Is The Brain All There Is?

It used to be that parental influences were thought to be all determining in an individual’s personality. Freud, and his successors, focused on such factors as the mother-child relationship and alleged infantile sexuality as the determining factor in human nature. Next, the strict behaviorists (such as B.F. Skinner) took over and asserted that there were no causes of personality and behavior; that there was simply behavior. Then, starting in the 1960s and 70s, there was the dawning of the sociological point of view that cultural and political influences were all determining.

Starting in the 1980s, the cognitive school of thought came into its own in psychology. The cognitive school asserted that an individual’s thoughts, premises, assumptions and ideas were what determined individual personality. As the century turned from the 20th to the 21st, however, the paradigm shifted. The cognitive school was not rejected. It simply came to be ignored. The remnants of Freudian, behaviorist and sociological theories also came to be ignored for a single, common reason: the brain was in, and the mind was out.

The underlying problem here is that there isn’t only a brain. There is also a mind. The mind operates in conjunction with the brain. Its processes are simultaneous. The discovery of neurochemical brain functions, which modern research methods and technology increasingly allows for, is fascinating and worthwhile, but cannot in any way explain away the existence of a mind. When I say ‘mind’ I specifically mean: the ideas and premises that a person holds; the values a person subscribes to (consciously or subconsciously); the choices a person makes in daily life, both in the ordinary events of daily living as well as the more extraordinary, dramatic situations that from time to time occur in life.