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    Discussing the Body, Mind and Thought

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    Is a person more than a physical body? What is the mind? What is thought?
    I need some help on researching, to better understand the different views on this question in order to take a side in which I believe. I need to write a paper relaying my point of view and arguments on this subject.

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    Section 1: Preliminaries and setting up the problem

    Human beings (members of our species) have both a mind and a body. To ask whether human beings—I am distinguishing between 'human being' and 'person' for the moment—are more than physical bodies, is to ask whether our having a mind involves something over and above our physical bodies.

    What does having a mind involve? Your having a mind involves being able to think thoughts, and feel emotions, and perform (free) actions. Philosophers often characterise the mind—the mental—in terms of (1) consciousness, and (2) intentionality.

    In An Essay concerning Human Understanding, John Locke explains that 'Consciousness is the perception of what passes in a Man's own mind' (1689: II.i.19). It's quite hard to explain this more clearly. But one helpful pointer is that being conscious, and having conscious experiences involves experiencing things to be a certain way. Thomas Nagel explains this by saying that there is something that it is like to have conscious experiences. When you taste an ice cream, there is something that it is like to experience that taste. When you see red, there is something that it is like to see that colour. Another way of putting this is that conscious experiences involve subjectivity.

    The second feature that is sometimes held to be distinguishing of mental activity and hence thought is intentionality. (This word comes from the medieval philosophers, but was reintroduced into modern philosophy by Franz Brentano.) The intentionality of mental states (features of a mind) refers to their 'aboutness'. Suppose you think of (have a thought about) white sand and sunshine. Your thought is about something. Similarly, suppose you hope to win the jackpot. Again, your thought—this time a hope—is about something. Brentano maintains that this property—intentionality or aboutness— is what differentiates mental properties from physical properties. After all, to be heavy, or red, which are properties of physical objects, does not include any about-ness.

    With these preliminary comments on the nature of mind and thought in place, we can now turn to what I take to be your main concern. This is whether our (=human beings) having a mind entails that we must be something over and above purely physical creatures. (I consider the question about persons below.)

    Very few philosophers today will dispute that when someone thinks a thought, something happens in their brain. In other words, the question of whether having a mind entails something non-physical is best approached by considering the relationship between thoughts and the brain. When you think a thought (say, you imagine sunshine), does this involve anything more than your brain responding in a particular way? If it does, the having a mind, and being a human being with a mind, entails being something more than a physical body. If not, then having a mind does not entail being more than this.

    What I have described here is called the mind-body problem, and which may, I am suggesting, be better described as the mind-brain problem.
    (1) What is the relation between your mind and brain?
    (2) More specifically, what is the relation between (a) your thought of sunshine, and (b) your ...

    Solution Summary

    Provides a discussion of the body, mind and thought.