Savant Syndrome and the Soul
Abstract: Savant Syndrome is a remarkable condition in which individuals with severe mental disabilities exhibit “islands of genius.” The movie Rain Man, which focuses on an autistic savant, has brought about increased awareness of this rare syndrome in which the afflicted show extraordinary skill in music performance, art, calendar calculating, mathematics, or mechanical or spatial skills. Modern neuroscience continues to be unable to explain how such remarkable abilities manifest themselves in the midst of such debilitating handicaps. Substance dualism provides a template through which one might gain insight into the phenomena associated with Savant Syndrome. These are less satisfactorily explained from a monistic physicalist account of human beings. For the substance dualist, an investigation into these phenomena may shed light into the nature of the soul. For those not convinced of the existence of a non-material soul, the increased explanatory power of the substance dualist position in regard to the phenomena of Savant Syndrome may provide greater reason to consider the substance dualist position superior to the monist position. If by positing the existence of the soul, one may gain insight into the complexities of Savant Syndrome, perhaps there is reason to believe there is a little “savant” inside us all.