The Intellect and the Brain


November 3, 2013 by lucieromarin

Telekinesis is particular to science fiction because common human experience tells us that it is not possible to pick up a lump of cheese with mind-power. At the same time, when we speak of grasping concepts, we know that it is not with our hands that we have grasped them. We see that that which is material and individual (a particular lump of cheese) can only be grasped by that which is also material and individual (a particular hand.) Conversely, that which is immaterial (my concept, ‘philanthropy,’) must be grasped by that which is immaterial, (my intellect.)

Okay, obviously I didn’t explain the entire philosophy of knowledge and metaphysics in that paragraph. It’s a blog post, not a book. Just run with me, because the next point is actually the point of this post.

I think that, when we wonder about intellect and mind and knowledge and all these things, the problem isn’t that anyone thinks that “An immaterial thing needs an immaterial grasper” sounds intrinsically unreasonable; it’s that, in this dichotomy of the material and the immaterial, we don’t know where to situate the brain. For we know that the brain, which is obviously material, is also, obviously, in some way related to thinking. Sure, it’s clearly not the whole story, because animals have brains, and they don’t write equations. At the same time, babies have intellects, and they don’t write equations either. So what’s the deal?

The deal is that the intellect works dependently upon the brain in this lifetime, but that dependence is not identity. The relationship is something like the relationship between a hard drive and a printer – they’re not the same thing, and one is a more astonishing piece of manufacturing than the other, but you do need both, connected and in good working order, to get the results that we take to be normal. (So, just in case you’ve ever wondered, a head transplant would change you a little, for your hard drive would find itself suddenly working with an entirely new printer. At the same time, you wouldn’t emerge from it with a wholly new set of memories, because memories are stored on the drive.)

See, when we talk about the body and soul being united, we don’t mean only that the body is something like a milk carton – just a vessel for the milk, which can be thoughtlessly tossed aside when the milk has been poured out. We don’t mean only that they’re occupying the same space, but that they’re actually working together – collecting sense-data and then interpreting it; expressing concepts in dance or song; abstracting principles of human psychology from movements observed at a basketball match; making a cake to show that we care; symbolising in colour everything from mourning, virginity, and anger, to penitence, envy, and hope. Cut off my hand – I’ll still understand cheese. But try describing cheese to someone who’s never seen, smelt, or tasted it!

This non-identical-dependence is the reason it’s possible that we’ll discover, in the next life, that the greatest created human intellect in the whole of history actually belonged to the brain-damaged four-year-old girl next door, who never, in this life, learned to write a complete sentence or dress herself. This is why, though trauma effects such as memory-loss, can be a Cross, we don’t need to feel that God has, in that Cross, really destroyed the most essential parts of ourselves – any more than those persons who lose the use of their limbs through horrible accidents need to worry that they have suddenly become less valuable in His eyes. Like all things, they will be restored to us one day.

3 thoughts on “The Intellect and the Brain

  1. Tom Phillips says:

    I see it this way:

    You with your mind send a signal to your brain.
    Your brain sends a signal to your body.
    Your body sends a signal to your hand
    And only then hand picks up a particular thing.

    This means, that we use our mind power to move things around, but we need a body to make a connection.

    Your body is something like an cable between your pc and your printer.
    Your pc gives the signal to the printer, but it needs a connection in order to be processed.

    This means your body is a connection between your mind and the reality. This means you can change your reality only by thinking and using your power of the brain, mind.

    Liked your post. 🙂

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