I was doing some reading yesterday on the science of emotions, and at one point in the course of discussing certain 18th century views on the subject, the author noted a division traceable to the controversy over whether the brain and mind were united or split. This debate, he said, still had some salience today. And I snickered a bit at that -- oh, the West and its preoccupation with the classics. Of course the mind and brain are united -- where else would the mind come from? The inability to abandon the idea that the mind floats free of the brain was, I thought, just a symptom of Western thoughts propensity to assign validity to a concept for no more reason than Descartes said it.
Then later in that same reading, the author mentioned a patient that was referred to him (a neurologist) from a group of psychologists, and observed that the very fact that we distinguish between neurology and psychology is itself a relic of this brain/mind divide mentioned above. And that gave me pause -- because I do find that split very intuitive, but I have trouble characterizing it in ways that don't resort to parceling out the mind from the brain. The closest I could come is saying that neurology deals with physical trauma, scarring, lobotomies, and the like, while psychology deals with chemical imbalances (such as in some forms of depression). But this doesn't seem to leave much room for psychotherapy regarding, for example, traumatic experiences and things like that -- ideas which I would characterize as firmly psychological but do not feel particularly neurological.
So -- egg on my face. Guess I'm one of the Luddites.