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Surprising Science

You ≠ Your Brain

Descartes’ dualism argued that the mind was entirely distinct from the body. More recently, the computational theory of the mind said it was a rational computer. Neither is accurate. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Scientists and philosophers alike have begun to realize that our theories of the mind fail to account for how we talk about the world. The metaphors we use to describe our surroundings do not come from a purely mathematical or rational dissection of phenomena. Rather, the way we experience the world informs how we think about it. From an early age, for example, we associate warmth with security—the warmth of mother, warm milk, a warm blanket, etc.—so we describe things we trust as being warm, e.g. “I’m beginning to warm to him”.

What’s the Big Idea?

Descartes’ dualism fell recently to the computational theory of the mind which viewed the brain as a rational calculating machine. It owed much of its impact to our understanding of computers and how our mind seemed to order the world by a similar process. But more and more we realize that personal experiences, shared across communities, also influence how we view and describe the world. For example, participants in scientific studies often lean forward when they think of the future, thus we associate the future with something ‘forward’.


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