24 February 2009

An expensive hand-shovel

Professor, what a surprise! I didn’t think you were the type to visit these ‘bobo’ haunts.

Only when I wish to be benignly scammed into paying three times the price for a deliberately distressed dresser.

One litre of tears

Hey Leena, just writing to share something with you.

Have you heard of a Japanese drama series called 'One Litre of Tears'? It's a TV series based on a true story, about a 15 year old girl, Aya Kito, who was diagnosed with a disease called 'spinocerebellar ataxia'. Basically, it's a disease where the cerebellum degenerates over time (how fast this occurs varies between different people), causing sufferers to gradually lose control over their muscles and ability to speak, eventually requiring a wheelchair to move around and finally being bedridden. The cruel thing is, their intellect is unaffected, so sufferers of this disease are aware of how helpless they are becoming as time goes on. They literally become trapped in a prison that is their body.

Interview with L C Land

Firstly, thank you for doing this interview at such short notice.

My pleasure. Thank you for taking an interest.

I know you’re on a tight schedule today, so I’ll make this as quick as I can. Your latest novel The Fantastilicious Episode of the Diminishing Error tackles the philosophical idea of mind-body dualism. Do you subscribe to dualism?

Absolutely not, and the novel is a sort of fiction-as-refutation of the idea largely attributed to the 17th century French philosopher Rene Descartes, although dualism's origins are much older. Without wading into a pool of metaphysical jargon, this story sets out to counter the rather persistent belief in a disembodied soul or self that is independent of, or only tenuously connected to, the body.

So what is the story about?

Without giving away too much, the heroes are a young brother and sister whose parents, a scientist and an engineer, are charged with treason and sentenced to hard labour for life by a repressive theocracy that preaches dualism as a means of controlling the populace. But our irrepressible heroes meet some unlikely allies in their quest to find and rescue their parents.

Imagining the Self (2)

In chapter nine, The Sensory Room, of Raymond Tallis’s book The Kingdom of Infinite Space, under the subchapter The Mystery of the Head-Room, Tallis devotes a few pages to expounding on his Selfhood. How, he asks, do we account for ‘the fact that there is such a thing as ‘the first person’ – the I, here, now – to which all this variety [of conscious experience] is ultimately referred’?

Like the French philosopher Rene Descartes was roughly 400 years ago, Tallis is both puzzled and amazed by this unique human ability to perceive one’s Self, to know oneself as an ‘I’. And like Descartes, Tallis attributes this special power to something outside the body. He makes what is referred to in some philosophical circles as the Cartesian Error; the Mind (the Self) must be separate from the Body (the brain). Thus Tallis dismisses the claim that the mind is, or comes from, the brain as ‘neuromythology’, an overextension by overconfident neuroscientists.

Without… a unifying ‘I’, the brain or mind would simply be a colloidal suspension of unhaunted modules – which is how the cognitive scientist seems to present it. That is why many neuroscientists deny that there is such a thing as a self. If they can’t find it or conceive of it in neurological terms, it can’t exist.