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At Mind Matters News: The reality of the mind: The argument from epilepsy


Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor asks, Why do epileptic seizures evoke many odd behaviors but not abstract thought?

In the continuing discussion between neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and philosopher David Papineau, Egnor talked about his experience
with epilepsy patients.:

Michael Egnor: There are three metaphysical questions that I think can be answered in an inferential way, by neuroscience, about the mind-brain relationship. The first question is, is the mind metaphysically simple? That is, can it be divided into parts? The second question is are there aspects of the mind that are immaterial? And the third question is, is free will real? [00:50:00] The immaterial one is a good one to start with.

Wilder Penfield, who was a pioneer in seizure neurosurgery in the mid-20th century, found that when he did “awake craniotomies” to treat seizure patients, these patients were fully awake during the surgery, with local anesthesia so they felt no pain (and I’ve done the same kind of surgery) that he could not evoke any abstract thought or intellectual content on stimulating the brain. He could invoke movement … he could evoke sensations, he could evoke emotions, and he could evoke memories. He could not evoke abstract thought.

“Note: Awake craniotomy “Awake brain surgery, also called awake craniotomy, is a type of procedure performed on the brain while you are awake and alert. Awake brain surgery is used to treat some brain (neurological) conditions, including some brain tumors or epileptic seizures.” Why? “Surgery while you are awake reduces the risk of damaging critical brain areas that control speech and other skills.” – Mayo Clinic”

Michael Egnor: He also noted that there are no seizures that evoke intellectual content, and I’ve seen the same thing.

News, “The reality of the mind: The argument from epilepsy” at Mind Matters News

You may also wish to read the earlier portions of the debate:

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor takes on philosopher David Papineau

Round 1. In the debate, Egnor begins by offering three fundamental reasons why the mind is not the brain. Neuroscience caused Egnor to honestly doubt Papineau’s materialist perspective that the mind is simply what the brain does.

Round 2: Philosopher Papineau replies to neurosurgeon Egnor. Dr. Papineau is considered to be one of the best defenders of naturalism (nature is all there is), often called “materialism.” Papineau: Mental processes, including conscious processes, are one in the same as physical processes. I’m curious about how Michael Egnor would answer it.

Round 3: Egnor vs Papineau: The Big Bang has no natural beginning. In the debate between theistic neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and naturalist philosopher David Papineau, the question gets round to the origin of the universe itself. Egnor maintains that the Big Bang, which is held to have created the universe, is an effect with no physical cause. Papineau agrees.
Round 4: Egnor vs. Papineau Egnor defends the mind vs. the brain

Round 4: Philosopher David Papineau does not feel that neurosurgeon Michael Egnor is being “entirely helpful” at this point… It became quite the dustup actually. Egnor deals with the brain as an organ, not a theory, and doesn’t see it as equivalent to the mind. Papineau differs.

Round 5: Can traditional philosophy help us understand mind vs. brain? Michael Egnor asks us to look back to the traditional idea that the soul is the “form” of the body. In the Western world, the traditional view of the soul originated with Greek philosophers, chiefly Aristotle and Plato.

Round 6: Quantum physics: Is everything determined? Egnor vs. Papineau Physicalist philosopher David Papineau is clearly unhappy with the implications of quantum mechanics, as neurosurgeon Michael Egnor sets them out. As a physicalist, Papineau is quite sure that the universe is deterministic and he endorses the many-worlds (multiverse) theory.

Also: Philosopher: Consciousness Is Not a Problem. Dualism Is! He says that consciousness is just “brain processes that feel like something” Physicalist David Papineau argues that consciousness “seems mysterious not because of any hidden essence, but only because we think about it in a special way.” In short, it’s all in our heads. But wait, say others, the hard problem of consciousness is not so easily dismissed.


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