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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Homo Insensatus

That means 'Irrational Human'. A play on Homo Sapiens - "wise human".

Here's a thought: maybe the defining feature of human beings is not our great thinking power, our 'rational' superiority to other animals. Perhaps our differentiating property is that of being the only animal to act irrationally.

After all - we seem quite able to describe all other animal behavior as part of a grand scheme to further the species, if not the individual. It seems that only humans act to the detriment of the individual and the species.

And I'm not just talking about acting on our emotions - the bane of economics and policemen alike. I'm talking about our tenacity in believing things like Freewill, the Self, God and the concept of "I" without being able to defend them philosophically. Despite the best efforts of the materialists and determinists out there, most people doggedly believe that they actually have the ability to control events, to make choices from among possible alternatives, etc.

How many other animals, once convinced that something is not possible, will keep trying it anyway?

btw - I found only one other relevant web citation of 'homo insensatus' - that for a 2005 Barnard College roundtable discussion.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Philosophy - Mind-Body Duality

Warning: Big Thoughts ahead!

I'm listening to a CD now in the Modern Scholar series - Colin McGinn (Rutgers Univ.) speaking about the big issues of Philosophy. It got me to thinking. Here's my take on it all:

The concept of “I” is my Soul. This is the Self. My Self is separate from my body (yes, I’m a Dualist).

A Soul is linked to the body by the non-physical Mind.
A Soul is linked to God by the non-physical Spirit.

My body is a physical entity. In it is the brain, also physical. My Soul links to the body by way of the non-physical Mind, which links at the point of the Brain. Thus the brain is the body’s access point that can accept interface with a non-physical entity. I’m not sure exactly what about the brain enables the interface. I believe that the interface itself must be initiated by the mind, at the direction of the soul. Thus a body/brain could not seek out and adopt a mind. However, once the interface is established, the link is two-way, thus the body can affect the Soul through the conduit of brain-to-mind contact.

This configuration allows that my mind can be separated from my body, which corresponds with various phenomena we see in the world.

Problems to wrestle with:
From whence does the soul come?
Is the soul a one-off? Is it re-incarnated in another body?
Does the soul operate in time or out of it?
Where is the expression of the concept that we are created in the image of God?

Animals have brains, so do they have minds? Can there be a mind without a soul? Animals do not have souls, but do have consciousness. But consciousness seems to be in the mind, as opposed to being in the brain only.

Is it possible that a soul could setup a mind-interface with an animal’s brain? My configuration does leave possible this option. Unless there is something specific about the human brain only that allows the mind-interface to be established with a soul.

So, perhaps, there is another entity at the level of soul that establishes mind-interfaces to the brains of animals. Could this be Gaia? or God himself?

So far I’ve explored the soul-to-body-via-mind connection. What about the soul-to-God-via-spirit connection? How do I draw parallels between the mind and the spirit?

So – Chris Jamison is comprised of the physical body, the non-physical soul and the two interfaces of mind and spirit. I interact with God through my Spirit. I interact with the world through my body: an intermediary between the non-physical soul and the physical world. See, I need some means to bridge the gap between the non-physical and the physical world. Since God, as my soul, is non-physical, no bridge is needed for communication.

Let’s look more in detail at the soul-world link:

My soul connects to the body through the mind. The mind’s contact point in the body is the brain. The Brain is physical, the mind is the non-physical interface to it. The brain is not directly connected to the world either, but connects through the body via Sense Organs. It is also connected directly to the body. So the brain has three avenues of communication:

a) connected to soul via the mind
b) connected to world via the sense organs
c) connected directly to the body

Note what is not said: the brain is NOT connected to the world. Neither is the mind connected to the world.

Let’s take an example: my body tells the brain that it’s thirsty. This is communicated to, or perceived by the mind. The mind directs (wills) the brain to tell the body to look for water. Now the brain directs the body to seek water. How is this seeking accomplished? Through Sense Organs. In the normal case, the sense organs may perceive true water in the world, and communicate that to the brain. In an illusory case, the brain’s message to the sense organs includes a perception of water already seen. In this case, the sense organs feedback directly to the brain with the image supplied. This is a mirage; an illusion. Thus the brain receives the same image, whether real or imagined, of water. But in one case the sense organs perceive real water, while in the other case the sense organs perceive imaginary water. The brain itself cannot distinguish between the two.

In my professional work, as a computer programmer, I often work with systems that have a single processing engine receiving input from a ‘hopper’. This hopper can be fed by several systems, including the processing engine itself. But the input from hopper to processing engine serves data that does not necessarily convey information of its original source. Thus part of my job is to determine if I need to know, within the processing engine, the source of the data. If I do need to know this source, then special steps need to be taken to make sure the source is maintained within the data as it is passed through the input hopper to the processing engine.

In my construction of the mind-body configuration, the body’s sense organs correspond to this input hopper. They don’t perceive meaning or process information. The only take in sensations [from the physical world] and communicate them to the brain. The problem is they can also take in sensations from other inputs (for example, the brain itself). But when problems of perception occur, I believe they are the failings of the brain. It is the brain that applies filters and prior expectations to the input of sense stimuli. This is a good thing, for example, when we shut off the input from ears so as to sleep. We know they are not entirely shut off, since we can hear our children cry out in the night for help, while simultaneously ignoring the chiming of a clock announcing the hour.

Here’s my graphical representation of these ideas…

Text & Image rights reserved by Chris Jamison January, 2008. Usage terms: if you use this, please give me credit, and reference this blog as well as my home webpage: And send me an email, too! I'd like to know that someone found it useful.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Every Season

On Sunday we sang this song, Every Season, from the album This Mystery by Nichole Nordeman (songwriter & lyricist). While singing it, I was struck by the beautiful rhythm of the lines.

Every evening sky, an invitation
To trace the patterned stars
And early in July, a celebration
For freedom that is ours
And I notice You in children’s games
In those who watch them from the shade
Every drop of sun is full of fun and wonder
You are summer

And even when the trees have just surrendered
To the harvest time
Forfeiting their leaves in late September
And sending us inside
Still I notice You when change begins
And I am braced for colder winds
I will offer thanks for what has been and what's to come
You are autumn

And everything in time and under heaven
Finally falls asleep
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation
Shivers underneath
And still I notice You when branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass
Even now in death, You open doors for life to enter
You are winter

And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
What was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green
So it is with You and how You make me new
With every season’s change
And so it will be as you are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter, spring

Beautiful stuff. See her website here to listen:

Speaking of Every Season, now is the time of year in Duluth when January turns mild. Every year I have lived here, there is a one to two week stretch in mid-January when the sun is bright and strong, making the days warm (60s). It is ideal weather for pruning the trees and shrubs outside. Soon it will turn cold, grey and rainy for two months.