What Jim has learned today
I learned the ancient Greeks believed, as did the Chinese, that the self, the soul, resided in the liver. This seems strange to me. I mean, why the liver? I’m not usually aware of my liver. I have never felt the existence of my liver inside my body, just as I have never felt the existence of my appendix. Now, I suppose if my liver were to turn up missing … I would certainly notice that. But I wonder, what would make the 7th century BC person even consider such a thing … how was it the liver popped up on his radar as the home of the self? Why not the tongue? A thing everyone would be aware of … a thing an ancient human could grab hold of. Centuries later, we came to believe the self, the soul, resided in the heart. This at least makes some practical sense. I’m aware of my heart. I can feel my heart inside of my body … especially after 30 minutes at the gym. The emotions I feel seem to surround my heart. I have experienced a broken heart, a joyful heart and a bleeding heart, even a calloused heart. So, of course, my self, my soul, must reside in my heart … case closed … that is until I realize my heart is a mere muscle much like a bi-cep. People who have mechanical hearts installed have been studied and we know they still experience all the emotions and memories they did when they had a real heart. They have the same values and are the same person, before and after the replacement of the organic heart with a machine. They have not become surgically soulless. So, where am I? Neuroscientists tell us we are in our brains. But they debate whether we are simply in our brains or of our brains, or someplace in between. The of our brain camp tends to see the self, the soul as the aggregate memories and values encoded in trillions of synapses, electrical pulses and chemical reactions. This view leads to some problems, like, “Yes your Honor, I know I was captured on video and was found stained blue by an exploding ink cartridge hidden in the money, but I didn’t rob that bank … aggregate memories and values encoded in trillions of synapses, electrical pulses and chemical reactions did. I’m innocent.” Many neuroscientists have a problem with the in our brain view … because it invokes the idea of an independent self … a soul, a thing considered to be supernatural. But if one thinks about this, one realizes, if this is true, that we our something more than the parts of our body, there is nothing supernatural about it, but rather, if true, it is a thing perfectly natural. We just don’t understand it. This is all I learned today.
James Wares is retired and resides in Marshalltown. He can be reached at email@example.com