Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, is an umbrella term that encompasses both synaptic plasticity and non-synaptic plasticity—it refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behavior, environment, neural processes, thinking, emotions, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury.[1] Neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how – and in which ways – the brain changes throughout life.[2]  (From wikipedia)

2 REASONS I find this interesting:

  1. It means that we can change the way we think
  2. It means that our consciousness and will is a real thing.  The phrase “mind over matter” is real.  We are not a just a physical entity whose will is determined by social and physiological constraints.  The soul is real and it interacts with the brain.

The idea of Neuroplasticity was confirmed to me by my wife’s doctor. She said that my estrogen levels will increase slightly as my wife is pregnancy proceeds.  I asked her if I had to know/be aware that she was pregnant in order for that to happen and she said yes. In other words my mental state of knowing is causing a physical outcome.  This has very interesting implications concerning what most of us have been taught regarding the nature of the mind as it relates to the physical universe.  My personal belief is that the dualistic (we are a conscious, irreducible, un-extended, mind/soul, and a body) response to materialism (we are a physical brain that is causally passive and purposeless) answers the dilemma of free will (the ability to freely choose A or not A) better than any atheistic model, namely naturalism (the universe is causally closed and machinelike; allowing only physical action and reaction,  precluding supernatural explanations, and requiring hard determinism).  If naturalism is true, then determinism necessarily follows.  Determinism as it relates to humans requires that no thought, desire, or emotion is ever caused by an individual but is a result of purely external inputs.  We cannot be rational and no argument can be proven under determinism.  Rationality and reason requires agency on the part of an individual in order for justified beliefs and conclusions to be made. Further is materialism is true and there is no soul, then everything we know is an illusion including the belief that materialism is true.  So materialism as a truth cannot be rationally believed.

The following arguments for the existence of the soul I originally heard from Angus Menuge in an interview on the topic. The brain is a physical object that occupies space.  A physical object has no intentionality, teleology, subjectivity, or continuity of conscious life.  The mind/soul, however, has all of these traits.  Intentionality- the ability to think of or about something. We can think about existing things, abstract objects like numbers, future things like this weekend, and non-existent things like unicorns. We can even think about ourselves thinking about ourselves. Teleology- we have purpose and try to do things when we act. Passive agents and objects have no purpose in their actions and no volitions.  Subjectivity- we have a unique perspective of ourselves that no one else has. You can describe a physical object from an outsider’s perspective but our experience is completely our own. Even if our memories were transported to someone else’s brain, they would not be experiencing their own memories. Continuity of conscious life- if A = B and B = C then A=C.  In order for use to understand this we need someone collecting and unifying the information taken at the beginning of the equation, the middle, and the end. Or else it is not the same person who is figuring out the conclusion as the person who started with A=B.  However, the same person figures out the entire equation.  Brain scans and neuroscience can tell us that activity is occurring the certain parts of the brain but what unified self is collecting all the information and making sense of it? if there was no unified self over time our reality might be like a crazy dream that makes no sense. Our neurons would fire and it would be a blur. Even as we read this email our visual field is focusing on one thing and that is each word. Although there are other things going on around us, we are consciously paying attention to this email for a period of time then our self focuses on thinking about what we read and responding.

How is our consciousness unified even though all of the cells in our body are recycled at least once every 7 years? If we are different physical beings that we were seven years ago, shouldn’t we be different people? How can we be held accountable for what a completely different person did 7 years ago? It is because we are that person and are accountable for our actions and willful decisions just like in the court system.

If there is possibility of a soul and it is immaterial, then there is possibility that the soul can exist dis-embodied after the body dies.  If this is true, we should start thinking about what happens when we die.  Does the soul live forever? Etc… Also, the existence of the soul makes it possible that god exists as well outside of nature.  God can be defined as an unembodied mind that caused the entire universe.

Further reading:

much of the above information I found from reading the following authors: Angus Menuge, J.P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, and Michael Murray.

