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Is neuroculture a new cultural revolution?

Are we at the birth of a new culture in the Western world? Are we on the verge of a new way of thinking? Both humanistic and scientific thinkers suggest as much.

George Steiner said almost prophetically,

“All cultures are mortal, all religions too. All are mortal cultural events as mortal are the men who produce them. And it is now that there is a transition period. We are now entering a post-religion era. Christianity will die as Marxism did. What will fill the void? What awaits us? What will be born?”

As I recall, Steiner did not elaborate very much beyond justifying these questions historically and philosophically. However, he emphasized the possible emergence of a new era in which critical and analytical thinking would play major roles. Edward Wilson stated in his book The Future of Life that it was time to change to a culture of life-sustaining permanence of both ourselves and the biosphere. He advocated looking within the mind, gesturing towards the inner workings of the brain to discover its functioning via thoughts, emotions, and feelings, out of which the creation and the succession of different cultures have been moulded.

Biotechnology, genetic engineering, and neuroscience are producing a revolutionary change in our vision of the human world. New answers to old and univesal questions will emerge–those related to the nature of mind and consciousness or the social and moral nature of man. This “neuroculture” is based on the knowledge of how the human brain operates. The brain is integrated and interacting with the rest of the body and with its physical and social environment, and it determines everything man does and expresses in his behavior, feelings, thoughts, or beliefs.

Neuroculture presupposes that nothing occurs and nothing exists in the human world that has not been filtered through that sieve we call the brain. World events, a beautiful work of art, the successful development of a complex mathematical formula, or the deep feeling of having experienced the existence of God are all filtered through this sieve. In fact the rapid progress in our understanding about how the brain works is giving rise to a new way of thinking with the “neuro” discourses. There is a reassesment of the humanities, and a new bridge connecting those two large and classical bodies of knowledge, science and humanities.

Neuroculture is not intended to achieve any conception of a post-human nature. Human nature is and always will be human. It will certainly be redefined and reevaluated, but it will never cease to be human.

Neuroculture may produce an impact on human thinking similar to that produced by Darwinism over 100 years ago. It is possible that for many neuroculture will represent a backward step, a way of losing that spiritual essence of what it has been so far conceived as the true human nature. However, for many others, neuroculture will be a step forward, reaching towards a truth about human beings that has previously been hidden. Thus neuroculture should bring a conception of man, and the greatness of man, based on scientific evidence and critical and analytical thinking. It should provide a re-evaluation of those grand conceptions such as education, privacy, dignity, equality, politics, love, friendship, good and evil, truth, freedom, justice, dignity, and nobility.

Featured Image: Matterhorn, Zermatt, Switzerland. Photo by Joshua Earle. CC0 via Unsplash.

Recent Comments

  1. Aru Gupta

    I do not agree that neuroculture will lead to the losing of the spiritual self. Neuroculture primarily is a study of the brain, the central organ of the nervous system. It may be true that we know little about the brain compared to other organs but what is known for certain and on which there can be no disputation is that the brain, in spite of all its complexity, is just another organ. And, an organ is an organ–pure matter, devoid of thought, non-conscious. It would be preposterous to assume that an inter-wiring of neurons and neuronal structures gives rise to personality and consciousness. These are just material cells and ‘wires’ for the transmitting of electrical impulses conveying sensory information. The two modes of afference and efference in which the brain works are made possible by the presence of these structures; nothing more, nothing less. In such a situation, to not understand the nature of an organ and posit the brain as personality is a conclusion not warranted by the facts of reality. It is also logically unintuitive; the notion of a personality using the brain is more intuitive.
    The organ is basically a piece of matter–a hardware–to assist in the manifestation of the consciousness of the (transcendental) personality that is anterior even to the brain; an organ also helps to convey sensory information to the personality. Certain organs exist for the pure maintenance of the physical body. The brain, part of a complex known as the mind, is also another organ, but it is special in the sense that it is the master-organ. It interfaces with the transcendental mental faculty of the personality and is welded to it. Therefore, in effect, the living organism (which is the transcendental personality in limited form) can be said to be nothing but the brain. Afference and efference, intrinsic to personality, is thus manifested through the brain. If we observe the brain, we realize how complex the organ is in comparison to other organs. Full fledged human brain transplants have still not been possible. This is because the brain, as the ‘king-organ’ interfaces with the spiritual personality; its extremely dainty and peculiar structure is due to the fact that it is in direct interface with spirit. But, be that as it may, the brain, at the end of the day, is just an organ and neurons and neuronal structures making up the nervous system and assisting the brain may also be said to be organal structures (material).
    I feel neuroculture is going to be a forward step as far as spirituality is concerned, not a backward one. It is going to reveal personality–the personality that lies behind all matter, behind the body and all its organs and behind all atoms and molecules. It is going to prove the clear difference between personality and (material) body! I am excited!

  2. Brad Arnold

    Neuroculture is simply an acknowledgement that culture (i.e. a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next) is comprised of human minds interacting, and the best way to describe this is neurologically (i.e. the science of the nerves and the nervous system).

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