The mind-body problem: now actually a problem

Ransom Riggs

Even if you slept through Philosophy 101, you've probably heard of the mind-body problem: thunk-up by Plato and riffed-upon by Rene "I Think Therefore I am" Descartes, it contends that the mind/soul is distinct and seperate from the body, and capable of maintaining a seperate existence from it. So what's the problem? Turns out, according to neurologist Oliver Sacks and our friends at Damn Interesting, that sometimes they can be a little too seperate.

Known as Proprioception Deficit Disorder -- or, in some circles, Descartes' Disease -- it's a condition in which your mind effectively forgets that your body exists. All the senses of self-awareness you would use to take a field sobriety test -- touch your nose, walk the line -- are gone, your mind becoming, in a word, disembodied.

"The results of this disorder are logical once one understands the concept of proprioception. Think of all the activities in a typical day that require the body's knowledge of its own position. If you carry your briefcase to the car while fumbling for the keys, your legs do not buckle because they are currently unsupervised. Your hand does not drop its load because you neglected for a moment to think, hold on to the briefcase. Your jaw does not hang slack because you weren't specifically concentrating on keeping your mouth closed. But for someone with PDD, these are exactly the type of things that happen."

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Even more fascinating: "unlike most disorders, the more education one has the more likely one is to develop the affliction. This factor, as well as the initial dream symptoms, suggests that the disease could have psychophysiologic roots."

Which means, now that you've read this you're .001% more likely to develop PDD. Whoops. Don't think about white elephants!