Historical origins of the modern mind/body split

Journal of Mind and Behavior 22 (1):23-40 (2001)
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Abstract

It is argued that a radical relocation of subjectivity began several thousand years ago. A subjectivity experienced in the centric region of the heart, and in the body as a whole, began to be avoided in favor of the eccentric head as a new location of subjectivity. In ancient literature, for example in Homer's epics, the heart and various other bodily organs were described as centers of subjectivity and organs of perception for spiritual experience and communion with others and the world. Mind and body were integrated. Bur also in the early historical record, as in the Old Testament, the heart and body were increasingly described as rebellious and rejected as impure. Head and heart, mind and body, became estranged. The body was judged an unsuitable, impure vessel for spiritual experience. This change in the location of subjectivity presaged the later development of Platonic, Gnostic, Christian, and Cartesian distinctions favoring mind over and against the body. It may also have contributed to some of the characteristic psychological and pathological processes (e.g., psychosomatic illnesses, repression, narcissism) currently attributed to the psychology of the modern Western, and specifically, North American self

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