- Published on Friday, 27 May 2011 07:03
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 3684
To have a life after death, there must a soul that is separate from the body. After death, we know that the body, complete with its brain, has gone. In many cases it is cremated and in all cases of death, it certainly stops functioning. But the concept of the soul depends on the existence of an entity separate to the body and that it includes that part of us that we view as our "being" and it must include our mind. The very word "mind" is different to the word for the physical brain - that's because mankind has always thought of mind and brain as separate. We feel that our concept of self comes from our mind and soul and not our brain. Patricia Churchland describes this kind of thinking as Folk-Psychology.
In Aristotle's time, we also had Folk-Physics - e.g. there was the concept that an object would not move unless something continued to push it. Newton's thinking showed that to be incorrect and now Churchland says just like Newton showed Aristotle to be wrong, current science shows that there is in fact no separate mind and there is no soul. Further study of aspects of the brain show that Folk-Psychology does not understand memory - it does not work like we think it does. Churchland expects that when we fully understand how the brain works we will be able to view decision-making differently and make different decisions. I have to wonder if Sam Harris got some of his thinking here since his science speciality is neuroscience - that is, understanding the brain. But in the future, when we understand how the brain has a "will" and why we "love", we will not change the way we use "will" or feel love.
Here is a video where she explains these concepts. Like many smart philosophers, she has a clear way of describing what she means.
Patricia Smith Churchland was born in B.C. but is a Professor at the University of California in San Diego. She focuses on the interface between neuroscience and philosophy.
In another interview, she talked about the same kind of thing although the start of the interview was more about the science and less about the philosophy. She's clearly a scientist who is very knowledgable about this field. At about the 3:30 mark she talked about the Dalai Lama and how he is willing to listen to and accept evidence - quite different to other religious leaders.