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- August 2019
Problem of Mind and Body in Philosophy
   Tue Aug 06, 2019 7:09 am

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Problem of Mind and Body in Philosophy

Permanent Linkby virginiafawcett on Tue Aug 06, 2019 7:09 am

The philosophical problem of mind and body has a long history, which originates from the ancient times. As soon as people learned how to think, they did not stop trying to find an answer for the question of their origin. There are two main approaches to this problem: monism and dualism, which had always been in argument and still there is no single point of view on the issue except reflection paper example. The discussion in this essay touches upon this controversy, the positions of the philosophers during the history, modern approaches to the problem of mind and body, and author’s opinion on the most plausible approach.
Mind is considered to be mental entity incorporating the concepts of emotions, feelings, thoughts, consciousness, and imagination. Body is a physical entity that is material and can be touched. From the scientific and physicalistic points of view, body is a physical state that can be described and explained by the laws of physics. The major controversies in the problem concern the differentiation or unification of these two concepts, and the existence of the relations between mental and physical states. This interaction is called causal relations.
There are two main approaches to the problem of mind and body: monism and dualism. Monism claims for the existence of only one substance as the fundamental principle of the world: either mind or body, while dualism stays for both of them existing separately. The majority of scientists and modern philosophers recognize monistic approach as the only possible. Religious institutions and a group of philosophers believe in dualistic approach to the world’s substance.
Dualism can be traced back to Plato’s works on philosophy and despite its controversial propositions criticized by many modern philosophers, still exists today. The first person to establish the problem of body and mind and the dualistic approach to it was Rene Descartes. Descartes’ dualism or substance dualism differentiates the two kinds of substances that can exist on their own. Descartes states that while we are conscious, we exist. However, this theory does not refer to the states of unconsciousness of a person such as sleep, faint, or different mental disorders. There are some other gaps in Descartes’ theory. According to substance dualism, the same individual cannot have both mental and physical properties. This statement indicates that there are either bodiless spirits or mindless bodies. The main question of the means of interaction between the body and the mind also remains unresolved. Descartes demonstrated the relation between them and their influence on each other, but failed to explain the ways these relations occurred, except for presuming the pineal gland becoming a bridge between mind and body. Substance dualism leaves many questions for generations of philosophers, who have been trying to solve these questions for ages. The modern dualists, following Descartes’ example, seek for the bridge between mind and body on a scientific level, exploring human’s brain.
Interactionism or interactionist dualism was represented by Karl Popper and John C. Eccles in the 20th century. Eccles was a Nobel prized neurophysiologist, who supported dualistic approach to the problem, and tried to prove the interaction between body and mind on a neurological level. Eccles is a bright example of the way religion can be intertwined with science. Interactionism postulates the existence of both mental world and material world, and is concerned essentially with their interaction that can be conceived as a flow of information, not of energy.
Monism follows the idea of the existence of only one substance. Idealism is a theory centred on the mind as a basis of the world. Idealism was founded by George Berkeley in the 18th century, who stated that the material world was an illusion, which people’s minds lived in. Placing God over people’s minds, Berkeley explained the way we are controlled in our thoughts and actions from above. Of course, this theory is acknowledged to be inadequate and can be easily disapproved by the evidence of the influence of the physical processes on body. There are also different kinds of mental disorders, which completely distort the concepts of idealism. There are still people believing in destiny to be God’s instrument in controlling people and the world being an illusion; thus, the whole idealist theory rejects the possibility of a free will, which becomes the sticking point for the majority of the monistic theories.
Leaving idealism or mentalist monism to the dreamers, philosophers came to materialist monism. Nowadays materialist theories are the most popular ones among the philosophers and scientists. They are based on the idea of body as the only existing physical substance. Materialists consider the set philosophical problem to be solved, as soon as all the brain processes, or at least the majority of them, are known and examined. From the failed theory of behaviourism, assuming that there are no mental states, but only the human’s behaviour beginning, materialists moved smoothly to the identity theory. Identity theory was highly appreciated by the philosophers for decades in the 20th century. It is based on the concepts of psychology and neurophysiology, assuming the types of states within them to explain the mental states. However, identity theory was not confirmed empirically, and after the revealing of new gaps in it, philosophers came to functionalism.
Functionalists define mental states as functional states, which are more abstract than physical states and are capable of realization in a wide variety of physical constitutions. Computer functionalism is one of the forms of the functionalism. This theory compares a person to a computer implying that people are programmed, having mind as software, and body, in particular brain, as hardware. This seems rather interesting in time of the world computerization. Computer functionalism states that we can understand the work of the mind and its interrelation with the brain by learning what programs the brain consists of. However, the main drawback of this theory is that its followers have not done such an analysis yet. In addition, the comparison of the brain with the computer is rather weak, as brain remains much more complicated with its processes and only the smallest part of it has been explored by the scientists.
Although computer functionalism seems to be close to my concept of the way mind and body interact, as I was brought up in the digital generation, and it is quite easy to imagine a person to be a kind of a complex computerized system, this theory seems to me inadequate from the philosophical and spiritual points of view. According to the computer functionalism, living person is compared to a robot or android; this leads to a thought of having lack of feelings, emotions, and again, free will.
From the scientific point of view, monism is the only possibility the philosophical issue of mind and body should be regarded. Existing and proven physical laws contradict the differentiation of mental events and physical bodies. According to the scientists, there is no spiritual world, unless there is an evidence of its existence. However, I prefer dualism and agree with Eccles, who states that mind belongs to a different world, so it is moving constantly per its own laws. I stick to the opinion of the existence of the mental world in its own dimension that does not violate physical laws, as there are many things acknowledged, but not yet explained by science. I do not believe that mental state is a kind of a physical state as materialists claim. If there was a possibility to prove that some of the mental events occur without our awareness, not as a part of a brain process, mind could be secluded from body as a separate substance in philosophy. The spiritual things, as well as reincarnation, can neither be proved nor disproved. In fact, there is an unbiased reliable scientific research on reincarnation made by a respected Canadian psychiatrist, Ian Stevenson, who has been documenting the cases of children remembering their past lives all around the world, and put his 40-year research into his book Children Who Remember Previous Lives: A Question of Reincarnation.
Despite the assumptions that psychologists can know better what a person wants, his or her habits and thoughts, I suppose they do not mean they read people’s minds; thus, acknowledging the existence of some supernatural powers, which contradicts their theories. If there is no possibility to intrude in one’s mind, there is no possibility to understand all the processes going on in it as well, although centuries of the human brain sciences were trying to understand and distinguish certain conditions.
Every philosopher during the history believed in his propositions as the only truth. If we put together some of the statements and analyse them, we will be able to go nearer to the solution and, probably, suggest a new approach to the issue. There is a considerable gap in dualism, as it cannot explain how exactly mental and physical states interact, supported only by blind believing in some cases. Monism, in its turn, cannot explain the influence of the brain on the consciousness, emotions, feelings, and free will. Although there is a variety of theories on the set issue, I consider that there is no absolute solution for the problem of mind and body today, but there are some ideas I find more or less convincing than the other, and they were indicated above.

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