• WISDOMfromPO-MO
    554
    Thinking today about what I have read the last several years about American football and concussions, CTE, etc. and how retired NFL players function almost fully in spite of the condition of their brains struck me as evidence of the power of culture as a force in our lives.

    A good illustration is Pro Football Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas. I learned that a doctor told Thomas that he had the brain of someone who had been in many car wrecks, or something like that. I learned that Thomas said that one time while he was driving on a route he always takes he did not know where he was and had to pull over and call his wife to come get him. Where did I learn these things? From an account of a speech Thomas gave.

    In other words, while you hear about retired NFL players who are later diagnosed with CTE having memory problems, you see them functioning at a high level doing things like broadcasting, public speaking, etc.

    We are not born able to do things like use language extensively, effectively deliver a speech to an audience, organize/schedule things, perform rituals, etc. Those things are cultural. They are learned. They are repeated so much and done out of habit so much that we are rarely consciously aware of them.

    I do not know what neuroscience, philosophy of mind, etc. has to say about it. But it seems to me that the fact that while people suffering from certain brain diseases may have memory lapses, difficulty concentrating, problems remembering facts, etc. they are still able to be effective cultural actors functioning in highly complex societies is evidence of something that we overwhelmingly fail to recognize: the power of culture and the extent to which it shapes our lives.
  • Bitter Crank
    4.3k
    Traumatic brain injury, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, alzheimer, and such are not all-or-nothing conditions. They generally occur on a scale from mild to severe. Some people with TBI, CTE, and other brain disorders are able to function quite well in ordinary situations. That doesn't mean they aren't seriously impaired, in general.

    There are people with alzheimer disease who have written books, and there are people with alzheimer's who have no mental coherence or control over their bodily function. Then too, we don't know how much assistance the alzheimer book writer received. The effects of brain trauma may suddenly come to the foreground when a person is under stress, and they just fall apart.

    A professor friend who does bio-research had a very bad concussion from slipping on ice. There was extensive bleeding, surgery was required, etc. He seems fine in ordinary situations, but he reports memory problems and problems managing the mass of details involved in research. His wife who has always worked with him in the lab has taken up the slack.

    Even people without PTSD, TBI, CTE -- just people whose lives involve a lot of ordinary stress -- may display decreased mental functioning. Take them out of the stressful situations, and they return to normal.

    Social skills may not be affected as much as cognitive functions. Some brain injured people display normal social affect. That really helps a great deal. But, others have difficulty socially -- and they tend to be judged as more severely affected. (Some of us have social difficulties without any brain injuries.)

    Normal social behavior is pretty important.
  • WISDOMfromPO-MO
    554
    ↪WISDOMfromPO-MO Traumatic brain injury, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, alzheimer, and such are not all-or-nothing conditions. They generally occur on a scale from mild to severe. Some people with TBI, CTE, and other brain disorders are able to function quite well in ordinary situations. That doesn't mean they aren't seriously impaired, in general.

    There are people with alzheimer disease who have written books, and there are people with alzheimer's who have no mental coherence or control over their bodily function. Then too, we don't know how much assistance the alzheimer book writer received. The effects of brain trauma may suddenly come to the foreground when a person is under stress, and they just fall apart.

    A professor friend who does bio-research had a very bad concussion from slipping on ice. There was extensive bleeding, surgery was required, etc. He seems fine in ordinary situations, but he reports memory problems and problems managing the mass of details involved in research. His wife who has always worked with him in the lab has taken up the slack.

    Even people without PTSD, TBI, CTE -- just people whose lives involve a lot of ordinary stress -- may display decreased mental functioning. Take them out of the stressful situations, and they return to normal.

    Social skills may not be affected as much as cognitive functions. Some brain injured people display normal social affect. That really helps a great deal. But, others have difficulty socially -- and they tend to be judged as more severely affected. (Some of us have social difficulties without any brain injuries.)

