Saturday, November 21, 2009

Embodied Minds or Minds Embodied in an Ethical Ideal

We had a speaker just recently at our university, who proposed that we were what we DO, first and foremost. Intention or action is all that matters. Minds are not formative of behavior, but behavior of mind.

I don't want to suggest that I have full academic understanding of this subject, but I do have experience and some knowledge of the question.

Does doing what is in opposition to reason appropriate? Does irrationality breed good behavior? Do we become what we do? Aristotle believed we do become through habit formation.

Although habits can be good or bad, don't we first choose which habits we want to be a part of our life in our behavior? And don't we choose these behaviors for reasons? If I want to loose weight, there are certain behaviors that are necessary. And these behaviors are chosen because I know I am overweight and it is bad for my health.

This particular speaker said that as a faith community ritual was all important, as ritual bred communion and made us believers (?)! If Richard Dawkins took communion, would that affect his belief system or behavior? I thought this sounded a little off the wall, although I recognize that he was just trying to form a way to bring about a wholistic understanding of mind and body. He was thinking in opposition to a dualistic formula. But, it misses the mark, it seems to me...

In attempting to form a "more perfect union" between mind and body, he suggested behaviorism in the form of ritual. The Catholic believes that the elements of communion literally become the body and blood of Christ and that taking in the elements of Communion gives the "life" of Christ to the believer. I disagree.

Luther's view of Communion was not transubstantiation, but consubstantiation. He believed that the elements became the body of Christ when mixed with faith. Faith was the pivot point for him. The elements are not important, it is the belief of the person. Richard Dawkins taking the elements would not change his belief system or behavior. The believer must have faith first. As the Reformers believed that faith was a gift of God, then there is no way that behavior can give faith. Behavior follows belief.

Sociologists understand human behavior to be connected to identification factors. If an individual identifies with a certain group that has certain behavioral standards, then the individual is likely to conform. This is part of accepting the 'social norm" of the group. But, the group has a reason why they believe a certain behavior to be appropriate or inappropriate. Appropriate behavior is considered "moral". "Immoral" is inappropriate behavior. These are cultural norms.

America's "ideals" of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are based more on ethics, where the individual can choose his "own way of life". These ideals cannot be chosen in a way that impinges on another's life, liberty or pursuit of happiness without legal ramifications. We believe that individuals have rights to form their own way of life, as individuals are equal under law. This radical individualism terrorizes the religious because of their fear of anarchy or immorality, as they see an outside authority as necessary.

Character is not understood in specified belief systems, or affirmation of outside authority, but in respectful behavior. Repectful behavior is demonstrated in our tone of voice, and our way of interacting with another. So, while minds reflect our ultimate values, behavior reflects our heart.

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