Thursday, May 26, 2011

Brain And Soul

I'm reading a new book, Think Smart: A Neuroscientist's Prescription For Improving Your Brains Performance. I think the book is a little bit silly. The author is attempting to write about science in the most accessible ways, presenting things in very dumbed down terms.

So far he has been discussing a lot of things about diet, about exercise, about the brain in general. I am finding the book valuable primarily as a way of cultivating my eating habits, my exercise habits, etc.. I am working hard at steering myself in a better direction, a healthier direction. And most importantly, I am trying to make this something that is habitual.

Habit has become such an important issue for me philosophically. I therefore need to try and reckon with my own habits at the most basic and practical levels. I went running this morning. I'm trying to eat better. I'm trying to be honest. I want to be a good person. And I need to realize that these things are realized at the level of habits. I need to create new routines for myself. I hope this book can do this for me. Even if I do find his writing style to be silly and overly popular.

But one interesting thing has occurred to me: The fact that I find the book to be persuasive because it approaches these issues from the standpoint of the brain. Being a neuropsychiatrist, the author is inclined to talk about the brain as the crux of personal and emotional problems.

Why is it that the brain is such a powerful way of approaching things? Because I live in a time in which science is the master of knowledge, and because the brain has been scientifically identified as the seat of the mind.

But what of the soul? People used to speak in terms of the soul. Knowledge used to appeal to the soul. I said to a friend tonight that I found it much more appealing to speak of experience in terms of the brain as opposed to the idea of the soul. But the notion of the soul has lost its weight. I exist in an age in which we associate our experiences with the brain. People say things like 'oh my brain is going crazy' or 'I don't know what my brain was thinking'. We casually speak of the brain as the cause of our experiences and feelings.

It reminds me of Foucault. It reminds me of the way that we privilege certain types of knowledge over others, and how we regard science as the most legitimate form of knowledge.

It reminds me of Collingwood and the issue of philosophy as the purest form of knowledge. It reminds me of Collingwood on the purposeful creation of habits.

I expect that I'm going to explode soon. Intellectually. With words. Serious structured writing is on the horizon. But right now I'm still just a spazz. An emotional, brain bound, conceptually limited, desperately habit seeking spazz.

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