

This Is Your Brain On George Berkeley

Posted by allzermalmer on September 24, 2012

“Philonous: I would first know whether I rightly understand your hypothesis. You make certain traces in the brain to be the causes or occasions of our [sensual experiences]. Pray tell me, whether by the ‘brain’ you mean any sensible thing?

Hylas: What else think you I could mean?

Philonous: Sensible things are all immediately perceivable; and those things which are immediately perceivable are ideas; and these exist only in the mind. Thus much you have, if I mistake not, long since agreed to.

Hylas: I do not deny it.

Philonous: The brain therefore you speak of, being a sensible thing, exists only in the mind. Now, I would fain know whether you think it reasonable to suppose, that one idea or thing existing in the mind, occasions all other ideas. And if you think so, pray how do you account for the origin of that primary idea or brain itself?

Hylas: I do not explain the origin of our ideas by that brain which is perceivable by sense, this being itself only a combination of sensible ideas, but by another which I imagine.

Philonous: But are not things imagined as truly ‘in the mind’ as things perceived ?

Hylas: I must confess they are.

Philonous: It comes therefore to the same thing; and you have been all this while accounting for ideas, by certain motions or impressions in the brain, that is, by some alterations in an idea, whether sensible or imaginable it matters not.”

This is your brain…

This is your brain on MRI…

Notice those two pictures? Good, because if you did not have any senses then you could not have noticed those two pictures. Those pictures are sensible experiences. Those sensible experiences are of the brain, and we notice the brain through sensible experiences, i.e. sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound.

So, as Hylas says, the brain is the cause of our sensual experiences. But Berkeley wants to know if the brain is itself a sensible thing, which Hylas says is correct. So something that is a sensible thing is the cause of our sensual experiences, as Hylas would have us believe. In fact, the sensible thing that is the brain would be the cause of itself being a sensible experience. Sounds an awful like it is self-caused, but does that even make sense that the brain caused itself? In other words, the brain (which is sensible) causes not only itself but all other sensible experiences that someone has.

Some people hold that the mind cannot exist without a brain, while Berkeley holds that the brain cannot exist without a mind. This comes about because Berkeley holds that sensible things cannot be empirically known to exist independent of a mind, or that it is logically impossible for sensible things to exist independent of a mind, i.e. self-contradictory. Have you ever found any sensible things to exist independent of your senses? If you have not found any sensible things to exist independent of your senses, then how do you know that sensible things exist independent of your senses, let alone these sensible things that exist independent of your senses causes your sensations?

But Berkeley, basically says that if sensible thing then immediately perceivable, and if immediately perceivable then ideas. It necessarily follows by hypothetical syllogism that if sensible thing then idea. If idea then only exist in the mind. It necessarily follows by hypothetical syllogism that if sensible thing then only exist in the mind. So sensible things only exist in the mind. But holding the brain is the cause of sensible experiences usually means that the brain does not exist in the mind. So it would necessarily follow by modus tollens that the brain is not a sensible thing. But this contradicted by actual experience, (see those brains?), so it is empirically shown that the brain is a sensible thing.

For Berkeley, an Idea can have two meanings, which was common during the time of Berkeley writing. One of them was being a sensible thing, i.e. a collection of different sensory qualities found to be conjoined with one another. The other meaning for Idea was something like a thought or imagining something. Berkeley, for the most part, takes the Brain as an Idea of the sensible sort.

It comes therefore to the same thing; and you have been all this while accounting for ideas, by certain motions or impressions in the brain, that is, by some alterations in an idea, whether sensible or imaginable it matters not. In other words, Hylas has been all this while accounting for sensible things, by certain motions or impressions in the brain, that is, by some alterations in a sensible thing. Hylas is accounting for sensible things by some alterations in sensible things. But, as Berkeley pointed out and Hume followed, we do not notice any sensible thing bringing about another sensible thing. We just notice one sensible thing to follow another sensible thing. But there is one thing that we do find by experience. When our minds will to move our arm, i.e. a sensible thing, that the sensible thing moves. So we find in one case that a non-sensible thing causes the movement of a sensible thing, and do not find any cases of sensible things causing the movement of another sensible thing. Key point is based on causality here, unless one wants to accept Hume’s skepticism where causality does not exist (or at least not shown by experience).

If we do accept Hume’s skepticism in that causality does not exist (or at least not known by experience), then we cannot accept Berkeley’s position or accept the position of Hylas that the brain is the cause of our sensible experiences.

If a non-sensible mind causes the movement of a sensible thing, then a non-sensible mind causes movement of the brain. We notice that our non-sensible mind causes the movement of our sensible body, take the example of moving arm. But we also notice that sensible things that are not our body move and they are not at our will. But Berkeley has rejected matter because it is not shown to exist by experience or is itself logically impossible for matter to exist. Thus, by processes of elimination, those sensible things that move that are not part of our body are caused to move by another non-sensible mind. So the movements in the brain are either caused by our minds or caused by another mind.

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