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Thread: Brain in a Jar

  1. #1 Brain in a Jar 
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    Is a brain in a jar still considered a person? Coz I have this human brain.. in a jar and Im always pondering what on earth it's thinking. It has no stimulus whatsover, except for the smalll electric pulses which I have wired to its stump which used to be its "medulla Oblongata". This keeps it "alive", the pulses are in harmony with the real human heart which I have kept pumping in the body. The jar is floating in fresh oxygenated blood which circluates through the body and is fed back into the jar.
    Any Ideas??


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  3. #2  
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    Self analysis is good. Do you feel you are a person? When did you first begin to suspect you were trapped in a jar? When did 'reality' first take on a 'fuzzy feel'? Wasn't it round about the time you first acquired the brain?
    It's going to be difficult making the transition from perceiving this world as reality to the point where you accept it is all in your stimulated, jar bound, imagination. Of course I should say our imagination, or my imagination, since we are one and the same.
    At least here we can talk to ourselves and nobody else will notice.


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  4. #3 Re: Brain in a Jar 
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    Quote Originally Posted by nerdio_coolio_zxgamma
    Is a brain in a jar still considered a person? Coz I have this human brain.. in a jar and Im always pondering what on earth it's thinking. It has no stimulus whatsover, except for the smalll electric pulses which I have wired to its stump which used to be its "medulla Oblongata". This keeps it "alive", the pulses are in harmony with the real human heart which I have kept pumping in the body. The jar is floating in fresh oxygenated blood which circluates through the body and is fed back into the jar.
    Any Ideas??
    Oooold idea man.
    Been reading some Hilary Putnam? :-)
    "Wherever you go, there you are." - Buckaroo Bonzai
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    Huh, I don't understand what you are saying Ophiolite.

    Are you saying that maybe we are all brains in jars and life is not real?

    And Nerdio, do you really have a human brain in a jar? If so, I don't think it is a human anymore. The task of a brain is to control ones body. Once the body is gone it has nothing to control; and therefore has no task.

    I suppose the one thing a brain in a jar can do is reflect. Not much to do...
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  6. #5 ... 
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    Its funny, I come to philosophy forum and ask a straight question about what people might think a human brain I happen to keep alive in a jar. And they automatically assume Im speaking in analogies about myself or quoting old ideas from other philosophers. Whose hillary putnam?, is that where i'll get the answers?

    I don't wish to question my existence or ponder my imagination, i only want to gather your thoughts on to what my brain might be thinking inside of its jar and whether its still a person?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nima Rahnemoon
    Huh, I don't understand what you are saying Ophiolite.

    Are you saying that maybe we are all brains in jars and life is not real?

    And Nerdio, do you really have a human brain in a jar? If so, I don't think it is a human anymore. The task of a brain is to control ones body. Once the body is gone it has nothing to control; and therefore has no task.

    I suppose the one thing a brain in a jar can do is reflect. Not much to do...
    Aha!! finally a straight answer. Thanks Ophiolite, Do I really have a brain in a jar? Why do you ask?

    and So what youre saying is if 'the brain is unable to control the body', it then ceases to be a person? What about a person with severe paralysis? Is he still be a person?

    Also my brain has never has never been exposed to any form of outer stimulus before so it would be fair to say that it has nothing to reflect on aside from the constant rhythm of its simulated heart beat.. Does it reflect on that, I wonder if it forms variations of the heartbeat into musical patterns with its own imagination??
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    Hmm point taken. But the difference is a person in severe paralysis can still reflect even though he can't move.

    Five senses: hear, feel, see, smell, taste. A person can probably do at least one of those 5 senses. I guess if someone can't do at least one of the five, then he is not considered a person anymore. Chance are, if a person doesn't have any sense, he/she (it might even be called an "it") can't feel us killing him. So it makes no difference if the person is alive or dead when they don't have any senses.

    Of course this isn't only for people, this is for all creatures...

    Btw is "NZ" = New Zealand?

