A Critique of the Body and Mind Problem
The mind and brain debate is a
historical debate of the nature of the mind, soul, spirit, essence, etc. which
dates back to the classical era. To
summarize, there are two major schools of thought, that claims that the mind is
of a single nature and it’s called Monism. Under monism there are also two
minor schools, Idealists, those that emphasize ideas, and Materialists, those
that have a mechanistic view of the world, where everything operates under the
principle of determinism. The second major school of thought is that of
Dualism, which claims that there are two worlds or natures of things. Some of
the most notable thinkers and ideas are: Aristotle, the world is split into the
material world and the rational world. Descartes, the mind and brain are of two
different natures but interact with each other, he also argued that the key to
all knowledge is reason, hence the term Cartesian rationalism. A third school
is that of empiricism, which also stated that body and mind are different
stated, but physical principles also govern the mind.
today’s world, and with the prevalence of science, one might assume notion that
the mind and the brain are the same thing, without much investigation. However,
as mentioned in the summary earlier, the mind-body problem has been examined
extensively through history. One of the most notable philosophers that tackled
the subject was Descartes. His approach to the mind body problem stemmed from
trying to establish a method of absolute certainty, free from confusion,
conflict, and beyond doubt and skepticism. After exercising his methods of
doubt, he concluded that the only thing that can’t be doubted is, cogito ergo
sum, I think; therefore I am. He reasoned that we can doubt our bodies and
still exist; hence we are thinking things
If one wants to rephrase Descartes’s reasoning, one could say that he believed that thought precedes existence, but that begs the question, how can you think if you did not exist? It simply can’t be. That’s why dualism was essential for Descartes’s theory to be valid; the mind must be of a different nature than the body in order for reason to precede existence.
Descartes demonstrated the significance of dualism in the mind-body problem, especially in an era where the philosophy of science was in its early ages. However, in present day and after the tremendous advancement in technology, neurology, and psychology, Monism, and in particular materialism seems more relatable. For one, we perceive the dual nature of the computer experience, where we interact with the hardware to manipulate the software, and the software appears in a different mode from the hardware, does that make them of different natures? Is the software metaphysical?
To conclude, the mind-body debate allows us to see how interested we are to know who we are and how we think, and how our environment and advancement in literature and science contributed to the process of figuring out our minds.
Chung, M. C., & Hyland, M. E. (2012). The Body and Mind Problem: Dualism. In M. C. Chung, & M. E. Hyland, History and Philosophy of Psychology (pp. 64-68). West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Laureate Online Education . (2016, 11 10). The Antecedents of Psychology: Philosophy. Week 1: Human Behaviour, Is It All In The Brain or Mind? . Netherlands: Laureate Online Education.