The Mind/Body Problem
The mind/body problem has been around for centuries; in philosophy it describes the relationship between mind and matter, or better yet the relationship between consciousness and the brain. So we ask how something that is immaterial can control something material, how can our mind will our body to do something we want it to do? Well this is the problem here. I will be going over what exactly the mind and the body are, why this problem is a problem to us, the interaction between the two, and a conclusion.
The mind is about the mental processes, thought and consciousness. The body is about the physical parts of the brain, like neurons and how the human brain is made up. This problem is about how they interact with each other. Why is this interaction a problem? Well is the body a part of the mind or the mind a part of the body? If they are intertwined how are they? And which is in charge? Well Many philosophers have their theories of how this all works and the relationship between the mind (the thinking thing which experiences thought) and the body (material, part of your body). It originally traces back to Rene Descartes, who thought the interaction of the two have to partake of both the mind (soul) and the body. He famously said that they connect at the tiny pineal gland. I think a question all philosophers have had their theories about asks are the mind and body separate or the same thing? We humans are material objects but we are also able to make judgments and reason with people.
Dualism says that we have a mind and a body; monism believes that the mind and body is the same thing. According to dualism mental and physical events occur. According to monism or materialism only the physical events exist, and according to monism or idealism only mental events exist. Dualism begins with the claim that mental phenomena are in some cases non-physical. In early western philosophy Plato says that intelligence cannot be explained in terms of the physical body. Descartes was the one who formed the mind body problem in to how it is formed today. The argument used most, in favor of dualism is that it appeals to the common-sense intuition that conscious experience is different from dull matter. When you ask someone what is the mind? Usually they will respond as saying it is their self, personality, soul, or some other entity. They usually don’t say that it is just a physical part of the brain. That does not sound appealing at all. Another crucial argument in favor of dualism is that the mind and body (the mental and physical) seem to be very different and you cannot resolve the difference between the two. Mental events are subjective whereas physical events are objective. For example anyone can ask what a burnt finger feels like or what a stormy sky looks like or what good food smells like. But it is hard to understand what exactly is going on in the brain. Nobody will really ever know what another person is going through in their minds, it’s too subjective. This problem should be interesting to us for a couple of reasons. First of all it’s just an intriguing philosophical puzzle. Belief in an immaterial soul seems kind of absurd, but also mysterious how a physical system can give rise to mental states. Secondly an answer to the problem between materialism and dualism is an answer to the question what am I? If materialism is true you are just a physical object. If dualism is true you are a soul, or I should probably say a composite object.
A. Cartesian Dualism
Cartesian Dualism is the affiliation of these five theses. (I underlined the special terms and defined and discussed them below.)
(a) Each person is made up of two main parts: an immaterial mind and a physical body.
(b) Only immaterial minds can have mental properties.
(c) Only physical objects can have physical properties.
(d) Mind and body are able to exist independently (and generally do so after death).
(e) Mind and body enter into two-way causal interaction
Immaterial mind- a spatially unextended thinking thing
There are two ways that something might be spatially unextended: (i) our minds exist inside space, but have no length width or height, it is like a geometrical point. (ii) Or our minds exist outside space.
Mental properties- a property such that anything that has it must be conscious.
Therefor if something has a mental property it is guaranteed to be consciousness.
Examples of mental properties:
• Being in pain- “If someone pricks you with a pin, you will most likely feel pain. That instance of feeling pain is an instantiation of the property being in (or a) pain. It is important to distinguish between the predicate ‘is a pain’ which is a linguistic entity, and the property denoted by the predicate.” –philosophy of mind perspective
• Believing the patriots are in first place
• Tasting the taste of turkey
• Wanting the semester to be over
• Feeling happy
Examples of properties that are not mental properties:
• Paper cut on your finger
• Screaming “ouch!”
• Saying “yeah! The patriots are in first place!”
• Saying “wow, I cannot wait for the semester to be over”
“None of these properties is a mental property because it is at least logically possible to imagine a thing having any one of them without being conscious. For instance, we could build a robot that had all of these properties but had no mental states at all. It is easy to mistake the above properties for mental properties because, as things stand in our world, these properties are tightly causally connected with mental properties.” –
Physical object – a thing that is extended in space and time
To say something has extension and that it is extended in space says that it takes up
Examples of physical objects: your body, my body, Spirit the horse, the chair your sitting
in, the planet Earth, the Milky Way, ECT.
Physical property – a property that if anything has it, it must be a physical object
A physical property assures that whatever has it is spatially extended.
Examples of physical properties:
• Being blue
• Weighing 98 lbs.
• Being 5”4 tall
• Getting a paper cut
Descartes thinks that “although the mind and the body are two distinct things, they can enter into two-way interaction. So, events in the body can cause events in the mind: for example, the stubbing of a toe can cause the firing of a neuron in the brain which can cause the sensation of pain in the mind. Also, events in the mind can cause events in the body: the desire to drink the water can cause the firing of some neuron in the brain which causes the contraction of the arm muscle which causes the raising of the water bottle to take a drink.”
B. Minimal Materialism
(a) Each person is just a physical object (his/her own body); and
(b) There are no souls or immaterial minds; and
(c) Each person (that is, each human body) has mental as well as physical properties.
This is called minimal materialism because it has theses that any accepted design of materialism would have, in serious ways it is incomplete. It is incomplete because it does not tell us how it is that a physical object like a human organism can have mental properties. That is, it does not include a theory of mind.
I have gone over what the mind and body (mental and physical) are, why it is a problem, what the interaction between the two is and the conclusion according to Dualism. This is just one point of view or conclusion. There are many other philosophical views on the mind body problem. I think this one is the most relevant, but I don’t think that there is a worldwide acceptable conclusion to this problem that will make everyone happy.