Saturday, August 27, 2011

Joel Green's Neuro-Hermeneutics

I finished Joel Green's Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible. It's excellent - I strongly recommend it. Green's book is an "essay in neuro-hermeneutics."

Green looks at the "mind-body" problem, and says that alternative viewpoints can be found along a continuum that runs like this: Reductive Materialism---------Radical Dualism.

Green provides some definitions.

Reductive Materialism - "People are nothing but the product of organic chemistry." (30) The human person is a wholly physical entity. All moral, spiritual, emotional, and first-person (qualia) experiences can be in principle explained by the natural sciences. I love the Francis Crick quote, affirming reductive materialism: "You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules." (30-31)

Radical Dualism - the soul is metaphysically (entirely) separate from the body. "The body is nothing more than a temporary and disposable holding tank (or shell) for the soul." (31)

Wholistic Dualism - This is a form of substance dualism. The human person, though composed of discrete elements, is to be identified with the whole which constitutes a functional unity. Green quotes J.P, Moreland as representative of this view: "The soul and the body are highly interactive, they enter into deep causal relations and functional dependencites with each other, the human person is a unity of both." (Ib.)

Monism - the phenomenological experiences we refer to as "soul" "are neither reducible to brain activity nor evidence of a substantial, ontological entity such as a "soul," but rather represent essential aspects or capacities of the self." (Ib.)