By Kyle Miller
Union’s Philosophy Club meets every Tuesday evening at 5 p.m. to have group discussions, and this week’s topic was a discussion on the role of the brain and the mind.
On Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, this topic of debate was held at Beuth House. Dan Pallies ’15, who is writing about this topic for his thesis, led the discussion. The discussion developed into a conversation between the students.
Pallies explained that the Philosophy Club holds these discussions to raise campus involvement with the club’s activities.
“We are increasing the scope of our messages out to the campus community,” he commented. Though the club’s weekly talks have not been well publicized, members are working to rectify this lack of awareness.
There were approximately 20 students who gathered in Beuth’s common area to participate in the “Brain vs. The Mind” discussion. These students came from various disciplines, including: neuroscience, engineering, English and philosophy, which allowed for a wide spectrum of perspectives on the topic.
Despite the diverse backgrounds of the participants, the debate consisted of two main arguments. Most people adamantly believed that the brain and mind are separate entities, which means that humans have the ability to make their own decisions.
However, there were a few students who strongly opposed this idea. These students constructed their argument based on science.
Both sides raised arguments on various subtopics, including the idea of pain. Individuals posed questions such as, “Is it just simply neurons firing, or is there a second piece to it?” and, “You could tell an alien that pain is the firing of neurons, but does that really explain what’s going on?”
Those who believed in the concept of the mind held that pain is internally interpreted, whereas those who took a scientific approach argued that advances in neurological research could ultimately quantify pain.
Even though the discussion became polarized, students were able to voice their opinions without judgment because there was a mutual respect. These opposing viewpoints served its purpose to create a philosophical discussion.
After the discussion, James Boggs ’18 was asked why he strongly believed that the mind is not independent of the brain. He explained that “everything in the universe can be explained through science, if you look hard enough.” He continued to explain, “In time, we as people will discover more about the brain, and these discoveries will show that our brains don’t think freely, but instead take in data and respond to it.”
Besides holding weekly discussions, the Philosophy Club has recently planned on starting radio interviews with faculty on their areas of research. These interviews would be conducted by club members and would serve the purpose of bringing discussion about faculty research to the forefront.