Friday, March 18, 2005

Hearts And Minds

Aristotle: Colossal Dumbass or Bullshit Artist Supreme?

I was reading a review of The Dress Lodger, which the shadowy and mysterious Codename V. recently recommended to me. The heart seems to be a recurring motif, which reminded me of a question I wonder about from time to time:

If the ancient Greeks believed that the heart was the seat of consciousness, and the brain was merely a cooling system for the blood, does that mean that they perceived their thoughts and inner voice (and, um, Personal Narrative) as coming from their chest? I cannot imagine my inner voice coming from anywhere other than my head, but is that just cultural conditioning? Would it possible to raise a child in such a way that they perceive their inner voice as originating from their toes or their pancreas or their naughty bits? (That last one may be redundant for some guys...)

Actually, thanks to The Miracle Of Wiki, I have learned that maybe it was just Aristotle:
Ancient Greeks held differing views on the function of the brain. Hippocrates believed the brain to be the seat of intelligence, but Aristotle held that the brain was a cooling mechanism for the blood, while the heart was the seat of intelligence. Aristotle reasoned that humans are more rational than the beasts because they have a proportionally larger brain to cool their hot-bloodedness (Bear, 2001).
I started to go off on an angry rant about Aristotle just making shit up, but I think I will just limit myself to noting that there are probably a whole bunch of animals with gigantic hearts who are just plain dumb as stumps, and that it is really quite extraordinary to believe that a person or animal could be knocked out or killed instantly by a sharp blow to their blood-cooling system. Also, shouldn't such victims have conspicuously overheated blood?

But I digress.

21 comments:

V said...

People used to believe all kinds of craziness. Like, you got sick because your humours were out of balance. WTF?

I don't actually have a point.

Eli said...

I don't actually have a point.

We have sooo much in common.

I have much less of a problem with humours than I have with brain-as-cooling-unit. I can kinda understand that interpretation from a structural perspective, but it just doesn't add up.

V said...

Hell, maybe 500 years from now they'll discover that the brain really IS a blood-cooling system, and they'll all look back and laugh at how dense we were.

Eli said...

Or they'll be saying something like, "They removed their appendices? How were they ever able to fly???"

V said...

Hey, I still have mine. Hang on a second, I'm just gonna climb out on the roof...

Eli said...

Hey, I still have mine. Hang on a second, I'm just gonna climb out on the roof...

Whoa whoa whoa, hold up there! Before you do anything foolish: Do you still have your tonsils?

V said...

That is affirmative...

Eli said...

Alrighty then. Carry on.

Thersites said...

I think that stuff about the humors was funny.

Eli said...

I know when my humerus gets out of alignment, it hurts like the dickens.

Same goes for my dickens, actually...

watertiger said...

but do dogs around the world bark in different languages?

Thersites said...

I thought this was a family blog!

Can we not discuss our "dickenses"?

Eli said...

but do dogs around the world bark in different languages?

Yes.

I thought this was a family blog!

You see any family around heah? Huh?

NYMary said...

Had a friend in grad school who insisted he wanted a doctor who'd treat him according to the theory of the humors. Now he directs the Rosenbach in Philly.

And Eli, where's *your* Poetics? I'd have to erad what you have to say about terror and pity before I decide anything.

NYMary said...

erad = read. Duh.

Eli said...

I'd have to erad what you have to say about terror and pity before I decide anything.

The secret to getting re-elected.

Quod Erad Democratum.

Jeffraham Prestonian said...

"My dickens has an itchin' for chickens," said Hitchens.

Eli said...

"My dickens has an itchin' for chickens," said Hitchens.

While sittin' in his kitchen.

Spear and Magic said...

I spend one semester of each academic year trying to get students to see the rewards that accrue from straining to understand the so-very-alien worldview of the ancient Greek philosophers. Then, to put the whole thing in perspective, I put the following two quotes on the cover sheet of their final exams:

"Males have more teeth than females in the case of humans, sheep, goats, and swine; in the case of other animals, observations have not yet been made."
(Aristotle: History of Animals, II.3 501b20)

"We tend to scoff at the beliefs of the Ancients. But we can't scoff at them personally, to their faces, and this is what annoys me."
(Jack Handy, Deep Thoughts)

Jeffraham Prestonian said...

While sittin' in his kitchen.

Ah, see, Eli? I bow towards thee (or in that general direction).
.

oldwhitelady said...

Spear and Magic said... "We tend to scoff at the beliefs of the Ancients. But we can't scoff at them personally, to their faces, and this is what annoys me."
(Jack Handy, Deep Thoughts)
Ha! That is a goody! I've read books and then I wished I could talk to the author because I didn't agree with something they might have said or inferred.