I think, therefore, I am?
Are we (only) our brains?
I love this type of thought exercise. They’re fun. It’s one of those that nobody can really prove or disprove. Which makes answering them (or attempting to) that much more fun.
My knee-jerk answer is, of course we are our brains! We are our thoughts and our minds. Our bodies just mere hardware to our software -- a clunky one at that. But wait, what are our brains really, but electrified hunks of flesh, able to construct and execute (predictable) algorithms?
So I guess our brains are simply just hardware too. Running what kind of software, now that is the question.
Answer me this: what happens when the brain becomes damaged? Through illness, erosion of time, or broken by injury? Now the software cannot execute as well, the electricity cannot travel through oxygen-starved pieces of flesh, cannot access data from damaged memory banks, cannot form the right words due to a break in the wiring.
What does that mean for these people? Are they no longer the same people they were?
Are they less?
Like an outdated cell phone, with a cracked screen and a faulty battery, no longer able to install updates to keep up with the latest applications. Sorry! You need version 13.0 or later! No, you do not have enough memory to install the latest version. Guess you’re out of luck then. Goodbye.
I refuse to believe we are simply the sum of our thoughts, the weight of our bodies, the sound of our voices. We can’t be, right? Otherwise, what’s the difference between us and machines with replaceable operating systems and upgradeable memories?
Here’s another thought: We are only who other people think we are. Think about it, if we disappear tomorrow, and nobody notices, then one could argue we didn’t actually exist.
We kind of need that acknowledgment, don’t we? After all, it doesn't matter what we tell ourselves in our minds, if nobody else could hear it.
Like Schrodinger’s cat: if nobody opens the box to look inside, then does it really matter if the darn cat is dead or alive?
I think what I’m getting at, is that we can’t possibly be so easily explained like individual pieces of software. We’re more. We are also part of a larger, vastly intricate, interconnected information system. That sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? We are all connected, therefore, we all matter, in one way or another. Our “selves” cannot be defined in isolation without first acknowledging its connection to each other.
Forgive me! I believe I have gone on a tangent now. Also, I think I am changing my original answer to the question.
We are (not) our brains.