One of the most intriguing questions with which philosophers, psychologists, and scientists have struggled has to do with the relationship of the body and the mind. Are people merely physical machines who respond only to physical stimuli? Is there actually a mind that is distinct and separate from the body? Are minds capable of surviving the death of the body? Are we more than material objects? In this paper, I want to explore some of the questions regarding this issue. The mind-body problem is the problem of determining the relationship between the human body and its mind. Are our minds something different from our physical bodies? Suppose we think that the mind is a substance of some sort — a mental substance. We might still ask: Is there some way to explain what the mind, a mental substance, is, in terms of physical substance? Or will we maintain that the mind is something totally different from physical bodies, and that we cannot explain what the one is in terms of the other at all? Suppose instead that we deny that the mind is some mysterious substance, and we hold instead that there are only mental events and that “the mind” designates no more than a series of mental events? We can still inquire about the relation between mind and body in a different way, in terms of the relation between mental events and physical events. We can ask: Are mental events totally different from physical events, so that you can’t explain what mental events are in terms of physical events; or are mental events somehow explainable as being the same as physical events? For example, when John feels a pain, a mental event is occurring; now is that pain even possibly the same as something that occurs in John’s brain, such as the firing of some special group of neurons? Now this question we will examine.
... of the mind consist of the mental world ... body is public and what happens to the mind is private. The events which reply to the body consist of the physical world, and the events ...
The mind-body problem can be introduced more fully with an example. Suppose John decides to walk across the room, whereupon he does in fact walk across the room. John’s decision is a mental event and his walking across the room is a physical event. On anyone’s accounting, there is another physical event involved, namely, something happens in John’s brain, which tells John’s legs to start walking. This brain event is closely connected with John’s decision; the brain event happens at about the same time, or right after, John decides to walk across the room. We might ask: How is it possible that a decision, which is something mental, resulted in something in your brain, which is something physical? If we say that the mental and the physical are totally different sorts of things, then how can one have any causal impact on the other? How can a mere mental event, a decision, actually cause neurons in my brain to start firing? The very idea might seem absurd.
On one view, a better description of the situation is this: John’s decision is itself a physical event. When John decides to take my trip across the room, a group of neurons fire in his brain. He is not aware of those neurons; but the firing of those neurons is itself just the same as his decision. There isn’t any more to the decision than that physical event. So, on the view in question, there’s no trouble thinking about how a mental event can have a physical effect; mental events are themselves physical.
Ultimately, everything is physical. The mind-body problem is a philosophical problem, and as such it has philosophical solutions. Those solutions lead to the adoption of a point of view about the mind-body problem, which, in turn, leads to a particular way of dealing with the world. Usually, most of us do not think about our own solutions to the mind-body problem, and, sometimes, we may use different solutions at different times. In the Middle Ages, the mind-body problem was not even identified as a problem, and, therefore, the “solution” then was completely confounded, meaning that mind and body were thoroughly bound up together in one complex and confusing bundle. What is the mind-body problem? Descartes helped to define it when he noted that if he amputated his foot, he had affected his physical body, but had not affected his mind.
... love nourish? Well, I know that spiritual love is an emotion. But the problem ... before, two types of love exist, physical and spiritual. Physical love gives nourishment to the physical body. But what part of man does spiritual ... is that all emotions are some how related to the human brain. So if physical love deals with the human body ...
He did not offer to sever his head, but Dennett (1978) has speculated about what might happen should one’s brain be transferred to another body. Science fictional accounts have also explored such transfers. Those speculations get to the heart of the mind-body problem, namely where does reality lie? Descartes backed into his famous existence proof, cogito ergo sum, while attempting to decide whether the physical world existed at all, and when he realized that he was thinking he also realized there must be a thinker. So, the mind-body problem has to do with reality and with perceptions of reality. Most of us would agree that a physical world exists: We can perceive it, and we can agree as to its manifestations.
Also, most of us believe that we think. Part of the problem is that we cannot agree as to the contents of others’ minds like we can agree to the nature of the physical world. Another issue is that we cannot fully know our own mind. That is the problem of introspection, and is the problem that led to the fall of structuralist accounts of psychology.
Still another problem is the issue of animal minds. Whereas we have some hope of knowing part of the contents of another human’s mind, we have no hope of knowing the contents of animal minds because the specific differences are so great. These are some of the many aspects of the mind-body problem. Descartes’ doubts about the reality of the physical world haunt us still.
