Show 507: Patricia Churchland

Patricia Churchland: Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain

The human experience, and the ‘self’, is so rich it must be produced by some transcendent being, some ultimate self that goes beyond the physical body, or so it is claimed.  How else can spiritual experience and deep emotion be explained?  Can they all be products of the brain?

It turns out that by studying the brain, scientists have gained profound understandings of much of human nature.  The brain really is capable of generating the rich, varied human experiences we call ‘spirituality’.  But that fact challenges our ideas about who and what we are.  If our ‘selves’ are “just” the product of some physical mechanism, even one as complex as the brain, are we really robust human beings?

Patricia Churchland, professor emerita at the University of California, San Diego, teaches neurophilosophy.  She’s accustomed to tackling the big philosophical questions with respect to the brain, and has become comfortable with the idea that our ‘selves’ really are our brains.  She’ll discuss these questions and more on this brain-twisting episode of ETFF!

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