PLAIN TALK: The Philosophical Issues Hidden Before Our Eyes

Your Favorite Philosopher?

I’ve tried and, yes, I have failed. I have been unable to convey to others the issues and their significance as I see them. In recent conversations, and in the my daily statistics, I sense the fatigue setting in. A hearty band of readers have given me a chance and ‘the product’ has not sold.

Will I give up? I lay in bed the other morning and I told my trusty wife that I had no ambition to leave it. Of course, she laughed. I spoke to my trusty neighbor, Ray, and he confided to me that “no, he had not read recently. Too much like a lecture. Over my head.” My brother, Mark, “honestly, Greg, I don’t understand much of it.” And finally, this incident:

We were FaceTiming our four year old granddaughter, her mom —my step-daughter— and our son in law. He confided that he had been reading one of The Meaning of Life posts recently, but couldn’t get through it. He said, “I don’t have a degree in philosophy,” to explain his inability. My step-daughter quickly responded, “Neither does Greg.”

Dan Dennett, my favorite contemporary philosopher. Teaches at Tufts U. Previous picture was the enigmatic Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Now I do realize there are several ways to take this. I laughed, and said “That’s true.” But I did wonder, Why am I out here on this limb? I am no trained and certified philosopher. Why am I Trying To Explain This? Maybe there is Nothing to explain. Maybe there is nothing to offer! After all, Who is your Favorite Philosopher? You don’t have one? No shit! What do professional philosopher’s do? Are they like this little family that is inbreeding, just for the sake of making a few more philosophers, to fill a few more cushy university jobs?

But, I do feel that philosophy has something important to offer. And, I have no philosophical reputation or job on the line. For me, it’s been a persistent hobby, an avocation and not a vocation. I can say what I believe and hope, and what my readings and studies have led me too. No threatening ramifications, only that I may not be read or understood. Which is, largely, where I am.

John Dewey is a good one. Not only important as a philosopher, but was a noted reformer of Education.

So, what do I do? I ANNOUNCE A NEW POST SERIES: “PLAIN TALK: Philosophical Issues Hidden Right Before Your Eyes! It’s goal will be to Introduce Issues of Curiosity to wet and stimulate The Imagination. Issues of philo significance in ordinary life and talk. I will Not try to solve them, as I have done in previous post series, just point in a direction to their solution. That may avoid some of the bog.

And I should say, not all philosophers have avoided ‘the fray.’ Dan Dennett has written books arguing against the existence of God, promoting Evolution, and even opening philosophical problems to common scrutiny —his book “Intuition Pumps.”

So, here I go again; trying to make ‘it’ transparent.

FIRST TOPIC: Why do we talk about both Brains and Minds? A Brain is that grey matter between your ears, but What The Hell is “A Mind?” Let’s try to point out why both these ‘things’ are real, like we seem to believe they are! That would be A Philosophical Issue Hidden Right Before Our Eyes!

Another on of my favorites. His Science and The Modern World is a classic. Great intro to how Science, as we take it today, is a one-sided view. (From As I look at these photos, It occurs to me how philosophy is too much for the white man!
Hannah Arendt: the most famous woman philosopher I know of. Hung out with that French crowd: Sartre, Camus… Been a while since I read her The Human Condition.

See the following: “Why do we talk about Both Minds and Brains?” in PLAIN TALK: Philo Issues Hidden Right Before Our Eyes.

STILL DANCING TO AVOID THE FLAMES! The Nature Religion Connection. (Drawing by Marty!)

10 thoughts on “PLAIN TALK: The Philosophical Issues Hidden Before Our Eyes

  1. Why do we talk about brains and minds? The answer is simple – convenience.

    It is not that they are somehow separate. You seem to be stuck in some cartesian world that I doubt Dennett had in brain.

    It’s not that your readers don’t have philosophy degrees, its more the prose is difficult to follow.

    And when I have tried to engage you on certain points … you seem more engaged in your prose than my questions.. Plain Talk.


    1. I’ll try. I do get into my prose. Some people say they like my writing style, but I do go overboard sometimes. Just trying to have some fun.

      But you are mistaken about brain and mind. They do very different things. Mind is where red is red, math is math, and language is about the meaning of it. In each of these cases, it is not primarily about wave frequency or neurons or quantum waves. I know that is hard for you to accept. And this is Dennett’s position.
      Thanks for reading!


