Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Robert Burns on Mirror Neurons

[from a Burns poem apparently criticizing Alexander Pope's ideas (the proper study of mankind is man)]

What pity, in rearing so beauteous a system,
One trifling particular, truth, should have miss'd

For, spite of his fine theoretic positions,
Mankind is a science defies definitions.

In the make of that wonderful creature, call'd Man,
No two virtues, whatever relation they claim,
Nor even two different shades of the same,
Though like as was ever twin brother to brother,
Possessing the one shall imply you've the other.

Burns here is critiquing Alexander Pope (author of "The Proper Study of Mankind is Man")
I am not sure of the title of the poem this is excerpted from, so here is the citation:
The works of Robert Burns: with Dr. Currie's memoir of the poet, and an essay on his genius and character, Volume 1, 1843
page 101. (free at books.google.com)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Name for that Hue

Since the 1850's historians have discussed whether color vision was a capapcity of the human brain which had only recently been developed.  The evidence for the idea that our ancestors saw the world in fewer colors than those we see looking out on the world, is literary----the references to colors in texts.  Apparently black and white and red may have been the only colors apparent to the historic Greeks, for instance. 
So we may have misimagined the world of those we credit with inventing the modern world.  Regardless of the soundness of such surmises,  the spectrum of change intorduced by the discussion is provocative.  About the same time these ideas were tossed out, Darwin's idea that species could evolve was also bruited about.   Notice though that in the century plus since, no one has suggested that man's recent (since writing was invented)  mental capacity, his ability to reason, has also altered along with this flux glimpsed by the scientists and historians.  What if the ratiocinative powers of the human mind is itself mid evolution, what if there are colors of cerebral delights which man has yet to perceive.(experience in an ordinary and communal acceptable manner). What if the lonely philosopher who speaks of mysticism is merely an early evidence of intracranial evolution which will manifest in most people in coming centuries? What if the comments of a philosopher like Jan Cox, that ordinary man can only "count to two." (that is never see more than two choices regardless of the complexity facing that person) is evidence for my scenario. For one thing such a change might throw previous conclusions into doubt, make even a simple sentence subject to fracture on the racks of reality.  To absorb the significance of the idea the rational brain itsef is subject to something new under the black hole, is to confront the chance that all your conclusions could be flawed, retgardless of the extent a populace has embraced them. It may even be possible that change could happen mid sentence, and