I hear it more and more these days; “the brain thinks…..”, “the brain decides…” I hear myself saying it too.
But can brains think?
I’ve been wanting to write something on the topic but then came across the following blog post by James Shelley which says it so well and concisely.
“The homunculus fallacy is a term coined by philosopher Anthony Kenny (b. 1931). (Kenny 1984:125)
We commit the fallacy when we imagine that individual parts of our body can do the work of a whole body…
“Here is another example: neuroscience demonstrates that the hippocampus plays an important role in memory consolidation and retention. However, it would be a fallacy to assert, “My hippocampus remembers.” You remember. Your hippocampus does not remember anything by itself, it is only part of your ability as an organism to recall past experiences. Sure, the hippocampus is activated when you remember — but take the hippocampus out of your brain and it is only an unattractive little lump of inert tissue.
Remember: you’ve never met a brain, only other persons. For as interesting as neuroscience is, it is just another homunculus fallacy to say that we are our brains. As fascinating as it is to learn about how the brain works, the brain is nothing without the kidneys, heart, liver, and lungs.
You are all of you. There can be no other way to define you.”
Of course, if one asserts that brains don’t think, what exactly is it that brains do?