January 6, 2014

The Ownership And Immortality Of The Self

The following recently-published articles display some of our current misconceptions, fantasies, and worries about the brain, mind, and self. Such essays by learned experts help define who we are, how we treat others, and what our future might be. They therefore merit our attention and their arguments should not be accepted based on an implied argument from authority. What are they trying to tell us about these important matters and why?

“Possessive Individualism:  Can We Really Own Ourselves?” by John M├ędaille, The Imaginative Conservative, December 2013

 “The Closing of the Scientific Mind” by David Gelernter, Commentary, January 1, 2014

Notice that all three articles are not published in professional, peer-reviewed scientific or philosophical journals, rather in periodicals intended for widespread public consumption.  What they write in science and philosophy journals has less impact because the circle of readership is smaller.  Therefore, all of us should be concerned about the impact of their ideas on the global public through articles such as those above.  Why?  Because how we as everyday people treat ourselves and others is largely influenced by such public-targeted articles and books.  If our concepts of our selves and the selves of others are given inaccurate meanings, touted as something that scientists want to prove are of lesser significance compared to the functioning of our genes and brains, or when our selves are wistfully portrayed as virtual commodities that might one day live forever embedded in computers, our lives and treatment of each other may easily become adversely affected.  The facts and argumentation in all such for-public-consumption writings should be treated with skepticism and subjected to scrutiny.