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Neuroscience & the Soul: Topic Index

In these topics we will examine the history of conceptions of the human makeup as they arose in ancient philosophy and religion -- primarily in Christianity, but also with a few notes about Jewish developments. We also examine new issues that arose in the modern period, especially as a result of scientific and philosophical developments. Whereas body-soul dualism had become the majority view by the end of the middle ages, in the modern period there has been growing interest in physicalist accounts. Currently, localization studies by contemporary neuroscientists--that is, finding specific regions or distributed systems in the brain associated with particular cognitive and emotional functions--provide some of the most compelling evidence that it is the brain, rather than a mind or soul, that is responsible for these capacities. In other words, the current trend in neuroscience is pointing us towards a reductive physicalist account of the human.

In addition, we will consider whether a nonreductive physicalist account of the person is in conflict with essential Christian (and Jewish) teachings. To this end, we will examine recent developments in biblical studies and consider some of the implications of a physicalist account of the person for theology.

Other sections will investigate the philosophical question of reductionism. If mental events are essentially products of the brain, and if we assume that brain events are determined by natural laws, then how can we maintain views of human freedom and responsibility? This is still an open question, but it will be valuable to consider some of the resources available for addressing the problem.

Finally, we will consider some of the practical implications of the intellectual changes we have surveyed.For a delightful account of developments in neuroscience, see Paul M. Churchland, The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul (Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press, 1995).

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Go to Neuroscience Topic Index

Neuroscience & the Soul: Topic Index

The Person in Greek Thought
The Person in Medieval Thought
The Person in Modern Thought
Neuroscience and Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, Moral Behavior and Phineas Gage
The Person in Hebrew Scriptures
The Person in The New Testament
The Person in Christian Theology
The Person in Jewish Thought
Is Behavior Determined, or are we Free?
Implications Of A Nonreductive Physicalist View


Dr. Nancey Murphy


See also:

The Cognitive and Neurosciences
What Makes us Human?
Are we Free?
Saint Augustine
Rene Descartes
Sir Isaac Newton
Books on Neuroscience and Theology