Conférence MÉOS : "Does the social brain have a mind of its own?" par Dr. Allan Young.
- Type d'activité:
Par : Dr. Allan Young
Social Studies in Medicine, McGill University.
Local 4212 du Pavillon Jean-Coutu, Université de Montréal.
Le 26 septembre 2011 se tiendra la prochaine conférence du MÉOS. La présentation intitulée « Does the social brain have a mind of its own? » sera prononcée par Dr. Allan Young, Social Studies in Medicine, McGill University. . La conférence se tiendra mercredi de 15h00 à 16h30, au local 4212 du Pavillon Jean-Coutu (Faculté de pharmacie, Université de Montréal). L’activité sera suivi d’une discussion informelle pour échanger les réflexions suscitées par la conférence.
Résumé : “Human nature” commonly means the bundle of innate and universal capacities and tendencies that, in the aggregate, distinguish humans from other animals. In practice, human nature is a historically determined vision that congealed at the end of the 18th century. One core proposition asserts that the mind and brain are the body’s theatre of consciousness, self-awareness, and volition. Volition is presumed to operate via sequences of causes and effects, where reasons (conscious intentions) freely determine purposive behavior. This and related propositions constitute the epistemology of the social sciences, jurisprudence, everyday social interaction, and moral accountability.
Developments in the cognitive and social neuroscience over the past three decades, encapsulated in he “new unconscious” and the “social brain”, challenge this foundational belief, by asserting that our reasons for our actions are not the causes, the brain initiates the actions before the conscious decision is made. The new unconscious is different from the Freudian unconscious in that its claims invoke biological (neural) mechanisms.
The persuasiveness of the new unconsciousness and reality of the social brain rests, in part, on “ontological theatre”: an occasion, usually an experiment, in which a previously invisible piece of the material world spontaneously emerges and in a form discernible to the senses. The ontological theatre prepared for the social brain is constructed around economic games, in which the brain is visibly engaged, as an independent actor, in
strategies of cooperation and competition.
I shall argue that, on these occasions, the social brain demonstrates a distinctive “style of reasoning” (my term), based on empathy, memory and analogy (the researchers’ claim). Recent experiments employing oxytocin (a neuropeptide that can be administered via a nasal inhalant) vindicate this interpretation. My talk concludes with a question: If the social brain has a characteristic style of reasoning, does it likewise have a mind-like central processor (reasoner)? I will argue that this question presupposes a prior question and answer: What is the social brain doing when it is not at work, when it is apparently doing nothing?