Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Brain chemicals and emotions

"Does the body rule the mind, or does the mind rule the body?  I dunno..." Morrissey

Many people will say that changes in body and particularly brain chemistry are the cause of our emotions (and every other experience a human can have).  But is this full story?

The main evidence for chemistry being the originator of emotions is that if we alter brain chemistry- by taking MDMA (ecstasy), for example, we feel good and full of love.  Therefore this suggests the feeling of love is purely chemical based.

But is this whole story?

If we watch a movie that makes a sad, is it brain chemicals making us sad or is it our interpretation of the movie that made us sad?

People will say: our interpretation of the movie is a purely biochemical event happening in the brain that leads to additional biochemical events which result in us feeling sad.

This seems fair, but where in the brain ca we say the interpretation occurred? Can we be sure such interpretation doesn't happen in a non-physical mind which is simultaneously reflected in changes in chemistry and electrical signals in the body?  We cannot.

Clearly, chemical changes in the body can affect subjective awareness but so does subjective awareness affect bodily biochemistry.  Causation seems to flow both ways.  I understand many people in the modern age enamoured with physicalism like to view everything as flowing from the physical but do we really know this is true?

I would suggest that generally it is the "non-physical" mind that is the driver of emotions and that more rarely the introduction of chemicals or strong electromagnetic fields that are the causative factor.

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