How we understand our brain has come full circle … but must go round again
Before Psychology, Philosophy held all the power over the mind and what it was up to. The likes of Nietzsche and Kant ruled the brain waves. In 1879, thanks to Wilhelm Wundt – the Wunderkind if you like – Psychology grew up as a separate area of study. It raced into and up the charts of popular culture; Freud and Federn, Pavlov, Milgram and Laing became household names. Neuroscience, the attention seeking younger sibling, joined the fray and fMRI scanning allowed us all to look inside our own brain. We now know how the brain is wired and which areas light up to different stimulus.
But then Psychology and Neuroscience came up against a brick wall of ignorance. What is the Mind and how does the subconscious work? Is it the brain by a different name? Does it sit on top of the brain pulling all the strings? Is it in charge? A higher power even than ourselves? Is it ahead of us all the time? Does it control our destiny and then let us know what it’s up to, just after events start to unfold? This would make us empty vessels with the sole role of carrying our brain around so that the subconscious can mastermind our life. Disappointing but true. Think of Federer facing a serve from Murray. The ball travels at 141mph. On leaving Murray’s racket to it arrives at Federer’s feet in one third of a second. Federer returns it before his conscious mind is aware that he has done so.
To explain that, we are turning to Philosophy once again. The likes of Noam Chomsky and David Chalmers, even Malcolm Gladwell, are the new heroes of the Mind. Daniel Kahneman has a foot in both camps; Philosophy and Psychology. And that seems so right to me. Let Philosophy speculate a while until Psychology has dusted itself off and started to find the answers again. Watch this space……………………..between the ears.