Living cells and sentient minds: Some thought on memory, learning and the self


Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


One of the important lessons that neuroscience has to offer philosophers of education is to remind us, again and again, that the substrate of memory, learning and selfhood is biological. This is not to say that that neuroscience is currently able to provide anything like complete answers to questions of memory, learning and the self; though we do know a lot more about memory and learning than we did just a few decades ago. However, there is an underlying philosophical problem. Drawing first on John Searle and Colin McGinn and then on the work of Gerald Edelman, Antonio Damasio, Alfred North Whitehead and David Ray Griffin, the paper argues there is much that is wrong with the materialist agenda, inherited from the seventeenth century and perpetuated in current biological and philosophical accounts of our being, particularly its view of matter as mechanistic. The paper will seek an alternative account which stresses continuity between matter and mind, and a holistic, integrative notion of memory, learning and the self. The significance of this for education, if the argument can be sustained, would not only be evident in how we teach for learning and thinking but also how we teach, as a matter of first principle. In short, it would mean rejecting much of the mechanistic approach to education and the self while recognising the possibilities of our biological selves as both learners and teachers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2005



Sankey, D. (2005, November). Living cells and sentient minds: Some thought on memory, learning and the self. Paper presented at the International Conference of Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia 2005: Critical Thinking and Learning: Values, Concepts and Issues, Hong Kong, China.