Oct 1, 2003

I feel, therefore I am

post by James Hall

Subject: I feel, therefore I am (James Hall)
Neuroscience is finding evidence that the Cartesian mind/body dualism, which is so central to rationalism, is incorrect:
"In the middle of the 17th century, Spinoza took on Descartes and lost.
"According to Descartes' famous dualist theory, human beings were composed of physical bodies and immaterial minds. Spinoza disagreed. In 'The Ethics,' his masterwork, published after his death in 1677, he argued that body and mind are not two separate entities but one continuous substance.
"As for Descartes' view of the mind as a reasoning machine, Spinoza thought that was dead wrong. Reason, he insisted, is shot through with emotion. More radical still, he claimed that thoughts and feelings are not primarily reactions to external events but first and foremost about the body. In fact, he suggested, the mind exists purely for the body's sake, to ensure its survival.
"For his beliefs, Spinoza was vilified and - for extended periods - ignored. Descartes, on the other hand, was immortalized as a visionary. His rationalist doctrine shaped the course of modern philosophy and became part of the cultural bedrock.
"But it seems history may have sided with the wrong man. For more than a decade, neuroscientists armed with brain scans have been chipping away at the Cartesian facade. Gone is Descartes' lofty Cogito, reasoning in pristine detachment from the physical world. Fading fast are its sophisticated modern incarnations, including the once-popular 'computational model,' according to which the mind is like a software program and the brain like a hard drive."