Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Prolific Month and A Bizarre Nightmare

So the month of August has been a shockingly productive month for me. I was actually anticipating that I would not be producing quite so much. I moved across the country in the middle of this month, I went off in search of jobs hardcore, and managed to find a job.

I was honestly very concerned that my writing was going to take a back seat. I really thought I would be writing less. But no. I wrote more reflective posts than normal, and I also wrote more substantial essays than normal. I produced around 200 pages of essays alone this month. Reallly wild stuff. Finished like 120 pages of the 'Society's Implicit War' series, which was chapters 2-6. I also wrote two smaller essays, one on tacit theory and one on mental modeling and mindfulness. Then yesterday I finished my essay 'The Genealogy of the Modern Mind' which is very exciting to me. I write another middle sized essay called On Creativity, and another one on military history. So I guess I really produced about 4 medium sized essays, 1 big stand alone essay, and the 5 big essays of the SIW series. Jeez. About 10 substantial essays this month. I also produced a smaller essay on mindfulness and thoughts about time.

Basically I have produced a ton of stuff this month. Lots of essays and lots of reflections.

I also wanted to blog about a nightmare that I had last night that was insane. Totally insane. I don't usually have nightmares. And this one woke me up it was totally bizarre. I'm not going to go full blown into it because it was a little bit too strange for full disclosure. But I want to give the gist of it.

Basically I think it started with me and my friend Rob at a monastery of sorts. It was night time when we arrived and I have no idea what we were doing at this place. But then I was sleeping in this monastery and I remember being freaked out because you could see people walking outside. It was night time and the room I was in was a big stone room with large windows with metal frames. The people walking around outside I had identified as 'night porters' but I'm not sure if that is really what they were. They would approach the window and take away the chamber pots. Some trap door would let them take these buckets, these buckets that were bathrooms in this monastery. But that was the general discomfort I first felt, these people, these weird rooms where I was lying down.

Then I ended up meeting up with Rob somehow and we were walking around outside. I think at some point I approached some outdoor bathroom that was a big wood shack of sorts. I opened the door and there were two guys in it. They should have locked the door and I remember thinking why didn't these people lock the door? Then as I was walking away from this place one of the guys in the outhouse, who was a big fat guy, started running after me trying to fight me. Really this guy wanted to attack me. So I fought him. I remember that in this dream I was being verbally aggressive to the max, telling this guy I was gonna wreck him and to stay away from me. I ended up hurting this guy, really hitting him a lot and screaming about him. I won the fight basically. Then me and Rob went inside and were sort of talking about how weird that was and what to do next.

Then while we were preparing to leave the monastery weird things were happening. I think I was bleeding from my nose or mouth or something, and I think Rob did it somehow. I don't remember. But I was pacing or something and was bleeding and we were getting ready to leave this place. We grabbed some brooms that had broken in half because we were expecting to have to fight these guys again on our way out. So we left the monastery together and we did indeed see these guys on our way out. There was a third person with them, and weirdly it was someone from my past, a guy that I don't know well at all. A guy that I had run ins with in middle school. They all had nerf guns. Rob started attacking them and I was like 'Whoa! Rob! We don't need to fight them we just need to get past them!' Cause they weren't attacking us explicitly we were just going past them and they may have let us pass. They did eventually, but this guy from my past shook my hand and said 'Nice to meet you'. Which was totally bizarre because we had met in the past. But I knew what he meant. He meant that in middle school when we fought we were totally different people. That we were effectively meeting each other for the first time because middle school was a totally different time and we were totally different people.

Anyways when we left the monastery I think we ran down some stairs into some garage and we got into my car. The car that I sold, my red Volkswagen. As we were walking towards it all these people started chasing us. They were right on us. I got good ground on them and made it to my door no problem. But Rob had a harder time getting in because his door was slammed directly up against a wall. And I remember thinking 'there is no way Rob will fit in that space'. He started squeezing himself up against this door and the wall and all of a sudden POP was inside the car. It was like magic or something. And at that moment all these people, some of which were friends from the past, slammed against the car. And one of them actually managed to pop inside the car too somehow. But we told him to get out and he did. So me and Rob drove away together.

Then we went to a different place. We went to a tall and weird dilapidated sort of apartment building that had weird spiral stairs. Somewhere on the way or something I saw a weird thing in a window. It was this big cardboard outlet that was a halloween costume of mine from a number of years before. It had a phone number written on it and it was the wrong phone number. It had fallen apart some. Apparently I had given it to Elliott Bay Book Company as my phone number or something. And they were giving me a hard time about 'well why did you give us this thing with the wrong number on it'. It was totally strange to see this paper outlet in a window, peeling and with the wrong number on it.

But anyways then me and Rob were at this big messed up tower apartment building. We were walking up the stairs to buy something. Some of our friends were there, and we talked to them some. My friend told me I owed him 15 dollars but I told him I'd already payed him. There was some cat in this tower too. But we left this place eventually and then we got in Rob's car. I don't know where my car went. Perhaps these were two different dreams. But any way, Rob was making a left turn onto I-95 as we were leaving this tower. He took the turn so wide that we he just side swiped the right wall of the highway. As soon as he hit this wall he just started swerving like crazy all over the road. I said to him hey its okay just even it out. He couldn't stop swerving and he said to me 'Oh man you don't want this, just go home with your parents when we get back.' Which is so weird. Because I knew we weren't going to make it back and I had no idea why he was so out of it or was driving so badly or so insanely, or had accepted his own death so much.

Then he drove off a bridge. Right before he drove off the bridge he said 'This music is so repetitive'. We had been listening to the new Killers album. Even though it doesn't exist, I knew thats what it was. But apparently the music was boring and distracting him. I think he was sickly, had sores on his face or something. I could feel the car moving so fast downward and I knew I was going to die. I knew I wasn't going to be able to go to grad school or do anything I want to do in the future. I said to Rob 'My seatbelt isn't on', and he said 'Neither is mine, but thats okay'. I tried to get my seatbelt on in mid air. I almost got it clicked, but there was a shirt in the way, and I knew that I wasn't going to be able to do it and that I was going to die. I woke up as the car hit the ground, and I woke up reaching for my seatbelt. I was lying in the dark and I reached over my shoulder in the bed and tried to find the seatbelt.

This dream really scared me. All kinds of weird things happened, these fights, these weird places, this weird car crash. Really really scared me. But hey, whatever, what an end to a weird month of living and a weird month of writing. I suspect it has something to do with moving across the country and missing Rob and feeling weird about family and life and habits.

Oh well. I wonder what the future will bring in terms of living and writing. I hope that I will dream more, because I never dream. This is the only dream I remember having in the last years. In all of 2010 I have no idea what dreams I've had.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Genealogy of the Modern Mind: History, Theory of Mind, and Self-Directed Neuroplasticity

Introduction - 8/30/10 - 6:00pm
This essay is my attempt to bridge all of my most substantial interests. Primarily I want to explain how theory of mind needs to be united with history and neuroplasticity. My biggest claim here is that because of neuroplasticity and the historical contingency of thought, theory of mind cannot function like a predictive or prescriptive scientific theory, and that we thus need to find a new use for it. I tried to argue that theory of mind instead needs to be used as a guide to the study of other minds, which I believe can be found in the humanities and social sciences. I think that if we use genealogical historical methods in conjunction with scientific facts about brains, then we would be able to come up with a body of theoretical knowledge about minds that would serve two purposes. First, it would allow us to understand the nature of the mind in our current historical moment, and second, it would allow us to study the humanities with a conceptual tool kit that would give us access to a wide variety of synthetic experiences. The goal of this theoretically supported study of the humanities is to improve our capacity for empathy and judgment. Because theory of mind cannot function as a prescriptive device, and because social interaction is mainly intuitive, we need to use theory of mind to train our capacity for intuition. That is what this is all about. Here is the table of contents:

