Note: this is the first installment of a planned three-part series on the interaction between the body and the spirit. Today’s essay deals with the effects of external biological factors on moral agency and personality; future installments will deal with our bodies’ effects on the same, and the effects of both on our relationships with God.
How much of what we often consider essential parts of our characters – personality, intellectual capacity, or moral inclinations, for example – is truly, essentially us? How much is neurochemistry, or hormone function, or even interaction between brain structure and the environment? In other words, where does the body leave off, and the spirit begin?
About four years ago, a doctor put me on an antidepressant to treat my lifelong chronic insomnia and depression. The medicine worked like gangbusters; suddenly, I could sleep, and the nearly constant despair and dissatisfaction with which I had always struggled disappeared. According to my physician, my body has some sort of major dopamine shortfall; the medicine provides that dopamine, or something close enough for government work. [Read more…]