The New Science of Mindsight (Daniel J. Siegel)

This interactive talk will examine two major questions: What is the mind? and How can we create a healthy mind? We’ll examine the interactions among the mind, the brain, and human relationships and explore ways to create a healthy mind, an integrated brain, and mindful, empathic relationships.

Presented by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.

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  1. David S on October 15, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Interesting talk (even though I found his delivery creepy, like a salesman selling his idea), yet I found his lack of a complete answer to the question of why he talks of the mind being separate from the brain a cheap way to avoid coming clean about his beliefs. The question had much more to it than his answer did. Just because he wants to separate out the issue of inherent brain traits from those which come of its operation doesn’t require talking of the “mind” VS the “brain” and separating them with language that leads one into visualizing them as separate “things”. But he seems to want to do this and then backs away from explaining why. This appears to me to be because he does in fact hold beliefs of some separation.

  2. Mark Knickelbine on October 15, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    David, although I really get a lot out of Siegel, I have also wondered about what he really believes about the nature of the mind. One one hand, I think he is correct in that we can’t reduce what we call “mind” to the individual human central nervous system, if for no reason that it does not exist outside the cultural and interpersonal realms. But he does avoid saying, no functioning human CNS, no mind.

  3. David S on October 15, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Mark.
    I’ve heard evasive answers like Siegel’s from people who believe in “Mind” existing as the end all of everything. I think he was just trying to avoid answering the question honestly.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the mind does not exist outside the cultural and interpersonal realms. Culture and interpersonal relations exist and shape us, but do not need to exist for the mind to exist. That is one thing from meditation which I come away with, the experience of the senses. A mind is at birth sensing. At this time it does not exist in the same form as it will after being raised within a culture, yet regardless it will begin a relation to the world through its senses.

    I’d say that a mind exists from the CNS and its interactions with its environment, but no CNS no mind.

  4. Mark Knickelbine on October 16, 2013 at 7:48 am

    I agree no CNS no Mind, but we can’t underestimate the extent to which even the CNS at birth is radically conditioned socially. The fact of our birth, our genetic inheritance, and the conditions under which the CNS matures, are all socially conditioned. Beyond that, we are a social species; what we experience as consciousness is driven by the limbic region, which evolved in mammals specifically to make social interaction more efficient. We are hardwired for interaction and our CNS cannot mature without it. A human organism completely isolated socially may still have a “mind”; but that mind would have so little to do and be so incapable of learning that the organism surely wouldn’t thrive. Going beyond such a hypothetical case, the paterning of language and cultural norms is so profound that it colors our every perception even as it arises. So we don’t need to posit some non-physical capital M “Mind” to see that what we refer to as mind cannot be reduced to the individual human organism. Mind is a species phenomenon.

  5. David S on October 20, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    I guess we disagree about what we are calling “mind”. You say, “Mind is a species phenomenon.” I don’t look at it in such a way. Our entire CNS is not completely unique to humans. Sure there are some unique aspects to the human CNS, but there is also much which is similar to other organisms.

    Is the sense of touch you perceive going to be culturally determined, or biologically determined?

  6. Mark Knickelbine on October 21, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Yes, much of the human CNS is shared with other species, especially mammals, where structures like the limbic region evolved in order to help regulate social existence. “Society” is hardly a human-only phenomenon, either. Our CNS evolved in a social context so if the “mind” is generated by the CNS then it cannot be understood outside that context. Perhaps the bare sensory datum can escape cultural determination. But what I touch and why, and how I interpret that experience, cannot. Again, I would say that mind can only be experienced by a functioning CNS, but it cannot be reduced to that experience.

  7. David S on October 21, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    OK, I see where you’re coming from.

    I want to add to your comments that I still see that there is much to our experiences which are not culturally determined and they are not so far from our daily perceptions. I’m not suggesting the negation of culture in forming our minds (especially our cognitive “understanding”), only that it seems likely that many qualities of consciousness are not. The strange perceptual qualities of some people with damaged brains shows how many aspects of our experience are formed biologically too. (reference: V.S. Ramachandran & Sandra Blakeslee, ‘Phantoms In The Brain’)

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