The Enlightenment “I”

“The average person tends to fall back on the Enlightenment notion of the self — one mind, with privacy of thought and sensory experience — as a key characteristic of identity…

… That very impermeability is part of what makes the concept of the mind so challenging to researchers studying how it works, the neuroscientist and philosopher Antonio Damasio says in his book, ‘Self Comes to Mind.’

‘The fact that no one sees the minds of others, conscious or not, is especially mysterious,’ he writes.

We may be capable of guessing what others think, ‘but we cannot observe their minds, and only we ourselves can observe ours, from the inside, and through a rather narrow window.'”

Excerpted from “Could Conjoined Twins Share a Mind?” Susan Dominus, The New York Times. Published May 25, 2011

Fascinating article on how Krista and Tatiana, adorable 4 year old girls joined at the head, could possibly be sharing thalamic nuclei, which are in part responsible for the body’s perceptions and sensations. Thus, anecdotal evidence exists that a touch on one girl’s foot leads to the other girl’s giggles. Their shared sensations transfers across haptic (touch) and visual domains (so far also suggested anecdotally). No one knows for sure at this point, but the concept is fascinating to think about. What if you personally felt the external events experienced by another person? What if everything you experienced was brought upon someone else? Would you then be so sure of your preserved identity? I would highly recommend a full read of the article.

The most fitting photos from my collection that illustrate this philosophical ‘sense of self’ comes from my travels in Tibet two years ago. The beautiful people there – from monks in a rural monastery to Buddhist practitioners in the streets of Lhasa – seemed to be in touch with their inner serenity. A lot of implications for brain, mind, and behavior. More discussion to come, and suggestions as to future posts on this topic welcome.