(You can now find the complete collection of eight installments on this Page.)
Book 4: Find Out!: The Real Way You Are Supposed to Act
Installment 7 (Below)
Chapter I: Seeing Through Illusion: Bridging The Gap (continued)
“Nervous systems are nervous systems. Our language and way of talking to ourself don’t need to stand in as something to make us less ‘animal.’ It’s funny how humans think of themselves as special, when ironically, that attitude sort of strips us of our innate wholesome animalism. Descartes’ declaration that human minds are non-material, non-physical leaves us deprived of the wholeness of our brains. The word mind is only ever referring to functions of a nervous system that glow with intrigue because of their monologic, introspective glitter. If we couldn’t think to our (supposed) self, would we appear (to ourself) as being so interesting and other than the rest of the wildlife kingdom? There is no reason for confusion about a body-mind problem when there is only one body with no divide. It is none other than a nervous system that provides all the mental functioning ever to occur in a biological sapien, as it does with every other organism that houses one, appropriately respective of that creature.
This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Daniel Wegner, about instead of seeing ourself through a mental lens, we could look at ourself through a mechanical lens. Mechanical here meaning that since we are biological machines, all our behavior is mechanical. His quote refers to the fact that we do tend to use a mechanical lens to view objects we consider to only be mechanical, yet for ourself we rely upon our introspective demeanor, a mental lens to explain why and how we do things–our rationalizations, reasons and justifications for actions individually and each other. I find comfort in this approach, since I appreciate viewing myself via observing my body in the space, as opposed to my mental narrative telling me how I should be acting (especially when I see my body doing different things). Wegner, in the quote, says we don’t see our own gears turning because we are too busy reading our minds. I love this. And as I encourage people to develop the skill to see their own body in the space, their behavior (bodily movements) on a macro level (since we cannot see through our skin), it makes perfect sense to me. A mechanical lens means seeing real life physical movement as the only behavior that exists for us.
In deterministic terms, it is causality, which deems every move we make appropriate and causally necessary. This ties in well with understanding evolution, and the ways natural selection, blind variation and adaptation work. Those processes were and still are mechanical. Nothing has stopped just because we arrived at man. We are talking about biological machinery that is supported by chemistry and physics, that is, the operations of molecules and atoms. The challenge for us lay people is to recognize that the macro level presents an opportunity to see the mechanics of our involuntary bodily movements in play by looking at the outside of our own skeleton and seeing its levers moving at joints when and how they do. That is of course dictated by internal functions we cannot see and do not understand (for the most part, and certainly not in their full capacity). But this scientific knowledge is not necessary to realize that we operate mechanically and only mechanically. Though we have thought processes that talk to us inside our head (which is also only a mechanical function of the brain), our actions are mechanical, physical outputs (bodily movements) of a nervous system that are only a variation of all our predecessors.”