What the Neocortex Does

Ray Scanlon rscanlon at wsg.net
Wed Aug 16 09:51:17 EST 2000

"James Teo" <james.teo at chch.ox.ac.uk> wrote in message
news:39992942.510307 at news.freeserve.net...
> On Mon, 14 Aug 2000 20:06:45 -0400, "Ray Scanlon" <rscanlon at wsg.net>
> wrote:
> >I think few religious people would say their thoughts revolve about a
> >spiritual thingey.
> The only reason I used 'thingey' was because various religions
> identified it differently. Most christians identify it as the
> spiritual gift of God to us, that which sets us apart from animals,
> and that which goes to the next life. Buddhists identify it as our
> logbook of karma and fate and our essence. Muslims identify it
> similarly to Christians, but also add that various hallowed artifacts
> and spririts speak to our souls not our bodies. Each religion has its
> own definition, so I don't pretend to define the word soul; suffice to
> say that most religions do have a discrete definition of soul which is
> distinct from mind.
> >In any event, this split between soul and mind occurred in the first half
> >the nineteenth century when some atheists took to using "mind" when they
> >spoke of soul. (A new usage, not a new word.) They wished to speak of
> >which thinks but they could not use the word soul because they were
> >freethinkers. This is all laid out in the O.E.D. People have deluded
> >themselves by continually using the words as not being synonymous. I
> >the usage "soul (mind)" helps to remind us of that which we speak.
> Hardly true. The split may have only occurred in the major Protestant
> faiths, but it has been present in Buddhist religious theory since
> Gautama, and in Muslim faith as early as the 8th century when the
> Quran identifies the separation of body, mind and soul. In Catholic
> theology (I think it was St Simon Magus or St Thomas Aquinas)
> identifies the three-fold aspect of the human being as well
> (animal, thought, soul) and Descarte does mention this pre-existing
> concept in his works.

Of course they did, and do. I was simply referring to the notion that you
may deny "soul" by calling it "mind". I say that is the reason you called
the soul, a thingey. I think, if you look loosely at yourself, you will find
that you are denying soul as a part of your metaphysics. It is far better,
in my book, to call it "soul (mind)" whenever we wish to refer to ourselves
as distinguished from the universe.
> The OED is hardly a foundation text for theology and merely represents
> popular usage where it is often interchangeable, but then we are not
> talking about popular usage are we? We're talking about usage by
> people who study the fields of cognitive science and theology.

The OED is based on quotations from literate people. All dictionaries do
this...the difference depends on what you consider literate. Dictionaries
today give some credence to the barely literate and even to the spoken
tongue. If you think the OED is no source for people who would speak of the
mind or the soul, then we differ. The OED holds the words to be synonymous.
And you must know, there is a current movement in philosophy to consider
their synonymy.

> >Who knows? I just say soul (mind).
> That is where I want to correct you. Use 'mind' as it is more specific
> and prevents confusion, and also more true, since cognitive scientists
> study the mind and not the soul (with all the associated religious
> connotations), and religious leaders do the opposite. Their work may
> overlap but that does not mean they are the same thing.

Why do you correct me? Answer: In my opinion, word usage is established
between two and ten years of age. During this time, the neurons have a
window in which their synapses are more amenable to alteration. (See Hubel:
Eye, Brain, and Vision.) The rest of our lives we find aberrant usage to be
jarring. When I take "soul" and "mind" to be synonymous, it upsets you. You
are impelled to correct. Much as I do when I hear someone say, "Standing on
line" when they should say "Standing in line". Or that abomination, the
Scottish usage, where "Next Tuesday" becomes a week after I would place it.

I say cognitive scientists study the soul (mind) and it is very clear to me
what they do. Cognitive science is exactly the same as creation science. It
consists of religionists (going by the name of philosophers or whatever) who
look for an empirical basis for soul (mind). The soul (mind) belongs to
religion not to science. The neuroscientists will work out brain action
while the cognitive "scientists" will do nothing but refine the old
arguments over body and soul.


Those interested in the brain might look at

More information about the Neur-sci mailing list