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The Mind/body Problem - Discussion

Essay by   •  January 25, 2011  •  Study Guide  •  873 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,588 Views

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First of, what is the �Mind/Body problem’?The mind/body problem, in one of its aspects, concerns the relation between the two. Some people have thought that the mind and body are one and the same, the mind being just one aspect of the body and located in or identical to the brain. On the other hand, some consider that they must be separate, either wholly or significantly, with the mind not being equivalent to the brain.

Descartes is, perhaps, the philosopher that most people reference when discussing the mind-body problem. For Descartes, there are two substances: Mind and Matter. Each substance has a defining attribute. In the case of Mind, the defining attribute is Thought. In the case of Matter, the defining attribute is spatial Extension. It is important to note that for Descartes, substances can have nothing in common, otherwise they would not be fundamentally different things. The mind-body problem arises out of this view of substances, because if mind and body have nothing in common, then in what way can they be said to interact? This is known as the problem of interaction.

v Interactionism holds that the mind can influence the body and the body can influence the mind and it is in this way that they are united. Descartes was an interactionist.

v Epiphenomenalism is the view that mental activities are by-products of the physical. They therefore avoid the difficulty of how a non-physical thing could influence a physical one.

v The double aspect theory derives from the philosopher Spinoza and holds that there is only one substance and that the mind and the body are both aspects of it. It explains how the causes of our actions can be simultaneously mental and physical thus avoiding analysing the mental in terms of the physical or the physical in terms of the mental.

v Parallelism contends that the mind and body never influence one another, but nevertheless progress along parallel paths as though they interact. Leibniz maintained that God arranged things in advance so that our minds and bodies would be in harmony: the notion of “pre-established harmony”.

v Occasionalism is part of a wider theory of causation which holds that causes are joined to effects only in the sense that when a cause occurs God wills the effect to occur. So God causes our mental life and wills that it is in close correspondence with what is going on in the body.

The mind/body problem is somewhat similar to execution by guillotine, where the head is brutally but swiftly removed from the body. Can the mind live without the body and can the body function without the mind?

Descartes noted that if he cut off his foot, his mind did not seem to be affected. If we lopped off our heads instead, would we still have a mind?

Psychologically speaking… decapitation is obviously fatal, for brain-death occurs within seconds to minutes after disconnection, but is there still activity inside the mind? Research and investigation was done on this and turned up no solid conclusion to either support or refute the question. However, one report concluded that a dispatched head was able to respond by opening his eyes whenever the doctor mentioned his name; blinking and mouthing words. Now, since no solid evidence



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