Does thisnew science also mean that I am not responsible for any of thosequalities, either?
Yes, based onthe article, Gray Matter, by Dr. Kandel, there are physicalobservations on the brain anatomy when anindividualtrait or condition isexhibited.For instance, Professor Mayberg candistinguish a depressive person’s response to cognitive behaviortherapy (CBT) and antidepressants from right anterior insula’sbaseline activities (Kandel, 2016, paragraph.7).
Suppose Iam a liar. Am I responsible for that? Thenew science argues that it is basicallygenetics and biology that control everything, so no you are notliablefor lying. It is the genes and the biology that are(Kandel, 2016, paragraph.12).
Do youthink that this new science, if it does get things right about who weare, means that we reallyaren’t responsible for anything, that it’sall a matter of biology and genetics?
Yes, that is if it gets its empirical facts right. It says that it isthe genetic profile of an individual that controls theirbiological makeup. However, the scienceshould prove it by identifying the specific loci of those genemutations or deletions in chromosomes that confirm traits like lying,learning, cowardice, consciousness and awareness of the self amongothers (Cottingham, 2008, P.35, paragraph.1).
Moreover,doesthat make sense to you?It does not make sense to me. As I went through those scientificarguments, I imagined how it could prove the way my brain looks whenI dream while sleeping. Moreover, I pictured how my brain determinesthe posture I adopt while sleeping. I could not get answers (Kandel,2016, paragraph. 11).
So what doyou think? Should we accept what this new science is saying, that weare just biologicalthings? Ordoyou think Descartes got it right when he denied that?
I believethat this new science has not garnered enough evidence to prove thatgenes and biology can influence some activities of the mind and beempirically seen.Agreeing to the provisions of this science that we are biologicalbeings is wrong and misplaced. Although still in the virtual world, Ithink that Descartes was right when he said we should avoid usingpractical means in matters of the mind as if dealing with a physicalmatter like a planet or a rock. The reason is because the mind isbeyond the things we can see (Cottingham, 2008, P.34,paragraph. 1).
What doyou thinkis missing from this scientific account of the mind (and the soul)?
In line withDescarte’s account, I think that the mind and the soul havesomething more deeper than just empirical science and the scientistscannot explain it. They cannot give a direct account of some of theaspects of the mind like being brave, being an introvert, extrovertand others. These are things that are beyond what an eye can see.(Cottingham, 2008, P.33, paragraph. 3)
Response to student’s answer
I disagree with the view that it is only a philosophical argumentthat Descartes comes up with questions about the human mind. Yes,science has explained most of the phenomena around but it is notright to make gross assumptions over a few empirical studies that areinconclusive. Those studies as explained by Professor Kandel in thearticle are convincing that there could be anatomical changes in inbrain when one has a mental condition. However, we cannot assume thatall our cognitive functions are genetically or biologicallydetermined. How would you explain people like foreseers?Personalities? It means that if the biological factor is removed, forexample a gene controlling the personality of being an introvert,then that individual loses that character. This is disagreeablebecause clearly, science has not proved these facts and may not anysoon. It is imperative that we explain what we are able to and butwhich is beyond what our eye can see should be looked at in adifferent perspective. Not everything can be proved in thelaboratories.
Cottingham, J. (2008). Howto read Descartes (pp.32-35). London: Granta.
Kandel, E. (2016). TheNew Science of Mind. Nytimes.com.Retrieved 3 November 2016, fromhttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/08/opinion/sunday/the-new-science-of-mind.html