Sunday, October 16, 2011

Feeling, thinking and praying? There's an App for that!

A friend of mine who is a philosopher recently gave me an image that fits my present understanding of what traditionally has been called the "soul," that central part of us that animates our body and infuses life, self-understanding, a psyche: software.

The metaphor is an idea that Umberto Eco pioneered in his 1994 essay "The Holy War: Mac vs. DOS," in which he dubbed the Apple computer "Catholic" and the PC, then dominated by DOS "Protestant."

I'd go so far as to say that at the core of us is an human operating system that controls, without our even realizing it, our body and its peripherals, while running application programs such as personality, feelings, thinking and spirituality.

As users, we barely understand the HOS, which explains why marvels such as relatively new psychiatric medication, much less brain surgery, don't quite work as desired. Might they one day? Perhaps, perhaps not. I don't know.

I do realize, however, that there is something a bit beyond our biochemicals and our neurons that decidedly makes us who we are, integrating our inheritance with our experience and our learning, quite distinctly, yet not fully independently of our body.

Here's where matter vs. spirit dualisms collapse: our software and our hardware are inextricably linked. This is why some men engage in spiritual adoration of goddess figures they deem to be near-perfect and some women experience seemingly divine ecstasy in orgasm.

All of which is indicative of a non-material or metamaterial realm, what Aristotle called metaphysics.


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