In considering the function of the nervous system, a basic fact seems to have gotten lost in the latter half of the 20th century, with the advent of cognitivism. Thus I’m encouraged to find, in a lecture from 1884, the following simple truth:

If the doctrine of evolution be true, all nervous centres must be of sensori-motor constitution.

The closely related pairs of perception/action and sensory/motor coordination (or constitution, if you will) are the bedrock out of which subjective experience arises. It is not wrong to say that brains give rise to minds, it is just wholly misleading. The bedrock itself is very real, but not directly knowable. Out of it arises both the phenomenal world, and ultimately, the subject/object split, that allows us to spin tales about ourselves and a world, and the relation between the two. Within those worlds, we find brains. They are part of the world revealed by Mind.

Some more thoughts on this nice article (how nice that a lecture from 1884 is available, and easily at that!):

Some years ago, I asked the question: ” Of what ‘substance’ can the organ of mind be composed, unless of processes representing movements and impressions? And how can the convolutions differ from the inferior centres, except as parts representing more intricate co-ordinations of impressions and movements in time and space than they do ?

Of course the concepts and language available to me are at some remove from this gem. But he here alludes to the elaboration (I have called it ‘mediation’ elsewhere) of the perception/action relation that gives rise to phenomenal time and space. I suspect the author would not go so far as to say that this relation gives rise to time and space, and yet, if we are careful with our words, that is what I contend. The caveat that needs to be applied is the usual one of keeping the reality of phenomenal experience directly in our sights. The P/A relationship gives rise to phenomenal space and time. Our linguistic abilities, broadly construed, allow us to compare measurements, which in turn allow us to infer a reference scale, which we then mistakenly take as an objective standard. We must always work from the phenomenal to the domain of interpersonal coordination, which in science is the simple act of measurement.

The Croonian Lectures on Evolution and Dissolution of the Nervous System, J. Hughlings Jackson, British Medical Journal, Apr. 12, 1884, 703–707.

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