Not a problem, mirrormirror. I think the question was pretty specific, as I wanted to narrow or pin down the whole Cartesian dualism thing:Please forgive me if I have misinterpreted you, the subject seemed to broad.
I was directly asking if you view mind as something separate from matter/the body. I'm not sure that's any broader than saying that customized the body will revive Cartesian dualism; I intended the question as a way of learning what you think about the relationship between mind and matter, and as a way of raising the point that Descartes' notion of "mind" is pretty close to that of a "soul".The socialogical impact of this might make a resurgence of the ideals of Descartes, claiming that the body and mind are two seperate items. Our bodies could be viewed as vehicles for our minds.
(I've alluded on this thread to research which suggests that what we sometimes take to be simple mind/body dualism is more akin to an information network or system of subroutines and feedback loops; I might come back to this at some point.)
To get back to your response:
But is the mind a single unit, or do we just think of it that way? Neuroscientists, neurophilosophers, and evolutionary biologists might take issue with your characterization of the mind as a single unit. Certain areas of the brain perform specialized functions, and evolution seems to have provided our brains with a remarkably interconnected series of functions, routines, subroutines, and behaviors. You can damage a given part of a person's brain and cause specific bodily functions to cease. Some of those functions can be run by implanted devices, or by other mechanical means. But other sorts of damage to the brain can have a negligible impact on the system as a whole. (I'm including both brain and body when I speak of the "whole system".) And other kinds of damage can result in memory (and by extension identity) loss, not to mention brain death.If we were to look at the mind from a completely mechanical perspective, it would be the unit of the body that assigns all functional commands. Respiration, heartrate, motor function, and etc.
To put this in more specific terms, and to illustrate my problem with your point: By itself, a brain cannot "feel" pain in a physical sense. (Cut open someone's head and poke the brain, the person doesn't have a neurochemical, neurological, or experiential pain reaction; what happens is something quite different from stubbing your toe or putting your hand in an open flame or having your limbs blown off, and each of these experiences creates a different response from the others.) But the brain can process information and assign something a pain-value based upon the body's reactions to the stimulus, and it can recognize the location and source of a pain.
Even depression requires more than "just" a brain. It requires a system to be depressed...
Pain itself is a complex reaction or series of reactions. And pain can vary in kind and in degree.
Thinkers such as Patricia Churchland, Paul Churchland, and others would argue that the broadness or generality to which you allude can only be addressed by an empirical and scientifically-based reductionism. In short, we have to study brains as parts of bodies, examine how specific stimulus-response relationships and particular neurological and neurochemical processes work, and rethink the way we use certain terms-- possibly jettisoning some terms altogether in favor of accuracy and rigor.
Such reductionism doesn't necessarily imply a purely mechanical reading of the relationship between mind and body. In fact, it implies that the relationships between mind, body, and world are more complex than a simple mechanical model would suggest. (I suppose one could call eliminative reductionism a mechanical model, but it's a model that wants to describe something more complex than any human-created machine, and many proponents of eliminative reductionism would argue that the machine analogy breaks down on a simple level and is therefore of limited value. Neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, and neurophilosophers of this sort admit that La Mettrie's "man as machine" model was a forerunner of current thinking but stress that the 18th Century philosopher's post-Cartesian descriptions were limited and based upon certain misunderstandings of how people and machines function, of how the two are different. In this account, La Mettrie couldn't observe certain processes, and his thinking was therefore limited-- as our present thinking and models will seem limited in the future, thanks to improved measurement and recording technologies and better models based upon more and more accurate data.)
This sort of thing comes up a lot in debates over artificial intelligence, and it has a lot to do with how we think about our bodies (and about our body-image).
A few questions (and again, I'm trying to determine precisely what you mean when you say these things, and I'm offering you feedback on your statements): What makes you doubt that "we" would try to do this? When you say "we", do you mean people living at present, some people living at present, or all people at all times? And don't science, philosophy, and technology change our sense of identity anyway? (One could argue that scientific and mathmatical breakthroughs result in technological advances result in social changes result in new models of self and identity, and that altering our brains would be merely an extension of this sort of process or dialectic. One can think of how the concepts of "possession", "madness", "insanity", and "mental illness" imply different notions of identity, different models of the Self...) And it seems to me that you're using "mind" and "brain" and "identity" interchangeably, or at least as related... If you think they're interchangeable terms, why do you think so? If you think they're related, what is the precise relationship between the terms, from your perspective?I doubt that we would try to alter the "mind" in the sense that would alter our sense of identity.