Where do we begin and where do we end?

January 05 2014

"The human body completely changes the matter it is made of roughly every 8 weeks, through metabolism, replication and repair. Yet, you're still you --with all your memories, your personality. If scientists insist on chasing particles, they will follow them right through an organism and miss the organism entirely."
—Robert Rosen

The quote above has captivated me for awhile now. Simply put, each of us feels as if we're more than just our parts. It seems as if somehow (somewhere?) we emerge from the cosmic soup of trillions of cells that comprise the human body. But there is another possibility -- that our autonomy as thinking, feeling entities is a private illusion we tell ourselves. Not only are there countless microcosms -- of tissues, microbes, and molecules -- in each of us but we, in turn, are parts of larger societies -- of families, nations, and planetary ecosystems. As human beings, we may feel and act as if we are autonomous creatures but what if we consider the possibility that this is merely an anthrocentrism? A product of human pride? Since matter and physical forces are continuous in the universe (i.e., the same fundamental laws of physics operate everywhere) then is it such a big step to acknowledge the possibility that mental phenomena (such as personal identity or agency) can also be distributed in the universe?

We seem to be caught between external and internal forces that impinge on us. So where do "we" begin and where do "we" end?

PS: I just completed an undergrad program in biology and cognitive science. I am hoping to continue studies in neuroscience. If you'd like to share some of your ideas with me or point me in interesting directions my email is [email protected]

Aram Bernardos
[email protected]

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