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ESSAY WINNER: Survival or Extinction?

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#1 Bruce Klein

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Posted 15 October 2005 - 04:25 PM

Essay Winner: http://www.imminst.org/contest

Survival or Extinction?
by Daniel Stein

In earlier writings I have pointed on the evident incentives for immortality and its utter importance for the human individual. In this essay I will explore a different aspect of this concern, asking with an unembellished fashion several critical questions.

Can we survive our own deaths? –Is there truly a life beyond there? –Are we spiritually immortal? –Or does it all end with our earthly demise?

These questions have ceaselessly preoccupied the able homo-sapiens since its very dawn. And why wouldn’t they? –Is there a more significant and urgent matter in light of the realization of one's own warranted mortality?

The issue of post-death survival or extinction, as we’ll soon come to understand, is fundamentally dependant upon the solution of an age-old dilemma known as the psychophysical problem. A struggle to solve this ageless conundrum is a struggle to determine the essential relationship between the human body and the human psyche (or mind); between the physical organism which we all are on the one hand, and our very essence, or even soul as some prefer, on the other.

I will elaborate on the traditionally-defined difference through a simple illustration. First, I'd like to introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. Teuton, both highly-skilled mechanical engineers, experts in anatomy and physiology, and a loving couple. One day, during their regular joint return from work, they came across a construction yard in which a fabulous building was being built. "Look honey, the crane is lifting the platform!" –said Mr. Teuton with great excitement. "I can see, the crane's platform is being lifted!" retorted the woman.

An interesting question may be raised regarding this incidence; have both Mr. and Mrs. Teuton meant the same by their declarations? –After all, they have indeed chosen different words; but what of their meanings?

The answer is rather simple, the couple had meant to say the exact same thing; nothing but the wording had differed. Both declarations retain a metaphorical element; when Mr. Teuton said that the crane is lifting he did not intend to ascribe it activity that literally aims for a certain purpose, he had merely "borrowed" terms which are normally relevant to express volitional actions of a singular man, a subject. Both engineers are aware of the fact that the lifting action had came to pass not because of the crane's wish or desire to lift, but on account of the functional relations between it and the platform.

In the following day, on their way back from work – our couple came across an old friend, Mr. Cimbri his name. "Look honey," said Mr. Teuton, "Cimbri has moved his hand!". His wife immediately acknowledged the sight: "Indeed, Cimbri's hand has been moved!".

Once again we may ask; have both Mr. and Mrs. Teuton meant the same by their declarations? -Again the answer is clear; both had suggested exactly the same, only the wording differed. Mr. Teuton’s statement expresses the fact that the lifting action of Mr. Cimbri's hand is tied to the general mechanism of the body called Cimbri, thus he attributes this action to him. Mrs. Teuton too acknowledges that the hand lifting action is related to the general activity of the organism called Cimbri, only she sees the need to clarify this concern redundant; she regards it as being self-evident.

Now we may face two different scenarios, on the first - Mr. Cimbri approaches the couple and says: "I moved my hand!"; on the other he says, "My hand has been moved!".

Our question persists; did Mr. Cimbri intend the same in the two scenarios? –Not necessarily. On the one hand, it is quite reasonable to assume that by both sayings intended Mr. Cimbri to express the same: that he himself had meant to move his hand, probably as a gesture of greeting. In this case, both statements are identical in terms of meaning. On the other hand, perhaps in his latter saying intended Mr. Cimbri to deny the former, that is - to clarify that the action did not occur through his own volition, under his subjective wish. Perhaps by saying I lifted my hand intended Mr. Cimbri to show that the action had originated from his very own self; while by saying my hand has been lifted he desired to express the fact that the action had originated from a whole different cause which is not dependent on his self, on his own personal volition; to clarify that the hand had moved on account of it being shoved by a different person, an external factor, in spite of the fact that the action had nonetheless transpired within Mr. Cimbri's personal body.

So what is the essential difference between our couple's statements on the one hand, and Mr. Cimbri's declarations in both scenarios on the other? Why did the couple's different sayings express the same, while Mr. Cimbri's declarations on himself retained a dichotomous interpretation?

From this interesting illustration we may derive that a certain element is involved when Mr. Cimbri speaks on himself; this unique factor is absent when Mr. and Mrs. Teuton speak on something external to them, whether it is a mechanical crane or a another person. Mr. Cimbri, being healthy minded, knows well enough how to distinguish between actions initiated by his own volition, originating from his self on the one hand, and involuntary actions – which may be identical to the former sort in practice, albeit not involving his selfish will*.

*Such is the difference between volitional movement of the hand and involuntary push of it. In practice, the result may be identical – the driving force is necessarily different.

So what is the bottom line of this concern? –There are certain phenomena occurring in Mr. Cimbri which are potentially known or understood for all three equally; in this case - the physical movement of the hand. On the other hand, Mr. Cimbri retains a certain sort of information on himself that the Teutons cannot possibly know; he alone retains the ability to discern between an action originating from his own volition and an action originating from an external factor. This sort of knowledge is strictly exclusive to Mr. Cimbri.

One may say, of course, that the Teutons are aware of Cimbri's exclusive ability to discern between voluntary and involuntary actions. They understand that it is possible for the movement of the hand to originate either from Cimbri's self, his personal volition, or from an external cause which may literally compel movement on his hand – without any relation to his self.

This understanding is allowed on account of the Teutons' basic supposition – that Mr. Cimbri is a person like them, retaining his own unique world to himself. Naturally, the Teutons acknowledge that certain sorts of information, feelings, emotions, will, motivation and so forth – are unique and exclusive for them to understand or perceive. At the same time, they infer that this case applies on other human individuals, having their own inner unique worlds filled with exclusive information and sensations.

We humans are aware of two different worlds: the mental and the physical; the inner and the outer. It is highly important to note, however, that these worlds are two in the sense of our perception of them; the distinction does not imply that two worlds actually exist.

Indeed, death seems to supply the ultimate ratification for their mysterious distinction: as one dies, any link to his unique mental world immediately terminates and disappears forever – while his tangible physical body remains, albeit cold, static and lifeless.

The objects in the physical, outer world retain special characteristics1:

-They exist or expand within a certain point in space >> subject to geometrical categorization.
-They retain a certain volume and mass, and are generally capable of being described through various methods of measurement >> Quantitative.
-They retain a certain chemical composition, which may be unraveled through analysis.
-They have effect on and are being affected by other objects in the physical world; everything that occurs within the objects themselves or within their interactions with other objects is but matter and energy which may be expressed through chemical and physical categories.

The most important point to note, however, is that all details regarding physical objects are potentially knowable and comprehendible to the able man*. All men are equal in sense of observing the physical world; thus, this world may be also referred to as the public domain of human perception. For instance, the keyboard through which I'm currently typing this sentence – meets all of the above characteristics; it is placed at a certain point in space, it retains a measurable volume, mass, length width and height. A chemical analysis would reveal it to consist of certain physical elements. Also, physicists teach us that it imposes a measurable effect on its physical surroundings – gravity, pressure on the desk etc'. Despite of it being legally mine, all men are equal in the sense of knowing it.

*Given the particular skills and/or means to perform observation and research have been acquired. For instance, a peptide biopolymer is a special kind of organic molecule – a physical object in all aspects; in order to understand its basic functionality and nature, however, one has to retain a certain level of understanding in the field of organic chemistry. This is what I mean by saying potentially knowable, there is no principal prevention to gain more “advanced” sorts of information for any man.

