A Terror Management Perspective on Spirituality and the Problem of the Body

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Book Chapter

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Descartes was not the first human being to recognize the apparent distinction between the body and its immaterial counterpart, the mind, but he made the point most famously, articulating an important and intuitive aspect of human existence. Although a solution to the mind/body problem has eluded scientists and philosophers alike, and modern neuropsychologists consensually defend the sober notion that the mind is reducible to cerebral (and thus biological) activity-the fact remains that the distinction between mind and body is phenomenologically and psychologically undeniable. We do not experience our thoughts as synonymous with the activity of our bodies, but strongly feel as if there is something, some aspect of our self, that extends beyond our physical bodies. Indeed, the phenomenology of mind/body distinctiveness is so basic and powerful that it led to Descartes’ famous assertion that the existence of mind is the one thing a sentient being can know beyond any doubt-if anything, it is the material world that might be illusory.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

A Terror Management Perspective on Spirituality and the Problem of the Body, in A. Tomer, G. T. Eliason & P. T .P. Wong (Eds.), Existential and Spiritual Issues in Death Attitudes, Psychology Press, p. 91-113