Let’s suppose for a moment that the world was created yesterday, and that everything that you remember is, in fact, not true. Instead, those memories were placed in your mind at the moment of creation. How would you know the difference? In Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, later made into the movie “Blade runner”, Dick explored such thoughts. In the movie, set in the near future, biotechnology has succeeded in creating stronger and smarter human beings. But, if they are smarter and stronger, what is to prevent them from taking over? A four-year life span is the answer.
A major problem in understanding World War II is dealing with its ironies. Germans mastered most of the military lessons of World War I ... 's eliminationist hatred of the Jews took form in his mind is still a matter of debate.Some accounts have him ... Vienna, or to his gassing experience at the end of World War I, still others believe the anti-Semitism took on ...
The replicants, as they are called, are created as adults, and die after four years of life. To prevent problems in control of the replicants, the latest models have been given false memories of childhood as well as a handful of souvenirs of their childhood. Dick speculates, is that not all we have too? In the more recent movie, Total Recall, based on one of Dick’s short stories, similar themes are exploited. The main character thinks that by having his brain altered, he can enjoy a two week vacation on Mars. However, such vacations are merely alterations of memory accompanied by a few souvenirs.
Again, are not our vacations reducible to that? Finally, consider the horror of amnesia, or loss of memory. Inability to recall our past, retrograde amnesia, would render us fairly helpless, as would inability to store new memories, anterograde amnesia. We depend heavily, whether we realize it or not, on the mental representations we make of the physical world. The question now turns to the relationship of the mind and body. Again we turn to Descartes.
Descartes posited an interactionism solution to the mind body problem, meaning that each affected the other. The effects of that solution have been explored above. But, other solutions exist, and they can be divided into monist or dualist categories. Interactionism is a dualist solution because it includes both mind and body. Other dualist solutions exist, and they vary primarily in the relationship of the mind and body. Monist solutions include only mind or body.
Idealism posits only the existence of the mind, materialism only of the body. Idealists are hard to find, but materialists are not so rare. The mind body problem is an ancient philosophical problem that has caused much controversy over the centuries. Although some people may regard such an ancient problem as being irrelevant to cognitive science, on the contrary the problem still persists and is regarded as significant. There are different aspects to the mind-body problem. These are the ontological, semantical, epistemological and methodological problems.
... mental states. On a common sense view of this sort, the special unity and individuality that characterize selves also poses no special problem ... the basis of physical consideration, and must instead be accounted for in terms of the mental. If neither mind nor self ... modern discussion of the nature of mind derives indirectly from the striking success of physical explanation. Not only has physics itself ...
We are mainly interested in the ontological problem, that is, the nature of the mind and what its fundamental essence is. The mind-body problem comes from opposing views of the mind. Mental states and processes are characterised typically by consciousness and / or intentionality. This suggests that mental states are not physical objects. However, we also note that mental states both cause and are caused by, and explain and are explained by physical states of the world, suggesting that mental states are physical. This is the root of the problem.
Some of the questions that we might want to ask are: What is the relation in a person between the mind and the body? What is a mind? What is a mental state? Now we might think that psychologists and cognitive scientists are the kind of people who could give us some answers to these questions. But these people don’t answer philosophical questions about the mind, they study it empirically. They don’t consider what the essence of the mind is and how it relates to the body or brain, at least not primarily. They try to find out about the functional parts of the mind and brain. What Gives Rise to the Mind-Body Problem? Mental states are usually about something, that is, they have intentionality.
For example, we may have a belief about something in the material world, say, that we left the oven on at home this morning. This belief could be false even though it points towards a particular object in the world and our beliefs can even point towards objects that don’t exist, for example we may believe that John Major’s daughter is an actress even if it turns out that John Major doesn’t have a daughter. Now we might say that objects in the world can have intentionality in the same way to the way that our mental states have intentionality. We may say that rat poison has the intentionality to kill rats. But it doesn’t have this intentionality outside of the way that we think about rat poison because of what someone has (again, intentionally) designed it for. The actual substance itself has no such thing as intentionality because it that is all it is, a substance, and it could easily fail to poison a rat that had become immune to it and it could just as easily kill something other than a rat.
... into substance dualism and property dualism. Substance dualism, introduced by Ren Descartes, states that the mind is a separate non-physical entity. Descartes believed ... view of dualism is property dualism. Property dualism is based on the theory that all things are physical but some physical things also have non-physical properties ...
