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C O U R S E 
Chinese Thought: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science
Edward Slingerland, University of British Columbia
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Mind/Body Dualism and Cognitive Control
Notes taken on November 3, 2014 by Edward Tanguay
mind/body dualism in the West
very old tradition going back to people like Plato
seen as fundamentally in opposition
the rational faculties, the mind, trying to control the body
Plato's chariot allegory
charioteer (intellect) tries to control the first winged horse (rational/moral impulse) and the second winged horse (irrational passions/appetites) with the goal of driving them toward enlightenment
the charioteer (the mind) trying to bring the horses (the body) under control
mind/body dualism in China
some scholars say there is no concept of this
but they do have a tension between (1) rational faculties / conscience thought, and (2) the desires and emotions
the closest word for mind is xin [sheen]
refers to the heart
pictograph of the heart
translated as mind, heart and heart/mind
a locus of cognition
conscious thought
will power
ability to think rationally
cognitive emotions such as worry and anxiety
mohists and legalists
rationality controls emotions
emotions are fundamentally disordered and antisocial
can bring them under control if we exert will power
confucians and taoists
a slightly different take on the mind
mind reshapes the emotions and desires to bring them in harmony
from a contemporary scientific perspective it's a little bit puzzling why people are mind/body dualists because to the best of our knowledge we are not ghosts in the machine
to the best of our knowledge our rational and conscious thought is part of the body
we are integrated mind-body systems designed by evolution to more through the world in a certain way
so from a contemporary empirical system, it seems that mind/body dualism is just incorrect
and yet this intuition that there's something different about minds, and that minds and bodies are different in kind, seems to be a universal human cognition, so why is this?
the structure of our cognition makes us feel like we are two different things
we experience ourselves as being split in an important way
we get a sense of this when we analyze phrases that we use, e.g. "I had to drag myself out of bed this morning", who is being dragged and who is doing the dragging?
these are metaphorical expressions but the split itself is not entirely metaphorical
at a functional level, we seem to have two different modes of cognition, referred to as hot and cold cognition
hot cognition
frugal, i.e. doesn't require a lot of resources
mostly unconscious
we tend not to have access to hot cognition, these are the tacit, embodied programs that we have
the body
cold cognition
conscious thought
physiologically expensive
our narrative account of ourselves
these two systems interact with each other
cognitive control
using the conscious mind to control the unconscious mind / the body
e.g. the ability to "drag yourself out of bed in the morning"
the Stroop Effect
a demonstration of interference in the reaction time of a task, e.g. when the name of a color is printed in a color not denoted by the name, then naming the color of the word takes longer and is more prone to errors than when the color of the ink matches the name of the color
you feel yourself exerting cognitive control in order to name the correct color of the letters, it feels unnatural
there is something unpleasant about exerting cognitive control
studies have shown the cognitive control is a limited resource and exerting it is mentally tiring
what's going on is you have two automatic systems
1. your color recognition system
2. your language reading system, and they are in conflict
two otherwise quite automatic, hot-system-1 processes that are in fighting each other, and your brain has to quickly and unexpected pull in your cognitive control to sort out what is should be determined to be giving you correct information
requires the " umpf" of conscious effort
cognitive control is the key to human mastery of the planet
allows us to delay gratification
allows us to train ourselves to have new dispositions
allows us to inhabit ecosystems which our bodies did not evolve to be able to inhabit
it's relatively slow
we experience this with the stroop test
physiologically expensive
when you exert cognitive control in one domain, you are less able to do it in another
i.e. becoming weary from mental work
easy to overload
e.g. count backwards by 5 while performing some math problem or remembering a string of digits
another theory is that it has more to do with switching task priorities
we can't be exerting cognitive control all the time
90% of what we do during the day are being done by implicit systems, the hot-systems
10% is being done by cognitive cold-systems
this has ramifications in religions and governments
political systems
how are people making the decisions they are making
ethical models
how to train people to be more ethical
this issue also concerns our human nature, the hot-systems we are born with, and what needs to happen to that if we are to become civilized