I would like to believe that the mind can survive death. This is because, as the after-life state-of-being is completely unknown, it frightens me a little. Not a lot, because it’s inevitable and I’ve accepted that –- but let’s just say that I will be very pleasantly surprised if I found myself somehow still conscious following a decoupling of mind and body. It’s truly a shame that the evidence doesn’t really support that outcome.
The mind -– that is, personality, sense of morality, emotions, memories, etc. -– can be altered from the outside. We can give you a full frontal lobotomy and wipe out your emotional responses, no matter how much your “mind” would like to produce them. If parasites burrow deep into your brain somehow and destroy your hippocampal area, you’ll be severely handicapped in forming and retrieving memories, no matter how much you might like to remember things. We can give schizophrenic patients dopamine-altering psychopharmacological drugs and see their debilitating symptoms lessen with treatment. This evidence -– and more -– leads me to believe that the mind is created by the body. Just like much of the current neuroscience community currently believes, I believe that most of my various mental states are a by-product of my chemical constituents at any given moment. Sure, I can influence these states mentally, but that process too seems like it fits the bill for a chemical state.
One interesting thing that Beauregard mentions within The Spiritual Brain is that perhaps the mind itself is healthy – but trapped within a malfunctioning brain. It’s interesting because I hadn’t considered that possibility, but more on that later.
Medical literature contains many examples of that, which is why many great neuroscientists were not materialists. Some think of it as the TV set theory of mind: The mind broadcasts, like a TV station, and the set either works well or doesn’t. There’s a lot of feedback from the set’s environment too. If people don’t like the show, it goes off the air If someone throws a brick through the screen …
Despite his uncertain sympathies, this reviewer gives the Brain four stars.
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose