Introspective Neurology

I have developed a strong interest in philosophy of mind, drawing on my experiences with psychedelics and meditation on the one hand, and my long background in computer programming on the other.

This is just a brief post to introduce my notion of ‘introspective neurology’, the practice of catching glimpses (and they can only be glimpses) of the underlying processes of one’s own mind.

One fruitful source of such glimpses comes from handwriting errors (typing errors too, maybe, but I get more from handwriting). Catch yourself spelling a word wrong and ask, where did that particular error come from? Sometimes you will notice that the word actually written had the pattern of the intended word, but that some of its letters come from ‘farther down the pipeline’, letters that belonged to the next word or so in the intended sentence.

Here’s a more elaborate scenario. I enjoy solving sudoku puzzles; I have (U.S.) standard 8.5×11″ sheets on which I print out six grids of a pleasant size; I transcribe a puzzle from an online sudoku source, and then proceed to solve it. More on my methods some day, perhaps.

The point, though, is this: when I transcribe the puzzle, taking each 3×3 subsquare in turn, I say to myself, “eight, five, three”, or whatever the données for that subsquare are. But I do not say, “eight in northwest, five in the center, three in south”; the arrangement of the données within the subsquare is just held in my ‘mind’s eye’ as a visual pattern. I found this dependence on both symbolic and nonsymbolic representation interesting. (The famous TED talk by Jill Bolte Taylor, My stroke of insight, goes into the strangeness of having to deal with a phone number when the connection between the visual shape of each digit and its compact symbolic representation has been lost.)

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One Response to Introspective Neurology

  1. Dan says:

    FWIW, years ago I was trained in a somewhat different approach: the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl. While his philosophy has its problematic aspects, I have found the method of observing one’s own mind outlined in the “First Meditation” of Husserl’s _Cartesian Meditations_ to be useful in better understanding the subjective experience of mind. I’m no longer adept at Husserl’s phenomenological method, but that habit of observing one’s own mind remains with me.

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