“Am I Just My Brain?”

Biblical anthropology is the study of the human (“anthropology”) as it relates to God.  One aspect of anthropology is that it studies the innate nature or constitution of the human, known as the nature of humankind.

When it comes to this topic, there is an ongoing debate about the relationship between the mind and the brain.  Traditionally,  many Christians have held to some form of dualism.  There are several forms of dualism (i.e., substance dualism, holistic dualism, and others).  Thus, the view that the soul is an immaterial thing, consciousness, or the mind is different from the body and brain. Our core personalities—whether we label them souls, spirits, persons, selves, or egos—are distinct and, by God’s supernatural providence, can exist apart from our physical bodies after death.

In contrast to this, physicalism or materialism says all things and events in the world consist of physical stuff and operate according to physical laws. In the material world, everything that happens is causally determined with the possible exception of subatomic randomness.  Obviously, this is incompatible with dualism. I should note there are some Christians who label themselves Christian physicalists. I don’t have time to unpack that position here.

Furthermore, reductive physicalism says the mind and brain are identical. Thoughts, memories, and emotions are the firing of neurons. No more. No less.  The mind is reducible (hence “reductive”) to the physical workings of the brain (hence “physicalism”).  There isn’t really such a thing as the mind, but only the activity of the brain.

These issues are discussed in the latest book by Sharon Dirckx called “Am I Just My Brain?”
Dirckx has a Ph.D. in brain imaging and held research positions at Oxford, Cambridge and in the USA. She is now Senior Tutor at OCCA in Oxford. Dirckx isn’t convinced that reductive materialism is the answer to this debated topic. The book is short and is fairly easy to understand. If you want to see an online clip that discusses this topic, Inspiring Philosophy’s clip here is a good starting point.

 

 

 

 

 

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