    O and welcome to the forum.
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    i sure as hell hope that brain isn't thinking anything.
    i personally can't imagine much worse thatn being stuck in a jar with electricity running through the only part of me left.

    but really i don't like the odds of it thinking at all.
    we are aware of our surroundings via our 5 senses, which the brain interprets as different things. as this brain probably does not have anymore sensory input i don't know if it would be aware on any level, hence it is only alive biologicaly, in any other sense it is dead.
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    Okay now this has got me thinking. If we don't have any of our 'five' senses we then assume to lead a meaningless existence. We're considered dead. How about your ability to imagine?? Are we able to imagine without having stimulus from our five senses?

    The "Amygdala" inside my brain, allows me to feel high if I feel I deserve it. If I imagine something nice then I feel good. So the question goes.... 'is the brain inside my jar capable of rewarding itself with its own imagination?'.

    I agree it probably isnt aware of its surroundings not having its five senses but it may have an awareness beyond that which 'we' can comprehend having our five senses. Maybe we all have this level of awareness which we simply take for granted.

    Yes Nima NZ = New Zealand
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nima Rahnemoon
    Huh, I don't understand what you are saying Ophiolite.
    I read the opening post and considered the following options:
    1) The guy has a brain in a jar.
    2) The guy thinks he has a brain in a jar.
    3) The guy is postulating he has a brain in a jar.

    The first option was highly unlikely [I find it quite impossible to say something is impossible.] Even were a scientist able to sustain a brain in this condition it is improbable he would then come on a minor science forum to announce it (especially in the philosophy section). I decided to discard this option.

    If he thinks he has a brain in a jar then he is clearly suffering from some mental aberration. This is a plausible, but unlikely scenario. I decided to set it to one side also, pending further evidence.

    The third option seemed the most likely. So, why is he speculating?
    a) He is trolling: posting nonsense in order to generate a reaction.
    b) He wants to convince us of 2) above, and note how we try to interact with someone we suspect is crazy.
    c) He wishes to engage in discussion and debate about the nature of thought and the extent to which it is dependent on stimuli.

    b) would be unusual. a) and c) seemed most likely. I leaned heavily towards a) for three reasons: the character of the poster's name (very teenage boy); the use of the juvenile 'coz' for because; the absence of well defined criteria I would have expected in the opening of true philosophical discussion.

    I therefore required a response that would address each of these possibilities.
    It has been my experience that trolls do not generally like someone who instantly takes them at face value, but instead turns the tables on them. So I accepted nerdio's claim immediately, but suggested he was the brain.
    If nerdio hoped to pretend he was crazy. I gave him an equally crazy response.
    If his aim was to engage in speculative discussion then he should recognise implicit in my post was the question 'just what is reality?' which you correctly picked up on.

    That was a much longer reply than I had intended, but it should explain why my initial response was somewhat ambiguous, in that I was seeking to condense multiple messages to multiple nerdio personae and hope one hit the target.

    Of course, in providing this explanation I have doubtless made an enemy of nerdio, as I have alternately characterised him as a mad scientist; crazy; a troll; a juvenile teenage nerd; and, a poorly articulating philosopher.
    All in all, it shows that while you can't please all of the people all of the time, you can piss some of them off right rotten.
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    Evidently you recieved this brain from someone after they took it out of a DEAD BODY. That means the brain is totally DEAD. So how do you think a DEAD BRAIN wil be able to think if it was DEAD when you recieved it? Perhaps you do not fully understand the meany of DEAD but you could look it up in the dictionary. A DEAD BRAIN is useless so discard the thing in a proper manner before the police find that you have this DEAD BRAIN with you for you aren't supposed to recieve DEAD BRAINS unless you are a licensed creamatorium or other type of place that is to dispose of DEAD PEOPLE and their DEAD BRAINS.
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    :-D I don't think he actually has a brain.... I tell ya, some scientist take things too literally, and some don't take it literal enough. Not that that is a completely bad thing, it has it's rewards.... I think he's just postulating on possibilities of what a human brain thinks if it has no contact with it's environment.

    I just realized what you were saying in your first post Ophiolite

    "just what is reality?"