Our own bodies are also a definite part of the physical world. This means that the same characteristics I have successfully applied on my computer’s keyboard are relevant when considering my own body as well. Indeed, our bodies too are located at a certain point in space, retaining certain dimensions, a typical level of temperature etc’. Biochemical analysis may also reveal our bodies’ exact composition, including all of their inner physiological processes. Also, there is interaction between our bodies and their outer environment, for instance – as I’m typing this sentence, my fingers put varying pressure on the keyboard; due to my body’s relatively high temperature (98° Fahrenheit), heat is slowly being emitted to the colder air surrounding it.

Another point to consider is that our bodies too are a subject to the public domain of human perception; that is to say, my personal body is potentially knowable to all men in an equal manner, provided they retain the adequate level of anatomo-physiological knowledge to understand its complex mechanisms. There isn’t any essential difference between my personal body and the electronic keyboard in the sense of being physical, measurable and all-intelligible objects.

And yet we are aware of another world, a mental one. Objects within this inner, curious world naturally differ from the physical sort, while too retaining unique characteristics2:

-They are not placed at a certain point in space >> are not a subject to geometrical categorization.

-They do not retain a certain volume and mass; incapable of being described through various methods of measurement and physical categorizations such as kCal, Volts, Pounds, Ounces etc’ >> they are qualitative.

-The concept of chemical composition does not apply on them.

While seeming to have various sorts of interactions among themselves, mental objects are not seen as a part of the cycle of matter and energy; a thought of water for instance, under our contemporary scientific understanding - would not react with objects of the physical world in the same manner real water and CO2 combine together to produce glucose and oxygen.

But the true singularity of the mental world is the fact of it being private and exclusive to each and every human individual in the sense of perception. An inner world exists in men, a world that has fascinated philosophers and scientists alike since the very dawn of civilization. This world, otherwise known as the psyche – has the most curious nature of all; personal experience teaches us that it is knowable, capable of being sensed, experienced or perceived by one individual alone. All of the psyche’s objects and phenomena belong to one, with no known exceptions.

The mental world retains quite a broad spectrum of phenomena known to us, some of which have been called hopes, ambitions, wishes, desires and memories.

My psyche, for instance, may easily produce a thought of baked salmon, which happens to be one of my favorite foods; if so, this mental phenomenon would most likely lead to a different one - a desire for salmon. Where we stand today, a scientist may carefully inspect physiological processes simultaneously coming to pass inside my body and therefore deduce that I may be craving for nourishment. Nevertheless, could he possibly perceive my exact thoughts in his own mind, or better yet – personally experience my desire for fish?

A man may point at a huge boulder before him and claim: “This weight of this rock may not be bore by anyone!”; such assertion may be put to test, and provided all men, including the strongest of all athletes have tried and failed in their attempts – it would be labeled as true.

But what if the same man would point at himself and claim: “My pain may not be bore by anyone!”. What is the difference between the assertions? –This emphasizes the distinction between the two worlds we may perceive. Provided the object exists in the public domain of human perception, retaining a certain mass - all men are equal in terms of directing their attention to it.

But provided a subjective feeling of pain is considered, which exists in the private domain of human perception alone – no one, except its possessor, may experience or direct attention to it.

As far as we know it - a man may bear nothing but his personal pain, that which belongs to his private domain of perception. This applies to the full spectrum of emotions and feelings. If a man is required to carry some heavy physical burden, such as the above example - he may easily ask his friend for assistance – transferring some of the object’s mass to an additional pair of carrying hands. Nevertheless, if a mental burden is concerned – it cannot be mutually shared similar to the carrying of a heavy boulder. When we say that each man can or cannot bear pain, to a specific extent, we refer to the unique and personal pain every solitary individual experiences; we have no true knowledge whether a subjective feeling of pain experienced by one is identical to a feeling experienced by his friend. If a man empathizes with his distressed friend saying, “I know exactly how you feel” – by no means he refers to knowledge in the same manner scientists do, rather he relies on his own personal intuition and logic: ascribing his friend mental phenomena he knows and recognizes from himself, whether it is feelings, emotions, contents of thoughts and desires – in spite of the fact that such phenomena are undeniably removed from his experience and far from his subjective recognition in practice. This sort of mutual awareness is allowed for the superior communication capacities of the human species, whether verbal or bodily. Through communication and observation, we actively infer that other human individuals possess similar mental worlds such as ours.

The very essence of the psychophysical problem, as we’ll soon come to realize – is the nature of relationship between our mental psyches on the one hand, and our physical brains on the other.

The problem originates from the fact that the brain, the supposed organ of psyche, undeniably belong to the physical, outer world – being a distinguished organ of our physical bodies. So to speak, there isn’t any essential difference between brain tissue and skin tissue; both answer all of the characteristics required to be classified as physical. Our brains are placed at a certain point in space, retaining certain temperature, volume (~1,600 cm³) and mass (~1500 gm.). Biochemical analysis may also reveal the nature of its inner composition and physiological processes, whether chemical or electrochemical – all may be identified and measured.

Indeed, both my brain and skin tissue are a subject to the public domain of human perception. The entirety of my brain’s physical characteristics is potentially knowable to all men equally, without me having any essential advantage despite of it being mine. Everyone is equal in terms of acquiring anatomo-physiological insight required to decipher the physical mechanisms of the skin or brain organs. In a potential manner, I cannot gain more information on my skin than any other man performing the same examination; and the same applies to my brain. Also, I would know nothing of my brain tissue without using the exact same tools of research and analysis I’d otherwise utilize for inspecting all different sorts of physical objects, external to my body.

The bottom line is astounding; on the one hand, I stand in front of my brain’s physical biochemical phenomena as an external observer, similar to every other man that may inspect them; on the other, I stand in front of my psyche’s mental phenomena such as hope or desire not as an observer, rather I experience them in practice; I am them and they are me, it is I who thinks, desires, wishes and aspires without any man to share these wondrous phenomena; they are mine to bear, for better or for worse, alone.


#2 Trias

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Posted 15 October 2005 - 06:07 PM


And yet we know there is an evident correlation between brain and psyche, between the physical and the mental world. Indeed, our personal experience, combined with the groundbreaking findings of the modern science of neuropsychology provides the ultimate ratification.

To start with, we are entirely aware of the fact that both of our componential units, body and psyche, and accordingly - our two forms of identity, physical and mental, are quite inseparable in essence.

I’ll clarify that by physical identity I refer to the entirety of the unique chemical composition, anatomical design and physiological processes of our bodies. This encompasses the more obvious physical qualities such as our unique sexual gender, shape of face, skin pigmentation, height, mass and color of hair in addition to other less noticeable ones such as metabolism rate, bone density, heart rate and so forth.

The mental identity, in contrast to the physical one, refers to our characteristic way of feeling, thinking and behaving. This encompasses the emotional, behavioral and thinking patterns unique to a person. Namely, whatever builds our own unique personhood - the intrinsic information that defines “us”, being exclusively ours: memories, hopes, dreams, emotions, aspirations, opinions etc’.

While common sense may easily distinguish between the two worlds, as I have earlier shown - simultaneously, it binds the two together in the most intimate fashion. Truly, can one imagine a disembodied psyche?