The subjective character of experience, consciousness, is another problem. For example, we might ask what it is like to be a bat. This means that there must be something that it is like to be a bat, but what is this something? Because of the subjective character of consciousness, it is impossible to explain it in terms of the objective world, you have to experience it to know what it is like. Four Incompatible Propositions. Bodies are material. This is self-evident because the physical sciences are what study our (physical) bodies including our brains and nervous systems.
Minds are immaterial. Intentionality and consciousness indicate that minds have properties that material things don’t have. Bodies interact with minds. Mental events can cause and be caused by physical events.
For example, we interact with the environment on the basis of our decisions and we can be affected by, for example, being burnt. Matter interacts only with matter. The material world is causally closed, every physical event has a cause. There are different points of view that can be taken about the truth-values of these four statements. They can’t all be true at the same time since they are inconsistent.
One of these points of view holds that the first three propositions are true and the last one false. This view is known as dualism, and it holds that there are two different kinds of entity: the material things and immaterial minds that have a substance of a different kind. There don’t seem to be any completely convincing arguments for dualism, however. Another view about the nature of the mind is materialism. This holds that there is nothing but material substance. It denies the second statement of the four incompatible propositions above.
On this view our minds are reducible to our brains or properties of our brains. There are problems for this point of view. Behaviourism is the point of view that the mind doesn’t lie behind, but actually is in, the behaviour. On this view, the mental states are identical with the behaviours. The person can be seen as a black box in between their perceptions and their actions. The causal theory of mind, an alternative view of behaviourism, which states that mental states are the causes of behaviour, when combined with the fact that all available scientific evidence suggests that the physical causes of behaviour are states of the brain amounts to central state materialism, the notion that mental states and states of the brain are identical.
... WHere is my car parked To combat this mental overload, the mind goes into a state resembling the white-out experienced by mountain ... or she came for in the first place. The mind enters this state deliberately, so that the shopper has no choice but ... chasing a certain suspect. In this hypnotic, trance like state, the mind resembles an armored armadillo. It rolls up in self-defence ...
This is supported by functionalism, which states that mental states are token identical with brain states but not reducible to them. Both central state materialism and functionalism have problems that relate to consciousness, namely the way that certain mental states feel. Now there are problems with how mental states which are often intentional relate to the real world. For example, how can we explain how my belief that I am riding my bike relates to the actual fact that I am riding my bike? Our beliefs about things seem to point to things in the world, this is their intentional nature. There are different possibilities about how intentionality can be explained. If we take a look at some of the traditional answers proposed by philosophers, perhaps we will get a better grasp of what the question is.
One answer says that there is basically no connection whatever between any mental phenomena and any physical phenomena. This view is called parallelism. It says that mental phenomena and physical phenomena exist, as it were, in two utterly separate realms, going on independently of each other. Mental events have no effect on any physical events, and physical events have no effect on any mental events. Another answer to the problem says that there exist two distinct entities, body and soul, that interact with each other causally, though it is not known how. This is called Cartesian dualism, after Descartes.
Another view says that there simply are no mental phenomena. There is only the physical world. The existence of consciousness, therefore, must be some kind of massive delusion: contrary to popular opinion, nobody has any opinions, desires, or feelings. We are all just mindless automata. This lunatic view may be called radical materialism or eliminative materialism. A fourth view is that there are no physical phenomena, there are only ideas in our minds.
Contrary to popular opinion, therefore, there really aren’t any pencils, mountains, or matter. The whole physical world is all in our minds. This lunatic view is called idealism, and it was held by Bishop Berkeley, who preferred, however, to say that pencils were ideas rather than that pencils don’t exist. A fifth view is that mental phenomena are, surprisingly, a subset of physical phenomena. All mental states, it turns out, are really states of the central nervous systems of animals. “Pain” just happens to be another word for a certain kind of brain state, just as “light” happens to be another word for electromagnetic radiation within a certain range of wavelengths.
This view is called the mind / brain identity theory. Sixth, there is the view that mental properties represent a distinct aspect of certain physical objects – that is to say, some objects, like people, have two different kinds of properties, mental properties and physical ones. This is called property dualism. It differs from Cartesian dualism in that it postulates distinct properties but not a special, distinct entity to have those properties. Consciousness is not a property of an immaterial substance, the soul, but of plain physical objects.