    I don't really know the answer to that question. I don't think anyone knows the answer... prove me wrong. :P
    Last edited by NimaRahnemoon; August 8th, 2013 at 01:01 AM.
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    A nice scientific deduction, Ophiolite. Not even Hume could have gotten you on that one, elaborating all possibilities with equal vigour .

    Regarding this brain in jar hypothesis, the question springs to mind 'What is a person'. The current definition of life in biology means that fire is alive. It holds all of the properties that life is predicted to have. A virus, however, is not alive. Even worse so, according to some sources, stars are also alive, still, this can be countered by adding to the definition.

    Thus, to answer your question is impossible, because I can not convince you that my view of a person is the 'right' one, which is neccesary to answer it. Only when we both share the same definition of person can we wonder whether this brain holds the same value as a person. However, here we face dillemma. 97,5 percent of the world population has been and is currently being indoctrinated by some form of religion, and all of these religions have some kind of different form of describing a person, but most of all, place a heavy weight on person, soul, spirit, individual, making the discussing a lot harder, and as you probably know, a person with convictions is not easily convinced. Often he will not even take in regard an opposite view.

    Now, in my view, neither existence, neither life, neither the person or individual can be seen outside of its context. It is too complex to be described in a binary sense, and must be seen as not just a reactionary being, but as something that uses advanced interaction between itself and its environment. Does this mean the brain is a person? I think there is only one person who can answer that, which is the brain itself. Attach a mouth to it, and if the first words it utters are "KILL ME!!", than you'll know it won't feel its a person.

    Anyway, to me personally, the binary explanation of something, is it a person or not is not really that interesting. What I find much more interesting is why you believe you will get an answer here, or whether you think anyone will care when you present the solution that is only palpable to yourself..

    Mr U
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  15. #14  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    "just what is reality?"
    Reality is when you pinch yourself hard and it hurts you somewhat, if it doesn't then pinch until it does.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler
    Reality is when you pinch yourself hard and it hurts you somewhat, if it doesn't then pinch until it does.
    That is, perhaps, reality. Real life, in that case, is where you pinch someone else and they punch you on the nose.
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  17. #16 Re: ... 
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    Quote Originally Posted by nerdio_coolio_zxgamma
    Okay now this has got me thinking. If we don't have any of our 'five' senses we then assume to lead a meaningless existence. We're considered dead. How about your ability to imagine?? Are we able to imagine without having stimulus from our five senses?

    The "Amygdala" inside my brain, allows me to feel high if I feel I deserve it. If I imagine something nice then I feel good. So the question goes.... 'is the brain inside my jar capable of rewarding itself with its own imagination?'.

    I agree it probably isnt aware of its surroundings not having its five senses but it may have an awareness beyond that which 'we' can comprehend having our five senses. Maybe we all have this level of awareness which we simply take for granted.

    Yes Nima NZ = New Zealand
    i can't speak for you but when i'm imaginative i imagine pictures sounds etc.
    if there is no sensory imput then there is nothing for the brain to translate its imagenings into, hence its imagination would be as good as a vegetables.

    but this is just my imagination running away again.
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    Good point. I suppose theres no point trying to comprehend what it would be like to have none of our five senses, its like trying to picture the 4th dimension.
    Oh well nothing wrong with pondering what it would be like to be a vegetable I guess huh?
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    On another note...

    Does anyone know much about the "Amygdala"?. I kinda believe that without this, we would have no purpose. Sex, drugs, music, achievement, love, friendship, laughter... all things that stimulate the Amygdala to reward our 'body'?? with 'dopemine'??.