This is why, when generally thinking of a particular individual, either dead or alive - we always envisage his natural human-bodily form, the physical vessel of his psyche through which alone we have been aware of his unique mental identity. Dr. Corliss Lamont, one of the greatest humanist philosophers of the 20th century, wrote on this:

”The workings of association are so strong that for a time at least we tend towards identifying a dead man with his body. Indeed, we find it very hard to say farewell to the lifeless forms of our loved ones; and we do not like to think of their bodies being mutilated, dissected or resting in a noisy, strand or unbeautiful place. If a person dies away from home or drowns, every effort is usually made to bring back or recover the body. The relatives of thousands of American soldiers killed abroad in the First and Second World Wars insisted that the bodies be shipped back and interred in the United States”.3

The same case persists when contemplating the concept of personal death. As Lucretius, one of the greatest philosophers of the Roman era, so finely put:

“When in life each man pictures to himself that it will come to pass that birds and wild beasts will mangle his body in death, he pities himself; for neither does he separate himself from the corpse, nor withdraw himself enough from the outcast body, but thinks that it is he, and, as he stands watching, taints it with his own feeling”.4

Conditioned Worlds

On September 13, 1848, Phineas Gage was working outside the small town of Cavendish, Vermont on the construction of a railroad track where he was employed. One of his duties was to set explosive charges in holes drilled into large pieces of rock so they could be shattered and removed. The job involved filling the hole with gunpowder, adding a fuse, and then packing in sand with the aid of a large tamping iron. When Gage was momentarily distracted, the tamping iron sparked against the rock and ignited the gunpowder, causing the iron to be blown through Gage's head with an unbelievable force. The iron had penetrated his skull beneath the cheek bone, slashing a part of his cerebral tissue along the way. Amazingly, Gage regained consciousness within a few minutes, and was also able to speak. Later examinations have shown that only a small portion of the frontal tissue was damaged5.

But the most interesting point to consider is the later report made by Gage’s physician, J.M Harlow. The doctor had noted that despite his remarkable somatic recovery and minimal brain damage, Gage’s mental identity had altered in quite a significant manner. Prior to the accident, Gage was employed as a foreman in his workplace – quite the responsible occupation. Whereas after:

”Gage was fitful, irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity (which was not previously his custom), manifesting but little deference for his fellows, impatient of restraint or advice when it conflicts with his desires, at times pertinaciously obstinate, yet capricious and vacillating, devising many plans of future operations, which are no sooner arranged than they are abandoned in turn for others appearing more feasible. A child in his intellectual capacity and manifestations, he has the animal passions of a strong man. Previous to his injury, although untrained in the schools, he possessed a well-balanced mind, and was looked upon by those who knew him as a shrewd, smart businessman, very energetic and persistent in executing all his plans of operation. In this regard his mind [psyche] was radically changed, so decidedly that his friends and acquaintances said he was 'no longer Gage”.6

Harlow’s report is unequivocal: as a result of the physical damage to his physical body, his brain tissue – his mental world had been affected in a structural manner, in that case – for the worse. There is no escape from concluding that Gage’s mental identity, the very essence that differentiates him from the rest of his kin – is strictly dependant upon a mere physical tissue, known as the human brain, so unique in its nature in terms of complexity.

Today we know from similar cases that a brain injury in this particular region – the frontal lobe, almost always causes alteration to one’s mental identity, very similar to that of Gage’s. This extreme finding sheds critical light on the existence of a foreseeable connection between specific physical phenomena (i.e. frontal-lobe injury) and specific mental phenomena (i.e. alteration of mental identity in a certain pattern). If I would have been unlucky like Gage, subject to the same portion of ill fate, a frontal lobe physical injury – I too would have changed in a rather similar fashion; no longer would I be the same old Daniel Stein my friends and family used to know so well and cherish.

We may also learn on the dependency of psyche on brain from personal experience. Alcohol consumption, for instance, changes our normally expected behavior by revoking ordinary inhibitions of our mental identity, making us more self-confident or daring. Cocaine use, for those who are willing to try it, generates a subjective euphoric sense of happiness and increased sense of energy; caffeine stimulates our mental awareness; fluoxetine (Prozac®) may remove mental feelings of depression which are often associated with a distinct deficit of neurotransmitters, the chemicals by which nerve cells (neurons) communicate and relay messages to the brain. A critical, physical knock on the head might result in mental abnormality, as Gage’s physician had noted - an alteration of our mental identities; this is exactly why following a serious head injury or a trauma some people may be genuinely informed by their friends: “you are not the same…”. Our psyches are ill when our bodies are ill, and vice versa. And the saying goes: “A sound mind in a sound body”.

No other bodily state rather than the notorious Alzheimer’s disease (AD) better demonstrates the utter dependency of the mental on the physical. As the illness progresses, a rather specific pattern of brain damage occurs in patients - most often leading to a mental alteration of one’s psyche which too seems to follow a certain pattern. The physical impact of AD is characterized by certain anatomical changes, among which is the development of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.

Amyloid plaques are adhesive buildup which gathers outside the nerve cells in the brain. The protein fragment amyloid is normally found throughout the body. However, in AD patients – this protein starts to divide in an irregular manner, producing a substance called beta amyloid which is highly toxic to brain tissue. In a healthy brain, these protein fragments would be broken down and eliminated with relative ease. In AD patients, the fragments accumulate to form hard, insoluble plaques. As these plaques increase in quantity, nerve cells begin to die.
All neurons contain protein-made long fibers that act as scaffolds, holding the cell in a certain, proper shape. These fibers primarily consist of a special protein known as tau, which forms part of a structure called microtubule. The microtubule aids in the transportation of essential nutrients from one part of the nerve cell to another. In AD patients, the neurons’ fibers begin to twist, bringing about the second hallmark of this disease - neurofibrillary tangles. The brain cells gradually lose their shape, tau protein becomes abnormal and the microtubule structures collapse.

The overall physical impact of AD is shrinkage of brain tissue. The characteristic grooves of the brain, Sulci, noticeably broaden while Gyri, the well-developed folds of the outer layer shrivel. Cells in the hippocampus, an essential part of our limbic system, become one of the first targets in the brain to suffer attack. The hippocampus is known to play a major part in memory and navigation; this sheds light on the common decline of short-term memory capacity in patients. Moreover, the chambers containing cerebrospinal fluid (called ventricles) suffer from abnormal enlargement. As the disease spreads through the cerebral cortex (the outer layer of the brain), one’s sense of judgment, language capability, and overall ability to perform routine tasks gradually decline. Emotional outbursts are also quite common throughout the spreading of the disease. Further development of AD naturally leads to additional brain atrophy, the destruction of more and more nerve cells; this ordinarily leads to mental changes such as wandering and agitation. In its final stage, the ability of recognizing faces and performing communication becomes utterly lost.

The bottom line of this issue is staggering. A specific disease, bearing a specific impact on a small, physical tissue inside our heads – alters, in an exceedingly consequential manner, our mental worlds and identities. The general trend of this mental alteration is also rather specific, and often foreseeable by neuropsychologists. First, the vast majority of AD patients are a subject to distinct loss of intellectual capacity, significant personality changes and behavioral symptoms, including suspiciousness and delusions (for example, believing that their caregiver is an impostor); hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not really there); or compulsive, repetitive behaviors such as hand-wringing or tissue shredding. Increased apathy, social reclusion, erratic moods, paranoia, and other general personality changes often result from the onset of the disease. Moreover, it seems that during later stages of development, patients can’t even understand the changes going on within themselves. The U.S. Agency for Health Care Policy Research has created a special list of queries intended to indicate premature symptoms of AD, among which are: “Does a previously well-adjusted person disregard rules of social conduct?” -And, “Does the person seem more passive or less responsive than usual or more suspicious or irritable?”.

Last but not least point to consider is the information gained through the accumulation of numerous testimonies of family members. Most, so it would seem, manifestly admit their sadness for the plain loss of the person they once knew.

While the human brain may indeed be physical in every aspect, it is nonetheless exceptional - retaining a million billion synaptic connections; this makes it one of the most densely connected network systems among natural and fabricated systems found on earth. Neurons retain two exceptional characteristics in comparison to other cells; first, the method by which they are connected is unique: synapses and neurotransmitters. This kind of connection grants them an unparalleled ability to transfer information amidst themselves. The fact that neurons’ chief function is communication makes them unique and distinguishes them from all other cells.

