- uploaded: Jun 25, 2010
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Metaphysics and philosophy
The secretory activity of the pineal gland is only relatively understood. Historically, its location deep in the brain suggested to philosophers that it possessed particular importance. This combination led to its being a "mystery" gland with myth, superstition and occult theories surrounding its perceived function.
RenÃ© Descartes, who dedicated much time to the study of the pineal gland, called it the "seat of the soul". He believed that it was the point of connection between the intellect and the body. The relevant quotation as to Descartes' reason for believing this is,
â€œMy view is that this gland is the principal seat of the soul, and the place in which all our thoughts are formed. The reason I believe this is that I cannot find any part of the brain, except this, which is not double. Since we see only one thing with two eyes, and hear only one voice with two ears, and in short have never more than one thought at a time, it must necessarily be the case that the impressions which enter by the two eyes or by the two ears, and so on, unite with each other in some part of the body before being considered by the soul. Now it is impossible to find any such place in the whole head except this gland; moreover it is situated in the most suitable possible place for this purpose, in the middle of all the concavities; and it is supported and surrounded by the little branches of the carotid arteries which bring the spirits into the brainâ€