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Philosophy of the Mind: Conception of Mind, Body, and Thought

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I need principles issues related to this topic, Philosophies related to this topic, misconceptions about this topic and questions and concerns about this topic.

Is a person more than a physical body? What is the mind? What is thought?

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Preliminary notice:
You've asked three closely related but independent questions. I will try to address them systematically.
These are very difficult and controversial issues: my aim will be to provide you with a guide to the topic.

Guidelines:
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 is the mind? Again, this is a big question, but philosophers often characterize the mind—the mental—in terms of two particular features: (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 (you should refer to his well known article "What its like to be a bat") 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 mind, or 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 imagine (have a thought about) a beach with 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. (And the same applies to desiring, wishing, judging, etc.) Brentano maintains that this property—intentionality or aboutness— is what differentiates mental properties from physical properties. After all, to be heavy, or grey, which are properties of physical objects, does not include any aboutness. So thoughts extend (refer) to things outside themselves, whereas non-thoughts, like hearts and kidneys, do not.

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. So the question of whether the mental involves something non-physical, is best approached by considering the relationship between thoughts and the brain. When you think a thought (say, you imagine a deserted beach), 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 (imagining) of a deserted beach, and (b) your brain's being in some particular state?

Section 2: Different positions on the mind-body problem
There are three basic positions one can take on the mind-body (or mind-brain) problem.

The first of these is called dualism, and it says the mental ...

Solution Summary

This solution provides a 2688 word tutorial that overviews the three fundamental philosophical theories of the mind; relating to both humans and personhood. Included is an overview of the materialist, dualist (particularly Cartesian dualism), and functionalist perspectives on the mind including suggested readings of contemporary and historical theorists from various sub-paradigms.

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