The reality of us – one system or two? The mind/body conundrum

Our minds are individual to us. These minds some how seem to create a consciousness or awareness of ourselves. They are what separates us from those around us. They are  a vital part of who we are as people. It is what makes us human. The interesting, and age old, questions seem to be; Is this mind just a biological function of the physical brain? Part of who we are as Homo Sapiens ? Are mind and body just one system? Or is the mind /consciousness part of us an add on to the physical body? Can our thinking and aware mind be seen to be something separate from our animal brain?

What does the physical brain do?

The human brain acts like a mega computer. It co-ordinates and runs our body systems and allows us to walk and talk and communicate and interact with the all around us. It takes in messages from our sense organs and interprets them to enable us function and survive in the world. Most importantly it is where our thoughts are generated. These thoughts are an integral part of our consciousness.

Thoughts are actually basically  just bio-chemical energy, which is generated with this physical brain. Could that be the whole story?  Or could there be something else going on here? Where else could this special consciousness come from?

Where do we get our physical  brains from?

The obvious answer is that we are born with them. It is part of our genetic inheritance. At the moment of conception we take half of our genes from both sets of parents. These combine to make us us. The physical make up of our brain is genetically determined. As humans, the consciousness seems to follow.


Is everything with a brain conscious?

To fully understand whether it is one system or two , we have to look at those creatures that have brains but little or no (as far as we know) consciousness. Animal’s brains keep the body functioning and allow them to communicate with the outside world and each other. They can be shown to have emotions, at least the higher animals (fear, rage etc). They operate according to strong,  animal instincts. But do they actually think as we know it? The answer is almost certainly not. They live in the present and do not worry about the future. They do not lay awake at night worrying about the nature of reality!!They exist, they operate, they are. They probably understand more and see more than we give them credit for. They do not how however indulge in the abstract thinking that we are capable of. Our abstract and higher thinking also seems to enable us to over-ride our genetically based instincts. It enables us to move beyond the basic animal in us. It enables us to be finer beings, it also enables us to make mistakes.

One system or two?

Does this higher level thinking and consciousness come only from our animal brains? Is it  just part of our biology, the result of natural evolutionary forces? Or is something coming in from elsewhere? Is the mind and body one system or two? This is the question that has puzzled philosophers and scientists for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Balance of probability

There are strong arguments on both sides. I feel that it does come down in the end to the nature of reality. If you believe that we are just advanced animals, the peak of the evolutionary tree, then the human mind can only be a function of the human physical brain. If you believe that it is two systems then it is a different matter. If you believe that along side the animal mind is a consciousness that comes in from elsewhere, then a whole different range of possibilities for reality are opened up.  Reality may not just be the world we see around us.

How can we tell? We can only be sure if we look at the evidence. Can part of the human mind ever be shown  to be separated from the physical brain? Some people think so. Evidence can be found if you look for it, including  in the, so called, Near Death and Out of Body Experiences. If consciousness  can be shown to be separate from the physical brain, then it opens up possibilities for the continuation of life after physical death, with all the implications for the true nature of reality that that that brings. It even opens up the possibility for the existence of the human soul.

Aspects of reality

In the end I feel it comes down to how you view the big picture of reality. If consciousness, our very essence, can leave our physical bodies after death, then many possibilities become more likely. By this I mean the existence of the soul, life after death, and even multiple lives. If even some of these can be shown to exist then it must be two systems not one. Mind and Body. Body and soul.

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