1. Foucault's Genealogy of the Modern Subject
2. The Centrality of Theory of Mind
3. Goldman on Simulation Theory of Mind
4. Collingwood and the Union of History and Simulation Theory of Mind: Linking Foucault and Goldman
5. Theory of Mind, Neuroplasticity, and History
6. Neuroplasticity and the Necessity of an Incomplete and Genealogical Theory of Mind
7. Clausewitzian Theory, Neuroplasticity, and an Incomplete Theory of Mind as a Pedagogical Tool
8. The Genealogy of the Modern Mind as the Creation of the Theoretical Tools Required For Creative Self-Directed Neuroplasticity
8a. A Genealogical Theory of Mind: The Nature of This Theory
8b. Applying A Genealogical Theory of Mind to the Study of the Humanities: Sensitivity, Intuition, and Synthetic Experience
9. Conclusion

I produced these two opening paragraphs on 8/22. They helped me determine the flow of this. Then I wrote for about a week:

So this essay is actually going to be quite a substantial push for me. But that is the idea of this writing, obviously. In this essay, however, I realize that I'm trying to articulate something that might be pretty substantial for me. I see it as an attempt to reconcile my most prominent interests and convictions. My main interests that I want to reconcile are: 1. Michel Foucault's goal of using history to illuminate the state of our contemporary existence; 2. The simulation based theory of mind expounded by Alvin Goldman; 3. R.G. Collingwood's philosophy of history that proposes the unification of history and simulation theory of mind; 4. Neuroplasticity and the implication that minds are also plastic; 5. The necessary relationship between theory of mind and history that neuroplasticity implies; 6. The idea that because minds are plastic no theory of mind could ever be comprehensive, and thus it must always be an incomplete project. 7. The possibility that Clausewitz's necessarily incomplete and pedagogical theory of war could be applied to theory of mind; 8. That the unification of genealogical history and theory of mind would be a way to encourage creative forms of self-directed neuroplasticity. In short, I want to understand if Foucault's historical ontological work, in light of neuroplasticity, needs to be united with Goldman and Collingwood's simulationist theories of mind to create an incomplete theory of mind that would share Clausewitz's pedagogical goal of transforming people, which I identify with creative self-directed neuroplasticity. That is a mouthful and I really don't feel like I have a grasp on this stuff. But that is why I need to write this essay.

The numbered points above are generally how I am going to handle this. I am going to write about Foucault's project which he called 'the genealogy of the modern subject'. I'm then going to explain my particular interest in theory of mind, and how I think it applies to Foucault's work. Then I'm going to explain Goldman's arguments about simulation theory of mind. From there I will use Collingwood to establish a relationship between simulation theory of mind and historical ontology. From there I will corroborate the link between history and theory of mind by drawing on the new science of neuroplasticity and what it implies about the plasticity of minds over time. After that I want to flesh out the implications for theory of mind, namely, the fact that if minds are plastic then a theory of mind can never be a comprehensive, predictive, or prescriptive project. I'll then draw on Clausewitz to argue that theory does not always need to be predictive or prescriptive, and indeed should not be used this way with complex phenomenon like war or the mind. Rather, Clausewitz believed that when applied to complex social phenomena, theory is better used as a pedagogical tool, as an aid to personal and historical study. Lastly, I'll try to bring all of these threads together under what I am calling 'the genealogy of the modern mind'. Sounds like a real challenge to me. Not sure if I can do this. But I already know that I can. Onward.

Foucault's Genealogy of the Modern Subject
So the basic inspiration for this idea of the 'genealogy of the modern mind' comes from Foucault's notion of the 'genealogy of the modern subject'. Which he admits was in part inspired by Nietzsche's work called On The Genealogy of Morals. In both Foucault and Nietzsche's genealogy the goal is to use historical study to explain the current state of affairs in the world. Nietzsche is trying to show how historical processes produced our moral concepts of good and evil, guilt, etc.. He says that moral systems have been 'built up around people's heads' and that they have regarded them as natural without realizing that they are mere ideas that have come about due to centuries of class struggle. The purpose of Nietzsche's genealogy is to destroy the natural appearance of modern morality by exposing its history. So for Nietzsche history becomes a way of attacking contemporary views. This is what genealogical history is all about: the application of historical study to the contemporary struggles of ideas.

This is where Foucault's project gets its name. His 'genealogy of the modern subject' was also aimed at using history to expose our contemporary state of being. He was, however, aiming at a much larger sort of genealogy. His genealogy/genealogies went beyond the exposure of moral concepts and tried to use history to expose how history had built the vast majority of our concepts. Foucault wrote a series of histories that were trying to expose the historical construction of our most common institutions. He wrote histories of mental institutions, hospitals, prisons, sciences, and sexuality. He believed that these institutions produced vast bodies of knowledge that allowed individuals to constitute their identities and their ways of living. By writing histories of these institutions, therefore, we would be able to understand certain aspects of our own lives. We would be able to understand why we thought of mental and physical health, why we thought of crime and legality in the ways we did, why we thought of our bodies the way we did. These different histories were all components in this overarching genealogy of the modern subject. Foucault believed that these institutions created subjects.

When Foucault speaks of subjects he is using the word in a very specific way. In 1982's The Subject and Power he argued that the word subject had a dual meaning. In both cases, subjects, individuals, are formed by their relationship to certain forms of knowledge that enable certain relationships of power. An individual's relationship to power/knowledge, however, has two results. First, subjects engage with these forms of power/knowledge in order to constitute themselves as subjects of this knowledge. In other words, we use these forms of power/knowledge to create our identities. We are able to think of ourselves as mentally healthy, as physically healthy, as law-abiding, or as hetero- or homosexual, and so on. So on the first account a subject is an individual who has constituted their identity in relation to these forms of power/knowledge, an individual who possess a subjective identity that is related to power/knowledge.

On the second account, however, a subject is a very different thing. Not only do we constitute our subjective identity with these forms of power/knowledge, we are subjected to these forms of power/knowledge. We gain certain freedoms and identities, but we also lose freedom, we become restricted. We are able to become something, and we thus are incapable of becoming other things. So when science tells us that we are 'human beings' and that our bodies function in certain ways this knowledge enables an identity, but it also gives us a conceptual limitation, a conceptual prison of sorts. Or take the example of legal knowledge. We are able to think of ourselves as law-abiding citizens, but we also gain a whole new set of constraints on our thoughts and behavior. We are no longer able to think of certain forms of behavior as legitimate. Or the example of knowledge about madness. We are able to think of ourselves as sane individuals, but we also become subjected to the knowledge because we are no longer comfortable feeling 'depressed' or 'insane'.

So, the word subject has a double meaning in that individuals both constitute their identities with power/knowledge but then become subjected to those forms of power/knowledge. In other words, while knowledge enables identities that may feel liberating, it also comes along with limitations that effect our thinking and behavior.

Foucault firmly believed that these modern institutions had come to dominate most people's lives in the West. We are no longer able to think of ourselves unless it is in relation to some State run or State endorsed institution. We think of ourselves in relation to legal institutions, medical institutions, scientific institutions, and less formal institutions like the family and sexuality.

Foucault's genealogical histories, therefore, are meant to expose the ways in which we as subjects have been produced by our society. He is trying to show us that our identity stands directly in relation to larger historical processes in which these institutions began to produce these forms of knowledge that allow us to constitute ourselves as subjects. He is trying to show us that these institutions are not universal, and by extension that our way of thinking and living is not universal. The goal of this is to free us from the second meaning of the word subject, to free us from the subjection of these forms of knowledge.

