Watch out, the brain, it has its own mind

Three hundred and eighty-one years after the publication of “Meditations on the first philosophy of René Descartes, in which the existence of God and the immortality of the soul are demonstrated”, the Supreme Court of India has approved one of the French philosophers of the 17th century. key principles: the body being a separate entity from the mind. Everywhere the Cartesians are delighted.

One would assume that last weekend’s about-face regarding GN Saibaba – in which the Bombay High Court’s acquittal of the 52-year-old former Delhi University professor and four others sentenced in 2017 to life imprisonment for having links with the Maoists was overturned by the Supreme Court. – was only on GN Saibaba. It really wasn’t. The centrality of the suspension order was to grant the legal sanction of Descartes’ body-mind duality, the first in the world.

According to Descartes – the guy famous for his “I think, therefore I am” sticker – the mind is a “thinking thing” and an immaterial substance. The body, on the other hand, is an “existing thing”, a material substance. According to ‘Maps, the two co-exist and interact but are separate – like the software and hardware of a computer, the mind being superior.

So the zombie, for example, is a body (not too healthy) without a mind. Which for Descartes, unfamiliar with the 20th century Decartesian philosopher George A Romero and his films like the 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead, is an impossibility. The body-deprived mind, on the other hand, found its existence in artificial intelligence, which Descartes was aware of in its more primitive form of automata – relatively autonomous mechanical devices – which were all the rage in 17th-century Paris.

Justice MR Shah, who along with Justice Bela M Trivedi heard the Maharashtra government’s appeal against the acquittal of Sai Baba and others last Saturday, observed: “Regarding terrorist or Maoist activities , the brain is more dangerous. Direct involvement is not necessary. He added that he was making “a general observation, not in relation to this specific case”, pointing to the larger Cartesian basis of the case.

In the Cartesian hierarchy of mind (in modern language: brain) and body, the brain has supremacy over the master body. The ideologue – be it Leon Trotsky, Dale Carnegie, MS Golwalkar or Pep Guardiola – has more power than those who act on his ideas. Descartes, of course, did not believe that the mind was capable of existing in isolation – “the brain in a jar”. “I am not just present in my body as a pilot in his ship. I am very closely linked and, so to speak, entwined with him, so that me and the body form a unit.” If it were not so, I, who am nothing but a thinking thing, would not feel pain when the body is injured, but I would perceive the damage only through the intellect, just as a sailor perceives by sight if something in his ship is broken. , he writes in Meditations.

As a result, Saibaba – who has been 90% physically disabled and in a wheelchair since childhood due to polio – has little to ride. And it was this ship that was docked for his alleged offence. But then, if Professor Charles Francis Xavier, the mastermind behind the group of mutants who go by the moniker of “X Men” (Xaoists?), can wreak havoc with his powerful telepathy from the confines of a wheelchair, the professor and author of the doctoral dissertation, ‘Indian Writing in English and Nation Making: Reading the Discipline’.

Stephen Hawking – paralyzed and in a wheelchair for most of his life – must also have come to mind when the Supreme Court overturned the High Court judgment. His body-prison didn’t stop the physicist from using his brain to work on gravitational singularity theorems and predict that black holes emit radiation. The brain can, indeed, be “far more dangerous” (and “far more beneficial”) than the body politic.

Which makes one wonder about the effectiveness of imprisoning a luminous spark. Wouldn’t it be smarter to just pick your brains and defuse the real danger? Wishing your mind and body a very happy holiday.

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