Second, even if our genes may dictate and predetermine basic structure and organization of our brain – this organization may nonetheless vary significantly throughout our lives by external, environmental impact. Indeed, the infant’s young brain comes into this world equipped with innumerable potential patterns of specific organization; this is evident for the nigh-infinite number of combinations by which our neurons could have been connected. In practice, the way our nerve cells connect to form our unique cerebral organization is a function of the unique environment with which our brains interact. Again, I’ll remind that an impact on the physical brain brings about impact on the mental psyche; if brain structure and functionality are dependent upon the individual’s unique environment in addition to genetic imprints, so is the structure and functionality of the psyche.

All men are born into a unique family and society. In addition to nature’s primal contribution to the structure of our brains, the nurture we receive from the external environment seems to play a no less significant role in shaping and defining who we are. Our early socialization agents – our parents and close family, our friends, our teachers, our nationality, language and even socio-economical state seem to have a tremendous effect on the consolidation of our unique psyches. To illustrate this concern, I’d like to examine an interesting case of a phenomenon known as feral childhood. Feral children are juvenile who've grown up with minimal human contact or none at all in the more extreme cases; the case I’ve chosen to present here is the most radical of all in addition to being the most fascinating in my humble opinion.

In 1920, Rev. Joseph Singh, a missionary in charge of an orphanage in Northern India, heard of two "ghostly figures" seen accompanying a pack of wolves near Midnapore in the jungle of Bengal. The dwellers of the surrounding villages were immensely afraid of these figures, although ingenious tradition forbade them from causing any harm to the wolves. The news intrigued Singh to a great extent, prompting him to delve in and investigate further. The reverend then built his hideout in a tree top over-looking the lair of the wolf pack, and as the moon rose – he had finally witnessed in his own eyes the unbelievable, as he described the sight in his diary: "Hideous looking...hand, foot and body like a human being; but the head was a big ball of something covering the shoulders and the upper portion of the bust…Their eyes were bright and piercing, unlike human eyes…Both of them ran on all fours."

Singh returned several days later with a large hunting party in order to salvage the curious “ghosts”, so fascinating in their appearance. According to his journal, the mother-wolf came rushing out first, baring her fangs and blocking their advance; as nothing could subdue her, she had to be shot dead by the hunters’ arrows. Apparently, this mother-wolf had suckled and cared for the two figures for a considerable time. Only after the kill could the party break into the den to haul out the mysterious figures. The little ghosts turned out to be two girls, later named Kamala and Amala, aged around five and three accordingly. Their peculiar appearance came from the hunched four legged gait and their mass of tangled hair. Since no one in the local villages had came forward to claim the girls, Singh decided to take them under his custody – bringing them back to the orphanage.

Singh’s diary depicts the girls as having no trace of humanness in the way they thought and acted; as if they had a mind of a wolf. In order to survive, they had literally adapted themselves as best they could to wolfish culture. They tore off clothes put on them and insisted on consuming raw meat exclusively. They slept curled up together in a tight wall, similar to a wolfish fashion, growling and twitching in their slumber. They came awake only after the moon had risen, howling without cease to be let free in the wild again. The girls did not smile or exhibit any sort of interest in human company and affaires. They had spent all their lives on four, making their joints and tendons shorter to the point where it was quite impossible for them to straighten their legs and attempt an upright walk. Even their senses had become wolfish; Singh alleged their hearing was unbelievingly honed; their eyes were uncannily sharp during the night. Also, they could smell raw meat right across the orphanage's three acre yard.

The reverend put tremendous effort to rehabilitate the children, assuming that their wolf-habits had somehow obstructed the expression of their inner civilized selves. He embarked on a quest to wean them from their lupine distortion so that their hidden, inherent humanity may emerge. Unfortunately, Amala, the younger girl, had soon fallen ill and died. Kamala, on the other hand had survived to receive many years of socializing treatments. Singh had been only partially successful in altering Kamala’s outward behavior. He managed to get her to walk, although never smoothly; the girl would often revert to all fours, especially if a need for running had risen. When it came to the teaching of speech, however, the reverend had really struggled. After three whole years, the girl had mastered a small vocabulary composed of mere dozen words. Several years later, it has reached the peak of forty words. In comparison to a normal, human-raised baby, who may pick up to forty new words in a single week – Kamala’s rate of lingual learning is pitiable. It has also been reported that her grammar was stilted and her words only partly-formed.

According to the scholarly study of Dr. Arnold Gessel, at age sixteen – after nine years of being surrounded with human beings, the chronologically-adolescent still retained the mind of a three-and-a-half years old. In his renowned book, Wolf Child and Human Child, demonstrated Gessel with this remarkable story just how “mentally naked” humans are at birth and how much we are dependant on our external environment to shape us. He wrote:
”Kamala had basic ways of squatting, reclining, inspecting, sniffing, listening and of locomotion acquired in the wolf era of her developmental career. These motor-sets constituted the core of her action-system and affected the organization of her personality*…”7

*Refers to her non-physical characteristics, her unique mental identity.

According to his work, human culture acts on the psyche as "a large scale moulding matrix, a gigantic conditioning apparatus"; with its absence, as Kamala’s story so vividly approves, we are destined to remain at the level of lesser beasts. Animals.

The physical human brain, and therefore the mental human psyche – are a vast product of many circumstances, culture as well as heredity. Our mental worlds are being built throughout our lives; a normal, healthy human body and brain, under the wrong circumstances, would not produce a characteristic human psyche and mental identity. The distinguished power of the human psyche, particularly the capacity of abstract thinking and reasoning, is being acquired through speech and sophisticated symbolic capabilities; language. As Lamont had so finely put: “Men are born with brains; they acquire minds.”8

Another issue to consider is that of morality, a distinguished part of one’s mental identity; while many religionists would banally insist on the purity of the soul, entering the body with favorable ethics and pre-developed conscience – such is not the case in real life. We may also learn from Gage’s story that it is too a subject for change, provided damage to the physical brain had taken place.

The case of psychopathy amply demonstrates the dependence of morality on the brain; that is to say, moral or immoral behavior in practice is known to emerge from a certain brain functioning. But brain functioning is determined, as I have earlier suggested, by a couple of physical factors: nature (genes) and nurture (environment). The term psychopathy is used to characterize personality disorder defined by a cluster of interpersonal, affective and behavioral characteristics, including glibness, impulsivity, poor behavioral controls, and lack of empathy, guilt, and remorse.9,10 Some see psychopaths as individuals possessing a severely warped or deviate conscience. Only naturally, psychopathic individuals are known to commit a disproportionately large amount of violent crime relative to “healthy” individuals. Kiehl et al raised the hypothesis that “psychopathy may best be conceptualized as a disorder of the paralimbic system – a system which embraces parts of the temporal lobe and frontal lobe, including orbital frontal cortex.”11

Indeed, many studies demonstrate the emergence of psychopathy from abnormal functioning of the medial and anterior lateral-temporal lobes of our brain. These findings mostly come from behavioral studies of patients with temporal lobe epilepsy11,12. Evidence suggests that patients with such disease possess a high incidence of psychopathic-like behavior. Also, removal of the impaired anterior-temporal lobe of these patients seems to diminish hostility, increase warmth and empathy in social relationships and decrease inappropriate sexual behavior11, 12. Additional evidence that psychopathy is associated with medial and anterior lateral temporal lobe functioning comes from hemodynamic imaging studies of psychopathy11, 13-15. These studies suggest that during processing of certain types of linguistic and emotional stimuli certain brain regions (the anterior superior temporal gyrus, amygdala, and hippocampus) appear to be dysfunctional in psychopaths relative to non-psychopaths. These findings are consistent with Kiehl et al’s essential hypothesis that medial and anterior lateral temporal lobe structures play a prominent role in psychopathy.

