Phineas Gage is a staple example in debates about philosophy of personal identity and philosophy of mind. In 1848, Gage survived an explosion that drove a 13-pound iron rod through his skull. After months of convalescence, he was able to work again, though his personality was so sharply changed his former employer refused to re-hire him. He died in 1860.
Through a series of coincidences on Flickr, the first-known photograph of Gage (posing with his tamping iron!) came to light last year. This led to the revelation of a second photo a few weeks ago. Enjoy!
By Alyssa Ney, University of Rochester (July 2008)
BBC News yesterday ran a terrifying article about scientists successfully communicating with people who are apparently in persistent vegetative states.
The idea is straightforward enough. The scientists told an apparently non-responsive man to imagine playing tennis if he wanted to indicate “yes,” and to imagine walking empty streets if he wanted to indicate “no.” They then scanned his brain while asking him questions, and read his answers off of the different patters of activity. Using this technique, he was able to answer Continue reading “Think once for “yes” and twice for “no””
In a recent Scientific American article, evidence is presented for multiple realizability.
What is multiple realizability? Let’s begin with functionalism. Functionalism is a dominant view in the philosophy of mind and concerns the relationship between the brain and the mind. Take a physical apparatus (such as the brain), and divide it into components each defined by what causes it, and what it causes. Functionalism is the view that the mind consists of such components. It has the consequence that different physical apparatuses can give rise to (or ‘realize’) the same components, so defined. Think for example, of all the different physical objects that can realize a corkscrew. They can be constituted and look very different. But they all share the same causal role.
Neuroscientist Larry R Squire has discovered that the physical states that realize memories change as the memories become more entrenched. They begin in the hippocampus. Over time the memories become entrenched ‘in’ the neocortex, until eventually the hippocampus is no longer needed and so no longer constitutes part of the physical realizer of a given memory.
For the original article go here.
By Eric Funkhouser , University of Arkansas
(Vol. 2, February 2007)
Can Physicalism be Non-reductive?
By Andrew Melnyk , University of Missouri
(Vol. 3, November 2008)