Our self-conception is strongly rooted in memory of past experiences, without which it is not clear that the “self” would retain any meaning at all. Imagine if I could not remember the experiences that I had yesterday, or five minutes ago, or if I wasn’t sure that those experiences were had by the same person. In such a case I could not meaningfully speak of “my” past or “my” future, and my sense of identity would completely collapse. Through our memories of the past and our expectations for the future we maintain both continuity and singularity through our lives. Our lives have an a priori unity that we have no reason to disregard in our self-understanding. Therefore the idea that we are merely an assembly of changing chemical interactions is both unbelievable and absurd.

The materialist understanding seems to be guilty of a crude form of reductionism. Physicist Paul Davies explains this by way of an analogy: An electrical engineer could give a complete and accurate description of an advertising display in terms of electric circuit theory, explaining exactly why and how each light is flashing. Yet the claim that the advertising display is therefore nothing but electrical pulses in a complex circuit is absurd.”16 Davies’s point here is that a human being is a collection of atoms in the same way that Shakespeare’s plays are collections of words or Beethoven’s symphonies are collections of notes. It hardly follows from this, however, that Othello is nothing more than words or that the Fifth Symphony is no more than an assembly of notes. There is a holistic unity to Othello and the Fifth Symphony that seems ignored in describing them in this way. So too are human beings made up of atoms and molecules, but that does not even begin to describe the unity we experience in our everyday lives.