The well-known Russian neuropsychologist, Alexander Luria, taught us that there aren't any specific "neuro-anatomical centers" for the psyche's various mental functions, rather they are a product of highly-intricate systems; their consisting parts are found throughout many cerebral regions. Under these circumstances, the neuropsychologist's mission is not to spot such "centers", but to shed light on the many physical components in the brain, which, through interaction among themselves - are capable of generating a specific mental function. Luria called this mission Dynamic Localization. In their magnificent work, The Brain and the Inner World, Solms and Turnbull beautifully demonstrate us how emotions, memory, dreams and even consciousness itself are dependent upon a network of many parts in our brain, each contributes in its own way to the dynamics of the whole system16. Until the 7th decade of the last century, the dominating outlook within the field of neuropsychology was that neural correlates of many mental functions, especially that of consciousness – are quite unfathomable or inexplicable. The major difference, as Solms and Turnbull assert – is that today we are equipped with much greater understanding of the actions contributed by the many physical parts which together give rise to a certain mental function. For instance, we know today that the hypothalamus isn’t just a mere constitutive physical part which contributes to a greater system that generates the mental function of emotions16. Thanks to more advanced technologies and methods of exploration in the field of dynamic localization – we learned things we could never have imagined years ago. Luria’s ingenious approach allows us to “disassemble” the various mental functions unto their constituent parts. After successfully identifying which parts in the brain stand for the basic physical constituents for a specific mental function – we also learn of the inner organization of this mental function; we learn, to a certain extent, how it is made. Indeed, this fascinating knowledge has been absent just until recent decades. Solms and Turnbull exemplify this point by presenting the latest progression in the theme of emotions – we may identify today not just which parts of the brain are ordinarily involved in our emotional life, but also the very neural components of emotions. Recent studies have also revealed how many basic emotions the brain permits and even the various chemical processes which characterize each and every emotion17.

It is important to note that correlation between the mental and the physical seems to us as though working both ways. So to speak, our psyches appear to affect our bodies as well; subjectively, we are aware that a particular mental state can easily modify the physical state of our bodies. For instance, thinking on our favorite food would, in most cases, lead to a certain and predictable physiological changes within our bodies; in this case, our brain would deliver signals to the nerves controlling the gastrointestinal tract. These electrochemical signals would put our digestive system on alert, making our mouth water (due to increased flow of saliva). Also, our stomach would contract in order to prepare itself for food reception; the pancreas, a glandular organ that releases insulin and enzymes essential to digestion, would begin to secrete chemicals that will break down the anticipated food.

Another demonstration of the reversed correlation is the subjective phenomenon known as free will. We know very well from personal experience whether or not we wish to perform a certain action. For instance, I may decide to lift my arm and act according to it – put it into practice. The actual process of my arm-lifting is entirely physical by nature, subject to the public domain of human perception. Indeed, it may be observed and examined by every man; and in spite of the fact that this arm belongs to me, I cannot potentially gain any more information than others regarding the physiological and anatomical processes that have came to pass within it. Elucidating the physical phenomenon is somewhat complicated, but my all means reasonable. Truly, any novice neurologist would educate us that the brain’s physical planning for any given movement is done mainly in the forward portion of the frontal lobe. This part of the cortex receives information regarding our body’s current position from several other parts. Only then it “decides” which set of muscles to contract in order to achieve the desired movement – in this case, the movement of my hand. The most fascinating insight in this concern, however, is the fact that the mental decision to raise my hand is always accompanied by a certain pattern of increased electrical activity in the frontal region of the cortex. This point, as we’ll soon witness, bears many consequences in regard to the psychophysical problem. At any rate, following the increment of electrical activity - the neurons in the frontal cortex send impulses down their axons* to activate the motor cortex itself. Utilizing the information supplied through the visual cortex - the motor cortex plans the ideal path for my hand to be lifted in the desired direction. The motor cortex then calls on other parts of the brain, such as the parietal lobe, which supplies information regarding the body's position in space; the temporal lobe for information regarding memories of past strategies; the central grey nuclei and the cerebellum, which help to initiate and co-ordinate the activation of the muscles in sequence. The cells’ axons of the primary motor cortex descend all the way into the spinal cord, where they implement the final relay of information to the motor neurons of the spinal cord18. These neurons are directly connected to the skeletal muscles, causing them to contract. Eventually, the contraction brings about the pulling of the bones of the arm and hand which turns out to be the desired physical movement. Moreover, in order to ensure that the movement of my hand would be fast, precise, and co-coordinated, the nervous system must constantly receive sensory information from the outside world and use this information to adjust and correct the hand's trajectory. The nervous system achieves these adjustments primarily through the cerebellum, which receives information about the positions in space of the joints and the body from the proprioceptors18.

*An axon is a long, slender projection of a nerve cell which conducts electrical impulses away from the neuron's body.

So far so good; the nature of the physical mechanisms behind this action is clear. But what is the nature of my personal will? –So to speak, my mental desire to lift my hand in a specific direction. Obviously I am aware that the practical action has been implemented on account of me having a subjective wish for it, not otherwise. This phenomenon, wish, naturally belongs to our inner, mental world – unique to each and every one of us; as far as we can tell, my subjective feeling of a wish does not exist in the public domain of human perception. Also, it cannot be traced at a certain point in space, nor does it retain certain physical characteristic (mass, volume, temperature etc’) and yet I feel as if it may perfectly affect the outer world around me and manipulate my body. This concern, the subjectively perceived ability to affect the physical world through mental phenomena, seems to be one of the greatest dilemmas under the general problem of body and psyche.

The Fall of Dualism

I’d like to begin this segment with the introduction of a couple of arguments, through which I’ll be later substantiating a modern approach to the psychophysical problem.

I. The outer, physical world consists of matter and energy exclusively and is subject to the laws of natural sciences: physics, chemistry, astronomy and biology. All phenomena within it may be reduced to metamorphoses of matter and energy.
II. As a result of I  non-physical phenomena may not impose any sort of impact upon the physical. A factor is fundamentally required to be within the bounds of the potentially knowable matter or energy in order to play a part in this world.

Arguments I & II together comprise the Causal Closure Principle, as Jaegwon Kim, a leading philosopher of mind, has so well defined: “No causal chain involving a physical event will ever cross the boundary of the physical into the nonphysical: If x is a physical event and y is a cause or effect of x, then y, too, must be a physical event.”19

One may disagree and unfalteringly insist that non-physical phenomena may play a factor in the physical world and affect it. However, if such is the case - the physical world, as we know and define it, turns out to be no longer physical! Obviously, the disagreer’s claim contradicts the causal closure principle while stripping the physical world from its title of being the public domain of human perception. In other words, if some esoteric non-physical world, limited to a private domain of perception may manipulate physical matter or energy, then by no means can the physical world retain its distinct characteristics, especially the quality of being potentially known for all. Regarding my former illustration, the mental wish – how could it possibly serve as factor in the physical world, in a particular physical process (e.g. the raising of my hand) which retains a complete explanation and thorough interpretation with physical and chemical categories? –My disagreer may assert that this wish, which is neither matter nor energy and by essence not placed at a certain point in space, may bring about processes in the physical world. Doing so, he virtually negates the nature of this world, as it is defined by our scientific understanding. I’ll remind that the very essence of this world is the fact that it is affected solely by physical-chemical factors.

