This blog post stems from another discussion (elsewhere) that segued into the topic of mind versus brain. In order to illustrate that the mind is more than just the brain, I described the following scenario . . .
What would it be like if you were born completely
paralyzed, with a normal brain but without a sensory nervous system to deliver stimuli to your brain from your sensory organs? Would it be possible to think or to have memories? In what ways could you be considered human or alive or conscious?
If you were born completely paralyzed, you would not have motility. If you had no sensory nervous system, you would be 100% insensate: unable to detect the world in any way. No hearing; no speech; no olfactory, gustational (taste) or tactile feedback: absolutely nothing -- except an otherwise functioning brain. That is the scenario: a brain without any possible form of interaction outside of itself (i.e. your brain can't detect your own body or the external world).
Another scenario (though very sci-fi) with a similar result would be a fully human brain cloned in the laboratory. Using sci-fi technology, it is kept functioning and healthy in a high-tech container. However, it has no sensory nervous system or artificial means to receive stimuli of any kind. The only difference between this scenario and the original one is that the brain is housed in a high-tech container instead of the skull of a paralyzed and insensate human body.
My purpose in raising this prospect was to drive home the point that the mind is more
than the brain. The mind relies on the sensory nervous system, sensory organs and environment as much as it does on the brain
- Without stimuli from the environment, there would be nothing for our sense organs to detect.
- If there were stimuli but no sense organs, there would be no way to detect the stimuli.
- If there were both stimuli and sense organs but no sensory nervous system, there would be no way for stimuli to reach our brains.
- If there were no brain, there would be no way to process the stimuli from the environment that was detected by our sense organs and passed along by our sensory nervous system.
There has been research and findings that support my position. For instance, it is thought that ideas can't form without symbols. Also, feral children have consistently shown that the brain's ability to learn language is severely constrained after childhood. Obviously, without experiences, there would be no memories or learning. Creativity requires ideas. Where would ideas come from without contact with the external world? Emotions are contextual; what emotions could you have?
Anyway . . . my question, based on this scenario, is: can there be "mind" (cognizant consciousness) with just a brain and without interaction of any kind external to the brain?