Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Do I exist?

Well, if I don't, there isn't much to talk about is there. So, yes. I exist. As for the logic, I am going along with Rene Descartes concusion in his Meditations on First Philosophy. After much thought about existance, he concludes:

I am, however, a real thing, and really existent; but what thing? The answer was, a thinking thing.

But what is a thinking thing? It is a thing that doubts, understands, conceives, affirms, denies, wills, refuses; that imagines also, and perceives.

This thinking thing that Descartes describes is called a Soul by the English speaking world. It is a semi-imortal or immortal mind that exists separate from the physical body but it interacts with the physical body. Having a Soul is essential to the concept of the afterlife.

Rene Descartes was a Dualist. And I am right there with him. Although there are many, many, many, philosophical arguments agaisnt Duailsm, I think the arguments for it can withstand the onslaught.


Rusty said...

I would like to suggest for your further investigation these books by Damasio. He is one of a new breed of scientist that are delving into philosophy. He adds to all the thoughts that philosophers have bandied about for mellenia, the results of the story of the brain - what does what, what disappears when a specific part of the brain is damaged. It looks to me from reading him and others that if certain parts of the brain are damaged, that which seems to be the "soul" goes as well. Much has been learned since Descartes wrote his philosophy. Kathy
António Damásioarch

António Damasio, GOSE, pron. IPA: [ɐ̃'tɔniu dɐ'maziu], (IPA: [ɐ̃'tɔniu dɐ'maziu]) (b. 1944, Lisbon, Portugal) is a behavioral neurologist and neuroscientist. He is David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Southern California, where he heads USC's Brain & Creativity Institute (BCI). Prior to taking up his posts at USC, in 2005, Damasio was M.W. Van Allen Professor and Head of Neurology at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa, United States. His career at Iowa lasted from 1976-2005. Besides being a well-known researcher in several areas of the neurology, he is a best-selling author of books which describe his scientific thinking.

* 1 Life and work
* 2 Bibliography
* 3 See also
* 4 External links

[edit] Life and work

Damasio studied medicine at the University of Lisbon Medical School in Portugal, where he also did his medical residency rotation and completed his doctorate. Later, he moved to the United States as a research fellow at the Aphasia Research Center in Boston. His work there on behavioral neurology was done under the supervision of Norman Geschwind.

As a researcher, Dr. Damasio's main interest is the neurobiology of the mind, especially neural systems which subserve memory, language, emotion, and decision-making. His research has helped to elucidate the neural basis for the emotions and has shown that emotions play a central role in social cognition and decision-making.

As a clinician, he and his collaborators study and treat the disorders of behavior and cognition, and movement disorders.

Damasio's books deal with the relationship between emotions and feelings, and what are their bases in the brain. His 1994 book, "Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain," was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and is translated in over 30 languages. His second book, "The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness," was named as one of the ten best books of 2001 by New York Times Book Review, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, a Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and has thirty foreign editions. Damasio's most recent book, "Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain," was published in 2003. In it, Damasio explores philosophy and its relations to neurobiology, suggesting that it might provide guidelines for human ethics.

He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine, and the European Academy of Arts and Sciences. Damasio has received many awards including the Prince of Asturias Award in Science and Technology, Kappers Neuroscience Medal, the Beaumont Medal from the American Medical Association and the Reenpaa Prize in Neuroscience. He is also in the editorial board of many important journals in the field.

His current work involves the social emotions, decision neuroscience and creativity.

Prof. Damasio is married to Dr. Hanna Damasio, his colleague and co-author of several works.

[edit] Bibliography

* Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, Penguin Books, 1994 - 2005, ISBN 0-380-72647-5
* The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, Harcourt, 1999, ISBN 0-15-100569-6/ Harvest Books, 2000 ISBN 0-15-601075-5
* Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain, Harcourt, 2003, ISBN 0-15-100557-5

Emeriol said...

Damasio is a hack. In desperation to sell a flawed theory, he resorts to the well known trick of trashing someone well respected. Although I have been only able to read reviews of his text, Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, it appears that he is relying on a slogan ("I am, therefore I am.") to sell his work as opposed to making logical arguments.

It is even more interesting that Damasio studies Phineas Gage, whom after experiencing brain damage is unable to reason. I'm sure if Descartes were around, he might even agree, as Descartes believed that the soul interacted with the body via a gland in the brain. So if you do enough damage to the brain, it has difficulty communicating with the soul/mind.

My first argument against Damasio would to say that the soul has an imperfect connection with the brain/body. If you do enough damage to the brain, the soul simply leaves. I.E. you have a stroke and deprive the brain of oxygen for long enough, the soul leaves and your body dies.

Damasio would be more convincing if he were the one whose brain was damaged or had portions removed, and then wrote a book saying that he could not reason or had no emotion. It might simply be that if particular portion of the brain is removed, that the soul/mind is still thinking just fine, but is unable to make the body execute the necessary actions - whether verbal or physical.

Rusty said...

Oh my, I wish you would read Damasio rather than reviews perhaps starting with his last book "Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain" - his is in fact a very thoughtful man and I suspect a fine Dr. (he is certainly a successful Dr who does not need to sell books) He appears to cares for his patients quite strongly. If I needed brain surgery I would choose him if I could. I'm afraid my brief summary and whatever book review you read did not do justice to Dr. Damisio.

Phineas Gage could not have been directly studied by Damasio as Gage died in 1860 - Antonio's wife apparently however studied his skull to determine where exactly the damage was. It hasn't been asserted anywhere that I know of that Gage was unable to reason after his injury but rather that he had personality changes. Damiso and other neurosurgeons look at what happens in any part of the brain when it is damaged to learn more about what the brain does. Since one cannot experiment on human brains, the best they can do is study what happens when someone is injured, along with trying to help them regain as much function as possible.

Question, where is the soul in brain dead people whose body is kept alive?

Question, does a baby born without a brain have a soul (they die at birth or shortly before).

Actually I don't think Descartes is anywhere near as well respected as you think he is. But it is the order of the day for Philosophers to attack one another's theories rather rigorously.

Descartes organ where the soul and mind connected was the pineal gland. He was wrong about its function - learn more at

The pineal gland is large in children, but shrinks at puberty. It appears to play a major role in sexual development, hibernation in animals, metabolism, and seasonal breeding.

Since animals have pineal glands why didn't Descartes think they had souls?

Emeriol said...

On Damasio: LOL… did you want to wait several months before getting a reply back about Damasio? I’m sure he is good – his resume is packed with credentials. I did the best I could with what little wikipedia had.

On Descartes: He is counted as one of the greatest philosophers of the enlightenment! Enough so that many other philosopher made their name by “disproving” his philosophy! Even Damasio thinks that… he feels strongly enough about Descartes that he will put his name on the front of his book and spend time showing how Descartes was wrong.

Rusty said...

I don't have Descartes Error - I have his other two books. Just ordered it from Amazon.

There may be a soul - I can't prove the negative. But science keeps explaining what religion and philosophy thought were unexplainable. I know you are glad that seizures are now explained as things that happen in the brain, not as possession by evil spirits. I am glad for those who are beginning to explain how our brain creates a sense of self.

What are your ideas about what the physical brain does and what the immaterial soul does.

Also, when do you think a soul enters a human? If it is when egg a sperm unite it creates a problem if that egg and sperm create identical twins.