More Tragedy: Brain and Mind, Iraq Suicides edition.

In this post, published here and over at Cosmic Variance, I looked through the story of Iraq veteran suicides to speculate on the implications of the spread from the neuroscience profession to the public of the idea that what we perceive as mind, as our selves, is actually a phenomenon of our material brains.

That’s an important notion, one taken as a commonplace by just about every neuro researcher I know that will, I still think, have a profound cultural impact, potentially as great as that of the concept of the descent of man from prior forms.

But then this story appears. Another man gone, to remind me and anyone who reads this of fact of tragedy that is the reality, the hard ground of fact and loss.

I have no deeper scientific argument that I want to pursue here, and I am not going to express any of the political thoughts that this story does evoke in me.

This is just a pause, to think about Joseph Patrick Dwyer, and those whose loss should not simply be aggregated into the accumulating totals — both the official count of war dead, and those, like Dwyer who have paid such a terrible price outside the neat categories of conflict caualties.

My deepest sympathy to the family and friends of PFC Dwyer.

Image: Francisco de Goya, “Desastre de la Guerra (Disasters of War)” 1810-11. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Explore posts in the same categories: brain and mind, In Memoriam, Iraq, War

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One Comment on “More Tragedy: Brain and Mind, Iraq Suicides edition.”


  1. Thanks for this post, Tom. When I saw the report of Dwyer’s death I immediately posted it on my blog as well. I think there is a neuroscience context for this story: Our brains have evolved to care very deeply about our own fates and those of others, even if we are also capable of incredible callousness in our attempts to avoid the existential pain of that consciousness.

    best, Michael


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