Another view, which could be compatible with property dualism or Cartesian dualism, is called epiphenomenalism. It says that physical events cause mental events and physical events cause behavior, but mental events don’t cause anything. The mind is a kind of helpless spectator. All of these theories can strike one as strange and most as counter-intuitive. What problem are they trying to solve, why is it so difficult, and what considerations could lead someone to a view as crazy as eliminative materialism or idealism? This I shall try to make plain presently. Consider the following five tenable theses: 1.
For any system, every fact about the whole is a necessary consequence of the nature and relations of the parts. 2. People are made of atoms. 3. Atoms are purely physical objects, with nothing but physical properties and physical relations to one another. 4.
People have mental states. 5. No statement ascribing a mental predicate can be derived from any set of purely physical descriptions. Now, I think that the mind / body problem can be viewed as a paradox resulting from the conflicting claims of these five statements, and the various theories of the mind / body relationship can be viewed as attempts each to deny one or more of the above theses. But first these theses must be clarified. (1) should be read as saying that given a complete knowledge of every property of every part of some system, plus a knowledge of how these parts are arranged, every property of the whole follows logically.
The nature of the whole can be predicted a priori from the nature and relations of the parts, which is to say that the whole is 100% explicable in terms of the parts. “Necessary” here means logically necessary. (3), of course, is not talking about collections of atoms but about atoms considered as such, that is, individually. (4) affirms that people experience pains, emotions, desires, and so on.
In (5), “derived” means “logically derived,” that is, derived in the sense in which the fundamental theorem of calculus can be derived from the axioms of arithmetic and some definitions. It does not mean “caused.” This means that it would not be possible to deduce the quality of someone’s conscious experiences from a physical description of him or of anything else. If a physical description of the universe is given, it will always be an additional piece of information, e. g. , to note that someone is in pain. All of these theses can be defended, as I will show below, but the first thing to note is that they cannot all be true.
#1-3 imply that a complete explanation of human beings as physico-chemical mechanisms exists, while #4-5 entail that such an account is intrinsically impossible. For if atoms are physical, and people are made of atoms, and the whole can be explained in terms of the parts, then people can be explained physically. But yet, if mental phenomena cannot be derived from physical facts and mental phenomena take place in people, then people can not be explained physically. At least one of these five tenable theses must be false. Eliminative materialism is a straightforward denial of (4), Cartesian dualism a straightforward denial of (2), idealism a denial of (2) and (3) insofar as it implies there aren’t any atoms, etc. It is difficult to say which thesis some of the other theories of the mind / body relation deny, but it is clear that any satisfactory resolution to the paradox must deny at least one.
Property dualism might be a denial either of (1) or of (3) and the mind / brain identity theory could deny either (1) or (5), for instance. Well, what reasons are there for thinking each of these theses is true? Take #1: it seems to be just a conceptual truth about the relationship between wholes and things that we can think of as their parts. After all, a whole is not something over and above its parts; it is merely a matter of considering all of the parts as a whole. I could arbitrarily select any set of particles and choose to think of them as one system, but how could this give them any new properties? Since the whole does not have any independent existence, its nature must be wholly dependent on its constitution, and therefore there should be an explanation of everything that the whole can do in terms of what its parts do.
But if you can not derive the properties of the whole from the properties and relations of the parts, then in some sense it remains unexplained why the whole has the properties it has. This kind of holism – saying as it does that for a complete knowledge of the universe it would be necessary to treat whole systems as wholes rather than simply describing the parts – many people feel runs contrary to the scientific world-view and is completely mysterious and incomprehensible. What about #2? Well, if you cut open a person, you won’t find anything but atoms. The denial of (2) would mean, presumably, postulating the existence of ghosts – i. e.
, spirits that exist apart from the physical world, and that certainly runs against the scientific world-view. Our best physical theories afford no possible explanation of the existence of such entities. As far as we know, the universe originated in the big bang, our earth was formed by swirling gases, etc. , and then organisms evolved, starting with microorganisms. Now where did the ghosts come in? They don’t seem to be part of the story about the matter and energy present in the big bang, nor the story about simple replicators developing into microorganisms, so when did souls get created, and how? And once they did appear, how did they manage to connect up with physical objects in such a way as to change the course of atoms that had previously gone on their courses according to natural laws – how, in other words, does the interaction between mental things and physical things work? Thought of in this way, Cartesian dualism sounds silly. We might try questioning (3).