  2. If I am wrong on this, then NatureReligionConnection can start on explaining how the mind affects the brain?

    An explanation of where the mind resides actually resides would be nice.

    Because without this aspect saying the mind is different from the brain is just speculation based on our anecdotal experience. Which, most would agree is limited to a huge degree.


    1. Well, Rom, if you’ll notice, that is what it says the next post is about: Where and what is Mind? So hang tight.

      I do like my response though. ‘Mind is where red is red, math is math (theorems, rules, algorithms), and words are meaningful.’
      To that extent, Mind is simply where and how Our Experience is what it is Before we start to analyze it in all sorts of ways (for this particular purpose or that), and especially analyze it in new ways.
      Mind is then ‘the place’ for our experience as the primal datum. And “thank Goodness”, sometimes we are simply content to to leave an experience right there, as the experience, and just enjoy it without much analysis. Like when I ate that steak last nite and washed it down with some decent (opps, starting to analyze) red wine, It was easy to just enjoy! Maybe that is a big part of what Mind is.


  3. Here you don’t answer my question (again) … as usual. How does this ‘different’ mind affect the brain?

    I am not asking what it does … but how it does it interact with the brain … to get our actions in motion? I am trying to get you to describe where the mind resides physically. Where does experience reside?

    If the mind and brain are “different” then I suppose you believe you can have things in mind without a brain?


    1. rom, of course I will get to that. But then you ignore may of my argument too. How do firing neurons ‘explain’ geometric theorems? And where did we ever even get the idea of Red as a color, if all it is is neurons, and wave frequencies? The Mind is an interpretive unit, of some sort. It functions in a place that Emerges from the strictly physical.

      But thanks, your comments (if civil) make me further clarify this line of thought.


  4. How do firing neurons ‘explain’ geometric theorems?

    If your answer is that you don’t know, it is OK to say so.
    But I think it is fair to observe that when neurons fire in the the right patterns it leads to “explanations”.

    Red as a colour? This is an age old question of consciousness. Have I ever experienced “red” without my brain? I can’t think of an occasion myself. Does the actual experience do anything?

    The mind is an interpretive unit. Does this mind of yours somehow do this interpretation without neuron firing?


    1. I agree, Rom, when neurons fire in the right pattern in Descartes’s brain and it is the invention or discovery (?) of coordinate geometry, we are very fortunate that the universe and ourselves are so fortunately aligned.

      Surely you are familiar with all the monkeys at typewriters typing away until one of them stumbles upon a coherent novel. Isn’t that like the Big Bang flailing about until it happens to come up with the first geometric theorem? And then comes up with the next one that so logically fits with the first.

      That is fortunate, but I guess the Bang had a lot of opportunities to try and fail to get anything coherent. So here, it not only got Life and geometry to be such fortunate coincidences, but all the other evolutionary events and tales of our cultural development to fall in place, too. We see that as meaningfully fitting together to form our historic development.

      The point is that you are Not an incrementalist or gradualist. We need an evolutionary explanation. It’s all the adaptions and developments in between that eventually set up some group of neurons to be geometry. If the right set of neurons fired in an ancient Hunter and gatherer, would it have come out geometry?


  5. I agree, Rom, when neurons fire in the right pattern in Descartes’s brain and it is the invention or discovery (?) of coordinate geometry, we are very fortunate that the universe and ourselves are so fortunately aligned.

    Descartes was a dualist, he thought brain and mind were two different or at least “substances”.

    From what I recall neither Dennett nor Carroll are proponents of dualism. I suspect they would be horrified that your reading of their work has caused you to cite Cartesian dualism as an explanation of reality.

    As to the rest of your reply I am having trouble seeing the relevance to see how the Cartesian mind causes action in the brain.

    As to evolution … a paraphrase of Dennett:
    A system that replicates.
    A system where there are slight variations in the replications.
    An environment where one system can replicate more successfully.

    Note that the system of replicates are part of the environment too.

    Geometry, coordinate or otherwise, is a meme … it too has under gone evolution. The concept of geometry was not an immaculate conception. If you don’t mind the pun.


    1. Rom, Descartes dualism is modified into the idea of different levels of reality. “ Emergence”, an idea you don’t like, is based in the same kinds of semantic incompatibilities that Rene focused on between Mind and Matter. Now we recognize some further “explanatory gaps”, like between non-human animals and human conceptual, logical, and representational practices. You are working upon some very different intuitions than I and many others are working upon. A lot of people get these “emergent” distinction. You don’t.


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