Damaged brains can result in damaged minds, does this mean there is no soul?
All aspects of consciousness — whether pains, perceptual experiences, thoughts and so on — can be changed, attenuated, modulated, even stopped altogether by the brain. Those who are skeptical of the existence of a soul make great play of this and appear to think this presents almost incontrovertible evidence that the brain entirely creates all of our conscious experiences — a soul is not required. For them, the ability of the brain to change our conscious states implies that the brain must create them.
Let’s think about this for a minute. Let’s imagine that I can see a tree in front of me. How is this possible? Well, the tree has to exist, my eyes need to be functioning, and the appropriate regions of my brain need to be functioning correctly. Considering how incredibly complex my brain is, this makes for an intricate causal chain. Yet, for all that, I can stop my vision of the tree, delete my vision, by the simple expedient of closing my eyes. Or my vision of the tree could be compromised or even blocked if I were wearing a pair of eyeglasses and the lenses were fogged up. But I then clean them, and once again I have 20/20 vision. But this act of cleaning the lenses played no role in creating my vision. Indeed, it would be preposterous to suppose it could. The bottom line is the process by which we are able to visually see is a complex involved one, but that very simple acts or procedures can block or attenuate our vision. And reversing those very simple acts or procedures can restore our vision again. But it would be very naive to suppose that these acts and procedures play any role in the actual creation of our vision.
But, I think it’s very possible that precisely this naive mistake is being made when it comes to the brain. I have argued at various places elsewhere — for example, part 2 of my Brains affecting Minds do not rule out an Afterlife — that we face arguably irreconcilable difficulties in supposing the brain actually creates consciousness. And even if that were not so, presumably it would be an extraordinarily convoluted and complex process. Why not, therefore, prefer the far more feasible and relatively unproblematic hypothesis that the self and its conscious states are not created by the brain at all? That the brain, instead, merely changes, modulates, and attenuates this pre-existing self with its conscious states?