Wednesday, November 17, 2010

the hard problem recasted

In the context of neuroscience and consciousness studies, the 'hard problem' has been discussed. The hard problem of consciousness is "How and why certain physiological or neural processes give rise to subjective and conscious experiences?".

Obviously, this is a modern and modified version of Cartesian mind-body dualism. Hard problem asks the link between
the physical (mechanical activity of the brain) and the mental, after dividing them into two properties. The hard problem, on the one hand, set the mental and the physical in opposition to each other. But on the other hand, it tries to reduce the mental to the physical.

As Thompson (2007) points out, we need to recast the hard problem by focusing on a kind of phenomenon that is already beyond this gap, the life. Life is the living organisms (physiological body), but also the living subjectivity in the phenomenological sense (the lived body). Life=Body appears as a material thing and also a living and feeling being. Thus he recasts the 'mind-body problem' as 'body-body problem'.
[Thompson, E. (2007). Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind. Harvard University Press]

One and the same body has two modes of appearance. They are known in German as Körper (material body) and Leib (living body). Thinking phenomenologically, this is one possible answer to the mind-body problem.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

a symposium on Yasuo Yuasa

Next month, in the 20th conference of the Society for Mind-Body Science (December 11-12th), there is going to be held an academic symposium on Yasuo Yuasa.

December 11th, 2010
Rinri Bunka Center, Tokyo, JP
"Yasuo Yuasa's thought and mind-body science"

Yasuo Yuasa (1925-2005) was one of the leading Japanese philosophers in the field of mind-body theory.

His thought encompasses traditional Buddhist thought, Japanese modern philosophy, phenomenology, psychoanalysis. In his main work "The Body: Toward an Eastern Mind-Body Theory", he presented a new framework to understand the importance of Asian mind-body theory and meditation practice from modern perspective.

Kasulis, who edited "The Body", writes as follows in his editor's introduction;

[T]hrough Yuasa's discovery, we can better grasp the nondualism central to so many Asian traditions. In conceiving an integration of body and mind, the various Eastern philosophers undercut such Western dichotomies as spirit-matter, subjectivity-objectivity, and theory-praxis. The Asian philosophers are not merely posing an alternative metaphysics. In fact, they are not doing metaphysics at all in the traditional Western sense. Instead, their task is what Yuasa, following C. G. Jung, calls metapsychics, an approach examined in detail by this book.
[Yuasa, Y. (1987) The Body: Toward an Eastern Mind-Body Theory. State University of New York Press., p.2]

Friday, November 5, 2010

schizophrenic delusion and alien hand syndrome

It is well known that schizophrenic patients often report that their own actions are controlled by others or some outside forces. These actions can be trivial such as opening a door or writing letters. There are also more complicated types, such as "They inserted a computer in my brain. It makes me turn to the left". It is obvious that patients have a kind of delusion of control.

On the other hand, there is a similar neurological disorder which is known as 'alien hand' or 'anarchic hand' syndrome. It is associated with damage to the supplementary motor area in the cortex. The hand contralateral to the lesion performs goal-directed actions which are not intended by the patient. Sometimes the 'alien' hand interferes with the actions which the 'good' hand is trying to do.
[see Feinberg, T. E. (2001) Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self, Oxford U. P.]

Frith et al. compare these symptoms and point out the important difference between them as follows;

[T]he patient with an anarchic hand recognizes that his hand is performing actions that he has not intended....But he does not conclude that his hand is being controlled by alien forces. In contrast, the patient with delusions of control carries out the actions he intends....and yet, at the same time, he experiences these actions as being made for him by alien forces.
[Frith, C. D. et al. (2000). Explaining the symptoms of schizophrenia: Abnormalities in the awareness of action. Brain Research Reviews 31: 357-363]

The difference is interesting enough. The patient with an alien hand don't have the sense of control of his 'alien' hand, but he still has the normal sense of ownership of it. Instead, the patient with schizophrenic delusion can control his movements but he doesn't have the normal sense of body ownership.

This suggests a lot of things to think about our sense of body ownership and our sense of agency for action.