    Does the feeling of well being happen in our brain or do we need a body to feel it?
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    how do you feel it, via sensory input from our senses perhaps.
    the stimulating of nerves by this Gland or the hormones it induces into our body being interpreted by the brain as a feeling.

    if the brain in the jar was still alive it would have no use for this section of the brain, and if it could do so would probably destroy the nerves in that section and rebuild them somewhere else.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wallaby
    how do you feel it, via sensory input from our senses perhaps.
    the stimulating of nerves by this Gland or the hormones it induces into our body being interpreted by the brain as a feeling.
    You say from sensory input. But what about dreams? we can dream of something pleasurable and then in our dreams have a higher sense of being regardless of sensory input.

    if the brain in the jar was still alive it would have no use for this section of the brain, and if it could do so would probably destroy the nerves in that section and rebuild them somewhere else.
    True once again, I guess bring back the severe paralysis scenario. It would be hardly believable that this person would be able to find a purpose and a sense of well being, except for in his dreams .

    Anyway, I think I might abandon this post, bounce my jar off the shelf and try and find myself a nice fe-brain to rub jars with!
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    Quote Originally Posted by nerdio_coolio_zxgamma
    Quote Originally Posted by wallaby
    how do you feel it, via sensory input from our senses perhaps.
    the stimulating of nerves by this Gland or the hormones it induces into our body being interpreted by the brain as a feeling.
    You say from sensory input. But what about dreams? we can dream of something pleasurable and then in our dreams have a higher sense of being regardless of sensory input.
    yes but the high is felt throughout the body and through emotion, which i think is just chemicals or hormones or whatever having there way with you, if there is no body then might we say that there is no high. provided my facts are right!

    but i'll tell you what connect a mouth and some ears to it and ask whether it feels anything.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wallaby
    Quote Originally Posted by nerdio_coolio_zxgamma
    Quote Originally Posted by wallaby
    how do you feel it, via sensory input from our senses perhaps.
    the stimulating of nerves by this Gland or the hormones it induces into our body being interpreted by the brain as a feeling.
    You say from sensory input. But what about dreams? we can dream of something pleasurable and then in our dreams have a higher sense of being regardless of sensory input.
    yes but the high is felt throughout the body and through emotion, which i think is just chemicals or hormones or whatever having there way with you, if there is no body then might we say that there is no high. provided my facts are right!

    but i'll tell you what connect a mouth and some ears to it and ask whether it feels anything.


    You say the high is felt throughout the body, but isn't a sensation just an electrical signal interpreted by the brain?
    Doesnt this mean the actual sensation occurs inside the brain?.
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  24. #23  
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    The amygdala is only a part of the limbic system, and has a very complex function. It is indeed responsible for the 'flight, fight, feed, sexual behaviour', and regulates this by sending for the generation of indeed dopamine, but also norepinephrine and epinephrine (better known as noradrenaline and adrenaline). It receives sensory information, and processes this. It, per example, also has 'access' to our facial expression so it can change our facial expression into one of fear.
    Also, the amygdala is said to store information concerning fear with some objects. Imagine, I am very scared of a dog or bee, than this information is stored in the amygdala.

    Doesnt this mean the actual sensation occurs inside the brain?
    I believe our mind can not comprehend this. When we feel pain, we experience this in our mind, and the actual stimulus may already have seized. All feeling is experienced in the brain. It's like you are locked up in a control center, and dependent on the readings it does on the space ship. When you view damage in the control center, where is that damage occuring? in the foot, where is the awareness, in the control center. But what is pain? Pain is the description, I believe, of this whole process, from 'damage', from stimulus, to awareness.
    So, sensation happens in the brain yes, as it affects the brain on a neural level but this does not mean that the sensation is to be felt only in the mind. It is the same awareness as from pain, but than from all over the body.

    If we were to remove a brain from the body, and give it some kind of drug, it is possible he could feel his feet tingle, or something like that. Still, this hypothesis is highly theoretical and a lot more complex than simply putting it in a jar.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HomoUniversalis
    Still, this hypothesis is highly theoretical and a lot more complex than simply putting it in a jar.
    Thanks for your input Mr U, youre very informative and I like reading your posts. I noticed in this one you held out till the very last line before you added in your little condescending remark.

    Correct me if im wrong but isn't philosophy just as much an art as it is a science? Also can you help me out here because I dont seem to see what my hypothesis actually is? I didnt think I had one.

