Who’s to Say? – Aidan C
Think about your brain for a moment. Your thoughts, ideas, and processes are different from those of any other person on the planet. Your mind is a complex series of sequences of firing neurons and electrical impulses. All your senses (and there are more than five of them) provide you with information on what’s happening and your brain decides what to do with that information, but no two brains are exactly alike. Can we say that all minds are equal?
If you cite Thomas Jefferson, you may say “all men are created equal.” Without delving too much into what it means to be a person, if we use René Decartes’ claim that “I think therefore I am,” then all it takes to be a person is a working mind since a working mind thinks. Therefore, if all men are equal, and all men are functioning minds, then all minds are equal as well. Despite that everybody think in different ways as previously mentioned in class discussions, every (human) brain that is capable of producing thoughts is a person and every person is equal. However, to what degree do we measure the ability to think?
Certain mentally challenged people are not capable of being able to create thoughts or conclusions in the same way that the majority of people can. Alternatively, a person with incredible powers of human intellect and knowledge possess a graduated ability to think. Are we not in a situation where brains are unequal? How about a person whose brain was once able to think clearly but has since deteriorated to have dementia or Alzheimer’s? To settle this confusion, it may take a clear definition to separate the mind from the brain. The brain is a tangible object. It is a mass of neurons and fatty tissue that sits inside the skull for a sizable majority of a person’s life. The mind is more or less an abstract idea that is the synergistic amalgamation of a person’s thoughts, reactions and processes. If we say that all minds are equal but not all brains are equal despite that the functional ability of the mind is proportionally related to that of the brain, then there must be a missing variable. Let’s refine the question which brings us to the core of our discussion: are all minds equally valid?
The mind is the pattern of electrical pulses in the neurons in the brain: it does not exist as an object in our world, but it is our world. Everything you know is experienced through your sensory information as explained by a theory of knowledge called empiricism. Charles Sanders Peirce coined the term “phaneron” as what the world is as limited and filtered by only how we can perceive it through our tools at hand, our senses. There is nothing in this world that can be known without some interaction through our senses to be created in our minds. If someone’s mind is told that there are other people in the room, even if there aren’t, they have no discernible way of knowing otherwise. This is where dementia comes in. If all minds are equally valid, then a person who sees people that “aren’t there” is justified in believing that way. Or are they?
You may have noticed I’ve asked a lot of questions in this blog post. The reason why is because my notion of truth, because it is limited by my own individual phaneron, must be validated by the people around me to report that their phaneron has filtered the real world in the same way. This collusion of illusion is the closest we can get to truth, for even if it is not true at all, it it’s true enough that it works in our everyday lives so well we can continue to fool ourselves in the same way until we die. It’s not perfect, however; consider two or three demented patients who each see people that are not there. They may talk to each other or talk to the imaginary people, but the other patient will rationalise his colleagues’ conversations as true.
In the world we live in today, as I have perceived it, society considers those whose minds work differently (seeing things, acting radically, etc) to have unfit brains and therefore invalid minds. However, a society which is composed of people who see imaginary or think it’s rational to throw goats at trees when they’re giddy with joy or have a fear of toasters, even if that society is composed of three people in a house with one other person, if that other person couldn’t see the imaginary people or had the unprecedented courage to make toast with the toaster instead of over an open flame, he would be cast out by this society of “demented” people, being labelled insane and with an unfit brain. If the idea of truth can only exist as what the majority of people say is true, then a mind is only valid until it differs from the group unless it can influence the group to change.
If we know that everything we consider real is created and only exists in our mind, and we know this because truth can only be validated through experiencing another’s phaneron through connections, then the implications are that we must consider that the paradigm any two people share are valid. We should not discredit the ideas of those whose ideas differ by labelling them insane or unfit, because their version of truth is based on a different input of sensory information leading their brain, which is more or less equal to ours. We should, however, seek to indulge ourselves in the different paradigms around us and challenge and change our views as we see fit in order to attempt to achieve our greatest understanding of a common truth as possible because the phaneron is so different for each person that everyone’s just a little bit insane, but who’s to say?