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Sophie F's picture

A computer?

The idea of “knowing things without knowing how one knows them” is of particular interest to me because it seems to attest to the limitations and fragility of, in particular, human thought and behavior. If our mental faculties hinge upon the passive current flow of ions and the ability for our brains to translate sensory input via proteins into action potentials and other mechanistic processes, it makes sense that slight deviations from the expected range of outcomes can produce myriad outputs. The idea of “knowing without knowing how” is a tribute to Emily Dickinson’s idea of the “self” residing within the brain and of our infinite capacity to imagine, yet out very limited capacity to “know” that which is going on around us. The argument for our limited ability to perceive does not, to my mind, undermine the notion of agency. Given that the nervous system consists of many boxes connected to other boxes that can (and do) rearrange, that chemicals and batteries and membrane potentials exist does not mean that “self” ceases to exist. There must be some connectedness between the mind and the body or else, Descartes had it right…

The idea of there being a distinction between excitation in the brain and a “reduction in inhibition” is fascinating. This paradigm seems to enable the potential to explore behavior in ways that mere excitation and inhibition cannot. What is the nervous system of homeostasis? How much control do we (as the I-function) have over this? Does dis-inhibition suggest that we are constantly re-equilibrating in order to “control” our behavior? What makes something an “impulse” behavior as opposed to an “impulsive” one?


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