That when one says pigs something comes to mind is astounding. How can thousands of millions of neurons arrange themselves in such a way as to hold and consider ideas? “Pigs.” Immediately images zoom through one’s consciousness. Along with them come related facts: pink, brown, four-footed, bacon. More than that, one has a fuzzy-but-specific-enough idea of pigness that enables one to quickly differentiate a pig from other objects like cats, dogs, and bananas without even directly comparing colors or shapes.
The complexity of the brain is mind-boggling.
On/off switches configured into simple sequences and then multiplied many times over have given us modern computing. Something similar in the brain—but far beyond current computational abilities—could possibly explain much or all of the human mind. But is there more to the mind than physiological phenomena?
Perspective matters. And questions reveal assumptions.
The perspective of this age is strongly naturalistic, so one understandably asks if there is an immaterial component to the human mind. But from a much more basic viewpoint, one could, and should, rightly ask if the natural world itself even exists.
“I think, therefore I am,” said Descartes in one of his meditations. His method was to doubt everything, even his own existence, and then determine what could be truly known. His first conclusion was that the very fact of questioning his own existence demonstrated his existence, at least immaterially. He continued from there and reasoned his way to showing there is a good god who would not allow him to live an entirely deluded life, and thus the natural world (including his body and brain) and people around him must have some basis in reality.
Descartes’s total skepticism led to an admirably thorough approach. And while his conclusions themselves don’t strictly prove an immaterial component to the human mind, they do show the existence of such a mind is more basic and believable than the physical world around us!
So, which question is easier to answer? Is there an immaterial component to the human mind? Do our brains exist?