You may have already noticed that something is highly wrong here. At this point, I’d like to add two more arguments to the above list:

III. The mental is essentially dependant upon the physical and may be influenced by it.

IV. The mental may causally affect the physical.

Indeed, it seems that a critical contradiction exists between arguments I & II on the one hand and argument IV on the other. If mental phenomena, which obviously lack physical characteristics, may affect and manipulate physical phenomena - argument I & II are necessarily false. This has led many physicalists (see ahead) to depict mental phenomena as nothing but an illusion, or as an epiphenomenon; according to this reasoning, IV is to be replaced by the argument that "the mental is subjectively perceived as if affecting the physical." Others insist that mental events are but a sophisticated, intricate form of the physical world; doing so, they maintain causal closure. But more on this later.

First, I’d like to focus on my disagreer’s claim, a psychophysical approach known as Dualism, or more precisely Interactive Dualism (ID). ID followers assert that active reciprocation undeniably exists between the two worlds, and that this fact may be comprehended directly, without philosophical or scientific analysis – in accordance to what they call common sense. To demonstrate this mutual cause-and-effect relationship, ID claims that every person “knows” that his subjective wish is capable of causing his arm to move (mental affects the physical), while a physical punch in the stomach, on the other hand, would without a doubt cause a mental, subjective feeling of pain.

The reason for the popularity of the dualistic approach among common men is its repulsion of the psychophysical problem away from scrutiny. Without delving, one would by no means grasp the true difficulty between the psyche and body relationship; the interaction between the physical and the mental is intuitive to us same as the flatness of the earth or one's supposed-death after cessation of heart-beat / breathing are. But then I ask, how could we have ever discovered the sphericality of the earth or the prospect of post-cardiac-arrest resuscitation without thorough observation and analysis? –The development of astronomy and physics sciences, combined with telescope and space-photography technologies has utterly changed our views on the former, while development in medicine, chemistry and biology sciences, combined with CPR and defibrillation technologies had turned our understanding and definition of death upside down.

According to mainstream dualism, the mental world consists of a unique kind of “substance”, essentially different from physical matter or energy as we know it. Ghost in the machine* is a common description of the relationship between the two worlds under this approach.

*Term originally coined by British philosopher Gilbert Ryle, in his book The Concept of Mind.

I believe ID’s essential flaws deserve further elaboration. It seems that ID uses the term cause in a meaning which is entirely alien to our contemporary understanding. ID asserts, on the one hand that a brain (physical) phenomenon may cause a mental one; on the other it asserts that a mental phenomenon may too cause a physical one. These couple assertions are problematic by essence, particularly the letter one; as I have already demonstrated – the term cause in its context expresses something which we never use while referring to causation of any other thing in reality, that is – outside of the psychophysical correlation. The concept of physical reality which we have gathered and developed throughout the last several centuries does not allow us to suppose a change in the material-energetic array by means of non-material-energetic causation; and thus the concept of a subjectively perceived mental phenomenon (non-material-energetic) that may affect and alter the material-energetic array is utterly inconsistent with our scientific understanding. Let us assume we are ghost in the machine; that is, an incorporeal “spirit” that controls and manipulates a material body as its link to the physical world. Two-way causal interaction is allowed. In order to maintain this interaction, however, a certain law of physics has to be obeyed. This would be Energy Conservation (EC), the first law of thermodynamics and possibly the most important among all natural sciences. The law states that the total inflow of energy into a system must equal the total outflow of energy from the system, in addition to the change in the energy contained within the system. In other words, energy can be converted from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed. In all physical processes, the total amount of energy in the universe remains constant.

Let us accept the dualist claim that the psyche consists of a different, unique substance, exempt from the “strict” laws of physics. The body, at least, consists of physical matter and energy, being in the public domain of human perception while all physical characteristic apply to it. Under these circumstances, the body is a subject to EC. In order for the mental world to cause a physical phenomenon (e.g. movement of the hand through a wish), obviously it has to expend some sort and level of energy to initiate neural firing in our brains that would command the hand to be physically lifted (as I have illustrated in the previous segment). Since all mental phenomena are exclusive to one, unobservable by outside viewers and undetectable by physical instruments – this creates the impression that neural processes are caused by an energy source that is imperceptible to us. The problem is that if we have something essentially nonphysical causing physical neurons to fire, then there is no physical event which causes the firing. That means that some physical energy seems to have appeared out of thin air. Notwithstanding this issue, how could it possibly be? -How could phenomena without any physical properties have any physical effects at all? –Magic seems to fit very well unto the description: "a supposed supernatural power that makes impossible things happen or gives somebody control over the forces of nature"20; "an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source".21

Another argument against Dualism stems from biological evolution. The Australian philosopher J.J.C. Smart raises the essential questions:

"How could a non-physical property or entity suddenly arise in the course of animal evolution? What sort of chemical process could lead to the springing into existence of something nonphysical? No enzyme can catalyze the production of a spook! Perhaps it will be said that the nonphysical comes into existence as a by-product: that whenever there is a certain complex physical structure, then, by an irreducible extraphysical law, there is also a nonphysical entity. Such laws would be quite outside normal scientific conceptions and quite inexplicable: they would be, in Herbert Feigl’s phrase, 'nomological danglers.' To say the very least, we can vastly simplify our cosmological outlook if we can defend a materialistic philosophy of mind." 22

Nicolai Hartmann, one of the dominant figures in modern German philosophy, asserted that the prima-facie fact of two-way causal interaction between the mental and the physical worlds is but a downright irrational metaphysical view. But what is the meaning of irrationality? –We call something rational provided it fits in accordance with other things we know and understand. By which manner these other things are known to us? –They too fit in accordance with other things! Indeed, one may claim that I have just provided a circular definition for the term rationality; nevertheless – this definition is highly significant. There is a whole world, whose many details and elements interlace with one another to form a particular, general image for us to grasp; every detail in this world is ordained for another detail; every detail in this world is explained by another detail. This is what we call an array of rational thinking. The psychophysical phenomena, under dualistic explication – is irrational down to its very roots. It is impossible to integrate a sequence of physical events from non-physical causality with the framework of the rational world we have created, encompassing numerous scientific facts and concepts. Our rational understanding suits the whole world, excluding the dualistic solution the psychophysical problem.

Over the rational course, opposite to Dualism stands Monism: a view that everything consists of one essential essence, substance or energy. Naturally, most common among this rival approach are various kinds of physicalism: a general view that identifies the monistic essential essence with the physical. No matter the extent to which various physicalist branches may differ, most accept the basic thesis of mind-brain utter dependence. The thesis states that for each type "M" of mental event that occurs to an organism "O", there exists a physical brain state, "P", such that "M" occurs to "O" at time "T" if and only if "P" occurs to "O" at "T". In simpler terms, each and every type of mental event which may occur to an organism retains a physical neural correlate that is both indispensable and adequate for its occurrence. Evidence for this thesis, as I have earlier noted, comes from neuropsychological breakthroughs which depict the brain's dynamics as the determinant of the mental world.
The gist of physicalism is that the ultimate physical properties and particles ground the remaining properties and objects in the universe. Or as some prefer - the facts about ultimate physical properties and particles ground all the other facts.

Many physicalistic branches embrace the view that every phenomenon in the world may be reduced down to its fundamental physical basis. Kim presents the general foundation for Reductive Physicalism (RP) in the following diagram23:

M causes M*
P causes P*

M stands for a single mental event (e.g. thought of food) which is seen as if causing another mental event, M* (e.g. desire for food). The mental event M is physically realized through the physical event P (e.g. specific brain state) which in turn causes P* (e.g. different brain state and a signal to the nerves controlling the gastrointestinal tract). P* then, is the physical realization of M*. Kim's essential argument against the existence of mental causation is that the "top layer", actually does no real work. P can cause P* all by itself, with no help from M, and there is no coherent way in which M can cause M* without P's help, or without causing P*. Thus, he concludes that physical causality is all there is. The mental may be reduced to the physical: “If the causal closure of the physical domain is to be respected, it seems prima facie that mental causation must be ruled out—unless mental events and properties are somehow brought into the physical domain. But if they are part of the physical domain, doesn’t that mean that they are physical properties and events? If so, that would be reductionism pure and simple. But this is a prospect that most philosophers, including many physicalists, find uncomfortable…”24

Uncomfortable for it raises critical questions regarding the existence of free-will and the ultimate significance of morality. These far-reaching issues, however, are beyond the scope of this essay.

