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Cognitive Neuroscience, Temporal Ordering, and the Human Spirit

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Abstract:

Understanding purpose and intent requires attention to our experience of time. Cognitive neuroscientific research into the functional and neural substrates of higher cognitive functions have direct bearing on the experience of temporal ordering. Consciousness, located within the short span of working memory, is made cognitively possible and evolutionarily valuable by biological constraints in time. These constraints, including our longevity, make thought about more extended events both possible and useful. Such cognitive processes, rooted in the neurophysiology of cortical function, are a sine qua non for the construction of meaning, relationship, morality, and purposes that may extend beyond our mortality. Research in the cognitive neurosciences is overviewed, and implications are discussed for questions of mortality, design and intention, the reconstruction of meaning, and the experience of eternity.

Keywords: consciousness; design; frontal cortex; meaning; memory; mortality; purpose; somatic marking; spirituality; temporality

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/0591-2385.00390

Affiliations: Elizabethtown College

Publication date: December 1, 2001

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