I think, and John Searle also thinks, that most people go through social institutions unreflectively and assume that they are universal and that we have to live this way. In other words, people are simply subjected by these forms of knowledge and have little way of gaining a perspective on how they regulate their lives. Because at the end of the day most of our thoughts and actions are regulated by these State institutions. We can't escape capitalism, or medical institutions, or the power of the legal institutions. But Foucault's histories are trying to show us that we don't have to think that way. We don't have to think only in terms of medical health of bodies, we don't have to think only in terms of money. These histories are supposed to let us see that the way we live is far more rigid and regulated than we realize, and that we are regulated primarily by forms of knowledge that have been created by State institutions.

Foucault believed that more than anything else power relations were being regulated by these institutional knowledges. And I think the most important thing to note is that Foucault says that power is always a relationship to other people. Further, that it is a relationship of mind to mind. I am noting this relational definition of power now because it will be crucial for me in connecting Foucault's work to theory of mind.

Ian Hacking has used the term 'historical ontology' to describe what Foucault was attempting to do. That he was trying to use history to build an ontological understanding of ourselves. What is the nature of our being? Why do we exist in these particular ways? Why do I do anything that I do? I think that this is a very worthwhile goal, since people can often live their lives without much reflection on why they live the way they do. I just want to note this to clarify precisely what this genealogy of the modern subject is all about. Why do we live this way? Foucault believed that history could tell us, and that it could also help us find new ways of living. And Foucault certainly was very explicit about transformation. He absolutely believed that we needed to and could transform ourselves through historical study. But I don't think he made the how of transformation very clear. That is my goal here.

This genealogical history, this tactical application of history to our own minds and lives, is crucial to the place where I want to take the rest of this project. I am going to be trying to explain how this project of genealogical history needs to be combined with theory of mind, more theories of history, and the insights of neuroplasticity, to come up with a project that is meant to enable a creative form of self-directed neuroplasticity.

But history is crucial to all of this. As I will elaborate in a bit, I believe that we can only understand ourselves through history, that we can only hope to transform ourselves with history, that we need history. So I think that Foucault and Nietzsche's projects stand at the heart of all this. But I think that the importance of historical study that I am trying to explicate will only be clear if I make a few other things clear.

I hope to show the importance of this genealogical history by explaining how we need to integrate it with a proper theory of mind, an understanding of neuroplasticity, and an understanding of how theory has to function in the realm of human affairs. Ultimately I think I'll be able to make this genealogical history of much greater practical importance; I think I can specify the pragmatics of this historical ontological process more clearly than Foucault did.

On to theory of mind.

The Centrality of Theory of Mind
Now I think that this project of genealogical history can't be carried out adequately unless we explicitly introduce theory of mind into the picture. I think that this is true in two cases. First of all, once Foucault defines power as a relationship between individuals and their minds, then we can't understand how power works unless we understand how minds relate to one another. So Foucault's emphasis on the relational nature of power immediately implies that we need a theory of mind to truly understand the workings of power. Second, if we are going to apply this historical work to our own lives then we need a proper conceptual tool kit to think of our thoughts. In order to actualize this transformation we need a way of analyzing our own minds. We need to have a theory of mind simply so we can understand how our minds work and how we can hope to change them. It seems to me that the only way to transform our minds would be to think about our minds, so we need a theory of mind to help us think about our own and other minds.

So, I recently established the necessary link between Foucault's work and theory of mind. In part II of my 'Society's Implicit War' essays I argued that we wouldn't be able to understand Foucault's work on power unless we tried to discuss a theory of mind. But I just want to rehash this again briefly. The conclusion seems so clear to me that I need to work to articulate it a little bit.

But basically, if power is maintained through relationships, and relationships are a matter of minds interacting with minds, then we need to understand how minds relate to one another. Especially with the emphasis on observation that Foucault introduces in Discipline & Punish. He is very clear that power functions by means of observation. That power functions because prisoners are observed by guards, or because the population is observed by the police and the criminals. 'A network of gazes' is what enables power to function in society at large. Thus the emphasis on the panopticon. So why does it matter so much that people observe one another? Well, this is the crucial question for theory of mind. What does it mean for one mind to look at another? Why does one mind's concern for another mind enable power to function? We just can't possibly hope to fully understand Foucault's description of power relations unless we have an adequate theory of mind.

Further, I think that theory of mind is crucial for life in general. I have found learning about theory of mind to be very helpful. Because it is obvious that in daily life eye contact makes us feel different, or interested, or something. When we see people we wonder about their minds. When we talk to people we are trying to access their minds. Minds minds minds. Life is about minds and dealing with your own and other people's minds. Bodies are bodies, but I typically only care about bodies because they house minds and give me evidence of that mind. So I have found theory of mind to be a worthwhile field in general because it helps me feel like it gives me more tools to think about my own mind and the other minds around me.

So this section is brief. I just wanted to established two things. First that Foucault's definition of power as relational means that we have to think about how minds relate to one another. So if we are going to actualize the goals of transformation that genealogical history entails we need to regard theory of mind as essential, central. Second that life is pretty much always about mind to mind relations. In my life I have always had so much concern with different minds, how they think, how hidden they are, and I have found theory of mind to be a very worthwhile field of reading. So, theory of mind is central to genealogical history, its pragmatics, and to life in general.

Now I want to talk about how simulation theory of mind offers the most adequate theory of mind that I know at this point.

Goldman on Simulation Theory of Mind
So if I tell you that in order to understand Foucault and in order to apply his lessons to our own lives we need a theory of mind, the question becomes what theory of mind? Well, I believe that simulation theory of mind is the most adequate one I have encountered thus far. Embracing this particular theory of mind will allow me to make large steps in terms of explaining how history has to be integral to theory of mind, and how it is that history can help transform ourselves, especially once I bring neuroplasticity into the picture. While numerous philosophers and psychologists have endorsed something like a simulation theory of mind, I will be drawing primary on Alvin Goldman's Simulating Minds for my account of simulation theory.

Simulation theory of mind, in its simplest form, maintains that people attribute mental states to other people (mindread) by internally simulating other people's thoughts and feelings–putting yourself in their shoes, so to speak. Simulation theory basically is about an extended form of empathy in which we not only feel other people's emotions for ourselves, but literally think other people's thoughts for ourselves. Anytime someone uses a facial expression, or language, or any other means of expressing a mental state, we understand it by internally simulating the feeling or thought they are having. So when someone tells us how they are feeling, a simulationist would tell you that you understood them by internally replicating/simulating that thought for yourself. Language does not communicate something in its essence, it just gives us evidence for internally simulating that person's thoughts.

Alvin Goldman claims that there are two forms or levels of simulational mindreading. He distinguishes between low-level and high-level simulational mindreading. Low-level simulational mindreading is an immediate and unconscious form of mindreading that relies primarily on direct empathy and mirror neurons. High-level mindreading is a more abstract process that relies on what Goldman calls the Enactment-imagination. Apart from these two forms of simulation, Goldman believes that tacit psychological theory also plays a role in mindreading, the so called theory-theory that other philosophers endorse as the sole or primary method of mindreading. I'll briefly handle these components of simulation in turn just to give a sense of how this process supposedly works. This discussion of simulation theory will then lead me into my unification of theory of mind and history, which will serve as a further building block for the relationship between neuroplasticity and a historically informed theory of mind.

Low-level simulational mindreading is facilitated by a group of neurons called mirror neurons. These neurons are activated both when we perform an action and when we see that action performed. When we see someone make an angry face our brain activates all of the neurons that we would use to make that same facial expression. Goldman believes that this is a mirror/resonance form of simulational mindreading. We resonate with and mirror the people around us. People are contagious. Empathy is something that happens naturally. The relationship between the limbic system and motor cortex is reversed with mirror neurons. First we simulate the facial expression, then we feel the emotion. Usually it is the other way around. I am being cursory with this because I know this stuff really well, and this essay is such a challenge it is for me primarily.

