This disembodiment of the mind was to have a powerful legacy shaping humanitys

This disembodiment of the mind was to have a powerful

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is immaterial and devoid of physical qualities. This disembodiment of the mind was to have a powerful legacy, shaping humanity’s concept of itself as a fundamentally split creature – a mortal body of base flesh, an oft unwilling host to an ethereal intangible entity called the mind/soul. In religion and theology for example, we witness the influence of Cartesian dualism. “The supreme project of the Reformation was to disembody spiritual life by putting aside the 2
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aesthetic trappings of Catholicism and ridding inner spirituality of its messy earthly connections” (Burns 2007.) Likewise, the emergence of psychological theories of mind reflected the essential Cartesian divorce of body from mental and spiritual life. Freud, arguably the most influential scientist of the mind of the 20 th Century, crafted a psychology of the individual. Unconscious drives, dynamics and complexes are phenomena of the individual – alone in time and space – detached from the physical reality of the material and social environment. The dualistic tradition influenced too the major phenomenologists upon whose work modern psychiatry was built – individuals such as Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) and Karl Jaspers (1883-1969.) Husserl divided the world of individual consciousness from the ‘world outside it’, while Jaspers provided a framework for conceptualising psychopathology in terms of an internal individual psyche. Mood states, hallucinations, delusions and thought disorders are descriptor terms relating to a single individual. ‘Mental states’ are isolated from the world around – disembodied from phenomena outside individual consciousness. The critical error of dualistic understandings of mind and its pathologies is this: individual experience is stripped of its interpersonal, social and existential dimensions. Emotional and behavioural phenomena, both healthy and disordered, are detached from social and environmental context. Human beings are represented as isolated and solitary mental beings. Furthermore, ‘the mind’ is somehow detached and independent of the physiological processes of brain, body and world. It is an entity not subject to the laws of nature, to physics and biology. It this centuries-old, culturally ensconced view of self that accounted for the popular appeal and success of psychodynamic theory in Western Europe and America throughout most of the 20 th Century. 3
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And it is this Cartesian fallacy that has derailed our search for an understanding of schizophrenia that is consistent with the real world (Burns 2007.) One might also argue that dualism is at least partly responsible for the virtual exclusion of evolutionary science from the biological revolution that characterised psychiatric research and discourse in the latter part of the 20 th Century. While the Darwinian revolution has permeated and shaped almost every avenue of scientific research over the last 100 years, the study of ‘the mind’ and its pathologies has not readily embraced evolutionary principles and concepts. If the mind is conceived as a disembodied entity, free of material laws, then it has nothing to do with the discoveries of Darwin and his successors. It may also be the case that the
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