In his latest two posts from the frontiers of neuroscience Yohan J John
appears to be entertaining methodic doubt in the first and methodical doubt in the second. The very method itself or the assumption that brain events are consciousness is questioned: that ‘the brain secretes thought as the liver secretes bile’ (Pierre Canabis) and the more we get to know about this neuronal traffic the closer we will get to the core question of how the identity of brain and mind is effected. Is this not searching under the streetlight of immediate apparent facts? No amount of this evidence will bring one to an understanding of how the one is the other. Metaphysical analysis can eliminate epiphenomenalism or occasionalism etc but the ‘thinkability’ of brain/mind identity remains in doubt.
The methodical doubts involve the ordered, systematic application of the principle of identity in the area of phrenology, improving your brain power and other nostrums. Writing on what we now consider the daft theory of the homunculus he reflects that we ought to rein in our scorn for the little chap may still be lurking in our modern theory:
The homunculus picture can also be discerned in the idea of the genome as a "blueprint" for the organism. Before modern genetics arose at the turn of the 20th century, some scientists (the "preformationists") proposed that the sperm contained a miniature version of the future organism. Modern scientists laugh at this causal passing-of-the-buck, but conceptually, a miniature person is not really that different from a miniature blueprint of a person.
Yohan J John’s, there’s a triple barreled name, has written an informative and witty brace of articles on the hard question.
Various formulations of the brain mind problem: