The case for an intangible mind or soul


In my previous post, I questioned the existence of the “heart” in the context of Christianity. I’m not talking about the blood-pumping organ here but rather something that is more like the central desiring and imagining aspect of a human. I questioned the existence of the “heart” by excerpting a newspaper article about the experiences of a man who suffered permanent brain damage following the removal of a tumor. The details of the man’s life, before and after surgery, seemed to leave little space for the “heart” to operate without a brain (or little space for a “heart” to exist without specific brain circuits). However, I also included a link to Alvin Plantinga’s review of Thomas Nagel’s new book, which critiques “materialistic naturalism” from an atheistic perspective.

I didn’t intend to slam the door too strongly on the possibility of an intangible element of humans, only to question to quick-and-easy assumptions of Christianspeak, which is shot through, for good or ill, with the language of Platonism and Cartesian dualism.

If there’s an easily understandable counterpoint to materialistic naturalism, it appeared yesterday on the Huffington Post site, written by Kelly Bulkeley, who has a PhD in psychology and is tagged as a “psychologist of religion” and a “dream researcher.”

Bulkeley focuses part of his post on the book A Portrait of the Brain by Adam Zeman, professor of cognitive and behavioral neurology. The otherwise excellent book, in Bulkeley’s opinion, falls apart in the final chapter, when Zeman opts against mind in favor of brain. Bulkeley writes,

In the preceding paragraphs, Zeman acknowledges that philosophers like Thomas Nagel, Colin McGinn and David Chalmers have raised devastating critical questions about physicalism that he cannot refute.  Yet he decides to accept physicalism anyway, based on what he calls a “hunch,” a strong “intuition,” and something he “suspect(s)” about the crypto-religious beliefs of those who do not accept physicalism. 

Bulkeley makes some interesting points. Read his entire article here.

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