The twenty first century will be defined by brain research. I know we will find out many other wonderful things about existence but it is to the brain research we will look to finally begin to understand ourselves. To begin to answer the questions as to whether self is a singular aspect of our brains as Cartesians tend to believe, or a grouping of different impulses and activities as Humean’s tend to believe.
We already know so much of our character’s and thoughts are derived from an emotional base put into us before we are three years old. We already know a loving secure childhood is of vital importance to our ability to empathise. We know that the brain has areas that specialise and those can be activated more easily when we are young.
There is a story of a king who wanted to find out what god’s language was and his advisors believed all babies are born with the knowledge but we lose it as we grow up. So he stranded two babies on an island with a deaf mute to look after them and with great pomp sailed to the islands when they were teenagers to hear for the first time the language of heaven. The children could only make the sounds of the wildlife and the sea.
The brain ‘learns’. And in that word is everything we are.