Could the Self Me an Illusion?

Could the Self be an Illusion?

Recent advances in Brain Research have helped us to locate specific areas of the human brain and match them with specific tasks or processes. There is a speech center, a center for orientation and face recognition, even a center for our memories, emotions and personality. Injury to specific parts of the brain, such as the center for face recognition, will leave the person affected as if one has opened a panel in the back of the head and switched the “face recognition” switch to “off” – the person is utterly unable to recognize faces.

This is a simplified analogy. The brain is immensely complex and sometimes displays surprising regeneration capabilities, especially in children, but the point is that in many ways the different brain functions are surprisingly centralized. It is   almost as if our brain, our mind, our very self, can be fragmented like Lego blocks. And what is even more important, science can principally show us just where these different Lego blocks are and how they are interconnected to create what we call the human mind.

This rationalist explanation of the mind by science leads us to adopt, for the length of this argument, the physicalist or materialist view of the mind, namely that, to anything, there is only what physical and mental sciences can principally detect and explain – in other words: “humans are entirely physical, composed of matter alone”.[1] We shall assume that there is no non-physical constituent to the mind, like a soul or spirit, since there is no evidence for that whatsoever, and its consideration would complicate the argument immensely.

Some believe that there is some kind of center, a part of ourselves we can find by self-exploration, and pinpoint a thing which is our self. To that question, rationalism supplies a simple, yet immensely unsatisfying answer: Yes, there is such a thing, even if it can not be found simply by self-exploration in the usual sense – it is the frontal lobe of our...