High-level mindreading, on the other hand, goes beyond these basic forms of empathy. It depends on what Goldman calls the Enactment-imagination (E-imagination). The E-imagination is a form of imagination where we invoke the actual quality of an experience. So when we imagine bugs crawling on us we actually feel uncomfortable. Or we imagine being in the wind and we can feel the sensation on our skin a little bit. Brain scans actually confirm that the same parts of the brain are utilized when we imagine something and when we experience something.

High-level mindreading also is used in more abstract forms of simulation. Our society, for example, has all kinds of rules and norms that go beyond basic emotions and empathy. All the social classifications that we have play into how we would empathize with someone, and these more abstract things like race, class, gender, etc., are handled by high-level mindreading. So when we imagine what a person feels like in a social situation that is unique to the modern era, then we have to use high-level mindreading to account for the socially constructed factors that go beyond basic empathy.

Goldman also believes that high-level mindreading is more accessible to consciousness than low-level mindreading. Mirror neurons are always unconscious. But with high-level mindreading we can exert some control over what and how we imagine things. This is important to note now because it will be crucial for my arguments about the pedagogical use of the E-imagination. If these mindreading processes are available to consciousness then we need to try and exert some control over them.

I also want to comment now that Goldman discusses 'experience-deficient simulation'. When someone has no experience with a certain situation or certain emotions they may have difficulty empathizing with people who are in those situations. Again, this is important to note because it will be crucial for my claims about the use of synthetic experience, which can be provided by the E-imagination.

Lastly, Goldman believes that tacit psychological theories play a role in mindreading. There is an entire theory of mind known as theory-theory. The idea being that we use tacit/naive psychological theories to draw inferences about other people's mental states. It assumes that people are essentially scientists that unconsciously use their theories and deduction. I am hard pressed to believe that this is the only way mindreading is accomplished. But I do believe that tacit theories exist, and that often we do use them to attribute mental states to others. But these theories are likely secondary to, or incorporated into processes of simulations. I believe that sometimes they trump simulation and we rely on them too much, but I see this as something to be overcome. Mindreading is most effective when it is done as a form of empathy, not as theoretical inference. I think that theory-theory leads to depersonalized thinking about other minds. What we need is empathy.

So that is essentially all the explication of simulation that I want to give. It is inadequate and if you aren't familiar with simulation theory then that might be too cursory for you. But this is for me. But I will say quickly why all of this matters: If we are to understand Foucault's project of genealogy, and we are too apply it to our own lives, we need to have an adequate theory of mind to help us gauge our own minds and our interactions with others. I believe that simulation theory of mind is helpful because its main focus is empathy. It shows that people understand one another by feeling for them. The existence of mirror neurons makes this quite likely, and the E-imagination also makes it seem likely that simulation is a very important form of mindreading.

Other than the bearing it has on Foucault's relational definition of power, simulation theory of mind also connects closely with the work of R.G. Collingwood. Collingwood believed that mindreading also happened in terms of simulation. More importantly, Collingwood believed that all processes of simulation were historical in nature. Thus, I will now discuss Collingwood to show how simulation theory of mind actually must be connected to history, and thus will make it clearer how simulation fits in with Foucault's project of genealogy.

Collingwood and the Union of History and Simulation Theory of Mind: Linking Foucault and Goldman
So now that I have explained the general project of genealogical history, the necessity of integrating it with theory of mind, and that I find simulation theory to be the most compelling theory of mind, I now want to use R.G. Collingwood's to show that simulation theory and history must go hand in hand. I am using this to establish the initial combination between theory of mind and history, which I will then corroborate by introducing neuroplasticity into the picture. Once I've connected history, theory of mind, and neuroplasticity I'll be exploring the implications for theory and its pragmatics.

Now Collingwood and the unification of simulation theory of mind and history. Collingwood is interesting to me because he expresses views that line up so clearly with simulation theory, yet his primary concern is historical study. I think that Collingwood was also deeply concerned with the way that the mind worked in general, and in particular how minds related to other minds. But he seemed to think that history was essential to all knowledge of minds. That all knowledge of minds contained an element of historical thinking. Let me break down Collingwood as he pertains to this relationship between simulation and history. I am summarizing primarily from The Idea of History and An Autobiography.

So Collingwood's main concern in TIOH is to answer the questions, How is it possible to have knowledge of the past? and, How is history to be the best way to study of human affairs? He believes that history is actually a scientific study of human affairs. But I won't deal with that right now because I need to read more Collingwood first. But right now I can definitely use Collingwood to show that simulation theory must be unified with history.

In order to show that we can have something called historical knowledge, Collingwood tries to define precisely what it is that history studies. What is it that historians try to understand? Collingwood concludes that it isn't simply events that history studies, but rather the thoughts of past individuals. Collingwood claims that all proper history must be the history of thought. This is why written documents and constructed objects count as historical evidence: because they are expressions of past thought. This essentially means that all historical knowledge must be knowledge of minds. So for Collingwood the study of history is inseparable from the study of minds.

If all history is the study of minds, then how do we understand these minds from the past? Well, we need evidence of past thought. Like I said, writing, pottery, anything that expresses thought can be used as historical evidence. But how do we understand these past expressions of thought? Well, this is where simulation theory becomes a part of Collingwood's philosophy of history. Collingwood says that historians understand past thought by reenacting it in their own minds. When a historian reads a document or examines an object that evidence of thought is only useful if the historian is capable of reenacting those thoughts for himself.

This is so clearly in line with simulation theory. Just like simulation theorists, Collingwood believed that we could only understand another mind if we were capable of reenacting (i.e. simulating) that other mind's thoughts for ourself. Historical knowledge comes down to a sort of extended empathy. Knowledge of minds has to be achieved through simulation.

Running with this idea that all historical knowledge is knowledge of mind, and that all knowledge of mind is achieved through reenactment, Collingwood then claims that all knowledge of mind is historical knowledge. He says that when we receive a letter from our friend we are using the exact same methods to discover their thoughts and mental states. Even something like an e-mail would be nothing more than an expression of past thought that we would have to reenact/simulate in order to understand. Even when having a conversation with someone we would still be engaging in historical thinking: our friend is still expressing thoughts that they have already had, and we are still simulating them to understand them.

I don't think that Goldman is aware of this claim that Collingwood makes, or perhaps he doesn't have the historical training to be able to evaluate it, but I find it fascinating. If all knowledge of mind is historical knowledge, then this implies a direct and necessary relationship between theory of mind and philosophy of history. We have to understand historical thinking if we are to understand how it is that minds relate to one another. So this is a very clean connection between simulation theory of mind and Collingwood's philosophy of history. Perhaps I will call this historical simulation theory of mind (HSTM).

And moreover, I believe that Collingwood provides a clear connection between HSTM and the historical ontological practices that Foucault endorses. Collingwood says that because it is up to the historian to properly reenact past thought, the historian's mind becomes a concern. Perhaps the historian is too limited in his ability to reenact thought to properly reenact past thought. He says that the historian himself is a part of the process that he is studying–none of us can escape our place within history. So, Collingwood, just like Foucault, believed that the historian needed to have a perspective on himself as a historically contingent being.