Maybe atoms have some properties besides charge, position, mass, etc. , that we haven’t discovered yet. Perhaps electrons have a kind of minimal, proto-consciousness. The problem with this hypothesis, besides that it sounds pretty weird, is that it won’t help any. For suppose that atoms are just a teens bit conscious. All the same, that would not help one iota in explaining why we are conscious.
An ascription of consciousness to a number of elements does not imply any ascription of consciousness to the group. For instance, every citizen of the United States has a mind, but that doesn’t mean that the country as a whole has a mind of its own – some kind of collective super-consciousness. Suppose on the other hand that atoms have some other properties that we don’t know about – not mental states but some non-mental properties hitherto not recognized. It is hard to see how this could help. The discovery of new physical properties would leave us in the same position of not being able to derive any subjective, conscious experiences; and even the discovery, say, of a new kind of non-mental but yet non-physical property doesn’t look as if it would help.
The problem is that, as Descartes noted (Sixth Meditation), the mind is simple as opposed to composite. That is, it does not have any parts. Nor, as Descartes argues, can it be said that thinking, feeling, imagining, etc. , are different parts, since it is one and the same mind that thinks, feels, imagines, etc. The mind in this case should be thought of not as a bunch of conscious experiences but as the subject of experiences. When I have a pain, that is different from you having a pain in that the pain is felt from a different point of view (mine, rather than yours).
If this is right, then the difficulty is not just with physical parts explaining the mind but with any kind of description of parts explaining the mind. Some people, including a surprising number of contemporary philosophers, have chosen to deny (4), but it is hard to take this seriously. (4) is a classic exemplar of Cartesian certainty: I don’t find it even possible to doubt that I am conscious. Doubt is a mental state, so even if I doubt that I have consciousness, it follows that I’m wrong since I have to have a mind in order to doubt. In order for me to be deluded about anything, I must first be conscious, so it follows that I cannot be deluded about thinking I have consciousness. Even the way I described the position of eliminative materialism shows that it is false.
The materialist still thinks of himself as expressing his views and showing other people their mistakes. He bases his opinions on the information that he has gathered from scientists – for he has not done all of the research and experimentation required to verify atomic and evolutionary theory by himself – but that requires his ability to discern the beliefs that scientists have had based on the observations they have made. All of this is laden with mental concepts, so it would be inconsistent to deny the existence of the mental. Finally, there is (5).
What reason is there for thinking that is true? Well, we can compare it with a number of similar principles to get the general idea. In moral philosophy, there is a principle sometimes called Hume’s law that says it is not possible to derive a normative judgement from a descriptive judgement.
A normative judgement is a judgement about what is good or bad, right or wrong, and a descriptive judgement is basically anything else. Another way this is stated is that you cannot deduce an “ought” from an “is”: you can’t derive what ought to be the case solely on the basis of what is the case. This principle is almost universally acknowledged. And it is merely part of a more general pattern. For example, you can’t derive a statement describing distances from any set of statements that don’t describe distances. You can not derive a statement about colors from any set of non-color statements.
You can’t derive geometrical statements from non-geometrical ones. And generally, if you have an inference in which the conclusion talks about one thing and the premises talk about something else, the inference is invalid. In the same way, it is a conceptual truth that you cannot derive a mental description from a physical description. After all, just consider some physical concepts, such as spatial / geometrical properties, mass, force, and electric charge. Is it plausible that there is any way that these concepts could be used to explain what it feels like to be in pain? Say whatever you like about masses, positions, and forces of particles, you will not have ascribed any mental states to anything.
Descartes argued that he could clearly and distinctly conceive of any physical state existing without any conscious experiences accompanying it, so it follows that conscious experiences cannot be derived solely on the basis of the existence of any given physical state. And it looks as if he is right. We can forgo the Cartesian lingo about clear and distinct conceptions and say that for any physical description, that description could have been true even if there were no such thing as consciousness. Another way to put this is the following: for any physical property P, it is an open question whether a thing that has P is conscious.
It makes sense to ask, “Granted that it has the feature P, but can it really think / feel /etc. ?” and it’s a significant question, so it follows that saying a thing has P is different from saying it is conscious, so having P can’t be the same thing as thinking / feeling /etc. Of course, it might turn out that everything that has P is conscious, but that would be an additional piece of information beyond the fact that everything that has P has P. But from this it follows that physical descriptions do not explain why there is consciousness, since they don’t say anything about consciousness. They talk about a different subject matter. Now it might be tried to challenge the sharp mental / physical dichotomy that has been drawn, to claim that mental and physical are not two mutually exclusive categories corresponding to completely different subject matters but that mental things can also simultaneously be physical.
