Share
Explore BrainMass

Mind-Body Problem

In his sixth mediation, Rene Descartes’ Meditator turns his thoughts to his own body and mind - why does a certain feeling in his stomach make his mind decide to eat? Why does he feel pain and itches in his own form but nothing external to it? Thus began formally (for the idea has predecessors in ancient Greece and Asia) debate known as the ‘Mind-Body Problem’ between philosophers, and many psychologists, which carries on to today. The argument centers around the extent of the connection between the mind and the body - are they connected or separate? Does one control the other?


The cover of Descartes' Meditations of the First Philosophy, including his ideas on the mind and body.

Answers to this debate generally fall into one of two camps - monism, advocating a unification of mind and body, and dualism which claims the opposite. Within dualism, there exists Cartesian dualism which differentiates between a mental substance, which can think, and matter, which can occupy a place in space-time. They posit that the mind, being made of the former, is entirely different to the body which belongs to the latter. Property dualism asserts that the difference is purely ontological and non-reductive physicalism delivers a worldview where the mind and body are separate yet mental events are linked to, and possibly caused by physiological ones. Finally, many subscribe to Searle’s idea which draw from the last two, called biological naturalism, wherein he finds mental states ontologically incongruent with physical ones yet possible causally related to them.

On the monist side of the debate lies the camps of materialism where only matter is real and all else an as-yet undiscovered facet of this reality, and that of phenomenalism (also known as subjective idealism) which convey the opposite. Berkeley was a prominent proponent of phenomenalism as it pertained to his ideas of idealism in perception wherein things that are not perceived cease to exist in any meaningful way.

The discussion has seen considerable influence from religion, particularly on the dualist side, and continues to be a subject of hot debate.

Categories within Mind-Body Problem

Mind-Body Relationship

Compare the views of Aristotle and Descartes on the relationship between body and mind/soul.

Mind and Body

What is human consciousness? How is this central feature of our existence related to the natural functions of our physical bodies? Which traditional resolution of the mind-body problem is most nearly correct? These are grand, abstract metaphysical questions, but we have a ringside seat for observing their application to our o

Incompleteness Of Skinner's Theory

1. The Incompleteness of Skinner's Theory: What other theories might compliment Skinner's position or sort of pick up where he left off for a more "complete" picture of human motivation? 2. How does culture affect the importance of monetary rewards? Provide an example to support your position.

Comparing Descartes to Searle

Compare Descartes' dualism with Searle's biological naturalism (in terms of his mind-body theory). What are the main features of each position? How are they similar or dissimilar? What are some of potential problems with each account?

Discuss the truth theories: Empirical Truth and Necessary Truth and their major proponents. Discuss the ways of understanding self.(Essential self, self as body, self as consciousness and self and it's emotions)

Empirical truth is truth that is arrived at through my personal experience or someone else's experience. Empirical truth is acquired through the senses. Therefore we cannot say for sure that something is true unless we or another human has experienced that truth. If we can imagine the opposite of the truth then we say that tr

Mind & Body Distinction

On Descartes' own terms, how "clearly and distinctly" do we understand the relationship of the mind to the body? How can a completely nonphysical thing interact with a completely physical thing? To ask Mark Twain's insightful question: How come the mind gets drunk when the body does the drinking? Why does my mind react to what h

Descartes: Metaphysical Framework

Descartes asks the question, How can a body, which is material and occupies space, affect something which is immaterial and does not occupy space? Create your own metaphysical framework for the "self" by describing: 1.) your "self" as a thinking subject; 2.) your "self" as a physical body; 3.) your analysis of how these two a