What this means, in essence, is that mental simulation is always a form of historical thinking, and that we cannot hope to engage in accurate simulations unless we use genealogical historical methods to understand the nature of our own ways of thinking. Because if we don't then we run the risk of thinking ahistorically, we run the risk of egocentric simulations. This means that I see in Collingwood an undeniable relationship between Goldman's simulation theory of mind and Foucault's genealogical history. If all knowledge of mind is historical knowledge, and all knowledge of mind is acquired through simulations of past thought, and we can only engage in accurate simulations if we have a historical ontological perspective on ourselves, then an adequate theory of mind must address the centrality of history and the historical contingency of our own thought. An adequate theory of mind has to deal with 1. the necessary relationship between historical thinking and knowledge of minds, and 2. the limitations of the simulator's mind, which are inherently historical. So an adequate theory of mind cannot avoid embracing Foucault's project of genealogical history and Collingwood's project of unifying history and theory of mind. I am loosing myself so hardcore right now, this is such a challenge to my mind right now.

But as I'm writing this I am feeling such strong flashbacks to my post of 4/30/10.

But all I am trying to do is show that simulation theory of mind has to be thought of as historical, and that we cannot avoid the implication that we need a historical ontological perspective on ourselves in order to engage in proper simulations and thus achieve adequate knowledge of past and present minds. Whatever.

Now I want to further corroborate this necessary unification of theory of mind and history by discussing the implications of neuroplasticity.

Theory of Mind,
Neuroplasticity, and History
My reading on neuroplasticity has led me to draw further conclusions about the necessary relationship between theory of mind and history. Neuroplasticity refers to the somewhat recent discovery that brains can change throughout the course of our lives. Apparently until the last 10-20 years neuroscientists believed that the brain was locked after the critical periods of infancy. The brain was thought to be almost entirely static, and that nothing could really cause meaningful change in the brain, especially late in life. Thus, it was often thought that if stroke patients lost a large portion of their brain then no therapy could lead to recovery. They now know this is not the case: the brain is fare more plastic than they thought, it can be transformed by concentrated therapy and even by attentive thought. I repeat, thought can transform the brain. I am getting most of my understanding of this from Jeffrey Schwartz's The Mind & The Brain and Norman Doidge's The Brain That Changes Itself. I have also looked at other books, but these two I grasp the most.

But anyways, the brain is plastic, it can change, and it changes primarily as a result of experience. Our brain changes drastically in response to the outside world, how we interact with it, what we think about it. I have read some speculations that because our culture focuses so much on reading and writing the part of our brain for handling symbols, reading, and reasoning is likely much larger than it may have been for people in the past. The main point is that the brain changes throughout life, and it changes primarily as a result of our experiences with the outside world.

The most important conclusion for me is this: if brains are plastic, minds are plastic. If the brain changes as a result of exposure to the world, or exposure to certain types of thought, then the mind must also change as a result of experience and thought. We can no longer believe that we are simply 'hard-wired' to be certain ways, we can't believe that our minds are locked into certain ways of thinking or being. Neuroplasticity tells us that this simply can't be the case. Our brains change all the time, from month to month our brains are reconfiguring themselves. People's brains are constantly transforming and therefore people's minds must also be transforming all the time. And these transformations are always the result of experience.

Now this plasticity of minds becomes particularly interesting if we ask the question: How does my experience differ from the experience of people in the past? Which is as good as asking: How is my mind different from people in the past? How is my brain different from the people in the past? There is a direct relationship between the quality of our experience and the social/historical conditions that we are living. The relationship between history and neuroplasticity seems intuitively obvious to me, but a neuroplastician named Michael Merzenich has also begged the question of history and neuroplasticity. He says, "Our brains are vastly different, in fine detail, from the brains of our ancestors.... In each stage of cultural development... the average human had to learn complex new skills and abilities that all involve massive brain change...." Minds change throughout history, they change because of historical processes, they change because every historical period leads to entirely different experiences. We experience the world in radically different ways than people in the past, our brains are therefore radically different, and our minds are therefore radically different.

To me this implies that theory of mind needs to be even more closely linked with history. Not only is all knowledge of mind historical, and not only are all simulations historical thinking, but every historical moment is going to produce a different sort of mind. The way that minds existed in the past is inseparable from the historical experience that they had, and therefore the way that our minds exist right now is inseparable from the way that our historical moment is structured. Neuroplasticity means that it is impossible to separate the brain and the mind from historical process, and no theory of mind could hope to be adequate without being historically informed.

I now feel like I have established the relationship between theory of mind and history in three ways. I used Collingwood to first argue that all knowledge of mind must be historical in nature, and second, that the simulational nature of mental knowledge means that we have to think ourselves historically to ensure that we are not engaging in ahistorical or egocentric simulations. And third, that neuroplasticity means that we have to think of brains, and thus minds, as historically constituted and contingent. In short, that we need to look at mental knowledge as historical knowledge, and that we need to look at our own and other minds with a historical ontological/genealogical perspective.

I now want to explore the implications for theory. The big questions: If minds are essentially historical in their nature, and minds in the past were different than ours, and presumably minds in the future will be different, how can theory be useful to us? If minds of the future will always look different from minds in the past, then how are we to regard the purpose of a theory of mind?

Neuroplasticity and the Necessity of an Incomplete and Genealogical Theory of Mind
Now that I have established this plasticity of brains and minds I believe there are implications for theory to explore. My general conclusion that I'll be elaborating in this section is this: Because minds are dynamic and plastic, and because they will always change over time, a theory of mind could never function like a normative scientific theory that aims at full explanation, prediction, and forecasting. Theory of mind, in order to be useful, therefore, needs to be reconceptualized as a sort of open project that is applied to pedagogical ends and not prediction,

First I want to break down my understanding of normative scientific theory to explain why exactly a theory of mind can't function this way. Then I'll discuss again the ways that culture/history interacts with minds to clarify the implications for a theory of mind. I'll then argue that theory of mind's main task should be two fold: First it should be used for coming up with a diagnosis for minds that exist in the present, thus uniting it with genealogical history and Foucault's conception of 'modernity' as an attitude. And second it should be used as an aid for the study of the humanities. Lastly, I'll explain in depth how I think that theory of mind should be used as a pedagogical tool kit of sorts and an aid to studying the humanities and the self.

Now the term theory is a bit tricky because it carries a variety of connotations and its meaning isn't always super clear. Right here I just want to establish what exactly I am talking about and not talking about when I'm referring to theory. The most important thing I want to note is that I am attempting to create a sort of theory of mind that does not operate like scientific theories of the natural world. I suppose in this paragraph I'm grappling with what I see as the normative definition of theory: a scientific model of the world that aims at full classification, prediction, and ultimately prescription. While briefly perusing the internet I saw that historically theory has a much looser definition that has to do with observation of reality. But it seems to me that most days when people speak of theory they are trying to talk about full explanation of a phenomenon, prediction, and prescription. I suppose the emphasis on full explanation is something that I want to highlight as a trait of normative theory.

Now I bring up this issue of normative scientific theory because I want to ask the question: What would constitute a comprehensive theory of mind? What would constitute a scientific theory of mind? What would allow us to create a fully classified, predictive and prescriptive theory of mind? How could that be done and of what use would it be?

I suppose I'm asking this question because I already have a tentative answer: That cannot be done. No theory of mind would ever be able to achieve full explanation of minds, let alone prediction or prescription. It seems like such a huge task to try and do that. How could it be done? I don't think it can be done. And here is why.

As I explained in the last section, the plasticity of brains means that minds are also plastic. Minds in the past looked totally different from present minds, and the future minds will undoubtedly look completely different from the minds of the past and present. The largest implication of neuroplasticity is that we can never have a fully complete theory of mind. Theory of mind must be a permanently incomplete project. If neuroplastic change results from the environment, and history means the constant transformation of the environment, then that means that we are constantly dealing with a different environment that causes different neuroplastic changes in the brain. We are always dealing with different brains and different minds and we can never therefore have a complete theory of mind.