This view flies in the face of common sense (as well as the above argument), and I don’t find it very comprehensible. But moreover, it won’t help matters any because I could just as well have substituted “non-mental” for “physical” everywhere in the statement of the five theses and their defense. That is, we can simply restate (3) as, properties of atoms are all non-mental, and (5) as, non-mental properties cannot entail mental properties, and the problem is back in full force without having to assume that “physical” = “non-mental.” At this point, we seem to have an insoluble problem on our hands. All five theses, considered individually, are very difficult to doubt, but they can’t all be true. I don’t know what the answer to this is. It is in my view a major, perhaps the major, challenge to our fundamental world-view, and it would require a major world-view-revision to resolve the difficulty.
As far as I can tell, no philosophical theory has come anywhere near to solving this problem in any coherent and vaguely plausible way, because no one has dealt with the arguments that I offered in behalf of the five theses. New discoveries in physics and biology are not helping – merely adding more detail to physical descriptions does not bring us any closer to being able to derive mental statements from them, and I can see no significant progress over the past 300 years. The problem in a nutshell is that since people are composed of chemicals, they must be physically explicable, but yet since they have consciousness they can’t. If this paper has a theme, it is that, unfortunately, the mind / body problem is alive and well. Dualism and Interactionism Dualism is the concept that there are two elements that make up our being: body and spirit. The body, of course, is the material part; the other element is composed of what we typically call mind or spirit.
The mind cannot be accounted for purely on the basis of materialism. It is distinct from the body and the brain. This is generally “proven” on the grounds of such reasoning as consciousness, purposiveness, and the ability to apprehend meaning. Even if a scientist could take apart all of the physical aspects of the brain, it would still be impossible to tell exactly what a person was thinking. The way in which the mind and the body function together is called interactionism. The mind has the ability to influence the body, and physical stimuli have the ability to influence the mind.
An offshoot of this position is epiphenomenalism, which is the idea that physical stimuli can influence mental events, but mental powers cannot influence physical events. It is a one-way causal relation. The weakness of this is that it fails to explain why people’s thoughts have had such strong impact in the world. The Problem of Other Minds We are fascinated with personal identity. We make many efforts to try to “know” ourselves, or to “get in touch” with our own feelings. To be sure, I know that I have feelings.
I know what it is like to be happy and sad; I know what it is to feel pain and pleasure. I know that I have thoughts, and those thoughts affect what I do and how I feel. The question to consider, however, is whether or not I can know that anyone else feels the same types of feelings and has the same kinds of thoughts. Is there anyone else who is actually a living being with feelings and thoughts like I am? That almost sounds like a silly question. Upon closer examination, however, it is interesting to note that we generally accept the idea that others do have “minds,” but this acceptance is based upon inference and, if I may use the term, “faith.” In other words, we trust that others feel and think based upon evidence that is less than scientific. If people tell me that they are in pain, how do I know that they are really in pain? How do I know that what they are describing as “pain” is the same sensation that I feel when I think I am in pain? The same would be true of something that is pleasurable.
There does appear to be varying degrees of pain and pleasure, but aside from this, the question remains, how do I know? I can infer, based someone’s actions, facial expressions, etc. that this person is experiencing what I understand to be pain. I can understand, based upon analogy with my own feelings, that this person is probably feeling something similar to what I call pain or pleasure, but that alone does not prove the case. The bottom line is that we simply have to “trust” that the other person feels the way that he or she describes it. If we find that the other person is a liar, then subsequent reports of how that person feels may no longer be trustworthy. On a broader scale, how do I know that anyone else has a mind? It appears to me that other people have creative thoughts, similar feelings, consciousness, and all the things associated with being a living entity.
Could it be that I am really imagining all of this? Am I really the only one who thinks and knows anything? If I am, how can I prove it? I know that these are the kinds of questions that we may philosophically dig into, but I must honestly say that such should ultimately drive us mad. I may be so bold as to say that I think that the existence of other minds is simply something that we know instinctively. We all have this universal experience of thinking, and we have to deal with others whom we perceive to think. We live in a personal existence wherein we all feel pain, joy, anger, and so on. We have conscious thoughts, and we act based upon them. We feel the necessity to treat other people, real or imaginary, in a way that reflects our “faith” that other people have minds.
