They keep our brains alive, yes, but the mind lives its own life inside the body, with or without the operation of the vehicle: dreamers live, people in comas live, and people in “locked-in” pseudocomas live, but none of those is living through the body’s interface with the physical world. The body is not just a draught animal, but a Mobility Animal: it takes the mind to new physical locations and helps it to interact with new physical objects.
If the human self is neither the body nor the mind, what at all is it? How do we normally think of “self” if not BOTH mind and body?
Well, apparently, we do not think of “self” the same way, because I would never imagine my body to be a central element in that. The body is replaceable: at present, only in part, but our technology is rapidly approaching the point at which the brain, at least, and perhaps one day the consciousness, could be transferred to a robotic ‘body’. If I could do that, I would not become a different person merely because the vehicle were different: my experiences would differ, and that would affect my personality, but the same is true if I suddenly became wealthy.
Let me put this another way: I love my Beloved for who she is, not for the flesh which transports her. If she were somehow transferred (scientifically or even magically) into another body, I would still love her, because it is her self, the continuing nature which underpins all of her moods and feelings and responses, which I love.
The “character” changes all the time, and it is changed according to the trajectory of our life. That trajectory is shaped not only by the mind, or interpersonal interactions and events, but by the body. The body’s abilities, construction, hormones and limitations direct the path our lives will take.
Character/personality does change (usually very slowly), and it can change in response to all manner of stimuli: the body has an effect, but so do the physical environment, diet, and especially life experience. The body is one of many factors which act upon the mind.
An obvious example at this point is sexual orientation. While the body plays a part in that, its role is not simply determinant. Experience also plays a part, but its role is not determinant. Life experience plays a part, but its role is not determinant. Physical environment plays a part, but its role is not determinant. At some point among all of these factors (most likely expressed as some sort of complex algorithm) is the “base state”, the “self”, of the human creature which encounters them, and it is that base state which determines how the others will condition the person to love a particular type.
Disability does not prove your point. If anything, it shows how critical embodiment is to making us ourselves. Someone who is disabled may fully overcome or transcend their limitations, but that in itself directs the trajectory of the life.
Sorry, but no, my disabilities do not determine who I am, either positively or negatively. They provide challenges, but the self which meets some and fails to meet others is not simply the product of the body. The same is true of my socio-economic circumstances, which (like my body) make some opportunities possible and others impossible: they provide challenges, but the self which meets some and fails to meet others is not simply the product of my wealth.
(Very interesting discussion, however!)