So if theory of mind can never meet the criteria of full classification, explanation, prediction, and prescription, what are we to do with it? What are we to do with a theory of mind that will always be incomplete? Well, my answer is that theory of mind must be thought of not in terms of prescription but in terms of pragmatics, in terms of pedagogical usefulness. How much can theory of mind teach people something? How much can theory of mind be an aid in helping individuals transform themselves into something else? And my main interest, how can theory of mind help people become more sensitive and empathic?

Well I have an answer about the pedagogical usefulness of an incomplete theory of mind, and this is where genealogical history and Foucault's project comes back into the picture. I believe that theory of mind should be used to come up with a diagnosis of present minds. Theory of mind should be used to paint as much of a picture as possible of exactly what is happening to us, right here, right now. What is happening in our lives? What are our minds like right now? Why are our minds the way they are? What is happening in our particular historical moment and how has that potentially affected my brain and mind?

This is precisely Foucault's question, and he presents very similar ideas in his 1984 essay "What is Enlightenment?" He says that enlightenment is to be found in the attitude of modernity. Modernity, he believes, is a philosophical attitude that has to do with a concern for the self in the present in relation to history. He discusses Kant's essays of the same title, and says that he thinks Kant initiated the discourse of modernity at this time. That he asked himself 'what just happened to us?'. Kant was writing on the enlightenment in 1800, while the enlightenment had already been happening for the entire 18th century. So Kant was essentially asking, 'What just happened to us?'. Foucault embraces this idea of modernity as an attitude. A historical attitude that asks about the nature of our own being in the present. What can I say about myself given what I know about history? Foucault believed that the modern attitude was about coming up with a diagnosis for the present.

Seeing as how I already established the relationship between Foucault's project and theory of mind, I can now say that Foucault's attitude of modernity should be coming up with a historically informed diagnosis for the state of present minds. This is what his genealogy of the modern subject was doing, and this is why I am now talking about the genealogy of the modern mind.

We need to turn Foucault's historical project towards philosophy of mind. Because of neuroplasticity and the necessity of an incomplete theory of mind, we must turn theory of mind into a genealogical project that attempts to come up with a diagnosis for the state of present minds. This reconciles theory of mind with neuroplastic change and the constant dynamism of mind, and would allow theory of mind to be of greater pedagogical use. We need a theory of mind that is useful, and because minds are not universal it cannot be a standard prescriptive theory, it needs to be an incomplete theory that is trying to diagnose the state of minds in the present moment. Theory of mind is inseparable from genealogical history, and has to be conceptualized as a modern attitude. We don't need a full or universal theoretical explanation of what minds are or how they work. We need an incomplete theory of minds and how they are functioning in our particular historical moment.

In the next section I want to introduce Clausewitz's work into this project, and I want to explain this stuff more. I want to introduce Clausewitz so I can discuss two things: 1. my initial inspiration/model for an incomplete theory of a social phenomenon; 2. to specify exactly what kinds of educational benefits could come from this type of incomplete theory.

Clausewitzian Theory, Neuroplasticity, and an Incomplete Theory of Mind as a Pedagogical Tool
Now this idea of an incomplete theory that serves a pedagogical as opposed to a prescriptive purpose comes from Carl von Clausewitz's book On War. In On War Clausewitz was trying to solve the problem of how to create a universal theory of war. What I have concluded about theory of mind is essentially what Clausewitz concluded about the theory of war: with such a complex social phenomenon theory couldn't fulfill its normative, predictive and prescriptive role. Wars of the future will undoubtedly look different from wars of the past. So then how to create a theory of war that is useful, that can be used in pedagogy? I think that this same question applies to theory of mind. If theory of mind can never be a complete and normative theory then what are we supposed to do with it?My answer to this question is embarrassingly an import/expansion of Clausewitz's answer about the pragmatics of a theory of war. So let me tell you what Clausewitz believed a theory of war could be used for so I can tell you what a theory of mind might be useful for.

In order to answer this question of what a theory of war would be useful for I want to prompt four other questions: 1. what is it that practitioners or war have to do? and 2. how do they do it? 3. how do they learn to do it well? and 4. how do we train people to do it well? The answer to the first one is that commands have to make difficult decisions, Clausewitz believed they did it primarily through intuition (conclusions reached spontaneously and without the aid of ratiocination), he believed that they learned to do it primarily through experience and he believed that they could be trained to do it by using historical study to gain synthetic experience.

So these are the four components that I believe an incomplete theory of mind should be addressing. It should concern itself with the main things that minds have to do on a daily basis: they make difficult and uncertain social decisions. It should think of how minds make these social decisions: they do it more often through intuition rather than logic or reasoning. It should consider how minds get better at making social decisions: they get smarter with experience. And it should consider how to incorporate this into education: it should find a way to replicate or synthesize experience for people, find an adequate substitute for experience. First I want to explain exactly how Clausewitz accomplished these four things this with theory of war, and then I'll explain how I want to try and do it with theory of mind.

As I said, Clausewitz believed that training individuals in war was primarily about teaching them to make difficult decisions about the social/political world. He believed that they accomplished it through intuition, and that intuition could only be improved through experience. So Clausewitz wanted to come up with a way to synthesize experience, to give people experience in war without actually sending them into war. He believed that historical study could be an adequate replacement for experience, at least to the point that it would improve someone's intuitive decision making ability, their judgment. He believed that historical study could provide a synthetic experience. But Clausewitz also believed that ordinary historical narrative was not enough to provide synthetic experience, that a more intense and rigorous form of historical study was required. He believed that normal historical case study needed to be combined with theoretical surmise about the decisions that historical commanders made. This theoretically expanded historical narrative was meant to constitute a mental reenactment of command dilemma. Historical study had to be engaged so as to be a simulation of command experience. If the history student could closely, verisimilitudinously simulate the historical case study then they would be able to synthetically experience the mental and emotional difficulties of high command, effectively replicating these past experiences. Clausewitz believed that by repeatedly engaging in these historical simulations individuals could train themselves to make better intuitive decisions during actual military campaigns. This means that theory is not something to be used during actual decision making moments, it is to be used before hand as a guide to study, only to provide a synthetic experience so that you can intuitively make decisions when the actual moment arrives. Clausewitz thought that war was way too hectic and dangerous for language, and thus theory, to be of use at the actual moment of decision. This use of theory, therefore, is meant as a guide to other people's experience. By studying other people's experiences we are supposed to be improving our own ability to make decisions. So theory of war is not a tool for prescription but is rather only an aid to the study of history. It is a way to create synthetic experience.

I also want to comment that Clausewitz's primary goal is transformation of the self. He believed that by studying history and gaining access to all of this synthetic experience you were transforming your unconscious. He believed you were changing yourself. All of this emphasis on transformation begs the question of neuroplasticity, and especially the question of self-directed neuroplasticity. I think it would be hard to deny that what Clausewitz is doing is giving you a way to transform your own brain through the study of other people's experience. Similarly, I think that this, but on an expanded scale, should be the goal of a theory of mind.

I believe that much of these insights directly parallel things about normal life, and therefore that this use of theory of war may be in many ways applicable to a theory of mind. I believe that social life is about decision making. I think that decisions are made intuitively more than rationally. I believe that intuitive decision making in the social world is improved primarily by experience. I believe that it should be the task of theory to educate people by giving them an adequate replacement or substitute for real experience. I also believe that history can be a huge store of synthetic experience, but I also believe that all of the humanities are the proper domain for theory of mind, that theory of mind needs to ground itself in the humanities as a way of providing synthetic experience that can improve intuitive decision making in daily life.

Now that I've broken down Clausewitz and explained his import in a sloppy fashion I want to discuss these four points in turn: decision making between minds, intuition and minds, experience and intuition, and the humanities and synthetic experience.

