Ye olde quip about whether or not the brain is capable of understanding itself

xkcd: "I don't understand how my brain works"

A friend recently sent me the above xkcd comic about the potential difficulties of the brain trying to understand itself.  I’ve commonly heard variants of this quip since college and suspect it goes back a long long time.  Indeed, while flipping through Ambrose  Bierce’s definition of “mind” in his Devil’s Dictionary several years ago, I learned that it at least goes back to 1906:

MIND, n. A mysterious form of matter secreted by the brain. Its chief activity consists in the endeavor to ascertain its own nature, the futility of the attempt being due to the fact that it has nothing but itself to know itself with. From the Latin mens, a fact unknown to that honest shoe-seller, who, observing that his learned competitor over the way had displayed the motto “Mens conscia recti,” emblazoned his own front with the words “Men’s, women’s and children’s conscia recti.”

Anyone know of any older (or other particularly witty) takes on this theme?
-David Groppe

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~ by eeging on January 26, 2013.

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