Non può vivere bene chi non è in pace con il suo corpo.

Maria Raffaella Dalla Valle

domenica 29 aprile 2018

Flavio Keller, Nicola Di Stefano, Neuroscience and the Soul: Is it Time to Make Peace? (En)


Some readers may be amused by the title of this paper. For the term 'soul' has been banned from the scientific lexicon for at least three centuries for various reasons: first, because the soul, as an immaterial entity, eludes measurement or quantification, thus remaining well outside the domain of empirical science;; second, because the concept of soul as a spiritual substance distinct from the body inevitably leads to the problem of dualism, which in turn is difficult to resolve in scientific terms; and finally, because the shifting meanings that have defined the term ‘soul’ over time have not allowed for the formulation of one clear and stable definition, which would be required as the fundamental starting point for a scientific discussion of the term.
It is however undeniable that the term 'soul' when referring to man refers with a particular poignancy to that which best seems to distinguish man from other living beings, that is, his essence. Furthermore, the term 'soul' expresses in an equally poignant way the dignity that defines man as a person.
When man is perceived as a person, implicitly and without philosophical elaboration, his spiritual soul is perceptible as a dimension that personalizes the human body. At the same time its transcendence is also perceived in relation to the body and organic materiality. This latter perception, and not the former, is the root of what is customarily called 'the dignity of the person', that is, its intrinsic ontological value and ethical consequence. (Sanguineti, 2014, pp 202-203)
In our opinion, the suspicion with which many scientists view the term 'soul' derives from the idea that the soul is essentially a Cartesian concept. One of the aims of this paper is to show how philosophical positions on the soul are more complex and diverse than commonly thought. Aristotle, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine and Leibniz, to name a few, have expressed positions that are probably more compatible with a modern vision of man.

Here and elsewhere where we quote from texts for which there is no published version in English, the translations into English are ours.
Nonetheless, it is not clear whether the term 'soul' can be used only in a philosophical, moral, theological, or anthropological context, or whether it can also be used in a scientific context, or even whether it is incompatible with the neuroscientific vision of man. It is these doubts which have inspired this paper in which we explore various meanings of the term 'soul' highlighting some fundamental properties of human beings that do not seem incompatible with current views in the field of biology, especially with the systemic perspective adopted by systems biology. In other words, the consideration of the integrated activity of a living organism -one of the bases of the physiological
approach -as not being entirely reducible to physico-chemical processes, to the excursion of nerve impulses, the secretion of chemical substances etc., reflects a similar view point to that found in philosophical reflections involving the term 'soul'.

Read the complete study:
Flavio Keller-Nicola di Stefano, Neuroscience and the Soul: Is it time o make peace?

Note: the full version of this paper, including illustrations, has been published in pH 1/2017.

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