The Nature of Mind
There was a time when we distinguished ourselves from the other animals because of our powers of reason. The icon of the Enlightenment was Rousseau's 'Smile of Reason'.
Well, it seems, at least since the time of Machiavelli, Marx and Freud, that we have devolved from rationalists to rationalizers. The primary target of postmodern deconstruction is precisely the notion that there exists any such archetype as Reason. Reason has been dethroned by the Selfish Gene. What was once a singular and progressive history of ideas has been reduced to an endless interplay of mere memes.
There is a problem, however, that the deconstructors of the mind are not facing up to. The whole notion of deconstruction is based on the possibility of analysis. Behind deconstruction lies analysis and the analytical movement in philosophy. Behind the analytical movement in philosophy lies the atomistic impulse of science. Everything must have a foundation, and the foundation of deconstruction is to be found in the ancient concept of the Atom. To deconstruct the mind is, in some very non-trivial sense, to atomize the mind.
Many scientists and philosophers have for most of the last century been searching diligently for the mental atoms. But if you ask them they will tell you that they have come up empty handed. This does not mean that they have abandoned the search, but there is an unmistakable skepticism amongst the would-be analyzers of the mind.
Nonetheless, there remains the quite prevalent view that the mystery of the mind has been virtually reduced to the firings of individual nerve cells and the combinatorics of binary bits. After all, what else could it be? Won't we, before long, be able to build a thinking machine? Once we have such a device we can analyze its software and hardware to our heart's content, and therein will lie the answer to our question about the nature of the mind.
I will not stand here and swear to you that this will not happen. But I can offer to you a reasonable alternative.
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