I think that on a daily basis what we do is make decisions about other minds. When we are walking in the park and we are about to run into someone we have to make a decision about what way to go around them. When we are walking through a door with someone behind us we have to make a decision about whether we are going to hold the door for them or not. When we are talking to a cashier we need to decide whether we are going to be friendly to them or not. All of these are interactions between minds, and we always have the option of deciding how we want to engage with other minds.

I also believe, however, that most of these decisions are not made reflectively, but are rather intuitive. All the examples I just gave are things that we do every day without thinking about it. We just hold the door or we don't based on how far away they were. We just walk a certain way to dodge someone. We just smile or don't smile at the cashier because of how we function on the unconscious level. All of this has to do with the a priori imagination and mental models, which I have written a lot on, but can't integrate it explicitly now, but it applies. But I will say that a priori imaginings and our mental models are a result of our experience. But the point is that all of our social life is so fast paced, so rapid, so nuanced, that we have to do it intuitively. Social decisions, decisions about minds, are all made intuitively. If we try to make them rationally it becomes so difficult and awkward. Just think of all those awkward moments at parties where we try to force small talk. Forcing interaction between minds sucks, and we should strive to do it intuitively.

I believe that our social intuition gets better with experience. When we have had a bunch of conversations, when we have dated enough people, when we have had the experience, we become much more comfortable. It becomes much easier to talk to people when you have experience talking to people. It becomes much easier to do most things in the social world if you have lots of experience with other minds.

And I believe that we don't have to acquire experience in the social world simply from the school of hard knocks. I believe that we can attempt to synthesize other people's experiences and can improve our social intuition simply through reading and reflection. Real experience is necessary, though. We need to get it. But education provide a great substitute or aid to our daily experience. Education in the humanities can be a primer of sorts for learning from our real social experience. But sometimes we can get access to certain types of experience fro the humanities that we don't get from real life. Death, love, hate, war–these are things we don't often experience, but reading about them can prepare us a bit.

Think back to my discussion of the E-imagination. It is certainly the case that the imagination can provide something like experience. And I think it should be the task of a theory of mind to do two things: 1. to specify the things that it can about how minds work, and 2. to equip us with a conceptual tool kit that will aid in our acquisition of synthetic experience from the humanities. So I think it is great that simulation theory tells us how mirror neurons work, and how most mindreading is accomplished through an extended form of empathy. But I think that simulation theory is only useful if we apply it to 1. our study of the humanities, and 2. our daily social lives. So theory of mind is not something that functions or prescribes in its own right. It is something that is an aid to the study of real experience and synthetic experience. Just like Clausewitzian theory is an aid to historical surmise about war, theory of mind can be an aid to surmise in the social world. It can help us understand the actions of historical actors, of fictional actors, and most importantly of real people. Theory of mind should be a conceptual tool kit that we use to empathize with people.

But the most crucial point is that this has to be an unconscious skill. We have to be able to instantaneously empathize with people. We need to have this knowledge of theory of mind instilled deep into our unconscious. And interestingly the way to make this happen is to engage with theory in actual study of the humanities. So we would equip ourselves with this theoretical knowledge about minds, and then we would use this theoretical knowledge to enhance our study of the humanities. We would have all this theoretical knowledge about how simulation works, about how theory-theory works, about how minds work. And we would then drive this knowledge deep into our unconscious by reading history, by reading fiction, by studying other people's experiences in every form that we can. This is a mutually supportive process, a process where these two things reinforce one another. Knowledge of theory of mind would facilitate our study of the humanities, and study of the humanities would refine our understanding of theory of mind, and most importantly drive these concepts into our unconscious so they began to function as a part of our intuitive decision making apparatus.

All of these studies of the humanities would be simulative. We would be simulating other people's thoughts in different ways. And just like Clausewitz, I believe that this should transform us. I think the humanities should transform us into more sensitive people. It is because we are gaining access to synthetic experience that we would be transforming ourselves. Again, the E-imagination verifies that we would be giving our brains the equivalent of experience with a variety of emotions and experiences. And just like I claimed with Clausewitz, I believe that this study of the humanities would be a form of self-directed neuroplasticity. Theory should be an aid to the creative transformation of the self. It should diagnose the self so that the self can hope to become something different.

I fear I have lost the thread of genealogical history in all of this. Right now I can say that genealogical history would be the best history to write because it would be both diagnosing the sate of contemporary minds and providing a synthetic experience that would lend itself well to the creative transformation of minds. But here I have managed to explain how Clausewitz's project of improving intuition with an incomplete theory of war can be easily transformed into an incomplete theory of mind that has the same goal of transforming and training intuitive decision making in the social world.

The Genealogy of the Modern Mind as the Creation of the Theoretical Tools Required For Creative Self-Directed Neuroplasticity
Now in this last section I want to try and bring all of these threads together into a coherent picture of what exactly I mean by 'The Genealogy of the Modern Mind'. At this point I'm realizing how very many different sorts of threads there are, and how hard it is for me to state it clearly. But the most general thing I am claiming is that theory of mind must become something different, and I believe it must become a practical guide to improving social intuition. It does not need to be a predictive model, but a guide to the study of minds. Minds cannot and do not need to be predicted, they need to be studied, they need to be felt, they need to be empathized with. This is about explaining how we can make use of a body of information that we acquire through science and historical study. We can come up with all kinds of facts and principles about minds: that they function on mirror neurons and forms of simulation, that rationality is limited, that language works this way, so on. But the problem is this: What good are these principles that theory of mind can demonstrate and compile? There will never be a theory of mind that will be able to reach this level of prediction. So we need to come up with a theory of mind that is looser, more dynamic, and most importantly applied to the study of other minds.

So then, there are two things that I want to talk about here. First, the nature of theory of mind, and how genealogical history is the way that we need to build a theory of mind. Second, how these genealogically constructed theory needs to be applied to the study of the humanities. So there is the nature of the theory, and the means of applying the theory.

A Genealogical Theory of Mind: The Nature of This Theory
The thing I'm struggling with the most is to articulate precisely how genealogical history fits into the general picture of theory of mind. As I said above, I think that neuroplasticity implies that a theory of mind can never achieve a comprehensive or prescriptive level. So one of the major tasks of theory of mind should be to figure out precisely what is going on with minds at this particular moment in history.

Ah. That is it: Theory of mind is inseparable from genealogical history, theory of mind always has to be a historical ontological practice.

So then, genealogical history is the way that theory of mind needs to be pursued. It needs to be pursued in tandem with scientific evidence. These things need to support each other. As I said, there are all kinds of things that can be demonstrated about the mind. That it does work in certain ways.

But it seems to me that these things that are demonstrable about the human mind can be separated into two categories: the natural and the social. While sometimes these categories blend, or can be hard to distinguish, it still seems to me that a theory of mind has to reckon with them both. So then we use all of this scientific evidence, as theory of mind has often done, but we also have to use historical study. We have to use history to try and understand exactly what minds are like right now in this particular moment in history. By combining both the scientific and the historical determinants of minds we will be able to come up with a much clearer picture of what exactly is going on with minds. This would create a theory of mind that would make it clearer precisely how minds are working. Minds have to be diagnosed as historically contingent. This is what Foucault's process of archeology and genealogy are all about. He is digging up the determinants of our thought, reminding us that we don't have to think this way, but that history has made our minds this way. Foucault even described what he was doing as 'theory as a tool kit'. But he never specifies what exactly that tool kit is for. I believe that genealogical history, combined with science, should produce a theory of mind that is supposed to be an aid to studying our own experience and an aid to gaining synthetic experience from the humanities.

