Cogito Ergo Sum Ok Now What?
The Mind Is What the Brain Does
By: David Zaig - 08/06/2014
If there is one universal characteristic that humans share, it is the ubiquitous expression of opinions based on insufficient data. Most opinions are based on hearsay and on second or third hand information—some call them memes.
In most societies, belief systems predominate knowledge or what is derived from the totality of data available to us. That is, understanding our evolutionary development—our evolution of the brain and culture—for without it, even our great expert researches, discoverers, innovators, artists, and philosophers are prone to suffer from the lack of total knowledge, and hence, insulate themselves from others and society as a whole. They miss what is really essential: the big picture; a broader view of the world. Lack of data or incomplete knowledge is the cause of our fractured, divisive, mistrusted, and hateful societies that have no common ground, with righteous group against righteous group, oblivious to one another's existence.
We mustn’t overlook the fact that these are our revered and boxed in philosophies: religions, the arts, the sciences, and technologies that are blindly territorial and antagonistic towards one another, as if they were encapsulated in different planets. These traits, or mind sets, have been selected for us, and have been with us since the dawn of civilization without our consent. Not surprisingly, they are now calcified in the human brain, which is now the lens through which reality is revealed to us.
People ignore the fact that these stats of mind are the result of evolution, and consequently the product of the brain. As a researcher pointed out, “the mind is what the brain does.” So, in order to understand our behaviors, it is incumbent on those who utter words like “feeling,” “creativity,” and “my heart tells me.”
The influence of these concepts began in the 18th century ideology of romanticism. Strangely enough, artists and the rest of the society are still holding onto it unknowingly. This is another reason why we have sunk into a make-believe world. If we objectively analyze these words, we won’t be able to defend the reality we now are in.
Evidently, the resulting picture of humanity is pretty grim; humans are their own worst enemies.
For example, if it were the case that an animal fell in love, there would certainly be a rush to put all our resources into research about this strange phenomenon. This is not the case, however, when it comes to humans.
We are supposed to love, feel, and have emotions, but not supposed to know what the mechanisms are that make us behave that way. That is too much to ask. So now, it’s normal to say, “I feel” or “I love” without having to explain how these emotions came about. This is the accepted standard for social and human behavior—it’s very much a fixture of our psyche and the cause for our societal chaos, helplessness, confusion, and mindlessness.
Humans are in a state of denial. As long as our territorial domain seems to be secure, anything else is not supposed to cause concern. We passively watch evolution do the work for us. This means, as Stephen Hawking says, that we have entered a new phase of evolution.
We are on our own. Not surprisingly, it’s our intellectual and nonintellectual culture movers who are responsible for society’s erratic state of affairs. In spite of the fact that we are saturated by artists and top-notch research scientists who should guard us against self-destruction and delusions, we are complacent passive players. Isn’t it just the “I am doing my job” attitude? No one takes responsibility.
For some, unraveling the meaning of life is the ultimate goal, but for most, life is conducted with no more intelligence than that of an amoeba. Our world’s picture is murky: undulating between gloomy dark and rosy bright.
Having said that, I too have these built-in emotions, esthetics, choices, love, and music, but I know it’s not me. Like everyone else, I have been conditioned and shaped by my environment to respond emotionally to people, art, and music. At the same time, I am also aware that by being so, I am fooling myself.
The ideas in this article are based on new information published every day. As the evidences are mounting, most individuals in our society are lagging behind. Here are some examples of misleading words and concepts that permeate our illusionistic world.
For example, a NYT columnist writing about creativity:
“Sometimes, creativity happens in pairs, and duos like Lennon and McCartney bring clashing worldviews, but similar tastes. Sometimes, it happens in one person, in someone who contains contradictions and who works furiously to resolve the tensions within.”
This article began with an unsubstantiated, wrong premise. Before you start talking about creativity, think again: for me, talking about creativity without taking into account how the brain and knowledge work is like eating at an expensive restaurant without having the money to pay for it. People use the word “creativity” without having the foggiest idea about what it is. A false premise leads only to a false conclusion.
The misconception of feelings, intuition, and emotions.
Check out “the science of love” by Judith Newman:
“The more we understand how the brain works, the more it seems we are programmed for love.”
Here is another example of an irresponsible and unrealistic artist’s statement:
“I have been actively painting for about thirty-two years. My paintings depict the mind’s meditative territories, concurrently emanating many spatial planes of color swatch. My work is about the emergence of infinite spaces in the hallucinatory color field.”
Again, what does this mean?
In contrast, here is a quote from Cormac McCarthy’s book, Blood Meridian:
“The man who believes that the secrets of this world are forever hidden lives in mystery and fear. Superstition will drag him down. The rain will erode the deeds of his life. But that man who sets himself the task of singling out the thread of order from the tapestry will by the decision alone have taken charge of the world and it is only by such taking charge that he will effect a way to dictate the terms of his own fate.”
“A logical system can never prove its own consistency; the truth of language or logical structure can never be proved from within the system.”
David Zaig is an Israeli born artist and playwright who lives in North Adams, Mass. His work is now on view at the Rudd Art Museum.