The Embryo in us – A phenomenological Search for Soul and Consciousness in the prenatal Body. Published in: Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, Volume 27, Issue 3, April 2013.
Lost Body In the last two decades we have seen a new onslaught of materialistic thinking in biology, psychology and philosophy. Truly, it could be described as a tsunami. Based upon concepts about the function of our brain according to modern neurophysiology, a new perspective about the human soul and consciousness is introduced and apparently accepted by the general public. To summarize the gospel of modern brain philosophers: the brain rules the mind. All that we feel, think, do – well, it’s just the “brain.” Everything that we are able to experience is attributed to the brain and reduced to ‘nothing but’ the activity of hippocampi, cerebral cortical areas and so on. The post-Cartesian soul which still was more or less defensible as the imponderable res cogitans dimension in our mind has been abandoned. Neurophilosophers claim that Cartesian dualism of body and mind is overruled by the evidence of the brain as the definitive physical substrate for our consciousness, our speech and our mind. Implicitly, however, and without any modesty, a false new dualism is introduced in the form of a body–brain split. The brain is a ‘special’ organ in the body and there our consciousness occurs and is performed by neuromachinery. The Dutch neuroscientist Swaab proclaims that the body only serves three purposes: to feed, to move and to reproduce our brains. “We are our brains” is the message. It leaves us with a very private and subjectivist view of reality, because you have to consider that everything you feel or experience as a ‘non-body’ or imponderable reality in your head or in your body (like the pain in your toe) is merely an “illusion produced by the brain.”
Lost soul What is the defense against this pure reductionistic materialism? It is: become a phenomenologist! Don’t just conform to the view of the scientific onlooker (observer) but take the primary stance that life offers to all of us: be a participant. As a participator, take for true your own sense experience and what you experience in, and by means of, your body. This is the primary reality. The “world of senses” is reality before the Cartesian split of mind and body. A phenomenological approach not only takes as true what your experience is telling you, it also includes the virtual and secondary reality of the “brain facts.” Modern neurophilosophers make the philosophical and methodological mistake of assuming that primary reality is only the reality that we observe through our instruments. But this is not so. Reality is not just that which we can observe through physical onlooker-instruments, but it is reality as we experience it. Consciousness and soul are also experienced realities. Although imponderable and therefore, not measurable, they are yet evident for everyone. It is a strange form of modern asceticism in science to deny the real world that we all experience! In fact, the statement that “I am my brain” is not a fact – it is a choice. More precisely, it is a paradigm choice: that is, a choice that scientists and philosophers make about how they will see the world. Modern “brain thinkers” nearly always confuse the means with the message: because we must have the means –that is, the vehicle, for thinking and experience in the form of the brain – that signifies to them we are only experiencing our own brain. . !
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