What does the brain of philosophers look like ?

6 Apr 2018 | Media

Les chemins de la philosophie – Adèle Van Reeth

Imagine that we could open the skull of a philosopher while he is thinking, asks Adèle van Reeth. What distinguishes the philosopher’s brain? What relationships does philosophy have with science?

How does the brain approach a scientific question? How can our emotional brain be mobilized? What relation does rationality have with emotions?

What are logos, thumos, epithumia? What does the heart’s brain represent? Or the “great reason of the body”? Does the brain only think? Should we rather say: “it thinks in me”? How to think about the relationship between soul and body? What does the pineal gland, of which Descartes spoke, refer to?

Any knowledge produced by sciences thus certainly deserves to nourish philosophical reflection. Cutting Einstein’s brain into 240 strips, despite the opposition he had expressed during his lifetime, may have shed more light on the links between brain activity and thought. But a brain is not just a machine to produce many ideas. Besides, Einstein precisely thought that an idea was something very rare… Doing science, is perhaps thinking against our brain, that is to say “despite the obvious”? Of course think with our brain, but also against certain ideas that our brain presents to us as evident. “Thinking against oneself” (penser contre soi-même) is in French the anagram of “like meandering in oneself”(comme serpenter en soi), as if this idea of ​​a counter-thought went so far as to be inscribed, in comic capital letters, to use Nietzsche’s expression, in the DNA of our thinking itself. Thought is a dialogue, and thinking is certainly often saying no, reminds us the philosopher Alain. A law may well contradict the observation, as was the case with the law of the fall of bodies set out by Galileo.
What is artificial intelligence? Does the word intelligence have the same meaning in English and in French?

Can we arise thanks to obstacles? Should we recognize that the further we go, the more the certainties fade? Can emotions prevent you us from thinking, or on the contrary can they facilitate learning? What are the relationships between consciousness and the unconscious? Does the brain have a monopoly on thought?

We are certainly in the early stages of knowledge about our brain. What is the difference between brain and central nervous system? What do we know about the brains of insects, octopuses? How to define memory? What connection between the brain and anticipation?

Darwin spoke of the root-brain. What does that mean ? What is plant intelligence? Can we speak of a vegetal memory? How do plants perceive their environment? What is the épistême? Is thought a dialogue? Can we say, like Plato, that it is “this inner and mute dialogue of the soul with itself”? “Would we be thinking a lot and thinking well if we were not thinking, so to speak, in common with others, who share their thoughts with us and with whom we communicate own thoughts? “, wondered the philosopher Emmanuel Kant in ” What is to orient oneself in thought”

One brain or several brains?

What does knowing mean? What are the relationships between the subject and the object? The brain and the real? Is there a reality apart from the one perceived by our brain? Perhaps a discovery is the equivalent of an introspection. Perhaps the real as it appears to us is fooling us. More precisely, would reality as it lets itself be perceived fool us about the laws that govern it? Does reality have a double? Paul Claudel said that the things that exist are important.

What are the political, ethical implications of neurosciences? Can artificial intelligence be likened to human decision-making? How powerful are new technologies? And what power in what is vulnerable? Can depression be useful? What power lies in the vulnerable? What is the meaning of approaching cancer from the point of view of the tumor? Does literature make science without knowing it? (We think here of Flaubert, Zola, Proust). Is there a thing in itself, that is to say a real independent of my perception? Can we say that imagination gives access to reality? Is philosophy the science of the city?

What does it mean to be humble when you are a scientist? What type of brain activity represents consciousness, awakening? What are the building blocks that constitute thought?

What is brain plasticity? Can we say that the functioning modifies the structure? Can we speak of self-sculpture? What is the place of the philosopher in politics? Does Thales falling into a well designate the missed philosophical vocation, the admission of an absence, or on the contrary it’s theoretical essence?