Kim also mentions RP's advantage: “by reducing one theory to another, we reduce the number of independent assumptions about the world. … [Reduction] shows that fewer basic laws, and fewer basic expressions, fully suffice for the description and explanation of the phenomena of a given domain.”25

A different branch of physicalism common to many contemporary philosophers is Supervenience Physicalism (SP). SP asserts that every mental event supervenes on the physical. This concept has been neatly demonstrated by Dr. David Lewis:

”A dot-matrix picture has global properties -- it is symmetrical, it is cluttered, and whatnot -- and yet all there is to the picture is dots and non-dots at each point of the matrix. The global properties are nothing but patterns in the dots. They supervene: no two pictures could differ in their global properties without differing, somewhere, in whether there is or there isn't a dot “26

SP explains that physical features of the world are like the dots in the picture, while mental features are like the global properties of the picture. The global features of the picture are nothing but a pattern in the dots; the same applies to the mental features in our world: they are nothing but a sophisticated pattern in the physical features of the world. Similar to the fashion in which global features of the picture supervene on the dots, so does every seemingly non-physical features supervene on the physical. Kim notes the advantage of this approach, as it provides us with "a relationship that gives us determination, or dependence, without reduction, just what those who reject mind-body reductionism but wish to retain the dependence of the mental on the physical have been looking for”27

A different approach, trying to transcend the flaws of both Dualism and Physicalism is John Searle's noteworthy suggestion of Biological Naturalism (BN) to which I'd like to devote a few pages. Searle initially claims that it is impossible to perform an ontological reduction of our mental world to more fundamental neurobiological processes for the simple reason of it having "first person ontology" (i.e. private domain of perception) while the neurobiological causal basis of it retains a third-person ontology (i.e. public domain). Searle adds: "We do not know all the details of exactly how consciousness is caused by brain processes, but there is no doubt that it is in fact. The thesis that all of our conscious states, from feeling thirsty to experiencing mystical ecstasies are caused by brain processes is now established by an overwhelming amount of evidence. Indeed the currently most exciting research in the biological sciences is to try to figure out exactly how it works. What are the neuronal correlates of consciousness and how do they function to cause conscious states? The fact that brain processes cause consciousness does not imply that only brains can be conscious. The brain is a biological machine, and we might build an artificial machine that was conscious; just as the heart is a machine, and we have built artificial hearts. Because we do not know exactly how the brain does it we are not yet in a position to know how to do it artificially."28

Searle claims that the mental world does exist in a single space-time continuum just like every other physical object (specifically, in the brain). This claim he establishes by explaining that mental phenomena do not exist at the same level of individual neurons and synapses. The mental world is a higher-level biological feature of our brain system. For instance, he claims - thoughts about our grandmother are caused by neuron firings and they "exist in the brain as a feature of the system, at a higher level than that of individual neurons."28

BN then, also allows mental causality without violating the causal closure principle. A mental wish to raise our arms may cause them to be raised, because it is, in fact, physical by nature. Searle explains: "As with all physical systems, the brain admits of different levels of description, all of which are causally real levels of one and the same causal system. Thus we can describe my arm going up at the level of the conscious intention-in-action to raise my arm, and the corresponding bodily movement, or we can describe it at the level of neuron firings and synapses and the secretion of acetylcholene at the axon endplates of my motor neurons, just as we can describe the operation of the car engine at the level of piston cylinders and spark plugs firing, or we can describe it at the level of the oxidization of hydrocarbon molecules and the action of metal alloys. In both the case of the brain and the case of the car engine, these are not separate causal structures; it is a single causal structure described at different levels. Once you see that the same system can have different levels of description which are not competing or distinct, but rather different levels within a single unified causal system, the fact that the brain has different levels of description is no more mysterious than that any other physical system has different levels of description."28

Indeed, Searle uses the term naturalism for showing that mental worlds are a special part of the physical world "along with other biological phenomena such as photosynthesis, digestion or mitosis"28. He argues that a mental world does not require denial of its first-person ontology, as it "already is part of nature and it is part of nature as the subjective, qualitative biological part."28

Mental phenomena, then, are essentially caused by brain processes and, similar to any other higher-level feature of a physical system – are capable of causal functioning. Searle sees the traditional concept of the mental which strictly distinguishes it from the physical as a severe error. The nature of the mental, the fact that it is "subjectively qualitative, first-personal and intrinsically intentional – does not prevent it from being an ordinary part of the physical world with spatial locations and extensions and cause and effect relations, just like anything else."28 In practice, Searle challenges our traditional distinction between mental and physical.
He concludes: "I said that both dualism and materialism are trying to say something true but because of the philosophical tradition they end up saying something false. Which part is false and which true? Dualism says truly that consciousness is a real feature of the real world and is neither eliminable nor reducible to something else. But it says falsely that consciousness is not an ordinary part of the physical world we all live in, but it inhabits a separate metaphysical realm. Materialism says truly that the universe consists entirely of physical particles in fields of force (or whatever the ultimately true physical theory says are the basic building blocks of the universe) but it says falsely that consciousness as an irreducible, subjective, qualitative mental phenomenon does not exist. One way to see Biological Naturalism is as an attempt to preserve what is true in each while discarding what is false. In order to do that we have to overthrow a set of powerful philosophical presuppositions."28

So how does this tremendous concern relate to the prospect of personal survival or extinction? –As you may have already realized, dualism is the sole approach permitting the prospect of post-death direct survival. Hence, it is by no means surprising to find it at the heart of most earthly religions which seem to identify our mental, inner world with the concept of an immortal soul. Disregarding physics and modern arguments against dualism - religionists assume their inner, private worlds (and identities) to be made of a substance which transcends matter and energy; without this basic supposition, no post-death survival (all the more spiritual immortality) may occur. This is a fundamental prerequisite, an indelible axiom and the only way to escape personal-annihilation. For the dualist that embraces one of the many spiritual immortality creeds – long-distant future seems rather promising; when death occurs, nothing but the physical body dies, while the mental psyche survives, departs and may go on existing elsewhere. But then again, if monistic-physicalism is true, if the minimal utter dependence thesis persists – by no means post-death survival and continuity can occur. The physical brain undoubtedly dies, rots and eventually disintegrates and vanishes completely. If the mental world and identity, as I have earlier shown – are so fundamentally dependant upon the physical brain – how could they possibly survive (all the more improve under some religious claims) by acquiring more damage and destruction in the event of somatic death?

Prof. Michael Tooley has neatly summed up the case for the psyche's utter dependence on the physical:29

"-When an individual's brain is directly stimulated and put into a certain physical state, this causes the person to have a corresponding [mental] experience.

-Certain injuries to the brain make it impossible for a person to have any mental states at all (e.g. brain death).

-Other injuries to the brain destroy various mental capacities. Which capacity is destroyed is tied directly to the particular region of the brain that was damaged.

-When we examine the mental capacities of animals, they become more complex as their brains become more complex.

-Within any given species, the development of mental capacities is correlated with the development of neurons in the brain.

Regarding any post-death survival hypothesis, I believe that the burden of proof falls on the believer. That's because during our every-day lives we perceive the existence of the psyche solely in association with a physical, living human body. And as the saying goes: "spectacular claims require spectacular evidence".

