The Mind-Body Problem

Cognitive scientists state that the body and mind are intimately connected. When a person places his/her hands above a fire, his/her body feels warmth, and his/her mind deduces that there is warmth in hands due to a fire. The only thing that should be established is the existence of the connection between the mind and body. It is necessary to establish whether the mind is part of the body or whether it is just the brain. Changes in the brain always affect the mind, but it is important to discover whether the brain and mind are the same or not. The volume of the brain can be measured, however, it is impossible to measure the mind. Moreover, the behavior of people determines their mental abilities; therefore, one more question arises: are behavior and the mind identical? Behavior is often considered to be the product of what happens in the mind but not a part of it. This paper will discuss Rene Descartes’ Substance Dualism, Materialism, and the difference between Reductive Materialism and Eliminative Materialism. It will also explore the philosophical problem of personal identity that includes two positions offered by John Locke and David Hume, showing which position is more plausible

Rene Descartes’ Substance Dualism

According to substance dualism, there are two types of substances: physical and mental. Rene Descartes contends that a human being can be deceived by an illusion of perception or by a very evil genius, putting perceptions and observations that do not exist in the real world into the person’s mind. However, Descartes believes that despite the ability of the evil genius to deceive individuals about physical entities, this evil genius cannot cheat them out of their thoughts. People cannot be wrong about what they think. The fact that individuals realize that they have thoughts proves the existence of the mind. ‘I’ is perceived as the thinking entity or mind. Idealists borrowed some Descartes’ ideas and inferred that the mind is the only thing that exists. However, Descartes believes that other physical entities, for instance his body, exist alongside his mind. This implies that the universe is composed of physical entities like the body and non-physical entities like the mind. The close connection between the brain and mind made Descartes deduce that there is communication between the mind and body despite the fact that they exist as different entities. Descartes argues that people are certain that their minds exist, but they are not certain that their bodies (or anything else physical) exist, which means that that the mind is not the same as the body.

A Concise Formulation of Materialism

Currently, under the influence of modern science, more people are inclined to think and believe that the mind is part of physical entities. According to Materialism, only physical things exist, and mental things are an illusion. The neural dependency theory states that the existence of the mind is a direct function of the nature of the brain. The mind is the logical result or product of the brain activity. Materialism contends that out-of-the-body experiences are produced by the brain and can be explained scientifically. Were the body and mind distinct, then these experiences would be common. Materialists believe that the mind does not exist without the brain. Reductive Materialism holds that there is an equivalent brain (physical) state for every mental state. In contrast, Eliminative Materialism claims that the one-to-one correspondence between physical and mental states is unfounded, and the common-sense psychological framework disagrees with the theory of reductive materialism.

Analyzing the arguments offered by dualists and materialists, it may be concluded that materialists present a more plausible account. If the brain had an effect only on the mind, it is unclear how and why the brain would still produce independent thoughts. It has been scientifically proven that when the brain is seriously damaged, then the mind cannot function. If the mind was independent of the brain, it would remain intact and functional even when the brain is damaged. Each thing in science, chemical or biological, is physical. According to Ockham’s razor, when two models explain a phenomenon equally well, the simpler model is always better. In this case, the model offered by Materialism is simpler and thus more preferable.

The Philosophical Problem of Personal Identity Discussed by Locke and Hume

John Locke believes that there is a distinction between the person and man. The person is a thinking intelligent being that has reason as well as reflection and can perceive itself as the same thinking thing at different times and places. Locke argues that people as moral beings should be held accountable for their actions, and personal identity depends on the sameness of consciousness. However, no person should be held accountable for his/her actions done unconsciously, for example, when he/she is sick, asleep or drunk. This idea per se is not psychological; it is connected with accountability based on consciousness, awareness, and sameness.

David Hume criticizes the distinction between the person and man, though he borrows some Locke’s ideas. Hume sees the self as a combination of perceptions. He contends that personal identity is based on perceptions. He discusses the principles of resemblance, causation, and spatiotemporal contiguity. In A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume holds that selves are social creatures. He notes that such qualities as pride and humility would not exist if people had not created them. He blends this idea and the introspection model, postulating that the self is shaped by personal perceptions and those of others. Hume believes that introspection alone prevents people from blaming, loving or praising their selves.

Analyzing the two arguments, it may be concluded that Hume’s position is more plausible. According to Locke’s point of view, individuals can evade accountability and responsibility for their actions done unconsciously, believing that they are only accountable for conscious actions. Hume’s position, however, is more persuasive. He states that selves are influenced by personal perceptions and those of others. Introspection motivates people to be themselves. Opinions or perceptions of others encourage individuals to self-examine their selves.

People can use various theories to solve the mind-body problem, but there is no theory that can be considered the absolute truth. Therefore, people should choose only that theory which seems more plausible to them. According to Rene Descartes, the supporter of Substance Dualism, the universe is compounded of physical entities and non-physical entities, which implies that the mind (which is non-physical) is different from the body (which is physical). In contrast, Materialism states that the universe is composed of only physical entities, and the mind is not independent of the brain. Materialists claim that the mind cannot exist without the brain. Concerning the philosophical problem of personal identity, it is thoroughly discussed by John Locke and David Hume. Locke thinks that selves should be held accountable only for their conscious actions, while Hume states that the self is shaped by personal perceptions and the perceptions of others. This paper has shed light on Dualism, Materialism, and the philosophical problem of personal identity which is extensively discussed by John Locke and David Hume. The paper has also compared and analyzed the two pairs of theories, showing which ones are more plausible.


The Mind-Body Problem

The Mind-Body Problem

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Dora Nickols

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