Beware: Reductionist Approaches to Understanding the Soul Can Undermine Human Existence and Cause Suffering
“What if we consider your soul as the sum total of your neurocognitive essence, your very specific brain signature, the unique neuronal connections, synapses, and flow of neurotransmitters that make you you?” [Marcelo Gleiser for NPR]
I’ll be honest, to me it is so painfully human and reductionist to try to pin down the concept of a soul and apply it to something more concrete. The mechanisms behind neurocognition are all directly observable, and understandable to humans. We know that brain processes happen as a result of action potentials that occur in the context of neurons, and neurotransmitters. We know that our brains are made up of the same core components but that they are all different. These differences are the result of our genetics, and our individual experiences. So, this perspective is reductionist-yet- it is safe. Because we can grasp the concepts associated.
And, I get it. I understand why we need to continue to have these conversations. Because, it is human nature to want to know more about human nature. And as alluded to in the aforementioned article, we are constantly striving toward advancements in technology and motivated to achieve immortality.
We have all of these unanswered questions swirling around in our heads. Floating around in abstract space as we go about our very concrete lives. In certain moments, we may tap into this space. And explore, postulate, question. Most of the time, either out of necessity to cater to our concrete lives, or out of fear we exit this space. Without having any answers. Sometimes, there are brave souls who formulate theories in an attempt to explain what has up until that point been unexplainable.