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Frumpy and lumpy. That is an accurate characterization of much academic prose.
It is possible to write declarative sentences while preserving the creativity of language.
‘The burnt hand is the best lesson’. Pain is a pattern from a memory that traces your first yesterday.
A flash of lightning produces a single sound. Pain in the brain is not like that. Neurons in the brain can excite or inhibit many other neurons, to which they are connected. Pain is not controlled by a single neuron.
A flash of lightning has no intended direction. But pain in the brain is not like that. The synaptic connections between neurons enable coordinated patterns of activation between millions of interconnected neurons. A type of pain is just a type of activation pattern.
Pain in the brain is not conducted like a symphony orchestra by a single individual. It is more like a free-jazz ensemble whose music is produced by loose and coordinated effort among the ensemble members.
‘Do you try to find the real artichoke by stripping it of its leaves?’ Wittgenstein once said. The same can be said of pain in the brain.
The brain is a causal mechanism to convey pain as a sensation. Pain also conveys to us itself. Pain in the brain is like a melody in music. When we feel a pain, the pain doesn’t convey something else that compounds with the activation patterns in the brain. We get the feeling of a pain because pain just is an activation pattern.
In the absence of a general theory of pain or brain function, metaphor and philosophy serve useful placeholder roles.
It is not obvious that experiences of pain are identical to brain activation patterns. In reply, it is not obvious that an ensemble of human beings could produce exciting jazz music, either.
If mind-brain identity theory is correct, it has great potential to unify our theories of human nature and the universe.
Still, it is not obvious that mental states are identical to brain states. It is difficult to believe that they are one and the same thing.
Reductionism in identity theory causes hard feelings in some philosophers because they feel pressured to abandon their wiggle room, the almost imperceptible space between mind and world where philosophical imagination roams free.
The brain is wet: like fluid, it shapes and reshapes itself depending on context.
I shouldn’t have to pay for what life has cost you.
How to write with soul? Reach and fall, reach and fall.
In daily life we reach and fall. Why should a book proposal be any different?
If your book proposal is honest and vulnerable, a publishing editor will find it easier to forgive you.
Launch big and strange ideas! Be compelling.
More George Christakis here.