Why are hearts commonly seen as the main organ of life when arguably the brain is where personhood and self-consciousness is formed?


Why are hearts commonly seen as the main organ of life when arguably the brain is where personhood and self-consciousness is formed?

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One of the many aspects of this comes from the fact that heart is substantially easier to injure than the brain. While the colloquial use of the heart as the “core” organ (whether or not it actually is an organ is another question entirely) certainly has deep roots in things like its traditional link with emotions, etc, one of the simple things to pin the importance to is the fact that while injuring other organs can be survivable, an injury to the heart was usually a death sentence before modern medicine. You can stab a person in many/most other places, and they could survive it. Stabbing a brain is just really difficult in general. But the heart is something you can aim for, if you want someone to go down and stay down.

Because until the late 1800s , we had no idea how the body worked, so guessed. The Egyptians , Romans, Greeks all thought different organs were in control. Each religion also had a different stance on what made us hunan. It’s only down to modern science that we now know the brain controls the other organs.


As has been said in other comments, its a historical misunderstanding about how the body works. Personally I blame Aristotle. I can see how this would be the case, and even with modern medicine it kind of holds true. Example being you can be, in contemporary terms, brain dead or in a coma, but the heart keeps on beating. Now the brain may be able to keep basic functions going without ‘consciousness’, (I’m not a neurosurgeon so I don’t know about the details and efficacy) but unless there is something locked in a bunker or lab I don’t know about the heart can survive without a brain but not vice versa. It is at heart, pun intended, a simple pump driven by electrical stimulus as far as I remember. Think about Miracle Mike the chicken, which ok , wasn’t quite brainless/brainstemless . Or that cockroaches can live without there heads. I’m not entirely sure they are comparable etc, but its something to think about. Please someone correct me if I am wrong and just perpetuating my memory of stuff based of incorrect facts.

I like u/PrincetonToss’s answer, but I’d like to clarify that emotion might historically have been a stronger indicator of life and personhood than consciousness or thought.

With that in mind, let’s not forget that ‘heartache’ is a literal pain you feel around your heart when you’re in distress such as when you’re deeply sad or hear some bad news, so that’s another way in which the heart could be thought to be more closely connected to emotions, and thus personhood, than the head.