Saturday, January 5, 2008

Action and Thinking of Action

This story has by now been told often. How
on January 2, 2007, Wesley Autrey was waiting for a train at the 137th Street and Broadway station in Manhattan with his two very young daughters. Around 12:45 p.m., he noticed a man,
Cameron Hollopeter, having a seizure. Afterwards, the guy stumbled from the platform, falling onto the tracks. As Hollopeter lay on the tracks, Autrey saw the lights of an incoming
into a drainage ditchtrain. One of the women held Autrey's daughters back away from the edge of the platform and Autrey jumped down into the track area. After realizing he did not have time to get Hollopeter off the tracks before the oncming train, Wesley Autrey protected Hollopeter by pushing him between the tracks, and throwing himself over Hollopeter. The operator of the train saw them and tried to stop before reaching the two people, but two cars still passed over Autrey and Hollopeter. Autrey was not scratched.

Okay the point for our purposes is that there is no way this guy thought out what he was going to do. Autrey's story illustrates the fallacies of thinking that the brain controls our actions. In the words of Jan Cox, "the brain is the last to know." Picture what must have happened if you doubt this. There is a train, there is no way this guy could think, if I do this, then will my daughters see me die, is it worth my life for this poor fella. No, there was no time for any thought, the body just took over. If I cannot argue persuasively that this scenario is typical of human action, at least try and see how in this case, the brain did not decide to be a hero. This story still freaks me out, but it is not a story of rational activity, and that is why I include it here.

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