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kdilliplan's picture

End-of-the-Semester Reflections


When the semester began, I was on the Dickinsonian side of the spectrum. I am still on the Dickinsonian side of the spectrum, though this course has given me a different perspective on my position. Instead of arguing that it is possible that nothing exists outside of the brain because I don’t believe in the existence of a creator or the necessity of a soul (the way I did at the beginning of the semester), I now argue that it doesn’t matter if there is anything outside the brain because our experiences of the outside world are limited to the stories we construct in our brains. There may be such a thing as input from the outside world, but each and every one of us perceives it slightly differently. The reality that I perceive has always served me quite well, so for all intents and purposes I am comfortable with the notion that my perception is limited.

I think the ongoing discussion of the role of the I-function is the most interesting one we’ve explored. At first, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of the I-function because I thought it sounded too much like the concept of a soul. However, I now think the I-function is an important part of understanding behavior. I especially like the notion that it is not located in one place in the brain and that everyone’s I-function works differently and can serve different purposes in different situations. In my mind, this allows us to account for differences between individuals without asserting that one kind of behavior is “normal” and anyone who behaves differently is “abnormal.” It also feels less mystical to think of the I-function as a portion of the nervous system that can be engaged and disengaged like a program on a computer but at the same time does not reduce the human brain to a mere machine.

Several of the questions I want to see explored have to do with collective consciousness. Why are certain fears virtually universal? How come different cultures come up with remarkably similar mythologies without having interacted? How come we are capable of spontaneously developing language? I am also interested in finding out more about the similarities and differences between the nervous systems of other organisms besides humans. If no two humans perceive the outside world the same way, what staggering diversity of perception must exist among the rest of life on the planet!   



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