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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" <ddanehy@siebel.com>
Subject: RE: (whorl) mechAnIsm of consciousness
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2001 09:01:19 


> There is some diversity of opinion on this, but I think Catholic
> theology teaches that while the soul can have some kind of existence
> apart from the body, that a person isn't fully a person without a
> body (and not just "a brain")--thus the importance of the doctrine
> of bodily resurrection.

That isn't just Catholic, it's "mainstream" Christian teaching, 
though the details vary. I believe some Protestant & Evangelical
groups talk about a succession of bodies -- i.e., the current 
body, some kind of non-physical body (which I find 
indistinguishable from no body at all) between current death and 
the general Resurrection, and the "Resurrection Body" afterwards.
But in general, Christian groups subscribe to the Apostle's Creed
and its clause "I believe...in the resurrection of the body." It
was, I believe, C.S. Lewis, an Anglican, who observed that a human
soul with no body was not a human but a ghost.

> From there one can see Wolfe imagining (thought I doubt the
> church teaches) that something of a person's "personness"
> resides in her body (not just her brain).

On the contrary, the Catholic church, at least, insists on the
importance of the body in spiritual matters. We are not only
spiritually but physically "the image of God," if only because
God was incarnate as a Man. Further, it is by eating of His Body
(in the Eucharist) that we are incorporated more fully into His 
Body. And the Church takes cognizance of the ways in which 
physical impairments (chemical, neurological, and other) can
alter behavior and "personality." 

To put it in slightly non-Catholic but Catholic-friendly terms:
you can go out and buy a copy of Microsoft Word (or pick 
whatever software you like). But try running it without putting 
it onto a computer first. The software cannot function without 
the hardware. We are not spirits but spirits-in-bodies, spirits 
in a material world, and nothing in orthodox Christian teaching 
allows us to suppose that either the ghost or the machine is
functional absent the other.

That said, Wolfe's speculations do go well beyond (though I
believe that they do not actually go _against_) orthodox RC
teaching when you get into conceptions like Marble "integrating"
her "software" and that of Rose.

> Other philosophers (essayist Wendell Berry comes to mind) have
> argued that when considering what makes a person who he is, it
> is impossible to draw a neat line between the brain and the rest
> of the body (the senses, organ systems, limbs all effect who we
> are) or perhaps even between a person's body and his physical
> and social environment.

Well, vide "the social construction of personality" (60s-ish 
psychology text by -- name forgotten: Timothy Leary's mentor) in 
this context.  And grumble about calling Wendell Berry a 
philosopher; might as well call _me_ one at that rate.

Which wanders around but manages not to have said: I agree.

> Then too, Wolfe also may be drawing inspiration from fantasy/horror
> stories such as the ones where someone receives a transplant from a
> murderer and begins to have murderous impulses.  Or the magic hand that
> will graft itself to the stump of a person's forarm, granting her great
> power but slowly remaking her in the image of the hand's original owner.

Is that "real" fantasy/horror? The only place I've run across that
is in D&D, the "hand of Vecna." But I haven't read all the fantasy/
horror classics by any means...

> Magic, in any sufficiently advanced society, is indistinguishable
> from techology.

Ummm. Magic _is_ technology. But that's another debate.


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