This is just the way our existence is, and someone who acts in a way that does not reflect this faith will suffer for it due to what we typically call selfishness. We simply accept the idea that people have minds a priori. Perhaps that is about all we can do; but it makes for the most pleasant existence. Putting it Together My view is, basically, that of interactionism. I am a dualist; I believe that we have minds that are distinct from our bodies. There are several reasons why I hold to this view, so I will touch upon some of them here.
I think that materialism is inadequate to account for the phenomenon we call “thinking.” We might take a scientific look at the brain and try to describe all of its various functions, but ultimately none of our materialistic explanations can really account for why humans are able to think in the way they do. By “thinking” I mean the ability to conceive or form pictures and ideas in the mind. In our minds, we are able to produce thoughts, meditate, plan through, reason, expect, anticipate, remember, intend, purpose, form judgments and conclusions, feel various emotions, have opinions, etc. It simply seems an insufficient idea to say that all of these abilities are products of pure chance and brute materialism. To think that intelligence came from non-intelligence, and that rational abilities came from purely irrational physical sources, does not fit with what we know to be true in other areas of life. If I encounter a computer, I will automatically assume that someone with intelligence formed this machine and put within it the abilities to do what it does.
I would be considered foolish to argue that the computer came about through chance processes devoid of any intelligent forerunner. All of this sounds like the teleological argument for God’s existence, and, in essence, it is. Here, however, I am not arguing about purpose and design in the universe in general; I am arguing about the mind and intelligence. When people argue that everything exists through chance processes, and that no intelligence is responsible for our existence, then these same people are arguing that their own minds came about without any intelligence.
Now I have to ask, if there is no purpose in the universe, and if our minds are not purposed in any way, then how can we trust what we think? By what logic do we suppose that anything we say or think, or the words that are written on any page, ultimately make any sense? Thinking assumes the existence of logic; but if there is no prior existence of logic, then how can we possibly know that we are able to think in a logical way? The very ones who argue against teleology condemn their own words to illogical rhetoric. If they deny this, then how can they prove otherwise. They have to assume the existence of design and logic if they want their own arguments to make sense. If they deny the existence of prior purpose, then to what standard of logic and design will they appeal to say that they make any sense? It is an argument without a foundation. All that we know about the creation of anything humans have made is that for something to be formed, it must first be formed within a mind. Further, science must assume the existence of design.
A materialist will argue for a “uniformity of law,” but is this not, in itself, an argument for design? Studies in science are founded upon everything acting in a particular way. We expect gravity to always work and the “laws of nature” to be unwavering. I fail to see how this makes any sense at all unless there is intelligence and design as a foundation. Random chance is not so consistent.
Without a consistent “pattern” in nature, science would be impossible. Much more could be said about materialism, but I wish to move on to another important point about the existence of mind. I believe that the fact of consciousness and feeling argues for the existence of mind as distinct from the material body. Science has been unable to prove the idea that brute physical forces have been able to produce breathing, thinking, conscious, and feeling people.
As Hunt argued, the “awareness of self” is something unique to the human mind. We can create computers that can “think” in a simulated way, but we cannot reproduce awareness and feeling. We can input archives of knowledge and information, and program computers to “spit out” the information much faster than we can recall it from our own memory, but we cannot teach a computer to feel pain when it is kicked, or have the ability to think “outside” of itself. It cannot look within itself to “get in touch” with its inner feelings. It cannot reason in matters of morality and make life-changing decisions.
It simply is what we program it to be. We do not think of machines as having free will and moral responsibility. For that matter, we do not think of the animal kingdom in this way either. We humans are peculiar in that we place moral responsibility and free will decisions upon our own shoulders. I confess that this makes little sense to me if we are all just material machines destined to disappear from any existence.
Conclusion I do not pretend to have all of the answers relative to the mind-body problem. I cannot scientifically prove the existence of mind by cutting open a brain and finding some “spirit-like” substance inside. Neither can we open a brain and see thoughts. We may see physical processes at work, but this says little about the thoughts, words, and pictures formed within one’s mind.
Perhaps the best argument for the mind is instinctive. We know that we have thoughts, feelings, and consciousness. Who can rationally deny this? We assume the existence of logic by the very ideas we have and arguments we make. What material theory is adequate to describe why these things are so? Further, an admission that we do not know everything there is to know should, at the least, admit the possibility that there are some things that even science cannot explain.