Pedro Arantes

Metaphors to Explain the Brain

We don't know how our brains work, so we use metaphors to understand it.
Zettelkasten, May 23, 2020


  • We don't know how our brains work, so we use metaphors to understand it.

  • At different times, we used to compare our brain with the most advanced thinking we had at that moment:

    • The earliest one was that God created us with clay and dirty, and His spirit infused intelligence.
    • In the 3rd century BCE, with the invention of hydraulic engineering, we believed that our body and mind worked with a flow of different fluids called 'humours'.
    • In the 1500s, we compared the brain with complex machines because of the systems composed of gears and springs.
    • In the 1600s, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes suggested that the motion of small mechanics in the brain creates thinking.
    • In the 1700s, discoveries about electricity and chemistry created new theories.
    • In the 1800s, inspired by recent advances in communication, the German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz compared the brain to a telegraph.
    • In the 1940s, with the creation of computers, the brain was said to operate as a computer - we save, and process memories as computers do. This analogy is also called Information Processing (IP) metaphor.


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