Sunday, 2 September 2012

"The Whole is more than the Sum of it's Parts"

"The Whole is more than the Sum of it's Parts"

It is often said that the above quote is true, and few argue this once they have thought about it. It is true, that a collection of cogs, nuts and bolts are useful as a group, but not individually. However, as with many statements like this (See: "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction" or Schroedinger's Cat), is that the thought experiment is then applied to real world scenarios which are beyond the scope of a simple thought experiment. It would seem natural to apply logic or knowledge gained from a simple thought experiment to situations which are similar, but as I always say, Natural does not equate to 'Good'. As I mentioned, in many cases the logic is obvious, that the ability of a machine to function because of it's constituent parts, would appear to be that extra 'something' which makes it more than the sum of the machines parts. However, that logic can lead to misleading interpretations of data and logic, and may send investigators on a wild goose chase, searching for something which will never be found. I am, of course, referring to the mind.

When speaking of the Brain and Mind, ignoring the debate about whether the two are the same or not, we are left with the search for Free Will. To many, the phrase "The Whole is more than the Sum of it's Parts" is ideal when discussing the Mind: the Mind is more than the physical aspects of the Brain. Of course, while a complete Brain has more functions than individual parts of a Brain, that something 'more' refers to function, and many have mistaken that thought experiment to indicate, or suggest, a soul. When discussing science and philosophy (the two are often so connected, it seems strange to separate them so), it is important to remember to not get lost in fantasy. It is also important, not to be constrained by artificial barriers, ones that I believe certain 'phrases' can help prop up. This is undoubtedly because the human mind desires, and needs structure, but science needs flexibility. In the case of whether the whole is more than the Sum of it's parts: the answer is irrelevant when discussing science. Whether the Mind and the Brain are separate is also irrelevant; what matters is what we can discern about the two, and the answer will eventually become self-evident.

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