Neuroplasticity and Emancipative Change

Change has been studied by humanity down the ages. Philosophers like Parmenides denied change, Heraclitus and the Buddha taught that change is the only unchanging reality. Aristotle appeared to find the middle with his theory of act and potency which has an echo in the satkarya vada of the Shankya school of the Astika persuasion. But the Aristotelian middle is static and is overruled by evolutionary change whose transforming leap cannot be explained by act and potency. Developments in neuroscience, especially plasticity of the brain has opened new ways of understanding change. This is true especially in the work of French thinker, Catherine Malabou.

Neuroscience demonstrates that our brain has a profound capacity to change due to our changed experience or injury. This ability to change is called as neuroplasticity. Plasticity entrails giving and receiving form . Malabou says pur brain also has the capacity to explode or annhilate a form. French word for bombing is le plastic. Malabou calls it destructive plasticity and asserts that it has creative potency . These destructive-creation churns out new forms from no where. These new forms do not have prior existence.She says this dark side is forgotten to accomodate a positive and adeptive neuroplasticity which is ideologicaly related to the flexible workers of a capitalist society. Unlike plasticity, flexiblity opens us to adeptation and steching of ourselves to even exploitation.

To understand destructive plasticity Malabou turns to the injured brain. She finds that in case of neuroparhology, the identity of a person can change in a blink of an eye. Here there is no gradual transformation or longical transformation. A person suffering a brain injury can become a completely different person in a split of a second . Neuroscience is still linear and progressive and does see these destructive states as plasticity of our brain. Neuroscientists see them as pathological interruptions in a healthy plasticity. Though these pathological disruptions are difficult for the person undergoing them and his/her family, Malabou sees them as manifesting higher creative capacities of our brain .

The plastic capacities of our brain are unending. Hence, Malabou wants us to recognize and give up ideological leanings springing form our capitalist society that linearizes our brain’s plasticity. Malabou sees destructive plasticity as having political potentials. In her view it is contesting the good, silent, domesticated citizen and sees resistance and leaps of new levels of socio-political possibilities through radical changes inspired by destructive brain plasticity. It thus, opens us possibilities of emancipation from the logics of capitalism, religious or nationalist fanaticism. Today everything on web as well politics of society is trying to frame our life on linear scale. The non-linearity of the destructive plasticity thus, become emancipative resistance to the fast growing world of techno-capitalism¬†.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao