Socrates meets Zach, the mechanic. They are discussing the nature of the mind. Is it like a machine, or something different? Is there something more?
Zach: You see, Socrates, a human is just like a machine. There are parts of the machine that work together in synergy to produce something greater than just the sum of its parts.
Think of a vehicle, for example. It has wheels, a frame, and an engine at its basic parts. The wheels are mounted to the frame, allowing it to move, and the engine is designed to propel the car forward. Each of these parts by themselves are inferior. The wheels can only move themselves, the frame may only hold something, and the engine can burn fuel and propel nothing. But together, they form a vehicle.
The human body is very similar. You have your body and your mind. Your body is like the wheels and frame of the car. It allows you to act in the world. You can move from one place to the other, or even alter your environment around you. But without the engine of the body, the mind, none of this is possible. Without the mind, we would be wheels and a frame with no engine to power us or to move to-and-fro.
Socrates: I can agree with that. So tell me more about the engine of the human, the mind?
Zach: Well, it’s our brain of course. The brain is able to interact with the body using electrical signals, chemicals, and the nervous system to command the body to act.
Socrates: But what commands the brain?
Zach: Nothing commands the brain. It is the apex of a human being, the ultimate source of our actions, free will, and everything else to guide our body.
Socrates: But when discussing the car, we note that there are wheels, a frame and the engine. The engine gives the car the ability to move. But does the engine give the car the will to move? For that you need an outside element, a driver, do you not?
Zach: Merely semantics, Socrates. Alright, alright, you could say the brain is the driver of the body then. The engine could just be another part of the frame, like the digestive system processing food into energy.
Socrates: But the driver is still an outside element. It’s not actually part of the vehicle. Let’s think of another machine. Let’s say a computer. The computer cannot turn itself on or off. It cannot perform an action, and has no reason to perform an action without outside influence. Machines then, require an outside influence to guide and control them.
So, if humans are just like machines, in order for us to function and act in the world, we need some kind of outside element, something to guide us, like the driver. Otherwise, we’d just be a machine sitting there, actionless. Like an old rust-bucket of a car sits in the lot. Maybe you’re really onto something here, Zach.
Zach: Socrates, I’m not sure that I agree. Fine, let’s say that humans are different than machines. Life is obviously different than machines. But that doesn’t change the fact that the brain is the guiding element to the body. There are scientists and experiments that prove it. They do experiments to see people thinking and can see the results on their brain scans. When someone is happy they have a certain reaction, sad is a different reaction. There are electrical signals firing and chemical reactions taking place. That’s what our brain is. That’s what we are.
Socrates: Tell me about these experiments.
Zach: Well, when someone is happy, they can see a physical reaction in the brain.
Socrates: When driving a car, if you turn the wheel to the left, the car will turn left, correct?
Socrates: And when you turn the wheel to the right, the car…?
Zach: Turns right.
Socrates: Now tell me, dear Zach, if I were researching the car’s movements, I could conclude that when the wheels are turned to the left the car turns left. And when the wheels are turned to the right, the car turns right. Am I wrong as a researcher to have reached this conclusion?
Zach: Of course not. You’ve found the reason the car turns left or right.
Socrates: But, my friend, would you say it’s the whole truth?
Zach: I suppose not. I suppose there is the driver also turning the wheels. You, as the researcher, missed something vital.
Socrates: Agreed, I missed something vital. It’s not incorrect to say that the wheels turned left make the car go left, or the wheels turned right make the car go right. But if I’m researching the car and don’t see the driver of the car, I wouldn’t know that the driver is actually what initially turns the car. I would just see the wheels moving and think that’s the whole truth.
You see, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. Just because we can’t see the driver, it doesn’t mean we can conclude there is no driver. Just as in the brain. We see the wheels turning left, the brain emits a happy reaction, or the wheels turn right, the brain emits a sad reaction. But perhaps the driver turned the wheels that caused the car to turn. Perhaps there is something we cannot see. Maybe there was an outside element, like the driver, that caused the person to be sad, resulting in the brain giving off a sad reaction. Is this possible?
Zach: It’s possible. I’m listening.