    Normal social behavior is pretty important.
    Bitter Crank

    If somebody can't walk due to a broken leg he/she still practices locomotion in the same way--moving from the kitchen to the dining room after cooking a meal; standing in line at a supermarket checkout and then moving forward when the line moves; etc. The map/filter/structure between him/her and the non-human world is unchanged. The difference is moving according to that map/filter/structure without putting weight on one leg. Another difference is that the map/filter/structure has more presence in his/her conscious mind--he/she has to think about locomotion and how it is practiced rather than doing it out of habit and not being conscious of it.

    That map/filter/structure is culture.

    The broken leg is like the concussed brain.

    But there is no "Philosophy of the Leg" forum.

    Philosophy of the mind is a different story. It is a major intellectual concern involving many disciplines/traditions. A major element in philosophy of the mind is the human brain. Hence, questions like "Does your mind end at your skull?" are asked.

    My question is about what brain functioning tells us about the role of culture--that map/filter/structure that varies across space and time and is independent of the existence of any individual being--in our lives.

    It seems to me that as the biology of an individual changes--aging; an injury; diminished or lost functioning--one of the last, if not the last, things to go is the impact of that map/filter/structure. Hearing loss may biologically diminish one's sense of sound, but he/she will still seek sound from a TV set and avoid sound from a construction site (noise). The impact of sounds that we neither seek nor avoid, such as the unpredictable sound of the wind, will be gone before the impact of sounds that we have culturally been conditioned to seek or avoid.

    What I am trying to say is that if diminished functioning of the brain--the location of thoughts, emotions and many other things that are believed to be essential to the experience of being a functioning human rather than being, say, a rock--does little to reduce or remove the impact of culture then we are greatly underestimating the role of culture in shaping our lives. In other words, much of what we assume to be human biology or the non-human world may really be culture.

    If culture is as powerful as I am suggesting, we may have to rethink a lot of what we believe about sexuality, disease, diet, intelligence, etc.--things that we overwhelmingly attribute to biology and the natural environment.
  • Bitter Crank
    4.3k
    I'll have to give your reply more thought.
  • WISDOMfromPO-MO
    554
    If culture is humans' adaptation to their environment, it makes sense that subjective cognitive material such as where one left his keys could be compromised while collective cultural cognitive material, such as what those keys are for and how to use them, would still influence his behavior.

    I know very little about neuroscience, but I wonder if the body's defenses against brain damage and lost brain functioning give some material priority over other material.
  • believenothing
    54
    If culture is humans' adaptation to their environment, it makes sense that subjective cognitive material such as where one left his keys could be compromised while collective cultural cognitive material, such as what those keys are for and how to use them, would still influence his behavior.

    I know very little about neuroscience, but I wonder if the body's defenses against brain damage and lost brain functioning give some material priority over other material.
    WISDOMfromPO-MO

    It does make sense and I think you are touching on the driving forces that produce beneficial behaviour in ant colonies for starters. Of course our brains are thought to be more advanced than those of ants so I imagine for some integral reason the preservation of cultural behaviour would be equally important as the prevention of lost brain function or maybe more so since we presumably have more 'disposable' brain functionality to spare. I believe culture is itself like an organism that attempts self preservation just like ants seem to know what they are doing when they exist as part of a functioning colony.
    We are not born able to do things like use language extensively, effectively deliver a speech to an audience, organize/schedule things, perform rituals, etc. Those things are cultural. They are learned.WISDOMfromPO-MO

    Maybe we are born with innate abilities, do you really believe ants learn how to communicate? Individual ability and collective 'usefulness' might be two sides of the same coin. I'm going to look for a youtube video or two that might have given me this outlook and return to this discussion if I seem to learn anything..
  • Bitter Crank
    4.3k
    ↪WISDOMfromPO-MO I'll have to give your reply more thought.Bitter Crank

    12 days later, I'm still thinking about it.
  • believenothing
    54
    It's probably more to do with the functions of the inner areas of the brain, such as the medulla oblongata. It seems most of our brain matter is not needed for survival. Perhaps our minds are a bit like microcosms of the culture we are exposed to?
  • WISDOMfromPO-MO
    554
    It's probably more to do with the functions of the inner areas of the brain, such as the medulla oblongata.believenothing

    But in the link give above ("Meet The Man Who Lives Normally With Damage to 90% of His Brain") the inner part of the brain is gone.
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