Finally, it is important to note that some religionists reluctantly accept the arguments for utter dependence, only to insist on the existence of a certain, impersonal* "life force" to whom they bestow death transcendence capabilities. To this hypothesis, G.W Leibniz, a noted German philosopher of the 17th century, had indirectly addressed:

”What good, sir, would it do you to become king of China, on condition that you forgot what you have been? Would it not be the same as if God, at the moment he destroyed you, were to create a [new] king in China?”3

Incidentally, this impersonal-survival hypothesis reminds me of an old anecdote regarding the exchange between Napoleon and P.S Laplace, the renowned astronomer and mathematician. Laplace had handed his sovereign a copy of his great work, the Mecanique Celeste. Napoleon looked it over, and observed that in this immense volume about the universe there was not a single mention of its creator, God. "Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse", replied the scientist, "I had no need of that hypothesis".

*Obviously, acknowledgement of utter dependence means acknowledgement of the complete dissolution of the personal mental world and identity following the brain's destruction.


1 - Leibowitz, Jessaiahu. The Psychophysical Problem. Israel: Ministry of Defence Publication, 1982. p 14

2 - Leibowitz, Jessaiahu. The Psychophysical Problem. Israel: Ministry of Defence Publication, 1982. p 16

3 - Lamont, Corliss. The Illusion of Immortality. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1990. P. 26.

4 - Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, translated by Cyril Bailey, Oxford University Press, 1926, Bk. III, lines 880 ff.

5 - (Damasio et al, 1994).

6 - Harlow, J.M. (1848). Passage of an iron rod through the head, Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 39, 389-393. Republished in J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci., 11, 281-283.

7 - Gesell, Arnold. Wolf Child and Human Child. Harpers, 1941. p. 38-39.

8 - Lamont, Corliss. The Illusion of Immortality. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1990.

9 - Hare, R. D. Manual for the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (Multi-Health Systems, Toronto, 1991).

10 - Hare, R. D. Without conscience: The disturbing world of the psychopaths among us (Pocket Books, New York, 1993).

11 - Kent A. Kiehl et al. "Brain potentials implicate temporal lobe abnormalities in criminal psychopaths"
URL: http://www.nrc-iol.o...l_nn_021104.pdf

12 - Hill, D., Pond, D. A., Mitchell, W. & Falconer, M. A. Personality changes following
temporal lobectomy for epilepsy. Journal of Mental Science 103, 18-27 (1957).

13 - Kiehl, K. A. et al. Temporal lobe abnormalities in semantic processing by criminal psychopaths as revealed by functional magnetic resonance imaging. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging (in press).

14 - Kiehl, K. A. et al. Limbic abnormalities in affective processing by criminal psychopaths
as revealed by functional magnetic resonance imaging. Biological Psychiatry 50, 677-684 (2001).

15 - Veit, R. et al. Brain circuits involved in emotional learning in antisocial behavior and social phobia in humans. Neuroscience Letters 328, 233-6 (2002).

16 - Turnbull, Oliver; Solms, Mark. The Brain and the Inner World. Israel: Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House, 2005. P. 57.

17 - Turnbull, Oliver; Solms, Mark. The Brain and the Inner World. Israel: Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House, 2005. P. 58.

18 - The Brain from Top to Bottom!. "THE ACTIVATION SEQUENCE FOR THE MOTOR AREAS."

URL: http://www.thebrain...._06_cr_mou.html

19 - Kim, Jaegwon. Philosophy of Mind (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998) p. 147.

20 - Encarta Encyclopedia.

21 - Merriam-Webster

22 - J.J.C. Smart, "Materialism," Journal of Philosophy, 22 (October 1963), p. 660.

23 - Kim, Jaegwon (1993). Supervenience and Mind. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. p. 351-2

24 - Kim, Jaegwon. Philosophy of Mind (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998) (p. 148).

25 - Kim, Jaegwon. Philosophy of Mind (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998)(p. 215).

26 - Lewis, D., 1986, On the Plurality of Worlds, Oxford: Blackwell. p. 14

27 - Kim, Jaegwon. Philosophy of Mind (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998)(p. 223).

28 - Searle, John. Biological Naturalism. 4 October 2004.P.
URL: http://ist-socrates....ralismOct04.doc

29 - Michael Tooley, "Opening Statement" in William Lane Craig and Michael Tooley debate, "Does God Exist?" (URL:http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/craig-tooley2.html, 1994).

#3 Clifford Greenblatt

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 09:21 AM

So how does this tremendous concern relate to the prospect of personal survival or extinction? –As you may have already realized, dualism is the sole approach permitting the prospect of post-death direct survival. Hence, it is by no means surprising to find it at the heart of most earthly religions which seem to identify our mental, inner world with the concept of an immortal soul. Disregarding physics and modern arguments against dualism - religionists assume their inner, private worlds (and identities) to be made of a substance which transcends matter and energy; without this basic supposition, no post-death survival (all the more spiritual immortality) may occur. This is a fundamental prerequisite, an indelible axiom and the only way to escape personal-annihilation. For the dualist that embraces one of the many spiritual immortality creeds – long-distant future seems rather promising; when death occurs, nothing but the physical body dies, while the mental psyche survives, departs and may go on existing elsewhere. But then again, if monistic-physicalism is true, if the minimal utter dependence thesis persists – by no means post-death survival and continuity can occur.

Are immortalists contemplating an infinite future or an eventual point of oblivion for everyone, themselves included? If immortalsits have an infinite future with which to work, is this not sufficient time to figure out how to create the essentials of every possible mind that could have ever existed or will exist? Dualism would require supernatural means to restore the dead. Biological naturalism would require only natural means to do this.

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#4 bgwowk

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 05:03 PM

Clifford is right. Dualism is not a requirement for survival of death (as currently defined). Tipler, Perry and others have explained this at length.


#5 Trias

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 06:26 PM

Clifford is right.  Dualism is not a requirement for survival of death (as currently defined).  Tipler, Perry and others have explained this at length.


Hey Brian,
I did not quite understand Clifford's message - -

At any rate, were you referring to the ressurection creed ?

Notice my selection of words:
"As you may have already realized, dualism is the sole approach permitting the prospect of post-death direct survival"

Note the emphasis on the term direct; I intentionally put it so I can refrain from delving further into the ressurection concern (I've written about it plenty in other essays). Of course, the belief in "temporary extinction" and later ressurection does seem coherent for post-death survival (non-direct) without entailing dualism; nevertheless, this concern seemed beyond the scope of my essay...

#6 Clifford Greenblatt

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Posted 22 October 2005 - 10:46 AM

Some older forms of dualism may have regarded all functions of the mind to be spiritual and not physical. However, I think that most modern forms of dualism recognise brain function as physical and view the spiritual nature of the mind as being associated with that which David Chalmers calls the explanatory gap between function and experience. As far as I know, David Chalmers believes that a natural explanation can eventually be found for this gap despite the formidable challenges to the present state of scientific knowledge. However, I am confident that Benjamin Carson, MD would regard this gap as having a supernatural explanation as he believes in the biblical resurrection. With this new sort of dualism, ultimate survival may be far more indirect than it would be in biological naturalism. In biological naturalism, the indirect survival of a person could preserve many characteristics that would be stripped away in the ultimate supernatural resurrection. For example, a resurrected saint would lose all mental capacity for sinful desires. Also, nearly all detailed memories of the past would be irrelevant to a resurrected saint. The saint’s mental functions and ‘personality’ would be radically different from what they were in the physical world. There may be little more left other than a basic spiritual core which becomes clothed in an otherwise totally new mind.

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