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7 thoughts on “Neuroplasticity

  1. ”How is our consciousness unified even though all of the cells in our body are recycled at least once every 7 years? If we are different physical beings that we were seven years ago, shouldn’t we be different people? How can we be held accountable for what a completely different person did 7 years ago?”

    I have asked myself the same question – just stated it in slightly different way. What a puzzle! I think this is a wonderful question. How the continuity of some part of personality is maintained, how the fundamental integrity is maintained? We are changing yet there is something constant that cannot be mistaken for another person. As much as it is fascinating, I cannot answer it now, however.

    If you like, we can debate on any of the issues you have described. That would be entertaining.

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    • I would love to discuss this topic and other topics. I do enjoy debates, however, the reason that I care about them is that I believe that there are answers to be found and truth exists. My personality is such that I do tend to be a contrarian, however, debating for debating sake is not a reason to debate. I would like to persuade or be persuaded.

      What is your view on the existence of the soul Remanandhra? Are there any other topics that you are interested in related to philosophy, science, or religion?

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      • I typically hold a view that I don’t know and let’s see what I can find and how I can integrate it with what I allready know. The problem of the soul is very important to me. It is an affirmation of esentialism – existence of the essence, something constant, unchanging. Soul is essence. Just like God. Currently, I have hard time trying to conceptualize a logical, coherent and sensible definition of a soul. To me, a soul is very obscure word. It may be quite an empty word, I am afraid. I think soul tends to be more like a metaphor than workable truth, maybe, Does the soul exists? I would say, if yes, than in completely different way than we imagine, as something impersonal rather than personal and something that needs a big change and reorientation of our conciousness towards this matter. We need more realistic and autocritical approach toward this problem. I could say so much more…

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  2. In short, I am in difficult position ( as probably we all are ) as I can’t really define soul, I don’t know what kind of meaning it really has, and I am in a linguistic but also logical trap as the riddle doesn’t get clearer to me no matter in which direction I move. I cannot say anything definite about it. We can ask different questions though, like, is the existence of soul necessary or useful to explain anything particular, where does this concept come from, what are our problems with this concept and what kind of potential it may offer to us. It seems that indirect questions and multidisciplinary inquiry is needed. Generally, I would say that personal soul does not exist rather than it does exist and I would say that the popular, usual, traditional depictions of soul are misrepresenting it for whatever it really is. The concept of soul must ultimately have some basis in reality, but it doesn’t have to be factual or literal. Still, I don’t know what it is I am really dealing with when I am referring to ‘soul’. No clear answer because of these difficulties, I am afraid. At least, not yet.

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  3. I think your approach to coming to knowledge makes perfect sense. If we do not know something, we can use what we already know (properly basic beliefs) and build on that. The definition of soul for the purposes of my article is an immaterial mind or self that is conscious and irreducible. Regarding the mind-body problem, I would consider myself a “dualist-interactionist” (see dr. william lane craig on this). This idea goes back to the quote widely attributed to C.S. Lewis, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul; you have a body.”

    The soul contains attributes that we can observe and can have knowledge (properly basic beliefs) about including: intentionality, teleology, subjectivity, or continuity of conscious life (see dr. angus menuge for more on these attributes). The soul makes sense of what we observe in our daily lives as we purposefully act using will power (teleology). Purely material objects do not contain will power or any of the aforementioned attributes.

    The above definition, to me, seems logical, coherent, and sensible. Is it not? The word “soul” is and has been used by many people of competing worldviews for many years and thus can carry a certain stigma depending on which worldview you associate it with. However, the word is not as important to me as the above stated definition.

    Why does the soul, as you assert, have to exist in a “completely different way than we imagine”? Can we trust what we observe about the soul?

    If you get rid of the “personal” or person-ness of the soul, you will still need to explain why we have will power/free will, intentionality, subjectivity, and continuity of conscious life. What can replace the soul and offer an adequate explanation of these observable attributes? The view that I espouse regarding the soul seems MORE “realistic” than alternative theories.

    Sorry for the long post…

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