An organism’s neurology evolves to help it successfully reproduce. To successfully reproduce, an organism must survive long enough to have offspring and for many organisms they must survive even longer to launch those offsprings into a life where they too can successfully reproduce.
The neurology of human beings starts in a big tangle of neurons that we call “the brain”. The brain then send tentacles throughout the body. And as we are just like other organisms, the human brain only cares about one thing — SUCCESSFUL reproduction, of which survival is only part of that, albeit a big part. Simplifying the various aspects in human life we get:
Survival –> Reproduction –> Nurture –> Death.
The human mind does not care for our happiness, our health, our insights or our understanding reality except to fulfill those steps.
The skills to accomplish those steps evolved in a way that at “good enough” — it has imperfect heuristics (quick useful methods) that can also create errors. For example, when walking through the woods and we hear rustling in the bushes, our first reflex is “agency” (a person or an animal or a spook) and only secondly do we relax and realize it was only wind or a falling branch. This agency reflex is often inaccurate but it can keep us alive, albeit a bit neurotic when it over fires. Optical illusions are also such phenomenas – our brain is good enough for most things we see, but we can set up images to trick it — to expose the flaws in its naturally evolving sloppy heuristics.
The illusion of agency is sometimes called a cognitive illusions of sight are called optical illusions. The funny thing about many illusions is that no matter how much we know we are having an illusion, we still can’t see correctly or even think correctly. One such troublesome illusion, albeit it perhaps a useful illusion, is what philosophers have called mind-body dualism — the idea that mind and the body (including the brain) are distinct and separable. This is the illusion that leads to the idea of a soul.
This post will serve as an intro to the next post, so I will pause here to allow any readers to challenge these generalizations in the comments.