So if we are to use theory as a tool kit for studying the humanities and studying our own lives, then we have to build that body of theoretical knowledge. And I am claiming that observing the natural aspects of the mind would never be enough, that we also have to examine the historical aspects of the mind. So by merging the scientific knowledge of the mind/brain with our historical knowledge of the brain we would be able to come up with a vague diagnosis for the state of contemporary minds that would serve as a useful theoretical tool kit. This genealogical theory of mind, however, is only useful if it is applied to the study of the humanities. So I suppose this is much like Clausewitz in that it is engaging with history and theory in the same way. You study history in order to produce a body of propositions about the nature of contemporary minds. But because that knowledge cannot be directly applied, we have to use it to enhance our study of minds. Now let me explain a bit how this genealogical theory of mind would help us study the humanities.

Applying A Genealogical Theory of Mind to the Study of the Humanities: Sensitivity, Intuition, and Synthetic Experience
So once we have combined scientific theory of mind with a genealogical history of mind, then we will have a body of propositions that will have effectively diagnosed the state of our contemporary minds. This body of knowledge, however, will never be valuable in actual decision making. As I explained, decision making in the social world has to function primarily on intuition. So we need to find a way to use theory to educate our ability to make intuitive decisions. And based on what Clausewitz said, intuition is improved primarily through experience. So, what we need is a way to turn this genealogically constructed theory of mind into a method of synthesizing experience.

The humanities offer the best access to synthetic experience that I can think of. And if we were mentally equipped with a body of theory about minds worked, both universally and in this particular historical moment, we would be able to get quite a lot out of the humanities. What I want to do here is explain exactly how we would able to get a lot out of the humanities and the synthetic experience that they offer. First I'll just legitimate that the humanities could provide synthetic experience (neurologically). Then I'll explain how this could lead to significant brain change.

So my discussion of simulation theory of mind, Collingwood, and Clausewitz should have made it clear that minds understanding each other primarily by simulating other people's thoughts for ourselves. Furthermore, that history and the rest of the humanities can be considered a form of simulating other people's thoughts. The thing I want to stress the most is that this process of simulation is potent enough to provide something like a synthetic experience. It has been well documented that the process of imagination involves the same neurons that are involved in the performance of an action or the feeling of an emotion. Goldman calls this the E-imagination, and I think that much of the humanities have the potential to engage us on the level of the E-imagination. If we are to study history and fiction we need to come equipped with a powerful imagination that is willing to try and invoke the experiences being described to us. This would be useful cause often there are things that we may have a hard time getting experience with. Perhaps romance is hard to come by, perhaps death is something we don't experience much, perhaps we don't have enough experience with pain. I believe that the humanities would be a way of synthesizing all of this experience that we may not be able to get in our lives. Even if we do get that experience in real life, the humanities would still be a good place to be introduced to it, or to refine our ability to grapple with it.

Perhaps more importantly I want to stress that this study of humanities, which would ideally be supported by a theory of mind, should lead to creativity. A few days ago I wrote a post called 'On Creativity' where I was babbling about how every part of our lives needs to be creative. From empathy to conversation to customer service, I think we need to embrace creativity as a model of existence. Life as a form of art. Foucault's 'aesthetics of existence'. By studying the humanities and theory of mind we would be internalizing a series of principles about the mind and a wide range of synthetic experiences. But just like in zen, these principles are not to be rigidly applied, they are to be creatively and intuitively used as situations demand them. This is why theory of mind cannot function as a guide for conduct. It has to function as a way of studying minds that will lead to an intuitive and creative frame of mind. Also, the connections to zen and mindfulness are quite large, but I can't incorporate that right now. But I will say that theory of mind and the study of the humanities should be giving us a sort of mindfulness about the world, it should teach us to be sensitive and attentive to ourselves and to others.

Lastly I just want to say that this creativity that would be brought about by studying the humanities would be a form of neuroplasticity. By imagining other people's minds and experiences we change our own brain. The power of the imagination and thought to change the brain is well documented. If we were to engage with the humanities using theory of mind as a tool kit we would be exerting a lot of mental force against our brains. We would be stimulating all kinds of experiences and would be making our brain feel those things. We would be able to exert very meaningful influence over our brains. And as I have said, I really think we should be trying to turn ourselves into more sensitive and empathic people. This could happen. Our brains are not hardwired. We would be using our imaginations to turn ourselves into sensitive people. History would be only one way of gaining synthetic experience that would transform our brains. But I'd like to quote the neuroplastician Michael Mezrenich one more time. He said of history that,"Each one of us can actually learn an incredibly elaborate set of ancestrally developed skills and abilities in our lifetimes, in a sense generating a re-creation of this history of cultural evolution via brain plasticity." Even neuroplasticians have recognized that through the historical imagination we could transform our brains and minds.

Well this post has been one of the most challenging things I've done in a while. I think I took quite a lot of turns and struggled quite a lot. I don't know how coherent it is, how much it makes sense. I tried to explicate this whole thing by discussing Foucault's general project of the genealogy of the modern subject, and how that served as part of my inspiration. I then discussed the importance of theory of mind, and advocated simulation theory of mind to provide a general framework of how to conceptualize social thought as extended empathy. I then explained how Collingwood served as a perfect link between simulation theory of mind and the type of genealogical history that Foucault promotes. I then explained how the plasticity of brains implied the plasticity of minds, and that therefore minds in the future will always be different from minds in the past, and thus a theory of mind could never be predictive or prescriptive and cannot serve as a useful guide for action. Neuroplasticity implies that theory of mind needs to be used in a different way than scientific theories such as those found in chemistry or physics. I then explained how Clausewitz presented a model of theory that was useful. Clausewitz essentially created a genealogical theory of war that diagnosed the state of war in his era, and then explained how that body of theory was to be used as an aid to the acquisition of synthetic historical experience. I argued that this was a useful model because, just like war, the mind will always look different in the future, and its theory therefore needs to be used as a way to educate judgment and not as a way to prescribe action. I lastly tried to bring all this together by explaining how genealogical history, combined with scientific study, would provide a body of theory of mind that diagnosed the state of current minds. I then explained how this scientific and historical theory of mind must be used as a way to study other minds. I believe that if we are equipped with a historical/scientific theory of mind we would be able to use the humanities as a way to acquire synthetic experience, and thus as a way to educate ourselves to be sensitive and empathic people. Lastly I just wanted to say that this is about the creative transformation of our own brains. This is meant to help us think differently, think new thoughts, and thus have new brains. I want the humanities and synthetic experience to be seen as a way to engage in creative self-directed neuroplasticity.

My general goal was to explain how theory of mind must be united with historical study, and how that historically informed theory cannot function as a prescriptive tool, but as an aid to the study of the humanities. I claimed that because we social interactions are governed mainly by intuition, theory cannot be a useful guide for action. And because intuition can only be improved through experience I claimed that theory must be used as a way to provide us with something like experience. So I followed Clausewitz's model and claimed that theory should be used as a way to turn ordinary study of the humanities into a synthetic experience of sorts. By studying the humanities, other people's minds and experiences, we would be able to use theory of mind as a conceptual tool kit that would enhance our access to these other experiences. Thus by simulating other people's thoughts through the humanities we would be internalizing our knowledge of theory of mind and other people's experiences at such a deep level that it would effect our intuitive decision making. I believe that if we are to construct a theory of mind that is useful we need to draw both on scientific evidence to discover the universalities of the mind, but we also need to draw on history to illuminate the contingencies of the mind. Only through genealogical history could we create a theory of mind that could diagnose the present state of our own minds, and thus allow us to enact meaningful changes on ourselves through the study of the humanities. All of this is so jumbled in my head right now. But the bottom line is that a body of theory of mind has to be created through a combination of science and history, and that theory has to be turned towards the study of the humanities in order to provide us with a synthetic experience that would improve our intuitive judgment. Only then can theory of mind help us make better decisions about minds.