I'm slogging through, er, writing a brief talk for a neuroscience class under the dubious title assigned to me): "What philosophy can do for neuroscience." Sigh. I'm off my game here, but Plato (being dead) never is. I came across a wonderful bit from the Phaedo that certainly helped me withstand materialist reductions.
When Socrates asked why he was sitting in the jail awaiting trial, he noted that Anaxagoras would have told him that he sat there because his limbs bent at the joints, his sinews stretched, and his rear touched the seat which was in the jail. In other words, Anaxagoras would have explained it all in terms of his body parts.
Socrates’s answer speaks to us today as we hear things like, "Well, the neurons explain away free will."
"By the dog, I think these sinews and bones could long ago have been in
He then goes on to a brilliant philosophical discourse on the immortality of the soul, asking all the deepest questions of our longings and attempting to grasp at answers that take account of all he knows—his body, his thoughts, his country, his upbringing, the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.
And it is a bumbling brilliancy—as all such grapplings are. And Socrates would laugh at neurophilosophy's confidence that soon, at last, knowing the whole of the brain, we will understand ourselves. For we will understand only a little something of a much greater whole. And, without the reference to the whole, the material part will lose its certainty, for it will lose its context.
As Socrates knew, it is only in appeal to all things—seen and unseen—that the satisfaction of our deepest, and philosophical, questions even begin to emerge into the light.