    But aside, It is fair to say that it is quite likely that we could probably administer a drug to stimulate the brain (dont take the jar thing too literally) into thinking its feet were being tingled, taken of course that all external parameters hold (speaking hypothetically here ).
    So taken that this "hypothetical" statement holds on a "likely" basis. It would be fair to say that sensation occurs in the brain as you agreed, in fact everything occurs in the brain right?.

    Forget about pain, we were'nt put here to experience pain but avoid it. The amygdala also plays a role in the bodies reward pathway located in the limbic system. I believe this gives us purpose, in fact it goes without saying. When you get lucky, your brain rewards your mind. When you achieve your brain rewards your mind. When you alone annihilate every terrorist in counter strike, you brain rewards your mind. It is these things that drive us to do whatever it is we insist on doing.

    If the brain in the jar(let me spell out again hypothetically speaking and under sufficient parameters) is capable of rewarding itself in its own state, then it may still have a purpose. Maybe some of us are capable of rewardig ourselves on simply non superficial basis and hence are capable of having a higher sense of being. Maybe this is why artists and religous folk are all about parting themselves from their physical attachments and cease to own things. Because their brains are capable of rewarding their minds on a purely non physical basis? Of course thats a slight generalization, there are always clones who dont know how to just be themselves .
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  26. #25  
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    Well, the hypothesis was referring to the brain in jar analogy. I'm not sure whether I meant it as condescending, but I more meant it as a protection of myself that such an elaboration is fictional, and that it is near impossible to create an environment in which the behaviour I described would find expression.
    The main problem with your analogy, as I see it, would be that the brain needed a lot of things. It would need blood, with that air, minerals, vitamins, et cetera. Cerebral-Spinal-Fluid would have to be drained, I'm not sure how the lymphatic system works there, but it would possible also have to be taken care of.
    Additionally, the brain is an incredibly complex thing, and I honestly have no idea whether he would survive these circumstances, because of the lack of outside activity. In any case, without a body, it could still feel it had a body, and with the correct precision, measurements and stimuli it should be possible to create a kind of matrix-like situation, where you induce a certain reality upon the brain, that reflects its interaction with that environment. But, how that would effect certain things I have no idea. You see, this is not something that one can philosophise about without consequences. Because of our limited knowledge of the brain we often tend to be wrong, because it is simply a lot more complex than we thought. The brain might just create its own reality for all we know.

    Now, this reward system is of course capable of rewarding oneself on a supermaterial level, if I may described it such. Now, I'm personally biased towards Nietzsche on this, and I don't know how modern psychology views this, as my knowledge of these things is limited, I fear. Nietzsche said that we experience pleasure when we see 'power grow'. Now, this is not a very flattering translation, but I hope you will allow me to explain the complex view (this is rather difficult for me, as I am like looking at a complex clock, and I understand how it functions, but explaining it takes some time and effort), basically, it means that when we see something expand, per example, our knowledge, or our heritage, or our, well whatever, we experience pleasure. When do you feel happy? Well, for example when you read a book, when you are working on expanding your own knowledge. You experience pleasure when you become prime minister, because you feel yourself growing.

    Now, this applies to higher and basal levels, although it can not be applied as simple or roughly on eating, which also causes pleasure, but I think that might be a bit rough. It can fit within the theory, of course, but, I have to shake my head a bit while admitting that it is not completely fitting.
    In any case, yes, I believe that people can feel a reward when they believe they are expanding themselves in a 'supermaterial' level. Now, I must add that I don't feel this is neccesarily better than expansion on a material level. Do you really think that when you feel ascended that you will constantly be happy and feel good (this is where Nietzsche's theory applies the best, I think..)? No, you will want to expand more. Everything wants to move (perhaps this is the best way to put it, we find pleasure when we see things move). People often say that material things bring no real pleasure, as a follow-up from Kant's high pleasure, and lustful pleasure. I do not believe in this. I believe that both those who seek high pleasure and low (material) pleasure will end up with a thirsty mouth and want to seek more.

    Enlightenment is a path, they will continue to want more, want to run faster on the path of knowledge. They will never be satisfied.

    Mr U
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