The brain and consciousness

Original questioner, a Doctor, training in psychiatry: What does the brain do after we die, how long does it stay conscious?

A (Marcus Geduld, Shakespearean director, computer programmer, teacher, writer, likes dinosaurs.) Answered Nov 24, 2014 : Nothing happens to it. It’s dead. ‘Switched off.’ That’s basically the definition of death—when your brain totally stops functioning. This question is kind of like asking how long a radio keeps on playing when it’s switched off.

A. (Martin): The brain is never conscious. It is the man…

Q. (Marcus Geduld): I don’t know what that means.

A. (Martin):  The brain is a transmitter, vehicle, or instrument of or for consciousness. Consciousness is awareness, and it doesn’t do anything. Man is nothing if not consciousness or awareness. Sorry, my interest is primarily philosophy.

Q. (Marcus Geduld): I don’t know what you mean by “man” if you’re not talking about brains. You think elbows are conscious?

A. (Martin): In one of Plato’s Dialogues to the question of what is stirring the water when a stick is apparently doing it, Socrates retorted: ‘it is not the stick, it is the man with the stick who does it’, meaning that the agency is man’s will/intention/purpose/intelligence. My question to you is: ‘Is the brain intelligent, purposeful, etc., or is it the man, with a brain in his skull’)?

Q. (Marcus Geduld): I can’t answer, because I don’t understand the difference. The brain is the only part of the person capable of thought. The person’s feet and shoulders can’t think. I imagine you’d ask the same question of someone lost his body and we could keep just his head alive on life support. I don’t get the distinction you’re making between his brain and him. What is him?

A. (Martin):  First, a head, without at least a chest for breathing and a heart pumping the oxygenated blood, is not viable. My main interest being Advaita Vedanta, my answer would be: ‘In essence, man is consciousness (Atman-Brahman), the only reality. Man’s body and mind are adjuncts, superimposed on Atman-Brahman’. I don’t think you are interested in this, though.

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