the liver and the brain

David Longley David at longley.demon.co.uk
Tue Aug 31 11:31:17 EST 2004

In article <363d693e.0408301514.1d155bb7 at posting.google.com>, ray 
scanlon <rscanlon at nycap.rr.com> writes
>I find it interesting that we can have a discussion of how the cells
>in the liver work together without any bitter attacks on a persons
>parentage. But when a similar discussion on how the interneurons are
>connected and how they work is broached there is nothing but
>What is wrong?
A personal view (posted from comp.ai.philosophy and addressed to readers 
of that group):

Perhaps it's because when people talk about the liver they aren't (these 
days) likely to use its structure and function as a foil (Cartesian 
projection screen) upon which to project their pet folk psychological 
metaphysical prejudices of "mind" or "self". Most people "talking about 
the brain" aren't, in my experience, talking about the brain at all. 
They don't actually know enough about it (despite decades of experience 
in some cases!). If they knew more, paradoxically, they wouldn't dare 
write the popular nonsense they do. What they're actually doing is 
writing metaphysics or science fiction, using "the brain" as their 
excuse for writing metaphysics and fiction, thinking the odd 
over-simplified reference to bits of the brain and their connections 
renders what they're saying less metaphysical (and fictitious) and 
*more* physical (and presumably true) as a function of doing so. Most 
readers can't tell what's going on. It really is, in the main, naive 
commercial nonsense, as most people with a sound grounding in anatomy, 
physiology and biochemistry would privately tell you.

On the rare occasions that I draw on my neuroscience background (most 
folk here wouldn't know what the NIMR is, or know/care what I did 
anyway), I've tried to ensure that what I've had to say about the CNS is 
consistent with basic, sound anatomy and neurophysiology (the cranial 
nerves and behaviour, the *basic* structure of the paleo and neo 
striatum and cortex and elaborated behaviour, the supposed role of 
monoamines and peptides in "regulating" behaviour etc). What I've said 
has been simple because that's all I need refer to in order to make the 
"simple" points about the priority of behaviour analysis that I wish to 
make. I purposely don't elaborate (although my training probably equips 
me to do so as well as some of the celebrity neuroprattlers), as I think 
that it's largely sleight-of-hand and wouldn't really contribute much 
anyway (even if the details could be reliably and usefully spelled out).

Don't you think sleight-of-hand and metaphysics deserves derision?
David Longley

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