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One Of The World's Most Baffling Questions — Do We Really Know What A Brain Is?





Our current conceptions of what we think the brain's true nature is, is only the tip of the hat of what there actually is to know about it. Conceptions of the brain being just something we ascribe to all the important properties that brains objectively have.

It's safe to say the brain must have properties we cannot conceive of. Here is my analogy to try to explain why;

Your job is to sort objects placed on a conveyor belt. There's all different sorts of things passing you by which you have to sort and categorize but the only problem you have is you have never seen these objects before. An old TV set goes by. You look at it then touch it and wonder what it does. Without plugging it in you never really know what it does, but you put it in a slot with other square boxes because it's the same shape. You form your own hypotheses of what it actually is and its inner nature. Next, a shoe passes, you look at it like you did the TV set. You wonder what it's purpose is. A rock follows, then a picture. All these objects pass you by when suddenly a brain comes along, a hunk of grey meat. Just by looking at it you would never guess what it is. 

You pick it up and feel its slimy interior, inspecting every fold, nothing gives you the impression of what this lump of matter actually does nor could you imagine that this thing called a brain has the unique capacity to give rise to consciousness. 

But there is something distinctive about this brain. It must have something special with it, just to distinguish it from other objects and whatever property it possesses, it must be as distinctive as consciousness itself. There has to be more to the brain than meets the eye.

If we could only see the brain as it truly is, it would jump out at us. It would be so different from other objects you'd think it belonged to another order of being, there's a huge discrepancy between it and any other object. 

You could compare the brain's ability to conjure consciousness with the same ability of Aladdin's lamp to bring forth the djinn, the genie. If we really knew what the brain actually was then it would truly be a miracle that is at the heart of consciousness. 

There has to be, just has to be some aspect of the brain we just cannot comprehend. Maybe we will never be able to understand consciousness? Either way, it's one of the most baffling questions in the game of life, a question that we need an answer for, "Do we really know what a brain is?"









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Further reading: The Mysterious Flame - Colin McGinn

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