We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Believe it or not, that question has been the biggest controversial undercurrent in modern neuroscience, and it remains an unanswered question among brain researchers, many of whom adopt a hard-core mechanistic view of the brain-mind issue. Like Scrooge, they might view dreams as a result of "a bit of undigested potato," but that does not do justice to the depth of their thinking on the subject.
There are plenty of good books on the subject written by wise and knowledgeable people. I won't write the essay here, but I am convinced that the idea of "mind," "self", "consciousness", and free will are so useful that they must mean something. In normal language, I believe people, or at least most people, have souls. However defined.
The subject arises because of an excellent review by Kenneth Silber of two books in Reason, entitled Are We Really Smart Robots? Mr. Silber has an impressive grasp of an immensely complex subject which involves neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, and culture.
One quote from the piece:
"Mind: A Brief Introduction and On Intelligence are thought-provoking and, no less important, anxiety-reducing. By dispelling overstated mechanistic claims arising from recent trends in neurobiology and philosophy, these books serve to combat public fears and forestall a possible backlash against science and technology. Humans can be part of the natural world without being mere machines, and without being outdone by our own machines. "
I recommend his piece to you as an impressive and succinct overview of the issues.
Mind, ego, and imagined self, are one and the same. A gentleman named Robert Adams, died about ten years ago, offered very informative talks regarding the nature of mind and the true nature of being. Check out itisnotreal.com if you would like to ponder Robert's thoughts on the subject.