Thursday, February 4, 2010


I'm not normally much of a pun guy, but this one got me giggling. Speaking about the much discussed Belgian patient in a vegetative state who recently showed surprising brain activity, Dr. Allan H. Ropper, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, similarly warned against equating neural activity and identity. “Physicians and society are not ready for ‘I have brain activation, therefore I am,’ ” Dr. Ropper wrote. “That would seriously put Descartes before the horse” (original here).

UPDATE (02/14/2010): hehe, still makes me giggle 10 days later...



adelbert said...

hey i happened to read this quote on time's verbatim and i was confused over what it meant so i ran a search! doesnt neural activity, in this case the signaling of yes and no to questions i suppose, equate to thinking which therefore fulfills Descartes' i think therefore i am(exists)? i'm so confused!!!

Chris said...

adelbert, I think we're all a little confused by this, but I would caution against the assumption that neural activity equates to thinking. Neural activity is just chemical activation. The article mentioned the use of yes/no questions as a measure of rational control, but Dr. Ropper's point, I think, was that we just don't know what yes means in this context. Kinda reminds me of Bill Clinton's infamous "depends on what the meaning of is is" line. The meaning of "yes" is less obvious than we think.