Contents

Vol. 15, No.1, January 2008

Refereed Papers

V.S. Ramachandran and Paul D. McGeoch   abstract
Phantom Penises In Transsexuals: Evidence of an Innate Gender-Specific Body Image in the Brain
Uwe Meixner   abstract
New Perspectives for a Dualistic Conception of Mental Causation
Elizabeth Schier   abstract
The Knowledge Argument and the Inadequacy of Scientific Knowledge
Jonathan C.W. Edwards   abstract
Are Our Spaces Made of Words?

Reports and Commentary

Pier Luigi Luisi   full text
Two Pillars of Buddhism: Consciousness & Ethics. From the Proceedings of Mind and Life XII
Andy Ross  full text
Honderich and McGinn

Jonathan C.W. Edwards

Are Our Spaces Made of Words?

Abstract: It is argued that both neuroscience and physics point towards a similar re-assessment of our concepts of space, time and ‘reality’, which, by removing some apparent paradoxes, may lead to a view which can provide a natural place for consciousness and language within biophysics. There are reasons to believe that relationships between entities in experiential space and time and in modern physicists’ space and time are quite different, neither corresponding to our geometric schooling. The elements of the universe may be better described not as ‘particles’ but as dynamic processes giving rise, where they interface with each other, to the transfer, and at least in some cases experience, of ‘pure’ or ‘active’ information, the mental and physical just reflecting different standpoints. Although this analysis draws on general features of quantum dynamics, it is argued that purely quantum level events (and their ‘interpretations’) are unlikely to be relevant to the understanding of consciousness. The processes that might be able to give rise, within brain cells, to an experience like ours are briefly reviewed. It is suggested that the elementary signals that are integrated to generate a spatial experience may have features more in common with words than pixels. It is further suggested that the laws of integration of words in language may provide useful clues to the way biophysical integration of signals in neurons relates to integration of elements in experiential space.

Correspondence: jo.edwards@ucl.ac.uk


V.S. Ramachandran and Paul D. McGeoch

Phantom Penises In Transsexuals: Evidence of an Innate Gender-Specific Body Image in the Brain

Abstract: How the brain constructs one’s inner sense of gender identity is poorly understood. On the other hand, the phenomenon of phantom sensations — the feeling of still having a body-part after amputation — has been much studied. Around 60% of men experience a phantom penis post-penectomy. As transsexuals report a mismatch between their inner gender identity and that of their body, we wondered what could be learnt from this regarding innate gender-specific body image. We surveyed male-to-female transsexuals regarding the incidence of phantoms post-gender reassignment surgery. Additionally, we asked female-to-male transsexuals if they had ever had the sensation of having a penis when there was not one physically there. In post-operative male-to-female transsexuals the incidence of phantom penises was significantly reduced at 30%. Remarkably, over 60% of female-to-male transsexuals also reported phantom penises. We explain the absence/presence of phantoms here by postulating a mismatch between the brain’s hardwired gender-specific body image and the external somatic gender. Further studies along these lines may provide penetrating insights into the question of how nature and nurture interact to produce our brain-based body image.

Correspondence: Paul D. McGeoch, Center for Brain and Cognition, UCSD, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA. Email: pmcgeoch@psy.ucsd.edu


Uwe Meixner

New Perspectives for a Dualistic Conception of Mental Causation

The paper provides new perspectives for a dualistic conception of mental causation by putting causation that originates in a nonphysical self into an evolutionary perspective. Nonphysical causation of this type – free agency – together with nonphysical consciousness, is regarded as being not only compatible with physics, but also as having a natural place in nature. It is described how free agency can work, on the basis of the brain, and how it can be compatible with the result of the Libet-experiment. The necessary condition for the existence of free agency is that the physical macro-world is indeterministic to a degree that is relevant for living beings, that is, for their survival and well-being. From an evolutionary point of view, and on the basis of the facts of consciousness, it is more likely than not that this condition is in fact fulfilled.

Correspondence: Uwe Meixner, Institute of Philosophy, University of Regensburg, D-93040 Regensburg, Germany. Email: uwe.meixner@psk.uni-regensburg.de


Elizabeth Schier

The Knowledge Argument and the Inadequacy of Scientific Knowledge

Abstract: Recently a number of authors have responded to the knowledge argument by suggesting that Mary could learn about new physical facts upon release (Flanagan, 1992; Mandik, 2001; Stoljar, 2001; Van Gulick, 1985). A key step in achieving this is a demonstration that there are facts that can be known via colour experience that cannot be learnt scientifically. In this paper I develop an account of scientific and visual knowledge on which there is a difference between the knowledge provided by science and that provided by vision.

Correspondence: Elizabeth Schier, Department of Philosophy, Macquarie University, NSW, 2109, AUSTRALIA. Email: lizschier@gmail.com


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